Relationships between Washington Transportation Plan, other State and Federal Plans, and Transportation Projects
BNSF freight train
The Legislature revised the state transportation planning statutes recently, enacting Chapter 516, Laws of 2007. At the State level, the Washington State Department of Transportation continues to be responsible for developing a statewide multimodal plan – a plan focused on state owned and state-interest facilities. The Transportation Commission remains responsible for a "comprehensive and balanced statewide transportation plan" – based (1) upon the transportation policy goals enacted by the Legislature in RCW 47.01.012 and (2) consistent with the Growth Management Act (GMA) goals.
This plan – which is known as the Washington Transportation Plan -- must result from an ongoing process involving significant transportation interests and the general public from around the state and, at a minimum:
- Establish a vision for development of the statewide transportation system;
- Identify significant statewide transportation issues; and
- Recommend statewide transportation policies and strategies to the legislature.
The relationship between the WTP and other required state and federal plans
Federal law requires that each state have a Long-Range Statewide Transportation Plan. The current 2007 – 2026 WTP fulfills the requirements for both the state multi-modal and federal long-range plan requirements.
In general, the federal requirements in the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) are quite similar to the transportation planning obligations articulated by the state. SAFETEA-LU features consistent with previous federal transportation planning law include:
- Federal reliance on the statewide transportation planning process as the primary mechanism for cooperative transportation decision making throughout the State.
- Coordination of statewide planning with metropolitan planning.
- Emphasis on fiscal constraint and public involvement in the development of the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP).
- Emphasis on involving and considering the concerns of Tribal governments in planning.
- State development of statewide transportation plans and programs.
- Plan and program shall be developed in consultation with affected local officials with responsibility for transportation in non-metropolitan areas.
The Transportation Policy Goals
To maintain, preserve, and extend the life and utility of prior investments in transportation systems and services;
To provide for and improve the safety and security of transportation customers and the transportation system;
To improve the predictable movement of goods and people throughout Washington State;
To enhance Washington's quality of life through transportation investments that promote energy conservation, enhance healthy communities, and protect the environment; and
To continually improve the quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of the transportation system.
Significant SAFETEA-LU modifications to the statewide planning process include:
- Coordinate metropolitan planning with statewide trade and economic development planning activities
- Will consider and implement projects, strategies and services that support the economic vitality of non-metropolitan areas.
- Safety and security of the transportation system are separate planning factors to be considered.
- Promote consistency between transportation improvements and State and local planned growth and economic development patterns.
SAFETEA-LU requires each State to adopt a Long Range Statewide Plan that is more detailed than WTP is with regard to natural or historic resources, environmental mitigation, and capital, management and operational strategies. Congress is expected to enact new federal transportation planning legislation in 2010 or 2011 that will likely be significantly different from SAFETEA-LU.
Federal law requires a State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) that is used for distributing federal funds to specific state, regional and local projects. The STIP must cover a 4-year period and be updated at least every 4 years. Each project or project phase included in the STIP shall be consistent with the long-range statewide transportation plan, except within Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), where they must be consistent with the MPO plan.
The WTP does not focus on specific projects, although it may recommend programs or improvements to meet identified needs. It is the Legislature that adopts a WSDOT project list with each biennial transportation budget. Revenue from the state fuel tax is limited to use on highways, streets, roads and ferries only.
Each county, city, port and transit agency has its own capital improvement program and project selection process. Those cities and counties required to plan under the Growth Management Act – the vast majority of Washington cities and counties -- must adopt 20-year plans with transportation and land use elements that support each other. The requirement that WTP be consistent with GMA goals strengthens the land use and transportation connection from the bottom to the top and begins to connect planning and projects statewide as they are locally.