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Port and Partner Priorities Moving Ahead at Legislature’s Halfway Point

February 11, 2022

At the halfway point of 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 core Port priorities around transportation investment for trade competitiveness, environmental sustainability, maritime education and workforce development, and community partnerships. 

Transportation package

The big news of the last week was the final release of the proposed Transportation 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 I-5 bridge across the Columbia River. Not only does this package include key investments in reducing emissions from the transportation sector, it also invests in freight routes that can address supply chain issues and help improve competitiveness for manufacturers and exporters. The Port has been a long-time supporter of the Puget Sound Gateway, a project to complete SR 509 in south King County and SR 167 in north Pierce County. This critical freight route will reduce congestion and emissions from truck traffic, and was first funded in the 2015 Connecting Washington package. It is now fully funded in this package, as is work on the I-405 and SR167 corridor, State Route 18 and the I-90 interchange, and the west end of SR 520.

Observers including the Port were interested in how funding from last year’s Climate Commitment Act — which sets up a statewide cap and trade program — would be spent in this package. Major investments are made in multimodal programs like Safe Routes to School and the Complete Streets, accompanied by a historic $3 billion investment in transit which includes free transit fares for anyone under the age of 18. 

Finally, the package includes $450 million in alternative fuel and electrification projects. The Port is making significant investments in reducing our emissions across all operations, and this funding could be used to promote state investment in projects like shore power and clean trucking infrastructure.

The package has a long way to go to pass before March 10th, but the Port provided testimony in support of this greenest-ever transportation package, and will continue to advocate for it over the next month.

2:1 match

The Port has worked since 2020 on legislation that would reduce the required “local match” that non-profit applicants must provide to receive grants through the Port’s South King County Community Impact Fund. This year, HB 2052 unanimously passed the House Local Government Committee and looks likely to move forward to the House floor. Passage would enhance our ability to contract with service organizations, non-profits, 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 proposed $2 million for the Port’s Pier 66 shore power project, part of a broader port infrastructure grant program that could fund capital upgrades at the state’s largest ports. State funding for the Port’s project at Pier 66 would partner with private dollars and federal grants to deliver the project by 2023. At the halfway mark of the session, this budget item enjoys strong support among legislators and stakeholders, and Port commissioners and 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 stakeholders are partnering to secure $2 million in funding for the newly-created Maritime High School, providing project-based learning in the maritime sector to students in the Puget Sound area and beyond. The school started in Fall 2021 with 40 students, and state funding would support the outreach and recruitment necessary 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 maritime community in Washington, as we work with the Northwest Maritime Center, Highline Public Schools, the Duwamish River Community Coalition, the Puget Sound Pilots, and more to advocate on this request with legislators.

Kelp conservation

Legislation has been proposed this session to conserve and restore at least 10,000 acres of kelp forests and eelgrass meadows in an effort to support biodiversity with widespread benefit, from southern resident orcas to Washington shellfish growers. The Port worked with the bill sponsors to include amendments that add “awareness, engagement, and action” into the work done by the Department of Natural Resources under the bill. The Port’s proposed amendment was included at Committee and will continue moving forward, as we work to support enactment of the proposal as a whole.

Apprenticeship bill

Senator Keiser brought forward legislation this session that seeks to expand state-supported apprenticeships. SB 5600 would require the Washington State Apprenticeship and Training Council to establish economic or industry sector-based platforms to promote collaboration on workforce training within each industry. The bill makes grants available for apprentice programs to provide wrap-around services to their members. The Port and some of our partners in workforce development wanted to see those grants expanded to pre-apprenticeships, and we worked with the bill sponsor to make that change. We are glad to see pre-apprenticeships eligible for that program, and hope the bill can continue to move through the process.

Use of force and ammunitions 

Finally, the Port is supporting a few common-sense amendments to police reform bills passed the last session. Early in the legislative session, we expressed public support for HB 1719, which would clarify that police can use less-lethal equipment such as beanbag launchers; and HB 1735, which modifies the use of force definition 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 are expected to continue advancing this year, and we will continue to support them.

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