Road-use charges, autonomous vehicles among items to be discussed at State Transportation Commission meeting this week

Planning for future transportation needs is the focus of the Washington State Transportation Commission’s October meeting. Topics to be covered include updates on tolling performance and the state transportation revenue forecast, next steps for the Road Usage Charge assessment, and a continuation of the commission’s year-long series on “The Future of Transportation Post COVID-19.”

The commission meeting begins at 9 a.m. both Tuesday, Oct. 20, and Wednesday, Oct. 21. Due to limitations on the size of gatherings in response to COVID-19, this meeting will be conducted virtually using GoToWebinar. People interested in attending can find registration instructions on the commission’s website.  The meeting will be broadcast live on TVW at

Image courtesy Washington State Transportation Commission.

On Tuesday, the Autonomous Vehicle Workgroup will provide an update on its progress and give a preview of pending recommendations, which will be submitted to the commission at its December meeting. The AV workgroup is charged with identifying policy and regulatory changes to better to accommodate AVs on public roadways.

An update on the Interstate 405/State Route 167 express toll lanes Low-Income Tolling Study also will be given. The study is assessing the effects of tolling on low-income drivers of the I-405/SR 167 express toll lanes and recommends possible approaches to mitigate impacts. The project team will present proposed criteria for selection of possible low-income toll program options for further assessment and will provide an overview of a survey to be conducted of low-income drivers who use either corridor.

As part of the commission’s on-going work related to the statewide 20-year transportation plan “Washington Transportation Plan 2040 and Beyond,” Washington State Department of Transportation staff will provide a briefing on the development of the department’s Highway System Plan. The Highway System Plan is a component of the 20-year plan and serves as the basis for the six-year capital highway program and WSDOT’s two-year budget request to the State Legislature.

Tuesday afternoon, staff from WSDOT and the Office of the State Treasurer will provide an update on the performance of the state’s tolled facilities. They will highlight the effects the COVID-19 pandemic is having on traffic volumes and revenues for each tolled facility and discuss possible approaches to addressing toll revenue shortfalls. Staff will also provide a briefing on the September 2020 state transportation revenue forecast, addressing the current financial status of state transportation funding, and providing insight into what the future may hold for state transportation revenues and toll rates.

Tuesday’s meeting concludes with a briefing on the next phase of work for the Road Usage Charge assessment. A RUC is being assessed as a possible replacement to the gas tax. The commission has conducted several years of research and a year-long pilot project with 2,000 drivers from across the state. In January 2020, the commission made recommendations to the Legislature for implementing a small RUC program statewide. An overview of the next phase of research will be provided. This research is fully funded with a grant from the Federal Highways Administration.

The focus of Wednesday’s meeting is on the commission’s year-long series: “The Future of Transportation Post-COVID-19.” A panel of experts and industry leaders will speak to several topics, including:

  • New considerations and approaches for future transportation infrastructure investments
  • A proposal on the development of the “Cascadia Innovation Corridor” running from Vancouver, B.C., to Portland, Oregon
  • New approaches to promoting changes in travel behavior, equitable mobility, and employer participation
  • The challenges and impacts of the pandemic on businesses statewide and implications going forward

Written public comment will be accepted via email until 4 p.m. the day before the meeting. Comments should be sent to Written comments received after this deadline will be provided to commissioners after the meeting. Questions can also be asked during the meeting by using the “question” box found on-screen during the meeting, and as time allows, will be addressed during the meeting.

All presentations will be available on the commission’s website. For more information about the commission and a complete meeting agenda, visit:


  1. What a great concept to move people. Use the trolley money, get something like this, even if it needs a driver and shuttle folks from a parking area near down town.

  2. How come no one mentioned the decreased revenue due to declining petrol usage tax due to more electric vehicles and greater use of bicycles? My Tesla owning friends pay no gas tax so give no support to the maintenance of the roads they so happily enjoy.
    Also has anyone ever monitored the number of individuals year round who use bikes on the roads that we all paid for special lanes devoted just to them. They pay no gas tax! And they even can exceed the speed limit by more then ten mph and never get stopped.

    1. Darrol, those systems are not completely autonomous. The entire route has to be surveyed and not mixed use. It’s an operational domain system. Trains do that already. There is a staff of drivers (system monitors) behind those vehicles too, even for level 4 automation. These systems could more practically be called remote driver vehicles.

      The most practically driverless car is Uber and Lyft. You sit in the back, you don’t drive, and the whole system is more cheap, more available, more safe, and takes you anywhere. The whole liability chain is figured out too.

      1. Matt, I’m curious to see if people with disabilities who use wheelchairs or do not have enough fine motor skills to drive a vehicle could use simple technologies like in this video and therefore not have to buy a “self driving” car.

        1. It would be neat to see like a driver assist technology so that people with disabilities could have some kind of AI that would help them convert gross motor skills into fine motor skills.

          I’d also like to see more Uber that is wheelchair accessible.

    2. Darrol that shuttle bus is pretty cool. No technology is ever final, there’s always a new version coming. Any limits that are there now will likely be solved in the future. I also remember rotary dial telephones.

      1. Yes it is cool. The very best way to “start” the concept in Edmonds is find a place for some DT employees to park away from DT, and shuttle them along a fixed route to near where they work. There are 750 employee parking permits issued annually and a number of employees who just park in 3 hr zones and move their cars. Their are other employees who just park outside the 3 hr zone and park all day. Still a close walk to work.

        Before we start with the cool vans shown, we could use extended, enclosed, golf cart style vehicles, 20k or less. Take the trolley money buy some of these, reprice and relocate employee permits, and ask the Port to use some of the tax dollars they have labeled in the 2021 budget for public access to help with this project in the name of economic development and we could make some progress on improving DT parking. Hire HS kids to drive before and after school, and others who need jobs at other times of the day if needed.

        Once this system works we can see if we want to switch to the vans shown or just stay with the one we have created. We can put our creative spirits together and help Edmonds, OR we can start name calling again and get this thread closed too! Lets think and act locally.

        1. Almost exactly that system is now used in Sabino Canyon Recreation Area near Tucson AZ. where alternating one way traffic is required to move people in and out. They recently replaced expensive conventional bus/vans with large covered carts pulled by electric tractors. Cheaper to run and maintain and in many ways more user friendly than the prior system.

          Such a system could allow the conversion of the downtown area into a pedestrian mall with shade trees centered in more appropriate grassed in areas and where a community fountain would make a lot more sense.

          Some businesses might need to be compensated or helped to move to locations where buyers could conveniently pick up what they are selling but still keeping them in the desirable ambience of the Edmonds Downtown. It might be as simple as some businesses trading space with other business’s on the outskirts of the mall area (say a Tavern exchanging for a Garden Store just for example).

  3. I agree with Matt here, though he apparently has expertise and I don’t. I think the Driverless cars concept will end up much like the failed prediction that we would all be using car/airplane hybrids for personal transportation by this time; originally hyped in the 50’s and 60’s in publications like Popular Science and ” Mechanics. I think they will fail because most people won’t like them or want them. Some sort of widely applied driverless public transport will come to be and in fact, already has on limited basis’.

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