Congestion pricing is gaining a foothold in the management of highway vehicular travel, and with good reason. Congestion pricing, sometimes called demand-based pricing or dynamic tolling, is in the early stages of adoption by state DOTs as a congestion-management practice. But evidence from Virginia, Washington, and Utah’s dynamically-tolled lanes show that DOTs need to be careful how they set their toll rates to manage traffic flow.
The Washington State legislature and the ports of Tacoma and Seattle are struggling to balance the air quality and health concerns of neighborhoods close to port facilities with protests from independent truckers who cannot afford to upgrade their equipment. The deadline to require all trucks serving the port to have newer, cleaner engines has twice been extended. Other states have tried to set rules for clean engines, with varying degrees of success.
In the Seattle region, King County Transit, Sound Transit, and other regional agencies have partnered to launch a first in the nation program that prices fares based on household income. It addresses the growing equity concerns surrounding transportation and income inequality. The program also helps the region achieve greenhouse gas reduction goals by improving access to transit. One additional benefit being realized by the agencies is unexpected cost savings.
Increased coal shipments to Washington State ports could significantly intensify congestion on both roads and rail lines. Two recent reports by Parametrix and the Sightline Institute discuss the impacts of increased shipments of fossil fuels (particularly coal) from Montana, Wyoming, and North Dakota to ports in the Pacific Northwest.
While several states successfully passed transportation revenue packages this year, in Pennsylvania and Washington the failure of such bills will have immediate effects on infrastructure. PennDOT is considering weight limits for bridges across the state, and the $3 billion-plus Columbia River Crossing project, that would have replaced the existing I-5 bridge, shut down.
Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber has taken the position that the new Columbia River Crossing bridge project will die if Washington State attempts to remove light rail from the project. However, the GOP-controlled majority in the Washington State Senate has said that it will reject any bridge proposal with light rail, claiming they don’t want to pay for new transit-operations taxes and that rail is a waste of potential road space.
More evidence that the public strongly supports system preservation comes from a survey performed for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. When asked to rank the importance of a variety of potential priorities for WisDOT, preservation came out on top by a wide margin with 47.3 percent of respondents citing it as “extremely important.” A year earlier, a survey for Washington DOT found a similar result in that state.
The Washington State DOT currently has six statutory goals: economic vitality, preservation, safety, mobility, environment, and stewardship. H.B. 1233, introduced by a Tacoma legislator whose day job is with the county health department, would add health as a seventh goal.
The Washington Roundtable, a group comprising many of the state’s largest businesses, is urging passage of a nine-cent increase in the fuel tax. What’s most interesting about the proposal, however, is not the revenue ask, but where the group wants the money to go: for major increases in operations and in system preservation.
This SSTI report examines innovative, sustainable transportation funding models to assist decision-makers in identifying policies and practices to augment the current fuel tax revenue system. The report provides a broad account of these funding methods, where they have been implemented or proposed, and identifies state laws, policies, and practices that permit state DOTs and local governments to pursue a more sustainable funding model. The report, completed with the participation of North Carolina DOT, as well as Arizona, Illinois,Tennessee, Vermont, and Washington DOTs, suggests ways multiple revenue sources might be packaged to support and maintain transportation systems.