We’re sitting on the edge of our seats over here at WCIT, and not just because it’s more comfortable (we have new chairs, and we’re still adjusting to them). Rather, we’re eagerly awaiting news about whether the State Legislature will agree to a critical transportation funding package before they adjourn. With the news this week that the state will likely take in $231 million more in revenue than expected, we only have a few days left to ensure funding for key infrastructure projects that would significantly improve freight mobility in our state, like the Puget Sound Gateway project.
As loyal State of Trade readers (or, as we call you, “staties”), you know that efficient freight mobility infrastructure is crucial for Washington’s international competitiveness. While Canada pours billions of dollars into ports like Prince Rupert and Vancouver, Washington state has left key projects that would connect highways to our ports – like SR 167 and 509 –unfinished. Completing these projects would relieve traffic congestion and take 15 percent of trucks off I-5, easing our overburdened roads and vastly improving the ability to move goods to and from our ports.
If our Legislators don’t realize the importance of funding our transportation infrastructure to our international competitiveness, Washington will certainly lose out on business. With the 2014 widening of the Panama Canal and new capacity in Canada, shippers won’t choose our ports if it is costly and time consuming to transport goods from here to the rest of the country. Our exporters also rely on efficient transportation infrastructure to export Washington goods to countries around the world. The collapse of the I-5 Skagit bridge really was a wake-up call about how dependent we are on infrastructure for efficient movement of goods and people.
If you haven’t done so already, contact your Washington Legislators to let urge them to pass a transportation package – it’s not too late to voice your support!
And speaking of freight mobility, the first meeting of the National Freight Advisory Committee is next week. This committee of 47 industry experts, established under MAP-21, will provide recommendations to the U.S. Secretary of Transportation on how to improve national freight transportation policies and programs. We here in Washington are extra proud that Karen Schmidt, the head of Washington’s Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board, is the representative from the Pacific Northwest; if anyone can convince the federal government to strategically invest in fixing our nation’s outdated freight mobility infrastructure, it’s her!
As always, stay tuned and we’ll keep you posted on any developments. Until then, WCIT will go back to anxiously waiting for news from Olympia…and to trying to figure out how to make this chair more comfortable to sit in.