What happened last week
Freshmen legislators were sworn in last week, as the most diverse group of lawmakers in Washington State history kicked off the 105-day legislative session.
While new Senators and Representatives received orientation and committee hearings began, we spent the week tracking new bills and meeting with legislators to discuss our transportation priorities.
Fast and reliable internet for all. We were excited to see support from multiple fronts for broadband internet access. In addition to providing economic benefit, reliable and fast internet is a priority transportation solution for rural communities to access necessities like health care and education through advancements in services like telemedicine and online learning. While Governor Inslee announced a proposal to create a State broadband office, Senator McCoy sponsored SB 5085, to provide access to broadband internet services statewide. We will track both bills and discussion in the coming weeks.
Reward clean energy production. TCC also signed in to support HB 1110, Representative Fitzgibbon’s low-carbon fuel standard bill. This bill is a priority for our climate partners, as the transportation sector is a major emitter of greenhouse gases. The basic policy goal of creating a fuel standard is to reward producers that create and use cleaner fuels.
What’s happening this week
This week, we will start to see more transportation bills hit the floor, and we will advance conversations on our top priorities:
Automated enforcement of bus lanes. We expect an automated enforcement bill that will drop this week. This bill, commonly referred to as the “block the box” bill, will give Seattle the authority to ticket drivers blocking intersections and transit-only lanes. These violations increase congestion, delay transit and emergency responders, and create dangerous walking and biking conditions. Currently the only way to keep bus lanes and crosswalks free is for officers to witness the violation in person and enforce manually, which is inefficient and costly. TCC looks forward to supporting this policy to create safer conditions and improved transit service in urban areas.
Low income tolling study. We are working with legislators to develop a statewide study to understand the financial and other equity impacts of tolling, and barriers to the benefits of tolling on frontline communities. Tolling helps manage our congested roadways, and in cases like the 405 express toll lanes provides a popular choice for faster travel, but a fee can be inaccessible to many low-income drivers. A study conducted by WSDOT would help us understand the current state of tolling; the financial and time impacts; and the feasibility of developing a low-income toll program. If this study is conducted, we could have a structure for a low-income toll pilot program by next session (i.e., toll rates, improved outreach process, fair enforcement and citation process, funding sources, and equitable use of tolling revenue).
Electrification of transportation. We are in conversation with legislators about electrification of the transportation sector, including discussion of a new electric vehicle (EV) incentive. TCC aims to ensure any new incentive proposals, such as SB 5336, provide a break to lower income EV buyers, and that funding does not hurt other strategies for reducing transportation emissions, such as mass transit, walking and biking projects.
A new transportation package. Thursday, Jan. 24, the Senate Transportation Committee will have a work session regarding a new transportation package put forth by Chair Hobbs. TCC will testify, with policy goals focused on increasing investments in the State’s multimodal account to fund more transit, walking and biking projects. We expect many discussions around a new package throughout session, and will be providing additional details and analysis.