The Washington State Transportation Commission (WSTC) 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 Transportation Plan. As the State Tolling Authority, the WSTC sets tolls for state highways and bridges and fares for Washington State Ferries.
Reema Griffith, Executive Director
The Washington State Transportation Commission is a seven member body of citizens appointed by the Governor for six-year terms. The Secretary of WSDOT and a representative from the Governor’s Office are 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 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.
Ferry Fares and Highway Toll Responsibilities
The Commission adopts tolls for all state toll facilities including: the SR 520 Bridge, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, the SR 167 HOT Lanes, the I-405 Express Toll Lanes, and the SR 99 Tunnel. It also monitors traffic and toll revenue, reviews and oversees toll collection processes, costs, and operational policies.
The Commission also adopts fare and pricing policies for Washington State Ferries (WSF), and reviews and adjusts fares. It reviews the long-range ferry system capital plan and WSF operational strategies.
Ferry Customer Survey
The Commission conducts surveys of ferry customers at least every two years. Data gathered from the Ferry Riders’ Opinion Group (FROG) survey panel helps to inform WSF level of service, operational, pricing, planning, and investment decisions.
The Commission offers policy guidance and recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature on issues which include:
- Transportation finance and funding.
- Preserving, maintaining, and operating the statewide transportation system.
- Transportation infrastructure needs.
- Transportation 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.
Public Involvement and Outreach
The Commission conducts public outreach both through meetings held in Olympia and in community meetings throughout the state which focus on local and regional transportation issues and challenges. The Commission also gathers statewide public input via its FROG online survey program, via special projects/ studies, and via an electronic public input email inbox.
Transportation Innovative Partnerships (TIP) Program
The Commission may receive and may 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 its review is complete, the Commission issues a recommendation and forwards it to the Legislature for final action in law.
Naming State Highways, Bridges, and Ferries
The Commission may name state highways, bridges, and ferry vessels. After receiving a naming request from the Legislature, community organizations, a local government, or individual, the Commission carefully considers community support and consults with WSDOT before acting to name a transportation facility or vessel.
The Commission conducts special studies or projects related to transportation policy and funding matters as directed by the Legislature. These studies typically result in formal reports and recommendations to the Legislature and Governor. The Commission currently has the following special studies or projects underway:
- The Road Usage Charge Assessment, underway since 2012, is being evaluated as a replacement to the gas tax. A year-long pilot was completed in January, 2019, in which over 2000 vehicles from across the state tested different methods of recording and reporting miles driven. A final report of findings and recommendations will be submitted to the Governor and Legislature in January, 2020.
- The Autonomous Vehicle (AV) Work Group was implemented in 2018. Its membership includes legislators, state agency heads, and key industry stakeholders and interest groups. Five subcommittees are in place whose broad-based stakeholder membership is assessing needed AV preparations. The Work Group advises the Commission who is required to make recommendations every November to the Legislature and Governor on policies and regulations that will enable the safe accommodation of AV’s on public roadways statewide.
- The Low-Income Tolling Study was funded in 2019 to assess options, benefits, costs, requirements, and potential detriments of implementing a low-income tolling program for users of the Interstate 405 Express Toll Lanes. A report of findings and recommendations is due to the Legislature by June 30, 2021.
- The Tacoma Narrows Bridge Loan Report was implemented in 2018 to provide the Legislature with an annual status report on funding needed to provide up to $85 million in loans to the TNB Account. The intent of the loans is to keep TNB toll rates at no more than $0.25 more than current levels until debt service, deferred sales tax, and loans are repaid (through about FY 2032).