Dear Friends and Neighbors,
A recent survey of Washington residents conducted by Seattle pollster Stuart Elway shows that the transportation funding package proposed by House Democrats “has a tough road to voter support.” The proposal would increase the state’s gas tax by 10 cents a gallon over the next five years, making Washington the state with the highest gas tax in the nation.
While we understand the importance of ensuring our state’s transportation system can handle current demands and usage, my House Republican colleagues and I recognize the frustration of systematic problems within the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), including leaky pontoons, faulty ferries and ramps to nowhere. We also need to determine why it costs twice as much in Washington to build a highway than other states. Before we ask citizens for more money for transportation, we should get to the bottom of these problems first. In other words, “Fix it BEFORE you fund it!”
House Republicans have released a plan of six reforms we believe should be enacted BEFORE seeking more revenue for transportation. Go here to read our entire plan.
One of those reforms we have proposed is to streamline the permitting process. House Bill 1236 would require state agencies to make a permit decision in 90 days or the permit is granted.
Washington’s permitting process unnecessarily delays projects, increases project costs, creates unnecessary uncertainty, stirs hostility toward government, leads to angry applicants and encourages project opponents to manipulate the permitting system. All too often, permitting becomes a process based on politics, not practicality.
Opponents of our streamlined permitting proposal say transportation projects are too complicated to avoid permitting delays. But I would point to the design-build process of the Center Drive Interchange in Dupont (about 10 miles north of Olympia).
In the summer of 1995, the Intel Corporation announced its decision to locate a new research, development and manufacturing design facility in Northwest Landing (a large Weyerhaeuser-owned community near Dupont.) Intel would locate there and create local jobs if WSDOT could build the Center Drive interchange in a short time frame. A typical WSDOT project is built in 50 months, but Intel wanted it done in 18 months, or it would locate elsewhere. After negotiations, WSDOT promised to deliver in 28 months and Intel agreed. Ultimately, the project was finished in 26 months – two years faster than a typical WSDOT project – and it cost $3 million less than anticipated. Part of the reason was that the permitting process was put on the fast track, and the environmental, bridge design and geometric design processes were done simultaneously, rather than separately.
House Bill 1236 would eliminate unnecessary delays in the permitting process, reduce costs, and stimulate economic activity that could result in the creation of new jobs. Before we ask for more money, let’s make the best and wisest use of existing transportation dollars. That’s why I think it’s best to fix it BEFORE we fund it!
In your service,