Pedestrians near Westlake Plaza in Seattle, by SDOT, used with a creative commons license.

On Sunday, April 28, the most diverse group of lawmakers in Washington State history adjourned on the scheduled last day of legislative session without requiring a special session. TCC spent every day this session working with representatives, coalition members, and community partners in Olympia to advance our legislative priorities concerning transportation, equity, and climate. We are thrilled to see many of our transportation priorities move forward and will continue to work to pass the bills that didn’t make it next year.

Here’s a recap of our 2019 session work:

We secured Sound Transit 3 funding

A big and early transportation win in Olympia was eliminating the suite of bills that would delay the ability for Sound Transit to deliver on voter-approved projects. All the bills died by the March 13 cutoff with none of the bills receiving a vote in either chamber. Bills included HB 2123, SB 5037, SB 5042, SB 5043, SB 5220, and SB 5075. HB 2123 would have reduced the motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) — the car tab fee. Though we understand legislators’ intentions to find tax relief for their constituents, this would have dismantled voter-approved projects under Sound Transit 3, cutting billions of dollars from light rail, commuter rail, and bus rapid transit projects throughout Pierce, Snohomish, and King counties. Thanks to all who called and emailed their representatives to actively defend Sound Transit 3 funding. We were pleased to see these bills defeated early during session and thrilled to report that Sound Transit 3 funding is safe for now and voter-approved projects will continue to be delivered on time.

Block the box didn’t make the cut but the campaign continues

TCC worked diligently this session to advance HB 1793, the block the box bill. Traffic safety cameras would have helped clear blocked intersections, improving mobility for people walking and wheelchair users crossing the street. HB 1793 would have also helped keep bus-only lanes clear for transit, preventing transit delays as well as traffic congestion.

Unfortunately, the bill did not pass the Senate floor before cutoff on Sunday. We are proud of the groundswell of advocacy from our team, partners, and the public. Big thanks to Rooted in Rights who produced this viral video that shows how HB 1793 is a safety and access issue, as well as Representative Fitzgibbon, Senator Saldaña, Senator Nguyen, and everyone who moved this bill forward. The groundwork has been laid and we will keep fighting for safe streets and improved mobility! Our block the box campaign will continue.

About the process. Initially this policy died when the House did not call HB 1793 for a vote before the house-of-origin cutoff. We then tried to move the policy forward through a budget proviso, which was voted down. We tried again by amending the original bill to make it “necessary to implement the budget,” or NTIB in Oly speak. When a bill is NTIB, it is not subject to any regular cutoffs and we were able to continue advocating for it until the very end of session. After HB 1793 became NTIB, we sent out action alerts and worked with partners and legislators to pass it through the House floor, the Senate Transportation Committee, and the Senate Rules Committee. It was eventually hung up on the Senate floor and did not receive a vote on Sunday. We are grateful for all the public support to try to pass this bill; over 800 people reached out to their legislators through our action alert to tell them that safe streets are a priority.

We maintained multimodal investments in the transportation budget

The House and Senate passed the 2019-2021 biennium transportation budget on the last day of session. We’re happy to see that our low-income tolling study was included in the final budget. This will help us understand how tolling, an important tool for managing the flow of traffic on highways, can be applied more fairly; especially as lower-income residents are displaced to areas with less transit service. A healthy transportation budget is what makes projects move and we worked hard down in Olympia to monitor this budget and ensure we maintained and increased funding for multimodal investments.

Other wins this session

☑ Vehicle electrification bill. House Bill 2042 passed with increased funding for transit electrification for transit agencies, as well as electric vehicle incentives for new and used vehicles for middle income households, and a low income electric vehicle share pilot program. This bill will generate more than $45 million in transit electrification benefits. We appreciate the leadership of our partners at Climate Solutions on this bill!

☑ Big tolling bill. ESSB 5825 passed, which authorizes tolling on I-405, SR-167, and SR-509 and allows bonding of the revenue generated to speed up projects. This bill was a must have for implementation of ST3’s 405 bus rapid transit project, as well as to pay for needed improvements and managing our congested highway system. We are excited to keep these projects moving. A big challenge with tolling is that it is currently a flat fee for all drivers but we’re hoping that our low-income tolling study funded through the transportation budget will create a fairer use of tolling.

☑ Inclusive regional transportation planning organizations bill. HB 1584 requires regional transportation planning organizations that receive state funds provide opportunity for voting membership to federally recognized tribes.

☑ HOV violation bill. SB 5695 increases fines for high occupancy vehicle lane violations.

☑ Driver abstract bill. HB 1360 allows for the permission to release driver abstracts to transit authorities is expanded to include existing volunteer vanpool drivers.

☑ Vulnerable roadway users bill. SB 5723 increases penalties for crashing into pedestrians, cyclists, and other vulnerable roadway users.

☑ Active transportation bill. SB 5710 establishes an active transportation safety advisory council that will support the continued work by the bicycle and pedestrian safety councils.

☑ Paid postage on election ballots bill. SB 5063 helps eliminate barriers to voting by paying for postage on all mail-in ballots. This will make it easier to participate in the democratic process and make transit funding ballot measures more accessible (not to mention, help us defeat i-976 at the ballot box in November!) .

Though the original Healthy Environment for All bill didn’t pass this session, a budget proviso establishes a new environmental justice task force. The task force will develop new strategies for how state agencies can address environmental health disparities and include leadership from communities most impacted by pollution. We thank Front and Centered for their leadership in pushing forward this work.

Thank you again for everyone who participated in this year’s legislative session and supported growing and improving multimodal options for all Washington communities. We are thankful for the support from our partners, legislators, and the public, and will continue to fight to make transportation choices more accessible for all.

For a snapshot at all the legislation we’re tracking, check out our 2019 Bill Tracker.

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