Sine die came this evening in Olympia, with the Legislature managing to get its work done on time. There will be no extra sessions.
The big drama of the session was over Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5955, which started out a year ago as a bill to simply reimburse newer car drivers for the difference between the older and newer valuations on the Sound Transit portion of their motor vehicle excise taxes (car tabs). It would have resulted in a $780 million hit to Sound Transit’s revenue stream, and eventually $2.3 billion lost due to interest. This year, the Senate amended the bill to partially backfill Sound Transit’s revenue by redirecting money from the $518 million in education funding from ST taxes back into Sound Transit. The House Transportation Committee did an about-face on that move. In the end, the bill died on the House cutting room floor, with no agreement around any approach.
The end of the session brought the retirement of Rep. Judy Clibborn (D – Mercer Island), who has served as Chair of the House Transportation Committee since 2009. Clibborn has been in the middle of multiple battles between Sound Transit and various groups of its detractors in her own district.
Fourteen transit-related bills passed the legislature and are headed to the governor’s desk. They are listed below. The state supplemental transportation budget, Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6106, is listed in numerical order.
Substitute House Bill 1656 establishes a community aviation revitalization loan program.
HB 2087 adds highway construction and maintenance vehicles, solid waste vehicles, utility service vehicles, and all flaggers and other worker associated with these functions, to the types of vehicles and people having a 200-foot protective zone requiring drivers to slow down and yield the right-of-way. The 200-foot zone is currently only for emergency vehicles.
2nd SHB 2269 extends the state sales and use tax exemption for add-on automotive adaptive equipment, purchased by the Veterans Administration and other federal agencies for veterans and service members who need it in order to drive a car, for ten years.
SHB 2317 allows public transportation benefit areas and passenger-only ferry service districts to determine the amount of surety bond required on contracts, so long as the amount is greater than 25 percent of the contract price. Surety bonds are executed among contractors, the agency, and a third-party guarantor to guarantee fulfillment of performance and payment of subcontractors, suppliers, and workers. The requirement has been for the full contract price, but cities, towns, and sewer districts are allowed to set surety as low as 25% of the contract price. The bill also allows PBTAs and POF districts to allow forms of security other than surety bonds. Kitsap Transit is seeking this change to induce more competition among bidders to provide their fast ferries.
Engrossed HB 2948 raises the population threshold, at which a city or town must assume additional responsibility for streets within its boundaries that are also part of the state highway system, from 25,000 to 35,000, in five-year increments of 2,500, through 2033.
SHB 2970 establishes a work group, consisting of legislators and representatives of the executive branch, to address the operation of autonomous (self-driving) vehicles on public roadways.
SHB 2990 establishes legislative intent to authorize a series of biennial loans totaling approximately $85 million to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge account for fiscal biennial 2019-21 through 2029-31, and directs the Washington State Transportation Commission to submit an annual report with sufficient information to allow the Legislature to determine an adequate loan amount that would be required for each fiscal biennium to maintain tolls at no more than 25 cents higher than the Bridge toll rates effective in 2018.
ESSB 6106, the supplemental transportation budget for 2017-19, contains several new appropriations for transit, in Sections 204, 220-222, and 309. (New language is underlined. Removed language is struck out.) Most of the changes to continuing appropriations cover inflation or contractual wage increases. New allocations for transit include:
- $315,000 from WSDOT’s multimodal transportation account to study the capital needs of most of the transit agencies in the state except Sound Transit.
- $1,000,000 from WSDOT’s multimodal transportation account for a pilot transit pass incentive program in King County for businesses and nonprofits that have not offered subsidized ORCA passes to their employees before to get a 50% rebate on the cost of enrolling in such a program (e.g. Business Passport). No single business or nonprofit may receive more than $10,000 from the program.
- $30,000 from WSDOT’s vehicle parking account for the STAR pass program for state employees residing in Mason and Grays Harbor Counties, for use on Mason Transit’s service to Olympia and Grays Harbor Transit’s service to Olympia. The pass may also be used within Grays Harbor County. Mason Transit does not charge fares on intra-county routes.
- $300,000 from the multimodal transportation account for Pierce Transit to install real-time-arrival display boards at various transit centers.
- $750,000 from the multimodal transportation account to cover part of the operating cost for Intercity Transit’s free downtown / Capitol area circulator.
- $25,000 from the Puget Sound ferry operations account for additional hours of traffic control assistance at the Fauntleroy Ferry Dock.
- $75,000 from the Puget Sound ferry operations account to study loading procedures at the Fauntleroy Ferry Dock.
- $1,200,000 from the state’s multi-modal transportation account for a business case study of ultra-high speed ground transportation.
- $2,734,000 from the multi-modal account and $1,190,000 from other accounts for the Seattle (ferry) Terminal Replacement project.
- $600,000 from the Puget Sound Capital Construction Account to develop a request for proposal to convert three ferries to hybrid electric propulsion and make associated necessary modifications to the Seattle, Bainbridge, Edmonds, and Kingston ferry docks.
There is also an earmark of reappropriated funds:
- $757,000 of the regional mobility grant program for Kitsap Transit’s SR 305 interchange improvements at Suquamish Way Park and Ride.
SB 6218 brings the state into compliance with the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act by limiting double-trailers to 26,000 pounds and 82 feet in length.
SB 6363 makes permanent the authority of the State Parks and Recreation Commission to develop and maintain a cross-state trail facility on the Milwaukee Road Railroad corridor between Ellensburg and Marengo, and will make permanent the directive for WSDOT to negotiate a franchise agreement with one or more rail lines to establish an active rail line on any portion of this corridor. All Aboard Washington was a primary supporter of the bill.
SB 6414 requires Spokane Transit’s, Pierce Transit’s, and C-Tran’s (Clark County’s transit agency) Board of Directors to represent the cities and unincorporated areas within their district boundaries in proportion to population.
ESSB 6434 updates the state’s electric-assisted bicycle regulations, partially to harmonize with national standards.
SSB 6475 relieves property owners with a parcel of land partially in the Sound Transit taxing district and partially outside from having to pay Sound Transit property taxes going forward. Past tax assessments would remain valid.