State transportation meeting will focus on tolls

The use of toll revenue and Washington State Ferries (WSF) will be the focus of attention when the State Transportation Commission holds its monthly meeting next week in Olympia. Commissioners will also participate in a work session for the new State Route 167 High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes pilot project.

The meeting starts at 9 a.m., on both Tues., Nov. 13 and Weds., Nov. 14, and will be held in the Commission Board Room of the Transportation Building, 310 Maple Park Avenue SE, Olympia. The meeting is open to the public.

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge Citizen Advisory Committee will present to the Commission its findings and any recommendations for adjustments in how toll revenue for the Tacoma Narrows Bridge is used. The Citizens Advisory Committee is basing their response on information presented by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and public comments heard during a meeting held in Gig Harbor on Oct. 9 regarding toll use.

This month the Commission discusses three separate studies to look at WSF customers, finances and future operations. On Tuesday, the Commission kicks off a customer survey that will examine customers’ attitudes regarding ferry service and operations, and motivations for using the ferry. Also on Tuesday, consultant staff will present a work plan for a study of long-term ferry finances. The study will identify and evaluate long-term, sustainable funding sources for ferries. During Wednesday’s meeting, WSF staff will present an overview of WSF’s origin and destination study, which asks riders about their typical routes, how they get to and from the terminal, and the purpose of their trip.

Information gathered in these studies will help planners and decision makers map the future of WSF.

A work session will be held on Wednesday for the SR 167 HOT Lane project. This four-year pilot project will test a new congestion management tool that allows solo drivers to pay an electronic toll to use the carpool lanes. Toll rates fluctuate with the level of congestion to ensure that traffic in the HOT lane flows at least 45 mph, even when the regular lanes are congested. The Commission will discuss recommendations of a minimum and maximum toll solo drivers would pay and plans for enforcement of the HOT lane.

The Commission will bid farewell to Commissioner Ed Barnes, who is retiring from the Commission after serving two six-year terms. Barnes was first appointed in 1995. He brought a strong labor and business perspective to the Commission, having more than 50 years experience in union activities and the construction industry.