A bill that would severely limit cities' control over large transportation projects like the Alaskan Way tunnel and the SR-520 bridge passed unanimously out of the Senate transportation committee today, paving the way for the legislation to move forward to the rules committee and onto the senate floor.
In its original version, the bill would have exempted the state transportation department (WSDOT) from the requirement to get local permits for major (above $1 billion) state highway projects. Additionally, it would have sent all appeals of local land-use permits directly to superior court, instead of allowing appeals to local hearing examiners "or through any other local appeal process."
The substitute bill adopted today amends that slightly, allowing appeals to local agencies unless WSDOT objects; in that case, appeals would have to go through superior court. Essentially, the new bill gives WSDOT the ability to scuttle local appeals whenever it wishes. Finally, the bill would allow the state to keep building a project while that project is being appealed—effectively allowing projects to move forward even if their permits are eventually overturned.
Andrew Austin, the lobbyist for the Transportation Choices Coalition, says the new version of the bill "does not address the underlying issues of robbing local control and gutting environmental protections."
The transportation committee includes 11 Democrats and five Republicans; only one member, bill cosponsor Ken Jacobsen (D-46) missed today's vote.