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Inside Olympia — Transportation

This week on Inside Olympia host Austin Jenkins talks transportation, ballot initiatives and the 2024 legislative session with Senate Transportation Committee leaders Marko Liias and Curtis King. Plus, State Traffic Engineer Dongho Chang on how to make our transportation system more efficient and effective at moving people from place to place.

Liias and King discuss the rising costs of transportation projects due to inflation, supply chain issues that came about during COVID, and workforce shortages.

Will there be any discussion of new transportation taxes and revenues this session? Not likely in short 60-day session, but it is a topic for future conversations, with gas tax revenues projected to decline.

How out of whack are transpo revenues with project costs? L: COVID was really hard on transpo funding, less people commuting, costs have gone up, supplies, workforce, supply chain. In a 15B program we’re like 1B out of whack.

The cost of replacing fish-block culverts is growing dramatically. Liias points out that we are on track to correct 80 precent of the problem culverts with existing money, a significant accomplishment. Both King and Liias discussed working with the tribes and judicial system to come to an agreement on approaching the remaining 20 percent.   

An initiative to repeal the state’s Climate Commitment Act (CCA) is likely to be on the November ballot. Liias notes that if the CCA is repealed, about a third of the “Move Ahead Washington” transportation funding package approved in 2022 is at risk. King says if voters repeal the CCA, the state still needs to find the money for transportation – he says the CCA has raised gas prices and points to examples of CCA spending that Republicans generally don’t like.

The two transportation leaders also discuss the state’s ferry system, traffic safety, Liias’ trip to Finland to study their traffic safety systems, a proposed lowering of the driving-under-the-influence alcohol limit from .08 to .05 percent, automated traffic cameras, and more.

State Traffic Engineer Dongho Chang also traveled with a state delegation to Finland, where he studied traffic safety and efficiency measures in that Scandinavian country.

He gives examples of structural and technological changes – some of them simple and not expensive – that can make transportation safer and more efficient. Topics discussed include traffic cameras, raised sidewalks, the federal infrastructure act, “complete streets,” automated vehicles, the importance of highly visible lane lines, preventing wrong-way collisions, and more.