Sound Transit Light Rail

This week marks the halfway point of the short 2020 session. Last Friday was the first policy cutoff, so bills that did not pass from policy committees in their House of Origin are likely dead. 

What happened last week:

Sound Transit Defense 

On Tuesday the Senate Transportation Committee heard a handful of bills targeting Sound Transit revenue. TCC and partners acted quickly to put out an action alert and organize testimony in support of keeping transit projects on track. Thank you to the nearly 300 people who took time to write to their Senator, and to Rooted in Rights, Economic Alliance Snohomish County, 350 Seattle, and community advocates from the 130th Street Station organizing effort who came to Olympia to testify. 

As of now, Sound Transit and the Democratic sponsors of SB 6606 are trying to come to an agreement, though in its current form the bill would still need a two-thirds vote to pass out of the Senate. We do not believe any of the Republican sponsored bills will move forward at this time. 

Transportation for All – a new strategy

At this point, the Transportation for All bill has been heard in both committees and we have been working to address the many reactions and concerns we have heard (changing how things have always been done does not come easily!). We worked with partners to update the bill, but at this point it has not moved out of committee and we expect it will die in its current form. The positive news is that WSDOT is very interested in exploring metrics and evaluation. We are continuing to pursue a budget proviso strategy that would help us move forward on developing metrics and potentially authorize a pilot evaluation so legislators could get a sense of how this approach could be valuable in future funding discussions. 

What’s happening this week:

Hearings on Autonomous Vehicles

This week, the House Transportation Committee will hear two bills on Autonomous Vehicles. One, HB 2470, establishes some basic definitions related to the automated operation of vehicles. This bill was developed in concert with the Uniform Law Commission, which helps provide states with non-partisan legislation.

The other, HB 2676 establishes minimum requirements for the testing of autonomous vehicles. While this bill takes some necessary first steps, we believe that more information on testing plans, collisions, and any changes to plans should be shared with local jurisdictions where that testing is occuring. 

Both bills will be heard at 1:30 pm on February 10.

Hearings on expanding transportation revenue options for cities and counties

The Senate Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on SB 6652, which deals with expanding local transportation revenue options. We are grateful to see this discussion brought forward. This particular bill would

  • Impact local Transportation Benefit Districts (TBDs) by increasing the sales tax authority from two-tenths to four-tenths and increasing the time period of TBD from up to 10 years to up to 20 years
  • Allows cities to levy a gas tax for use on public transportation and high-capacity transit improvements (counties have existing gas tax authority)
  • Allows for an additional tax on utilities that must be used exclusively for transportation purposes.

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

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