ALERT: Contact Your State Senator Regarding Transportation

A package of transportation investment and reform bills is headed to the floor of the Washington State Senate. The state legislature has not made a new investment in transportation in a decade and a vote on this important package could come as early as Thursday.

Lawmakers need to hear from you on this important issue. Use this link to email your state senator directly. Remind lawmakers how important safe and efficient roads and bridges are to you and our state. It’s past time to invest in transportation.

Thank you to our partner, the Association of Washington Business, for providing this easy-to-use legislator look-up and letter-writing tool.

Federal proposal on energy infrastructure coming

In the next few weeks, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is expected to propose the first phase of the administration’s strategy for modernizing the nation’s energy infrastructure.

The action is tied to the Department of Energy’s Quadrennial Annual review, and obscure as that sounds, it could have consequences for Washington state’s export economy, according to a guest opinion piece from Association of Washington Business President Kris Johnson published recently on The Hill’s Congress Blog.

It’s no secret the nation’s energy infrastructure needs updating, Johnson writes, but he makes the case that the nation’s needs are not identical from coast-to-coast.

In Washington state, 40 percent of all jobs are linked to trade-related industries,” he notes, adding that in addition to rail, export growth is Washington’s best opportunity to spur economic development in the coming decades.

Unfortunately, current government procedures delay infrastructure decisions and deter investment opportunities. As Johnson concludes:

Expanding capacity and improving our freight infrastructure is vital for all product shippers, energy related or not. The DOE must set a clear standard in the QER that will allow for timely and efficient review of infrastructure projects. It is important for us to act now and support infrastructure investment so that these opportunities can ultimately improve the job and trade capacities of the region.

For now, trade is one of Washington’s biggest economic advantages. Hopefully, decisions like the one coming from the Department of Energy will build upon the strength and not erode it.

Signs of progress as legislature’s first deadline approaches

Today marks the first legislative cutoff. For those outside the Olympia bubble, it means that, to stay alive, any policy bill that doesn’t impact the budget (or transportation) must move out of its committee of origin by today. It’s an important benchmark because it tells us what bills have traction and what’s likely to be left by the wayside.

Signs of progress as we approach today’s deadline:

On Transportation: After a packed public hearing earlier this week, the Senate Transportation Committee approved the bipartisan transportation proposal announced last week. We’re pleased to see lawmakers understanding the urgency of this issue and taking decisive action. We’re hearing a floor vote could come soon. We’ll let you know when that’s happening and how you can voice your support.

On Education: The Senate Education Committee moved SB 5744, a measure aimed at supporting effective teachers. It directs districts to base reduction-in-force policies on performance, not seniority. It also gives principals greater authority in hiring decisions. Both components are key to supporting great teachers in every classroom.

On the other side of the capitol, the House Education Committee moved HB 1813, a bill to support K-12 computer science education, standards and teacher training. There’s a lot of support in Washington for improved STEM education and this bill is good step.

Look for more activity in Olympia as that first deadline approaches later today. TVW will have ongoing coverage. You can also stay up to date via our Twitter and Facebook feeds.

Bill Moving to Support Computer Science Education

The House Education Committee took a step toward improving computer science education in Washington schools today, passing out HB 1813. It does a few things:

  • Creates a Computer Science and Education Grant program.
  • Requires development of computer sciences learning standards.
  • Directs creation of a computer science endorsement for teachers.

Poll results released this morning by Washington STEM indicate that many Washington voters are likely to be on board with moves to improve computer science and, more specifically, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. Key findings from that poll:

  • 94 percent of Washington voters believe every child should have access to a high quality STEM education in the state’s K-12 public schools, but just 45 percent believe schools are delivering.
  • 86 percent agree that STEM education is needed to ensure students are given the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the 21st century.
  • 81 percent agree increased focus on STEM education in Washington will improve the state’s economy.
  • 86 percent of voters support increasing the number of college students graduating with a degree in a STEM field.

And, as our Opportunity Washington roadmap points out:

The payoff [on STEM education] is considerable… a one percent increase in the number of high school graduates interested in pursuing a computer science or engineering degree would increase the number of qualified employees by 600 a year. (Source: The Boston Consulting Group)

Senate Committee packed for hearing on transportation package

People lined up in Olympia yesterday to participate in a Senate hearing  on a bipartisan transportation proposal announced last Thursday. The $15 billion package does a number of good things. Most notably, it addresses our highest priority by investing in preservation and maintenance of our roads and bridges and improving key economic corridors.  As The Boston Consulting Group outlined last year, without new money, 60 percent of roads will be in poor condition or worse by 2026. Is that a system any of us want?

Our hope is that the Senate Transportation Committee will move the package quickly and the full Senate can soon have an opportunity for debate and a vote. You can weigh in on the bill directly through this online tool.

Meanwhile, here’s a flavor about what editorial pages have been saying about the package and what it does…

From The News Tribune (Tacoma):

It would invest billions in uncorking transportation chokepoints. The worst of these are the uncompleted gaps in state Routes 167 and 509, which threaten the state economy by throttling freight movement in and out of the ports of Tacoma and Seattle. Roughly $1.9 billion would finally complete those highways and improve interchanges on Interstate 5, getting trucks off the freeway, easing commutes, and greasing the shipment of freight through the Kent Valley.Bottlenecks would be widened on I-405, Snoqualmie Pass, the North Spokane Freeway and the bumper-to-bumper stretch of I-5 that runs past Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The Evergreen Point Floating Bridge’s link to Seattle would be completed.Transit projects, ferries, salmon passages and a slew of local road improvements would also be funded.

From The Spokesman Review:

The magnitude of the new package, incorporated in eight separate bills, reflects Washington’s challenge. Roads in every corner of the state cannot efficiently carry traffic. Although Puget Sound-area highways would get – and need – the bulk of the funding, Eastern Washington would do extremely well. For Spokane, the big must-do remains the North-South Corridor, ticketed for $862 million to finally close the connection to Interstate 90. At least eight other area projects would get funded.

From The Herald (Everett)…

…a transportation package announced Thursday by a bipartisan group of senators appears to be a model of comprise and, just as importantly, outlines about $570 million in transportation projects for Snohomish County, far greater than the $82 million included in the governor’s budget.

From The Columbian (Vancouver):

The state Senate has proposed a $15 billion transportation package to make it easier for Washingtonians to get around and transport goods and services. In other words, they have proposed a plan for investing $15 billion in the state’s economy, recognizing that crumbling infrastructure has very real consequences when it comes to jobs.

From The Yakima Herald:

Legislators always want to be seen as working for their districts, which leads to the danger of a Christmas tree of goodies for everyone across the state. A smarter approach is to set priorities that would benefit the state’s economy as a whole, and we continue to argue that projects improving freight mobility contribute most to state job growth and offer the best return on investment. Among those that are in the Senate proposal are widening Interstate 90 over Snoqualmie Pass and easing access to the ports of Seattle and Tacoma. Improvements that move goods also will help move people, a priority for an increasingly congested Pugetopolis.

And, in conclusion, again from The Spokesman Review:

The state must act while gas prices are low and the federal government dithers over raising cash for the highway trust fund. Doing nothing ensures gridlock on critical roads and a missed opportunity to boost Washington businesses. A recent study estimated a $7 billion investment in transportation would yield a fivefold return to our economy over 30 years. Imagine doubling that with the Senate proposal. Time to get going.