Wednesday, February 20, 2013

State Transportation News

There is a lot going on in state transportation news this week.

Yesterday, Gov. Jay Inslee named a new Transportation Secretary. Lynn Peterson serves as an advisor to Oregon Gov. John Kithzhaber and is a former planner with Tri-Met, the Portland-area transit agency. Among other things, Inslee said Peterson shared his vision for improving transit in the state.

Today, State Rep. Judy Clibborn will unveil a transportation funding package that includes earmarked funding for transit. Details on that plan will emerge throughout the day.

Also today, at 3:30 p.m. the Senate Transportation Committee will hear testimony on SB 5773 which would allow certain transit agencies to seek local taxing authority to fund operations. That bill could allow a vote in Snohomish County to help raise funding for Community Transit bus service.

Community Transit is at its state-authorized maximum tax authority, 0.9 percent sales tax. That is one of the reasons the agency relied on fare increases, cost-cutting and service cuts as the primary ways to balance its budget during the recession. As a result, 37 percent of bus service was cut, including Sunday and holiday service. The state provides about 2 percent of Community Transit's funding, although that share was as high as 30 percent before the passage of I-695 in 1999.

Stay tuned for more details on efforts to get new transit funding in Olympia.

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