Transportation Commission to focus on future funding, autonomous and electric vehicles, ferry fares

(OLYMPIA)– Topics related to the future of the transportation system are on the Washington State Transportation Commission’s meeting agenda for next week. Discussions will include recent federal guidance on the advancement of autonomous vehicles, capabilities of our electrical grid to accommodate continued growth in electric vehicles, addressing future funding needs, and possible ways to simplify ferry fares in the future.

The transportation commission will hold its monthly meeting starting at 9 a.m. both Wednesday, Feb. 19, and Thursday, Feb. 20, at the Transportation Building, 310 Maple Park Ave. SE, on the Capitol Campus in Olympia. The meeting is open to the public and persons wishing to speak to the commission may do so during public comment periods at the end of each day.

On Wednesday, staff from the Utilities and Transportation Commission will present information on the ability of the electrical grid to handle the growing number of electric vehicles in Washington state, considering future levels of electric vehicle adoption.

Staff from the Washington State Department of Transportation’s Innovative Partnerships Program will update the commission on a transit-oriented development project at the Kingsgate Park and Ride lot. WSDOT is partnering with Sound Transit, King County Metro, and the City of Kirkland to better utilize the existing park and ride lot to accommodate additional parking, housing and commercial development, while enhancing transit access.

Wednesday afternoon, the commission will take up a request from residents and organizations from Klickitat County to name US 97 through their county the “World War II Veterans Memorial Highway.”

The Office of the State Treasurer will provide a report on State Route 520 toll rate performance. Each year, the State Treasurer assesses the current SR 520 toll rates to ensure they will meet financing requirements. In addition, staff will brief the commission on the State Treasurer’s recent assessment of the state’s debt load, its value and its costs.

Next, the commission will receive a briefing on new guidance and standards recently issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation on automated vehicle operations and technologies. This briefing will contrast the federal approach to autonomous vehicle development and guidance with the approach taken in Europe and elsewhere.

Also on Wednesday, the commission will hear an overview of the Joint Transportation Committee’s study assessing statewide transportation funding needs and priorities, and identifying ways in which to address them. The final report of findings and recommendations are due to the state legislature by Dec. 31, 2020.

On Thursday, Washington State Ferries will brief the commission on its fare simplification study. The study assessed the existing fare structure and its evolution over time, and identified the opportunities and challenges for simplifying the fare structure. WSF also will discuss its initial work investigating a low-income fare pilot as authorized by the commission last year. If funded by the Legislature, this pilot would test a special passenger fare for low-income customers, for up to three years.

Also Thursday, the commission will receive an update on the Ferry Riders Opinion Group (FROG) survey panel made up of nearly 25,000 ferry riders. This briefing will provide an overview of upcoming surveys and focus areas for 2020 . Each year, the commission surveys ferry riders to better inform WSF level of service, operational, pricing, planning, and investment decisions. People interested in joining the FROG can sign up at: ferryridersopiniongroup.com

For more information about the commission and a complete meeting agenda, visit: www.wstc.wa.gov/