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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

WHAT’S INSIDE:

Locals get involved with a pilot program that could replace the tax on gasoline........................................C2 Traffic improvements coming to Hannegan and East Smith roads..................................................................C4 A supplement of the

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Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, October 17, 2018 | Ferndale Record

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A gas tax replacement?

Fall Drive Whatcom

Several locals involved in Washington state’s Road Usage Charge pilot project By Calvin Bratt editor@lyndentribune.com

   WHATCOM ­— Something other than a gas tax? It’s being explored.    And several locals are part of the pilot project.    Washington is looking into a way to replace the traditional big slice of the fuel pump price that goes to fund roads and bridges and plenty more. The Evergreen State gas tax is 49.4 cents per gallon right now, second highest in the nation.    With the federal tax of 18.4 cents added in, it’s easily one-fifth of what you pay at the pump.    Let’s be clear: If the gas tax is abandoned, there will be a new method of paying for the pavement you drive on. Likely it will be a per-mile road usage charge.    Under a road usage charge system, you pay taxes only for the miles you drive, not how much gas you consume.    And so that idea is being tested. The program    The Washington State Transportation Commission is directing the Road Usage Charge (RUC) Pilot Project. When the call was put out for volunteers earlier this year, more than 5,000 people responded. Only 2,000 were needed, and they are now in their one-year commitment to record their mileage and report it to the state.    What’s being tested is a mock 2.4-centsper-mile charge for lightweight, non-commercial vehicles including gasoline-fueled, Jeffie Pike is often traveling to dressage horse competition in the West. Her trusty Dodge pickup is in the Road Usage Charge pilot project. (Calvin Bratt/Lynden Tribune)

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Fall Drive Whatcom hybrid and electric ones, according to the state website https://waroadusagecharge. org/.    Here’s the line of thinking behind an RUC: As cars become increasingly more fuel efficient and as more electric vehicles are on the road, the revenue used to support roads and bridges will otherwise decrease more each year.    The pilot project drivers are currently reporting their mileage and giving feedback to help state decision makers understand if this potential policy shift could work for Washington drivers.    The one-year pilot wraps up in January, and its results will then be analyzed, said Ara Swanson of EnviroIssues, a consultant to the state. Recommendations will be made to the 2020 session of the state legislature, he said.    These are questions the pilot project will help to answer:    • How does a road usage charge work for different drivers throughout the state?    • How do the reporting methods work for drivers?    • Will a road usage charge enable us to better fund our transportation system in the future?    The state hopes participants don’t

Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, October 17, 2018 | Ferndale Record spend more than 10 minutes a month average doing their reporting.    Participants have a choice of four mileage reporting options, from no-tech to hightech. Those options are: 1) a Mileage Permit, pre-selecting a block of miles; 2) Odomoeter Readings, with miles reported quarterly, ei-

So far, invoices sent back to one trial user indicate a savings under the road usage charge. ther electronically or in person; 3) Plug and Play, using an automated mileage meter with GPS and non-GPS options; 4) using a smartphone App to collect and report miles. Their experience so far    Jeffie Pike of Lynden chose the odometer reading method very intentionally — because she does not want to be “tracked” as to where she is traveling, she said in a phone interview.    Her job is simple: Take a photo of her odometer mileage at certain intervals, and

send it in.    The vehicle being monitored is a new Dodge pickup truck that Pike estimates gets about 12 miles per gallon. A lot of her travel is pulling a horse trailer in Washington, Oregon and California.    So far, comparative invoices sent back to Pike by the state indicate that she would pay less under the road usage charge than she does now paying the gas tax. She isn’t so convinced, however.    She is doing this in order to get in at the ground level on “what they intend to do.” Pike is pretty sure “they’re going to do what they’re going to do,” and she is leery that it will be just “another money grab” that brings in more cash than it cancels out.    Even though her low-tech method keeps her from being tracked, she wonders if that will truly be an option moving forward into an increasingly more high-tech future.    Her household alone owns five vehicles, and Washington will have a lot of vehicles to be switched over to a new method, she declares. She already senses some “bugs” in the reporting system that need to be worked out.    Dave Doran of Ferndale chose to go the route of a 5,000-mile permit for $125 — all just theoretical money transaction,

3 of course. He also sends in a photo of his odometer periodically.    Doran said that the proposed system is really a credit against paying the gasoline tax, and he believes that the way it is set up in the pilot program “incentivizes poor gas mileage.”    He says that’s because the break point is effectively 20 miles per gallon, meaning vehicles getting better mileage than that are disadvantaged and those getting worse mileage are advantaged.    On a 10-year-old Ford Escape, “it’s kind of a mileage wash for me,” he said. But if he can get gas efficiency above 20 miles per gallon, the credit is not as much of a motivator.    The gasoline tax needs to remain for out-of-state drivers to pay their share of beating up the road and to support the state tranportation system, he believes.    In fact, he doesn’t have a problem with the system raising some additional dollars for improvements that are needed, as more and more cars are electric or hybrid. That makes him in favor of what he’s seen of a Road Usage Charge so far.    “I hope they do it, because we definitely need to work on (a change),” he said.


Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, October 17, 2018 | Ferndale Record

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Fall Drive Whatcom

County traffic on upward trend Improvement planned at East Smith, Hannegan roads, possibly a roundabout By Ashley Hiruko ashley@lyndentribune.com

WHATCOM — With the county’s population on the rise, so is the traffic. About 5,130 people moved into the county just from July 2016 to July 2017, an increase of about 2 percent, according to U.S. Census data. It only makes sense that the number of daily county commuters would increase too. Based on data collected by Whatcom County, there’s been about a 1 to 2 percent annual growth of traffic per year. And it’s somewhat exponential, said Joe Rutan, county engineer. “Certainly anybody who has lived here for any length of time will tell you traffic is different,” Rutan said. “It’s not the city or the county I grew up in.” Numbers calculated for Hannegan Road, the north-south arterial connecting the BellingRoundabouts, like this one on East Pole Road, can help alleviate larger volumes of traffic, as the county's population grows. (Ashley Hiruko/Lynden Tribune)

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Fall Drive Whatcom ham Sunset area to Lynden, can exemplify how congestion is changing. This road offers a good mix of households — old and new — and plots of land. “It’s going to experience growth more equally,” Rutan said, instead of areas with new subdivisions, which can cause outlier spikes in traffic numbers. At a calculation point on Hannegan Road north of Pole Road in 1992, volume numbers (usually one week’s worth of data) were calculated at 6,577 vehicles. By 2018, this figure had jumped to 11,427. And the trend will continue upward, according to county projections that stretch to the year 2048. Change will happen across 25-30 years. “It’s just a very different road,” Rutan said. “There used to be little volume and drivers would stop and chat, if they knew the person on the road.” With new house construction happening deeper into the northern part of the county, some

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Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, October 17, 2018 | Ferndale Record roads and intersections that used to be minor and farm-to-market now serve larger volumes of people and houses. County roadways, most of which are two-lane, are able to handle the load of increasing traffic. The types of vehicles using the roads have gone from larger hauling trucks to smaller commuter vehicles. “We do have a lot less agriculture equipment, as well as more farms that have turned into five-acre houses,” Rutan said. “We do see in some cases that we have less agriculture equipment driving on the road and cars are not as damaging as equipment used to be.” There is a need for more road maintenance, however, especially when the county is hit with snow. “Some people who purchased a five-acre plot [in the county], and lived in a city their whole life, may expect city services out there plowing the road as soon as it starts snowing,” Rutan said. “But that might not be the

case.” And these larger volumes also mean full-flagger control at construction sites. “It’s sometimes going to be more expensive to do something, just because there’s more people managing while we do it,” Rutan said. Some capacity issues exist on Lakeway Drive in Bellingham, but that volume problem is mainly concentrated at intersections. Every year, the county must prepare a Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). In this document is a comprehensive listing of road, bridge and intersection projects that could happen in the next six years. Included in this year’s proposal, approved by the County Council on Sept. 25, is improvement at the East Smith and Hannegan roads intersection. The signal there doesn’t accommodate left-hand turners, meaning backups are caused. A twolane roundabout may replace the signal light, Rutan said. Some projects have already

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happened to help congestion on Hannegan Road. Left-hand turn lanes were added at five intersections to help improve safety. “People were stopping to make lefts and getting rear-ended,” Rutan said. Others would become impatient waiting for the yielding left-turner and attempt to go

around the vehicle in a gap that was too small. Rutan stresses other avenues commuters can take, opting to drive during non-rush hours and traveling on bikes, buses or even carpooling. The most important thing for drivers, he said, is “to be patient.”

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Fall Drive Whatcom

Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, October 17, 2018 | Ferndale Record

The Ford Ranger is back

New model is midsize rather than compact, with many features of bigger F-150 By Brent Lindquist brent@lyndentribune.com

   WHATCOM — After more than seven years out of production in the United States, a Ford mainstay is returning to the market.    Ford discontinued the Ranger at the end of 2011, a move spurred by the dwindling compact pickup truck market. The fuel economy between the Ford F-150 and Ranger wasn’t all that different, another reason Ford decided to discontinue the smaller pickup.    “They kept saying, ‘Oh, we’ll take a year off,’ and then two years, and then three years,” said Chris Bonesteele, master certified sales associate at Diehl Ford.    The Ranger has been available worldwide for a few years, but it hadn’t made its way back to the States — until the 2019 model year, that is.    Ford is shifting to producing mostly SUVs and trucks, and the revival of the Ford Ranger is part of that major shift.    The Ford F-150 is one of the bestselling pickup trucks worldwide, and Bonesteele said he considers the new Ranger to be something of a little brother to the F-150. It’s not a compact pickup like the old Rangers; rather, it’s a midsize pickup to compete with similar offerings from the likes of Toyota and Nissan.    “All the pictures look similar to an F-150,” Bonesteele said. “The stuff you can get on it is like an F-150 or an Explorer. It’s not just a little work truck. Before, they did The new Ford Ranger isn't a compact anymore. It reenters the market in 2019 as a midsize pickup truck to face off with Ford competitors. (Courtesy photo/Ford)

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Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, October 17, 2018 | Ferndale Record

Fall Drive Whatcom

The new Ford Ranger boasts 270 horsepower and many of the features of its big brother, the ultra-popular Ford F-150. (Courtesy photo/Ford) not have a Ranger with four real doors on it. It was just a little supercab with the little suicide doors and the jump seats.”    The difference this time around is that the Ranger includes many of the options

available on the F-150, including a backup camera, adaptive cruise control and navigation.    The 2019 Ranger carries a 270-horsepower four-cylinder supercharged engine,

which Bonesteele sees as a big step up from the offerings in the Ranger’s heyday.    “I remember in 2004 or so, they were bragging about the 300-HP engine of the F-150,” he said. “It’s a totally different time.”

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Fall Drive Whatcom

Lynden Tribune | Wednesday, October 17, 2018 | Ferndale Record

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