Port and partner priorities move forward halfway through legislature
Midway through the short legislative session in Olympia, WA, the Port of Seattle and our partners have made critical progress in several key legislative areas. We continue to promote key Port priorities of transportation investments for trade competitiveness, environmental sustainability, maritime education and workforce development, and community partnerships.
The big news last week was the final release of the proposed transport revenue package, a proposal to spend $16 billion over the next 16 years on a range of investments – from four new ferries to a new bridge I -5 on the Columbia River. Not only does this package include key investments in reducing emissions from the transport sector, but it also invests in freight routes that can solve supply chain problems and help improve the competitiveness of manufacturers and exporters. The port has long supported the Puget Sound Gateway, a project to complete SR 509 in southern King County and SR 167 in northern Pierce County. This critical freight route will reduce congestion and emissions from truck traffic and was first funded under the 2015 Connecting Washington program. It is now fully funded under this package, as is work on Corridor I -405 and SR167, State Route 18 and the I-90 interchange, and the west end of SR 520.
Observers, including the port, were interested in how funding for last year’s Climate Commitment Act – which sets up a statewide cap and trade program – would be spent in this package. Major investments are being made in multi-modal programs like Safe Routes to School and Complete Streets, along with a historic $3 billion investment in public transit, which includes free transit fares for anyone under the age of 18 years old.
Finally, the package includes $450 million in alternative fuel and electrification projects. The port is making significant investments to reduce our emissions across all of its operations, and this funding could be used to promote state investment in projects such as shore power and clean trucking infrastructure.
The package still has a long way to go before March 10, but the port has provided testimonial support for this greenest transportation package ever and will continue to champion it over the next month.
The port has been working since 2020 on legislation that would reduce the required “local matchmaking” that nonprofit applicants must provide to receive grants through the port’s South King County Community Impact Fund. This year, HB 2052 passed the House Local Government Committee unanimously and looks likely to move to the House floor. Passage would improve our ability to contract with service organizations, nonprofits, and volunteers on public and community improvement projects in neighborhoods near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA).
Shore Power/Port Infrastructure Funding
The Governor’s budget proposal to the Legislature included a $2 million proposal for the Port 66 Shore Power Project, part of a broader port infrastructure grant program that could fund upgrades. level of fixed assets at the largest ports in the state. State funding for the Port at Pier 66 project would combine with private dollars and federal grants to complete the project by 2023. Halfway through the session, this budget item receives a strong support among lawmakers and stakeholders, and commissioners and port staff will meet with budget committee members over the next month to continue discussing the benefits of this investment.
Maritime High School Funding
The Port of Seattle and an array of maritime industry players are teaming up to secure $2 million in funding for the new Maritime High School, providing project-based learning in the maritime sector to students in the Puget area Sound and beyond. The school began in fall 2021 with 40 students, and state funding would support the outreach and recruitment needed to cultivate a diverse student body that reflects the demographics of the community that hosts the school. This effort demonstrates the strong support the school enjoys in the Washington maritime community, as we work with the Northwest Maritime Center, Highline Public Schools, Duwamish River Community Coalition, Puget Sound Pilots and many others to defend this demand with the legislators.
Conservation of kelp
Legislation was proposed this session to conserve and restore at least 10,000 acres of kelp forests and eelgrass meadows in an effort to sustain biodiversity with widespread benefits, from southern resident killer whales to shellfish farmers in Washington. The port has worked with the bill’s sponsors to include amendments that add “awareness, engagement and action” to the work done by the Department of Natural Resources under the bill. The port’s proposed amendment has been included in committee and will continue to move forward as we work to support passage of the proposal as a whole.
Senator Keizer introduced a bill this session to expand state-supported apprenticeship programs. SB 5600 would require the Washington State Board of Apprenticeship and Training to establish economic or industry platforms to promote workforce training collaboration within each industry. The bill makes grants available for apprenticeship programs to provide comprehensive services to their members. The port and some of our workforce development partners wanted these grants extended to pre-apprenticeships, and we worked with the sponsor of the bill to make this change. We are happy to see that pre-apprentices are eligible for this program and hope that the bill can continue to move forward in the process.
Use of force and ammunition
Finally, the port supports some common-sense amendments to the police reform bills passed in the last session. Early in the legislative session, we expressed our public support for HB 1719, which would specify that police can use less-lethal equipment such as bean bag launchers; and HB 1735, which changes the definition of use of force passed in the 2021 legislative session. These changes were supported by our own police department, but also endorsed by police reform advocates like the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability. Both bills should continue to move forward this year, and we will continue to support them.
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