Transportation forums begin; venues added

OLYMPIA (Sept. 17, 2013) –The Senate Republican Coalition Caucus’s “listening sessions” about the need for a transportation funding package kick off tonight in Bellevue amid a fresh report about how dangerous dozens of aging bridges around the state have become. In addition, three forums have been added in Bellingham, Pasco and Seattle to the schedule (see below).

A new Associated Press analysis identifies about 50 bridges that are “structurally deficient” and “fracture critical.” A bridge is “structurally deficient” when it is in need of rehabilitation or replacement because at least one major component is deemed in poor or worse condition. A bridge is deemed “fracture critical” when it doesn’t have redundant protections and is at risk of collapse if a single, vital component fails. The Skagit River bridge that collapsed in May was a fracture critical bridge, but it was actually not in disrepair like some of its peers, the report noted.

For all 153 days of the 2013 state legislative session, the Senate Republican Coalition Caucus ignored pressure from the House, from Gov. Jay Inslee and from pro-transportation forces representing the labor, business and environmental communities to negotiate a state transportation funding proposal. Senate leaders refused to vote on the House-approved plan and refused to present a plan of their own.

Now, Senate leaders say they are willing to work on a transportation package — one that could be voted upon as early as this fall in a special session of the Legislature. But first, they have scheduled “listening sessions” around the state to give people a chance to discuss the type of plan they’d like to see.

TAKE A STAND! Union members and community supporters are urged to mark their calendars and make plans to attend these forums and to support the transportation funding package. All forums are from 6 to 9 p.m. the following dates/locations (* were recently added to the schedule):

Tuesday, Sept. 17 in Bellevue — Stevenson Elementary School, 14220 NE 8th St.

Wednesday, Sept. 18 in Everett – Snohomish County, Robert Drewel Building, 3000 Rockefeller Ave., 6th floor

Monday, Sept. 23 in Wenatchee – Chelan County PUD Auditorium, 327 N Wenatchee Ave.

Tuesday, Sept. 24 in Yakima — Yakima Area Arboretum, Garden View Rm., 1401 Arboretum Dr.

* Thursday, Sept. 26 in Pasco — Columbia Basin College, Gjerde Center, 2600 N. 20th Ave.

Wednesday, Oct. 2 in Spokane Valley — Central Valley High School theater, 821 S. Sullivan Road.

Monday, Oct. 7 in Vancouver — Department of Transportation Southwest Region Office, 11018 Northeast 51st Circle

Wednesday, Oct. 9 in Tacoma — Evergreen Tacoma Campus, Lyceum Hall, 1210 6th Ave.

* Monday, Oct. 14 in Seattle — King County Courthouse, Room 1001, 516 3rd Avenue, 10th Floor

* Tuesday, Oct. 15 in Bellingham — Port of Bellingham Cruise Terminal, 355 Harris Ave.

Senate leaders have suggested that they may insist on “reforms” before funding the transportation package, which could include changes to prevailing wage laws and apprenticeship utilization standards.

“We welcome the opportunity to explain again why this transportation funding package is so important,” said David Myers, Executive Secretary of the Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council. “However, we sincerely hope that ideological efforts to cut construction workers’ wages or apprenticeship opportunities are not allowed to derail this critical package. The business, labor and environmental communities – along with Governor Inslee and House Democrats – are united in our commitment to create jobs and maintain Washington’s competitiveness with this transportation financing package. Let’s talk about what it looks like and what our priorities should be. But let’s set aside the divisive partisan agendas that have been rejected in Olympia time after time.”

The (Everett) Herald got it right in a recent editorial: “…No package can be held hostage to a partisan wish list and deal killers such as ‘an open dialogue on prevailing wage.’ Most assume these throwaways were inserted to assuage red-meat caucus members. But keep-em-happy politics can’t be allowed to sidetrack the package goal.”

ALSO at The Stand — Labor’s five transportation principles — 1) Maintain what we have now; 2) Invest in strategic economic corridors; 3) Increase state and local investment in roads, rail and transit; 4) Invest in livable communities; and 5) Build It in Washington.

The following video produced in May features labor, business, environmental and local government leaders calling for passage of a robust transportation financing package. It was prepared by the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce with the assistance of Washington State Labor Council Communications Director Kathy Cummings.

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