For its Environmental Impact Statement on proposed all-lanes electronic tolling of part of I-90, Washington should consider not just a single alternative but a package of them carefully picked from the current menu which includes a regional vehicle mileage tax (VMT), more transit funding, and widening I-90; as well as a broader regional tolling plan, heavier tolling on 520 than now, and a state gas tax hike. So says the Environmental Review Manager of the U.S. EPA’s Seattle-based Region 10 office in a recent letter to the state. Meanwhile, the City of Mercer Island, at the center of growing opposition to I-90 tolls, is voicing support for a gas tax hike alternative favored by the State Senate Majority, while also signaling openness to a compromise involving HOT lanes, or partial tolling on the highway, free to multi-occupant vehicles and available to solo drivers for a toll. Like the EPA, the city is accenting the need to consider several alternatives implemented together.
Collaboration in Civic Spheres
Archive for the ‘Taxes’ Category
by Matt Rosenberg November 17th, 2013
by Matt Rosenberg October 7th, 2013
The charged public debate over yet another U.S. debt ceiling lift is just the tip of the iceberg. Today’s tussles over near-term U.S. borrowing capacity only foreshadow deeper federal fiscal challenges. A recent report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office stressed that federal debt has worsened greatly since fiscal year-end 2008, and absent bold intervention will jump dramatically as health care and other entitlements continue to escalate, and new costs grow from U.S. health care exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. “That trajectory for federal debt would ultimately be unsustainable,” CBO says.
The CBO report says, “Federal debt held by the public stood at 39 percent of GDP at the end of 2008, close to its average of the preceding several decades. Since then, large deficits have caused debt held by the public to grow sharply – to a projected 73 percent of GDP by the end of 2013. Debt has exceeded 70 percent of GDP during only one other period in U.S. history: from 1944 through 1950, when it spiked because of a surge in federal spending during World War II….”
by Matt Rosenberg August 5th, 2013
The Washington State Department of Transportation is advertising for a contractor to conduct “statewide toll educational services” focused on the fourth of five Puget Sound highways currently designated for electronic tolling, I-405. The $2.3 million sought in “educational marketing” services will be for three years with up to two two-year renewals at an additional premium. Meanwhile, the state continues to explore a more sweeping “vehicle mileage tax” – with an update presented last week to the transportation commission outlining possible technologies and current study timelines.
by Matt Rosenberg June 10th, 2013
The taxpayer-funded regional transit agency serving the three-county Greater Seattle region, Sound Transit, says its looming purchase of nine new cab cars for expanded service on its South Sounder commuter rail line between Seattle and Tacoma-Lakewood will cost $21 million more than expected, and its Pierce County regional subdivision or “sub-area” will have to issue debt to pay for the difference. According to a staff memo distributed to members of the ST Operations Committee last Thursday, that would pose at least three troublesome effects.
by Matt Rosenberg May 22nd, 2013
Proposed electronic tolling of I-90 just east of Seattle – to fill a $1.4 billion gap in building the western approach of a new bridge on SR 520 – is getting more complicated. There will now be a full Environmental Impact Statement, not just an Environmental Assessment. Regional pols are also pushing for a “system-wide” study of tolling in greater Seattle which they say should include looking at using vehicle tolling revenues to fund transit. And in the end it could be that instead of relying on I-90 user fees, tolling on a broader swath of SR 520 itself will help pay for the new bridge’s western approach.
by Matt Rosenberg March 1st, 2013
In its year-end 2012 Performance Report, presented Thursday at the monthly Sound Transit board meeting in Seattle, ST’s Citizen Oversight Panel took the regional transit agency to task for poor operating cost controls and questionable resource allocation choices, while revenues are 30 percent lower than expected. The COP says in its report that with the Great Recession having smacked down projected ST 2 revenues by nearly a third, Sound Transit needs to clamp down on growth in day-to-day costs such as a planned 9 percent bump in transit operations spending in 2013, and what has been an ongoing five percent average growth rate for agency operating costs. That includes overhead and a particular sore point, security.
by Matt Rosenberg February 18th, 2013
A new report to the legislature says Washington state is currently $1.43 billion short of what it would take to complete a crucial six-lane, six-mile partially-tolled extension of State Route 167 from Meridian Avenue in Puyallup across Interstate 5 to Port of Tacoma Road and State Route 509. According to the report just issued by the Washington State Department of Transportation, another $1.5 billion is needed for right-of-way purchases, securing permits and building the project, but only $65 million could be raised over 30 years through current plans to electronically toll one lane in each direction. Combined with a long laundry list of other road and transit needs statewide, the findings add to already considerable pressure for lawmakers to approve some sort of transportation funding package in Olympia this session.
State survey: more Washingtonians see transportation problems than a year ago, but they’re iffy on paying for fixes
by Matt Rosenberg February 14th, 2013
Across Washington, just 64 percent of regional respondents say the condition of their surface transportation system rated a “C” grade or better in 2012, versus 70 percent in 2011, according to key results of a major survey presented this week to the state senate transportation committee by the state transportation commission. And just 53 percent felt their area was getting its fair share of state transportation funding in 2012, versus 60 percent in 2011.
With baseline annual state transportation system maintenance needs identified in the survey at $2.1 billion, 51 percent of the 7,897 respondents across the state’s 14 different Regional Transportation Planning Organization (RTPO) jurisdictions said they’d support new revenues such as higher taxes, fees or tolls, versus 59 percent in 2011. But questioned more closely on what they’d really be willing to pay, and in what form, responses were quite mixed, showing that state lawmakers and local and regional officials may have a tough sales job ahead.