NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, December 10th, 2021

Marko Liias chosen to chair the Washington State Senate’s Transportation Committee

The Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus has cho­sen a new leader for the cham­ber’s influ­en­tial and pow­er­ful Trans­porta­tion Com­mit­tee: Marko Liias (D‑21st Dis­trict; Sno­homish Coun­ty). Liias will take over from his col­league Steve Hobbs, who resigned from the Sen­ate last month to become Sec­re­tary of State.

“It is an hon­or that my col­leagues trust me with this respon­si­bil­i­ty and have select­ed me for this posi­tion,” said Liias in a state­ment. “As we face dra­mat­ic changes to trans­porta­tion rev­enue and mobil­i­ty options, this is our moment to write a vision­ary, equi­table, cli­mate-focused trans­porta­tion pack­age that invests in our shared pri­or­i­ties while respect­ing our real and unique local needs.”

The oth­er final­ist for the posi­tion, NPI under­stands, was Rebec­ca Sal­daña (D‑37th Dis­trict; Seat­tle) who is cur­rent­ly the Vice Chair of Transportation.

Both Liias and Sal­daña are part of the cau­cus’ lead­er­ship team: Sal­daña is a Deputy Major­i­ty Leader and Liias is the Major­i­ty Floor Leader.

The cau­cus select­ed from between Liias and Sal­daña in an inter­nal vote. The cau­cus’ stan­dard oper­at­ing pro­ce­dure for lead­er­ship and com­mit­tee chair elec­tions is to use a secret bal­lot to reduce fric­tion and pos­si­ble acrimony.

The Sen­ate Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus not­ed that Liias has been involved in trans­porta­tion advo­ca­cy and leg­is­lat­ing for over a decade.

“Liias had served as Vice Chair of the House Trans­porta­tion Com­mit­tee from 2008 until his appoint­ment to the Sen­ate in 2014 and helped nego­ti­ate the Legislature’s last trans­porta­tion rev­enue pack­age in 2015. In the Sen­ate, he has played key roles on numer­ous trans­porta­tion issues, includ­ing and espe­cial­ly tran­sit access,” the cau­cus’ state­ment point­ed out, cit­ing Liias’ pre­vi­ous ser­vice in the House.

Hobbs had been Trans­porta­tion Chair since Democ­rats regained a Sen­ate major­i­ty in late 2017 with Sen­a­tor Man­ka Dhin­gra’s spe­cial elec­tion victory.

At the time of his appoint­ment to the exec­u­tive depart­ment, Hobbs was work­ing on nego­ti­at­ing a new statewide trans­porta­tion pack­age with Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee’s office and House lead­er­ship. Hobbs’ oppo­si­tion to cli­mate action bills and high­way-cen­tric trans­porta­tion advo­ca­cy have long frus­trat­ed Wash­ing­to­ni­ans work­ing on the caus­es of reduc­ing pol­lu­tion and improv­ing free­dom of mobility.

With Hobbs now in the exec­u­tive depart­ment, Sen­ate Trans­porta­tion will be run by Liias, who is promis­ing a dif­fer­ent approach, as the state­ment above demon­strates. It’s nice to see the words “equi­table” and “cli­mate-focused” in the same sen­tence as “trans­porta­tion pack­age that invests in our shared priorities.”

Senator Marko Liias

Sen­a­tor Marko Liias at Mariner Library for the pub­lic launch of the Mariner Com­mu­ni­ty Cam­pus project (Pho­to: Sno-Isle Libraries, repro­duced under a Cre­ative Com­mons license)

To meet the moment, the Leg­is­la­ture will need to pass a trans­porta­tion pack­age that is rad­i­cal­ly dif­fer­ent from the car-cen­tric pack­ages it has adopt­ed in the past. Instead of appro­pri­at­ing huge sums for widen­ing high­ways or build­ing new high­ways, the Leg­is­la­ture must make mean­ing­ful invest­ments in bus and rail tran­sit, fer­ries, bike paths, side­walks, and mul­ti­modal infrastructure.

It would be a mis­take to con­tin­ue pour­ing huge sums into adding more lanes to already wide high­ways like Inter­state 5, even if the new lanes are to be ded­i­cat­ed to high occu­pan­cy vehi­cles. Our high­ways are wide enough.

We’re hope­ful that Sen­a­tor Liias will push for a trans­porta­tion pack­age that makes big invest­ments in Amtrak Cas­cades, freight mobil­i­ty, fish pas­sage, and right of way for pedes­tri­ans and bicy­clists. The state should also help Sound Tran­sit deliv­er ST3 faster and pro­vide fund­ing to rur­al tran­sit agen­cies to ensure we can offer bet­ter, high­er fre­quen­cy bus ser­vice. We do need to replace the I‑5 Colum­bia Riv­er Bridge and the U.S. 2 tres­tle up in Sno­homish Coun­ty, but we should not be using those projects to increase car capac­i­ty, which would inflate their price tag.

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One Ping

  1. […] Marko Liias is the new Sen­ate Trans­porta­tion Chair. There is no bet­ter friend in the Sen­ate of non-SOV travel. […]

    Ping from News roundup: no better friend – Seattle Transit Blog :: December 21st, 2021 at 9:17 AM