By Kurt Hammond
A number of transportation reform measures pushed by House Republicans have passed the House Transportation Committee. The bills received bipartisan support, but House Republicans have been adamant about a “Fix it Before You Fund it” approach, stating reforms are needed before they consider a House Democratic plan to raise the gas tax and other transportation related fees. House Republicans believe reforms can be made that will allow the state gas tax dollars to go further, ensure accountability, and protect taxpayers.
Two bills primed-sponsored by 25th District Rep. Hans Zeiger were voted out of committee.
House Bill 1978 would implement a new six-step permit process created under the Transportation Permit Efficiency and Accountability Committee (TPEAC), which was formed by 2001 legislation.
House Bill 1979 would help facilitate the process for obtaining public/private partnership funding for small scale, non-toll transportation projects. The bill follows a 2011 study by the Washington State Transportation Commission.
“We can’t talk about funding new projects without making reforms to bring down costs. I am glad there is bipartisan support for moving these reforms through the process,” said Zeiger, R-Puyallup. “I hope the Senate will act on House Bills 1978 and 1979 quickly and move them on to the governor’s desk.”
House Bill 1986 would require the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to report engineering errors costing more than $500,000 and explain what went wrong to the Legislature. It would also require the agency to put in place a plan to correct the errors and ensure similar mistakes do not happen on future projects.
Rep. Steve O’Ban said this bill would hold WSDOT accountable.
“I firmly believe that before we ask taxpayers for more of their paychecks, we must ensure every transportation dollar is used effectively,” said O’Ban, R-Pierce County and member of the House Transportation Committee. “Creating greater accountability and transparency in transportation projects is one way to rebuild the public’s trust, and bring about needed changes with WSDOT, particularly after the costly mistakes on the 520 Bridge and the Highway 16 interchange.”
The committee also passed House Bill 1988 prime-sponsored by Rep. Jay Rodne. The bill would direct the WSDOT to explore the cost and feasibility of expanding current software to all capital projects to ensure they are right-sized.
“This bill is about using technology to improve efficiencies in our transportation system. Now more than ever it is important to maximize our return on investment to ensure we are getting the most out of every dollar before we even discuss new transportation revenue,” said Rodne, R-North Bend. “Another great part of this bill is that we will be able to see exactly where we have realized savings and also look at the feasibility of applying this process to other transportation projects around the state.”
The four bills passed by the committee are now headed to the House Rules Committee where House Republicans hope they will get pulled to the floor in the near future.
The minority party still has a number of other reform bills including elimination of state and local sales and use tax on new transportation projects, limiting WSDOT’s tort liability and 15-year bond terms but those reform bills remain in committee.
For more information, visit our Web site at: www.houserepublicans.wa.gov.