Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Update on TCC's Agenda for Better Choices- Olympia 2011

Yesterday marked an important milestone in the legislative session. Bills had to pass out of the legislative body where they were introduced. Unless bills are necessary to implement the budget (NTIB), they are “dead” and will not move on through the process if they did pass off the floor of the House or Senate. Here is an update on all of TCC’s legislative agenda.

Emergency Short-Term Funding for Transit – ESSB 5457

Public transportation provides many benefits to the citizens and environment of Washington. Plummeting local sales tax revenues have left transit agencies with insufficient funding, resolution in service cuts amid record ridership.

The Senate passed ESSB 5457, which would allow King County to collect a $20 “congestion fee” on cars to help fill the massive deficit Metro is facing, if 2/3rds of the Council chooses to do so. This is a temporary measure which is only a band aid until long-term sustainable funding for transit is achieved. The Senate whittled the bill down considerably; the original bill provided a $30 fee for King, Snohomish County and Pierce Counties. The House has passed stronger versions of this bill in the past, and will now consider this version of the bill.

Complete Streets – SHB 1071 and SHB 1700

Urban and main streets should be designed to provide safe access to all users, including bicyclists, pedestrians, motorist and public transportation users. When constructing, retrofitting or making major repairs to streets WSDOT should consider “complete streets” design.

The House passed to bills to advance Complete Streets. SHB 1071 sets up a grant program to help cities and counties fund complete streets. It provides an incentive for cities to adopt Complete Streets ordinances, and directs WSDOT to assist in complete street design and construction. SHB 1700 updates the design manuals that are used for street design and construction, to incorporate the latest and greatest in safe bike and pedestrian guidelines. These bills are now on to the Senate.

Protect Policies that Create More Transportation Options

The state cannot reach our greenhouse gas (GHG) limits without pursuing policies that reduce the need for people to drive. TCC opposes any efforts to undo or reduce the Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) reduction benchmarks established in RCW 47.01.440.

The Association of Washington Business (AWB) stated this as their top climate goal. They introduced a bill that did not even get a hearing. We will continue to be vigilant, and we expect attempts to roll back VMT in the budget and transportation revenue discussions.

Fair and Equitable Tolling Policy

We support user fees as a means for funding needed infrastructure investments, congestion management, GHG reduction, and transit service that helps address equity concerns about tolling.

The House passed a bill to allow tolling on I-405 (EHB 1382). The funds will be used to complete the I-405 master plan. The House and Senate re-authorized tolling on 520 (SB 5700). This bill is now on its way to the Governor for final approval.

Mileage Based Insurance - SSB 5730

Mileage based insurance bases premiums on the amount of miles driven. This improves the accuracy of auto insurance ratings and is fairer and more economically efficient. TCC was working on a bill to require insurance companies to provide a policy that bases insurance on miles driven, or to give a discount to low mileage drivers.

The Senate passed a bill that strives to remove the barriers to insurance companies wanting to offer these programs. This bill is a work in progress and will need amendments in the House to ensure the bill addresses all the barriers to wide scale adoption of this type of auto insurance.

Transportation Funding to Keep Washington Moving

In order to protect the health and safety of Washington residents, new revenue is needed to replace failing bridges and roads, preserve existing infrastructure, stimulate job growth, uphold transit service, and create a new revenue infrastructure that meets the needs of Washington in the 21st Century. TCC and Futurewise kicked of the Transportation for Washington campaign to make sure that any new transportation package includes:

• Robust local options for transit agencies;
• Greater investments in transit operations from the State;
• Substantial increases in statewide funding for transit, intercity rail, bike & pedestrian programs, Commute Trip Reduction, and other needs that cannot be funded with gas tax;
• Funding for clean water infrastructure projects;
• Local share gas tax and local tax options for city and county transportation needs;
• Prioritization of maintenance and preservation over new capacity, and tolling;
• Support for sustainable community needs that prioritize health, climate, and water quality goals.

Currently, there is not push for a large transportation package this year. There is talk of a small revenue package made up of fees that will address the most critical transportation needs of our state. We are working to insure that transit, non-motorized and storm water money is considered in this package.

Also, there is great news on other bike and pedestrian bills that are moving forward, thanks to the hard work on the Cascade Bicycle Club and the Bike Alliance.

Vulnerable Users- SSB 5326/HB 1339

Bicyclists and pedestrians are vulnerable users of our roadway. This bill establishes an enhanced infraction for drivers whose behavior maims or kills vulnerable users. This reinforces the need to exercise care when driving around vulnerable populations.

Bicycle and pedestrian safety curriculum in traffic schools - HB 1129
This bill requires traffic schools to utilize curriculum for driving safely among bicyclists and pedestrians.

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