Road-use charges, autonomous vehicles among items to be discussed at State Transportation Commission meeting this week

Planning for future transportation needs is the focus of the Washington State Transportation Commission’s October meeting. Topics to be covered include updates on tolling performance and the state transportation revenue forecast, next steps for the Road Usage Charge assessment, and a continuation of the commission’s year-long series on “The Future of Transportation Post COVID-19.”

The commission meeting begins at 9 a.m. both Tuesday, Oct. 20, and Wednesday, Oct. 21. Due to limitations on the size of gatherings in response to COVID-19, this meeting will be conducted virtually using GoToWebinar. People interested in attending can find registration instructions on the commission’s website.  The meeting will be broadcast live on TVW at www.tvw.org.

Image courtesy Washington State Transportation Commission.

On Tuesday, the Autonomous Vehicle Workgroup will provide an update on its progress and give a preview of pending recommendations, which will be submitted to the commission at its December meeting. The AV workgroup is charged with identifying policy and regulatory changes to better to accommodate AVs on public roadways.

An update on the Interstate 405/State Route 167 express toll lanes Low-Income Tolling Study also will be given. The study is assessing the effects of tolling on low-income drivers of the I-405/SR 167 express toll lanes and recommends possible approaches to mitigate impacts. The project team will present proposed criteria for selection of possible low-income toll program options for further assessment and will provide an overview of a survey to be conducted of low-income drivers who use either corridor.

As part of the commission’s on-going work related to the statewide 20-year transportation plan “Washington Transportation Plan 2040 and Beyond,” Washington State Department of Transportation staff will provide a briefing on the development of the department’s Highway System Plan. The Highway System Plan is a component of the 20-year plan and serves as the basis for the six-year capital highway program and WSDOT’s two-year budget request to the State Legislature.

Tuesday afternoon, staff from WSDOT and the Office of the State Treasurer will provide an update on the performance of the state’s tolled facilities. They will highlight the effects the COVID-19 pandemic is having on traffic volumes and revenues for each tolled facility and discuss possible approaches to addressing toll revenue shortfalls. Staff will also provide a briefing on the September 2020 state transportation revenue forecast, addressing the current financial status of state transportation funding, and providing insight into what the future may hold for state transportation revenues and toll rates.

Tuesday’s meeting concludes with a briefing on the next phase of work for the Road Usage Charge assessment. A RUC is being assessed as a possible replacement to the gas tax. The commission has conducted several years of research and a year-long pilot project with 2,000 drivers from across the state. In January 2020, the commission made recommendations to the Legislature for implementing a small RUC program statewide. An overview of the next phase of research will be provided. This research is fully funded with a grant from the Federal Highways Administration.

The focus of Wednesday’s meeting is on the commission’s year-long series: “The Future of Transportation Post-COVID-19.” A panel of experts and industry leaders will speak to several topics, including:

  • New considerations and approaches for future transportation infrastructure investments
  • A proposal on the development of the “Cascadia Innovation Corridor” running from Vancouver, B.C., to Portland, Oregon
  • New approaches to promoting changes in travel behavior, equitable mobility, and employer participation
  • The challenges and impacts of the pandemic on businesses statewide and implications going forward

Written public comment will be accepted 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. Questions can also be asked during the meeting by using the “question” box found on-screen during the meeting, and as time allows, will be addressed during the meeting.

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

 

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