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House passes state transportation system reforms
The House of Representatives in the Washington State Legislature passed a bipartisan package of bills Thursday afternoon to improve the design and construction process for new transportation projects, as well as increase accountability of how money is spent by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and other agencies.
“We took a hard look at the way we design, review, and construct new projects to find ways that we can do things better,” said Representative Marko Liias (D-Mukilteo), vice-chair of the House Transportation Committee. “We are committed to stretching our transportation dollars further.”
House Bill 1957, sponsored by Transportation Committee Chair Judy Clibborn (D-Mercer Island), requires that any changes to the design of a new transportation project must be approved by the Office of Financial Management. It also requires WSDOT to regularly report the cost of these changes and provide updates on project delivery to the governor and legislature.
“This has been a bipartisan effort to seek out efficiency into our transportation system,” said Clibborn. “I am pleased that we could find common ground on ways to improve our use of taxpayer dollars.”
Clibborn’s legislation also establishes three expert panels to review the financing and implementation of the three largest projects currently in progress: the Columbia River Crossing, the SR 520 Bridge, and the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
Several other bills in the package promise more oversight and safeguards for transportation projects. These changes include:
Codifying the permitting and environmental review process for new large projects (Zeiger)
Requiring WSDOT to submit a detailed report on errors costing more than $500,000 (O’Ban)
Promoting “right-sizing” of projects to improve efficiency (Rodne)
“These reforms improve accountability without sacrificing our commitment to environmental protection. They encourage efficiency not just in terms of money spent, but also in terms of the amount of concrete we lay down,” noted Liias.
The bills all passed with unanimous or near-unanimous support. They will now go to the Senate for consideration.