O’Ban urges support for transportation reform and full I-5 build-out at JBLM

Today the Senate Transportation Committee spent more than four hours reviewing and hearing public testimony about the new Senate transportation package. Sen. Steve O’Ban’s comprehensive transportation-reform proposal is one of 10 reform measures discussed.

The proposed measure rolls four reform bills (House Bills 1957, 1978, 1986, and 1988) into one complete piece of legislation to address inadequacies and inefficiencies within Washington’s state transportation system.

Each of those four measures was passed by the House of Representatives in 2013 with a strong bipartisan vote and outlines improvements that would streamline the permitting process for transportation projects, and increase transparency and accountability when reporting construction-project errors and changes.

Many people testified in support of O’Ban’s proposal, which would accelerate the completion of projects around the state and reduce the cost to taxpayers by putting more-efficient practices into effect.

“Cost overruns and waste have been an issue for many years, but we have really been inundated with expensive and avoidable transportation construction errors this year,” said O’Ban, R-Pierce County.

“The project to replace the State Route 520 floating bridge in King County has incurred nearly $400 million in potential cost overruns and still has more than a year to go before it is scheduled to be complete. In Pierce County, the design error on the State Route 16 off-ramp cost more than $900,000 to fix. And these are just two examples.

“The total amount of cost overruns for transportation projects statewide in 2013 could easily be more than double what occurred in 2011 and 2012 combined. This is unacceptable, and if we are focusing our efforts in Olympia on transportation, then reforms such as those in my proposed bill need to be a serious part of the conversation.”

Another priority for O’Ban is complete funding for a full build-out of Interstate 5 at Joint Base Lewis McChord. The mayors of Steilacoom and Lakewood, both cities within O’Ban’s 28th District, were at today’s meeting and urged support for the $820 million funding request.

“We know JBLM is set to expand by 50 percent by 2016,” O’Ban said. “Our infrastructure can’t handle the volume of traffic as it is today, let alone 13,000 more residents and commuters in the future. We must address this issue now, and I will be fighting hard for this funding in the coming months.”

O’Ban’s proposal is nearly identical to his bill, HB 2070, which was introduced during the 2013 first special session. Legislators must wait until Dec. 2 to prefile bills for consideration in 2014.