Transportation Commission to discuss road usage charging and ferry fare changes

(OLYMPIA)– According to a news release, current research on road usage charging as a means of transportation revenue and the next steps in the ferry fare setting process are among the topics the Washington State Transportation Commission will cover at its virtual meeting next week.

The meeting starts at 9 a.m. both Tuesday, May 18, and Wednesday, May 19. Due to limitations on the size of gatherings in response to COVID-19, this meeting will be conducted virtually using Zoom Webinar. People interested in attending can register on the commission’s website. The meeting will be broadcast live on TVW at www.tvw.org.

Tuesday morning, project staff will update the commission on the latest activities of the Forward Drive road usage charge research project. The presentation focuses on two areas of the research: the equity analysis effort assessing effects RUC may have on underserved communities; and the financial modeling work, which aims to measure the long-term sustainability of RUC as a revenue source considering various factors.

Following, the Autonomous Vehicle Work Group will brief the commission on possible topics and areas of focus the group could undertake during the remaining three years it has to complete its work.

Tuesday afternoon, the commission will hear updates on the performance of the Interstate 405/State Route 167 express toll lanes. The commission will also receive an update on its I-405/SR 167 ETL Low-Income Tolling Study, which is assessing the effects of tolling on low-income drivers. Staff will brief the commission on the analysis of two low-income discount options and will discuss elements of the draft final report of findings and recommendations, which are due to the Legislature on June 30, 2021.

Other agenda items include the performance of the SR 99 tunnel, as well as finalizing next steps for toll rate changes on the SR 520 bridge, SR 99 tunnel, and Tacoma Narrows Bridge. In addition, Washington State Ferries will give the commission an overview of its 2021-23 budget and fare revenue target. The commission will review possible fare changes to meet the Legislature’s revenue expectations, based on the final 2021-23 transportation budget passed by the Legislature, and will go over the next steps in the ferry fare-setting process over the coming months. That process includes opportunities for the public to provide input between late-May and early-July. The commission is expected to release its proposed ferry fare changes at its June 15 meeting and its proposed toll rate changes at its July 20 meeting.

The meeting continues on Wednesday with a briefing on ways to address equity in transportation policies and projects such as the upcoming Washington Transportation Plan update. This presentation will cover ways that governments can engage all people in making transportation decisions and measure progress toward a future where all people have access to transportation, allowing them to meet their daily needs. The commission will learn about existing data sources that can shed light on how transportation, housing, health, and the economy interact to create differences in opportunities and resources for Washington’s residents and workers.

Also Wednesday morning, the commission will take action on a legislative request for the naming of State Route 165 as “The Glacier Highway.” The highway is located in Pierce County near Mount Rainier and passes through the communities of Wilkeson and Carbonado.

Questions or comments from the public can be submitted during the virtual meeting by using the “Q&A” function found on-screen. As time allows, questions will be addressed during the meeting. Written comments can also be submitted via email until 4 p.m. the day before the meeting. Comments should be sent to transc@wstc.wa.gov. Written comments received after this deadline will be provided to commissioners after the meeting.

All presentations will be available on the commission’s website. For more information about the commission and complete meeting agendas, visit: wstc.wa.gov/meetings/