Thursday, July 30, 2009

Blogging live at Joint Transportation Committee

I am at the Sound Transit Board room attending the WA House/Senate Joint Transportation Committee. I will be posting updates here with significant events and discussions. On the Agenda is the the cost of collecting tolls, I-90 Valuation project, review of Link opening, and implementation of alternative funding methods. Stay tuned.

Ben at Seattle Transit blog has a great post yesterday summing up the updated discussions around the I-90 valuation.

They are talking about electronic toll collections studies and tolling interoperability. It is quite dull. The I-90 discussions start at 11:00am which should have more lively discussion.

The discussions over collecting tolls are going a little long due to a high amount of questions from the legislature. Senator Haugen is concerned about interoperability issues for collecting tolls from Canadian drivers. The discussion is still fairly benign as most of the audience waits from the I-90 discussion (including my friend who works for WSDOT that I am sitting next to).

11:35am: They are finally moving into the I-90 valuation discussion. Introductions to the discussion are being made by JTC and the consultants who were hired to conduct the study.

11:39am: The study consultants are giving a summary of the report before they launch into discussion and questions. They mentioned the only part of the direction they were not able to complete yet is a consultation with federal agencies who were involved with the original 1976 agreement.

11:42am: The consultant notes that I-90 90% of the bridge was constructed with federal funds and only 10% was constructed with State funds.

11:45: Presenters are discussing other appraisal reports in similar situations (i.e. past Trimet and ODOT negotiations). Senator Jarrett just arrived in the room. Other Legislators here are Simpson, Eddy, Clibborn, Hougen, Becker, someone I don't recognize, Roach, and Mr. I love transit Rep. Doug Ericksen.

11:49: "none of these (appraisal) methods will necessarily result in the final appraisal number" states the consultants, interesting.

Rep. Simpson asks about the state's funding portion of I-90 (which was 10%). The state claims all of that came from gas taxes, but they can't find the record to prove that.

He also asked about the double taxation issues since his consituents have already paid for the I-90 bridge so why do they have to pay for it again? He also points out the road capacity will not be lost and Link will take many cars of the road. Lastly he asks how ST and WSDOT has responded to the draft findings?

The answers from consulting team:
-They report assumed gas tax and MVET funds were used for their 10% portion. They have requested from WSDOT records to show how the records. They have assumed that all of the state funds were amendment 18 restricted (could only go towards roads) whether or not they were gas tax or license fee taxes. Clearly there is still some major confusion here.

-They have not arrived on a number value yet in the report. They have only chosen three methods in which the value should be determined. The report recommends that ST should receive credit against the final valuation for the millions of dollars they are spending on the highway repaving project (R8A). This is a big deal because ST is paying for the vast majority of the highway repaving project.

11:56am: Simpson pushed back after that answers. He notes that WSDOT claims all of the 10% state portion was constitutionally restricted towards roads but the report calls out that WSDOT can not prove this with documentation.

The consultants pushed back and said they basically are trusting WSDOT and are assuming that 100% of the state's contribution came from restricted amendment 18 road only funds.

Deb Eddy chimes in and asks if they are assuming all of the money from constitutionally restricted even though they didn't see documentation? Consultants replied simply yes.

Sen. Haugen chimed in saying that while I-90 was built MVET was going to ferries and transit and I-90 was taking almost all of the state's road dollars at the time. Rep. Clibborn thanked Hougen for her "historical perspective". There were some good chuckles in the room.

12:05pm: Senator Jarrett is asking a lot of technical legal questions. He has not called Kemper Freeman Court case yet as what he is asking about but he is getting at the root issue of that case. Very interesting. Basically he is asking if the federal record of decision memorandum of agreement will provide greater weight that WA State law regarding the I-90 valuation (I think).

Consultants responded that some of the legal questions were not looked at in this study but that no constitutional laws have been broken (because the memorandum of agreement states from the beginning that the center roadway was to be used for high capacity transit).

12:08pm: Rep. Clibborn thanks members of the consulting team who presented. She notes that phase two of the study will go forward and there will be a letter to the JTC with principals demonstrating the finding of part one of the valuation.

I am signing off for now but stay tuned as this issue will continue to be important for TCC!

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