Governor Signs Bridge Access Bill in Washington!

posted March 28, 2016
by Thomas O'Keefe

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On Friday, March 25, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed our bridge access bill into law. The bill (SSB 6363) requires that the Department of Transportation assess the feasibility of providing public river access when a bridge is built or re-constructed. The bill had bi-partisan support, and many of you reached out to your state representatives to help make this happen. Thanks to everyone who participated! 
 
Take Action and thank supporters of public access to rivers!
 
Please take a moment to thank the public officials who supported improving public river access in Washington! You can thank your state representatives and Governor Inslee here. We've set up a customized message to thank all who voted in support of river access. If you've already reached out, it's helpful to do so again...everyone likes to be thanked! 
 
Background:
 
As part of our work to protect and promote access to public waterways, American Whitewater pursued Substitute Senate Bill 6363 in the Washington State legislature to require an evaluation of providing public access for state highway projects that include construction of a bridge across a navigable waterway.
 
You can read the complete bill here. The initial paragraph reads as follows:
 
(1) During the design process for state highway projects that include the construction of a new bridge or reconstruction of an existing bridge across a navigable river or waterway, excluding limited access highways and ferry terminals, the department must consider and report on the feasibility of providing a means of public access to the navigable river or waterway for public recreational purposes. The report must document whether the proposed project is in an area identified by state or local plans to be a priority for recreational access to waterways. If the proposed project is in an area identified by state or local plans to be a priority for recreational access to waterways, the department must coordinate with other relevant state agencies or local agencies to ensure consistency with the identified recreational plan.
 
The original sponsors of this bipartisan bill included prime sponsor Senator Takko (D, 19th LD) who represents a district that includes Aberdeen and Willapa Bay, and sponsors Senator Ericksen (R, 42nd LD) who represents a district that includes Bellingham and Ferndale and Senator Hobbs (D, 44th LD) whose district includes Mill Creek, Lake Stevens, and Snohomish. In the House, original sponsors for a companion bill included Representative Berquist (D, 11th LD) whose district includes Tukwila and portions of the Duwamish River and lower Cedar River; Representative Hayes (R, 10th LD) whose district includes Whidbey Island and Camano Island; Representative Tarleton (D, 36th LD) whose district includes the Seattle neighborhoods of Greenwood, Ballard, Magnolia, and Queene Anne; and Representative Stambaugh (R, 25th LD) whose district includes Puyallup.
 
Our original bill was adopted from the California State Highway Code but was modified in response to issues Washington DOT raised. Maryland also has a law requiring an evaluation of access at bridge projects, and Virginia has an MOU in place. In Washington, we worked in partnership with Northwest Marine Trade Association, an organization devoted to growing boating and the sponsor of the Northwest Paddling Festival at Lake Sammamish State Park.
 
Need for Legislation:
 
In recent years we have witnessed several bridge projects at sites that are important for public access. In some cases the State Department of Transportation has done a great job of thinking about public access. It's often a simple matter of designing the landscaping to accommodate a foot trail to the water and making accommodations for parking outside the travel way. In other cases however the state has invested millions of dollars in a bridge project with no consideration for existing use of the right-of-way for public access to the water. A recent example was the replacement of the Highway 2 bridge across the Wenatchee River, an $8 million project where existing river access could have been easily improved. Other recent bridge projects at river access points include the Highway 9 bridge across Pilchuck Creek and Highway 162 bridge across the Puyallup River.
 
The outcome of these projects is largely dependent on our ability to establish relationships with individual project managers and we pursued this legislation to bring more consistency to how the Department of Transportation approaches the multiple public benefits that can be achieved with proper planning on the front end.
 
Bill History:
 
SENATE:
 
SB6363 was heard before the Senate Transportation Committee on 1/26/2016.
 
15:04 staff report on SB6363 delivered
18:10 Senator Takko (prime sponsor) testimony on bill
19:50 Supporting Public Testimony (Peter Schrappen, Northwest Marine Trade Association; Thomas O'Keefe, American Whitewater [video cut out testimony]; Brittany Jarnot, Recreational Boating Association of Washington)
22:15 Jeff Carpenter, Washington Department of Transportation
24:26 hearing on SB6044 testimony concludes with note that Associated General Contractors of Washington and Washington Environmental Council signed in support of the bill but chose not to testify.
 
On 2/17/2016, SSB 6363 passed the Senate on a 49-0 vote.
 
HOUSE:
 
A public hearing for SSB 6363 was held before the House Committee on Transportation on 2/22/2016.
 
10:45 staff report on SSB6363 delivered
14:05 Senator Takko (prime sponsor) testimony on bill
20:00 Opposition Testimony (M.M. Halvorsen, Blair Towing)
25:00 Supporting Public Testimony (Nathan Fitzgerald, Northwest Marine Trade Association; Patrick Steehler, American Canoe Association; Brittany Jarnot, Recreational Boating Association of Washington)
29:25 public hearing on SSB6044 testimony concludes with note of those signed in supporting the bill.
 
SSB6363 passed out of the House Transportation Commitee on Transportation on 2/29/2016.
 
1:35:15 Discussion and vote on SSB6363
1:39:10 Executive Session on SSB6363 concludes with a 23-2 do pass recommendation (Rep. Orcutt and Rep. Kochmar voted no).
 
On 3/3/2016, SSB 6363 passed the House on a 58-39 vote.
 
GOVERNOR:
 
On 3/25/2016, Governor Inslee signed the bill into law. 
 
Thomas O'Keefe
3537 NE 87th St.
Seattle, WA 98115
Phone: 425-417-9012