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Ask MRSC - Transportation

Below are selected “Ask MRSC” inquiries we have received from local governments throughout Washington State related to transportation. Click on any question to see the answer.

These questions are for educational purposes only. All questions and answers have been edited and adapted for posting to the MRSC website, and all identifying information, including the inquirer’s name and agency name, has been removed.

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Reviewed: February 2024

The addition of amenities like trees as part of Complete Streets is common and trade-offs are made based on local context. For example, if space constraints limit the ability to plant trees, reducing pavements widths on an excessively wide street provides an opportunity to add a tree belt or planted curb extension. See this 2023 Johns Hopkins study on narrow lanes.

Here are some examples of local programs and policies that reference amenity zones, street trees, etc., in their complete streets policies/programs:

Stormwater best management practices (BMP), like roadside bioretention/rain gardens and bioswales are another area to look at for guidance (see bioretention section starting on pg. 687 of King County’s 2021 Surface Water Design Manual and Bothell’s Bioswales page). Your city’s stormwater engineer and Ecology can provide guidance on incorporating low impact development (LID) and stormwater BMPs into ROW. This LID presentation from Ecology’s LID guidance page includes reduced road width and changes in road layout and orientation as potential code amendments for implementing LID principles.

Tree planting programs also include standards that may be helpful. Everett provides ROW tree spacing and location guidelines, for example (see Everett’s Right of Way Street Tree Spacing and Location Guidelines (2019)).

And here are a few additional resources:

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Reviewed: April 2021

RCW 46.44.080 is the primary source of authority on this, and it does require a city to make a finding that use of the street by trucks over a certain weight will cause damage to the street.

A multi-code search of “truck routes” turns up many examples of city codes that designate local truck routes and prohibit vehicles over a certain weight from using streets that are not part of the truck route.

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Reviewed: October 2017

For sample policies governing: data, public records (retention, disposition, and production), email, mobile devices, and social media, please see the following MRSC topic pages:

  • Public Records Act (Includes information regarding public records retention/management and sample policies and procedures)
  • Text Messaging Policies (Provides an overview of various approaches to text messaging policies for local government staff and elected officials including sample policies)
  • Social Media (Includes sample social media policies)

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Reviewed: August 2017

RCW 42.56.010(3) defines "public record" to include any writing containing information related to the conduct of governing. RCW 42.56.010(4) then defines "writing" broadly to include (emphasis added):

handwriting, typewriting, printing, photostating, photographing, and every other means of recording any form of communication or representation including, but not limited to, letters, words, pictures, sounds, or symbols, or combination thereof, and all papers, maps, magnetic or paper tapes, photographic films and prints, motion picture, film and video recordings, magnetic or punched cards, discs, drums, diskettes, sound recordings, and other documents including existing data compilations from which information may be obtained or translated.

So while a video is not "writing" in the colloquial sense, bus videos are still a public record subject to production under the PRA unless an exemption or prohibition on disclosure applies. The extent to which exemptions or prohibitions on disclosure could apply depends entirely on what is contained on the video recording.

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Reviewed: May 2017

If a transit agency contracts with an outside firm to provide agency services, then that firm’s records related to agency business may be subject to the PRA. The Washington Supreme Court held in Cedar Grove v. City of Marysville that records of a private third party contractor that provided professional services to a public agency were subject to the PRA since the firm was acting as the functional equivalent of a public employee. The court did note the following:

We are not articulating a new standard that makes every record a government contractor creates during its engagement with an agency a public record subject to the PRA. Nor do we create a new duty on the part of a public agency to search the records of all its third-party contractors each time it receives a PRA request.

So, whether the records of a firm that contracts with an agency are public records must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis by applying the test to determine whether the firm is acting as the functional equivalent of an agency employee. For a more in-depth explanation, see MRSC’s blog posts on this issue: Court Clarifies How the PRA Can Apply to Contractor Records and When Must a Private Entity Comply with the PRA.

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