Roles and Responsibilities

The Washington State Transportation Commission is a seven-member body of citizens appointed by the Governor for up to two six-year terms. The WSDOT Secretary and a representative from the Governor’s Office serve as ex officio members.

The Commission provides an open public forum for transportation policy development. It reviews and assesses how the entire transportation system works across the state and issues the state’s 20-year Washington Transportation Plan. As the State Tolling Authority, the Commission adopts state highway tolls and sets ferry fares. The Commission also conducts special studies and projects as directed by the Legislature.

Current Responsibilities in Detail

Washington Transportation Plan
Every four years, the Commission recommends to the Legislature a comprehensive and balanced statewide transportation plan, which also addresses local and regional needs. The plan must be consistent with the state’s growth management goals and is based upon six statutory transportation policy goals: preservation, economic vitality, safety, mobility, environment & health, and stewardship.

Tolling & Ferry Fare Responsibilities
The Commission adopts tolls for all state toll facilities including: the State Route (SR) 520 bridge, the SR 16 Tacoma Narrows Bridge (TNB), the SR 167 high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes, the Interstate405 express toll lanes (ETLs), and the SR 99 tunnel. It actively monitors and assesses traffic and toll revenues; reviews and oversees toll collection processes, costs, and operational policies; and serves as a public forum for input on tolling. The Commission also adopts fare policies for Washington State Ferries (WSF) and reviews and adjusts fares. In addition, it reviews the long-range ferry system capital plan and works with WSF in developing operational strategies.

Ferry Customer Survey
The Commission conducts surveys of ferry customers at least once every two years, utilizing the Ferry Riders Opinion Group (FROG) survey panel that is made up of over 25,000 ferry riders. Data gathered from the FROG panel helps to inform WSF level of service, customer satisfaction, and decisions related to operations, pricing, planning, and investments.

Policy Guidance
The Commission offers policy guidance and recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature on a multitude of transportation topics and issues, including:

  • Transportation finance and funding.
  • Preserving, maintaining, and operating the statewide transportation system.
  • Transportation infrastructure needs.
  • Efficiencies that will improve service delivery and intermodal coordination and connectivity.
  • Improved planning and coordination among transportation agencies and providers.
  • Use of intelligent transportation systems and technology.
  • Needed laws to prepare for the operation of autonomous vehicles operating on public roadways.

Public Involvement and Outreach
The Commission conducts public outreach through meetings held in Olympia and in communities throughout the state, which focus on local and regional transportation issues and challenges. The Commission also gathers statewide public input through its FROG survey panel, special projects and studies, and its public email and web site.

Transportation Innovative Partnerships Program
The Commission may receive and solicit concepts or proposals for eligible public-private partnership (PPP) projects. In consultation with the Governor, it may execute, reject, or continue negotiations on proposed PPP projects.

Route Jurisdiction Transfer Program
Cities, counties, or WSDOT may petition the Commission to consider a revision to the state highway system. Once the Commission’s review is complete, it forwards a recommendation to the Legislature for final action in law.

Naming State Highways, Bridges, and Ferries
The Commission names state highways, bridges, and ferry vessels. The Legislature, community organizations, local governments, or individuals may submit a naming request. The Commission carefully considers community support and consults with WSDOT before acting to name a transportation facility or vessel.

Special Studies
The Commission conducts special studies or projects directed by the Legislature, which result in formal reports and recommendations to the Legislature and Governor. Studies or projects currently underway (visit WSTC website for details):

  • The Road Usage Charge (RUC) is under assessment as a replacement to the gas tax. In January 2020, the Commission submitted a final report of findings and recommendations to the Governor and Legislature, culminating over seven years of research and testing. In the fall of 2020, the Commission began a new phase of RUC research, as directed by the Legislature. The work is funded with a grant from the Federal Highway Administration.
  • The Autonomous Vehicle (AV) Work Group advises the Commission in its task to make recommendations to the Legislature on policies that will enable the safe accommodation of AVs on public roadways statewide. (sunsets December 2023)
  • The Washington Transportation plan is undergoing an update and will be complete by December 2025.
  • The Advanced Technology study assessing technology approaches that advance safety and compliance with tolling and HOV lane usage.
  • The Route Jurisdiction Study evaluating the current state highway inventory and local roadway designations and is reviewing current criteria used to define state highways. The evaluation will be completed by July 2025.