OLYMPIA — A new report recommends stripping the state Transportation Commission of its major planning chores and giving them to the Department of Transportation, which is better funded and equipped to carry out the work.
It also suggests other duties of the citizen commission such as setting ferry fares and tolls, and holding periodic public meetings on transportation issues, could be handed off as well, which might not leave enough tasks to justify the panel’s continued existence.
The draft report doesn’t recommend abolishing the commission because its authors had been specifically told not to consider that step. But it’s the conclusion they shared when they presented their findings with lawmakers last week.
“When you take away these things we suggest you are left with a somewhat crippled agency,” said Joey Longley, of Gateway Partners of Texas. “We were obviously hampered by not being able to give you the recommendation we probably would have had we been allowed to, which is to abolish this agency and move the functions elsewhere.
“That was not our charge,” he said. “We were not allowed to do that so we didn’t.”
Those comments, made in a public hearing to the Joint Transportation Commission, exceeded the scope of the contract, said Reema Griffith, executive director of the state transportation commission.
“They were told abolishment was not on the table,” she said. “We were hoping it would be a more productive report. We think there are a lot of ways to improve the process without gutting the process.”
The seven-member commission used to be at the epicenter of transportation policy in Washington. It hired the head of the Department of Transportation and oversaw the agency. In 2005, lawmakers made it a cabinet agency and put the governor in charge of appointing the transportation secretary.
Earlier this year, the Legislature earmarked $100,000 in the state budget for an assessment of the panel’s roles and…