Transportation Commission Office - PO Box 47308 - Olympia, WA 98504-7308
Date: January 22, 2015
Contact: Reema Griffith, Transportation Commission Executive Director, 360-705-7070
Comprehensive Plan Establishes 20-Year Vision for Development of Statewide Transportation System
Olympia – The Washington State Transportation Commission today announced the final Washington Transportation Plan 2035 has been submitted to Governor Jay Inslee and the Washington State Legislature for consideration during the 2015 legislative session.
As a comprehensive, statewide transportation plan, WTP 2035 establishes a 20-year vision for the development of the statewide transportation system—from highways and ferries to sidewalks, bike paths, county roads, city streets, public transit, air and rail—including identification of significant transportation issues and recommended policies and strategies.
The result of close collaboration and input between the Washington State Department of Transportation and Regional Transportation Planning Organizations, WTP 2035 also incorporates broad public feedback collected through online, in-person and webinar forums in fall 2014, along with comments provided via email and traditional mail.
“The Commission looks at the entire transportation system statewide—from city streets and sidewalks to marine ports and airports,” said Transportation Commission Chairman Anne Haley. “In developing and updating the long-range statewide plan, we connect the needs of today with the demands of the future—looking 20 or more years ahead to our projected growth of 22 percent, from 6.9 million people today to 8.5 million in 2035.”
Critical Messages for Decision Makers
Several themes emerged during the year-long process of outreach and consultation that Washington’s decision makers must address in order for the transportation system to fulfill its critical role in fostering a vibrant, sustainable future for all regions of the state, including:
- Transportation Funding. An identifiable need for secure, sustainable, long-term sources of funding for transportation exists. Continuing the funding status quo will result in declining condition and performance of the transportation system, including ferry and transit service.
- Freight Mobility. With 40 percent of all jobs in Washington state connected to trade, maintaining reliable, efficient freight movement is key to Washington’s future economic vitality.
- Multimodal Transportation. Washington must establish a clearly defined role for the state in planning and delivering multimodal transportation, with specific areas for increased involvement including key transportation corridors, special needs transportation and connecting communities.
Key findings detail work that lies ahead to address the state’s most persistent challenges:
- Preservation and Maintenance. Regular preventive maintenance and long-term preservation of key infrastructure components produces economic benefits and is more cost effective than deferred maintenance followed by expensive reconstruction. A sustainable funding source, established at the state level and directed to state and local preservation, would support a more strategic approach to asset management.
- Safety. Despite a decade of steady, significant progress to improve traffic safety, the death toll of Washington’s streets and highways remains unacceptably high. The Commission endorses Target Zero, the state’s strategic highway safety plan and also stresses the need to improve safety on tribal and rural two-lane roads and reverse the growing number of pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities and injuries.
- Freight Mobility. Anticipated growth in truck and rail freight tonnage raises concerns about future system reliability and safety. Strategic freight rail partnerships can support essential rail service and help determine which freight investments should receive public financial support.
- Public Transportation. Across Washington there is support for further investment in public transportation to accommodate growing demand. Enhanced local transportation revenue options should be supported for those jurisdictions with demonstrated need for additional funding capacity to ensure the growing demand for public transportation can be met.
- Public Health. Strategies that support increased biking, walking and greater use of public transportation are shown to increase physical activity levels, contribute to overall improved personal health and reduce personal and public spending on health care. Improving coordination between state policies on transportation and public health can generate significant, aggregate, long-term health benefits and economic savings to the state as a whole, as well as to individuals.
- Accountability and Transparency. State and local agencies, along with business and industry groups, all seek improved efficiency in expenditure of existing transportation funding and greater accountability. State and local transportation agencies should adopt broad performance management practices to improve accountability for expenditure of both federal and state transportation funds.
“Technology and communication is shaping how we use and operate the transportation system,” Haley said. “As transportation evolves, individuals probably will travel less and use electronic devices more. But, as the supply chain for food, clothing, necessities and luxuries becomes more global, we will rely on our transportation system more than ever.”
In addition, the WTP 2035 plan recommends further strengthening policy and planning linkages between land use development and the transportation system to help bring about more proximate location of jobs, housing and essential services. It also includes recommendations for protecting the environment and continually improving the quality, effectiveness and efficiency of the transportation system.
“As a professional planner, one of the key recommendations is to further strengthen linkages between land use development and transportation,” said Commissioner Jerry Litt. “Over time, integrating land use and transportation policies and planning decisions will help bring jobs, housing and essential services closer together, reducing the need for some auto trips, making public transportation and non-motorized modes more attractive choices for many shorter trips.”
“Not only will this improve access for many people, it also will squeeze the maximum benefit from the existing transportation system,” continued Litt.
“The WTP 2035 will help guide the state’s transportation future and we look forward to building on the productive relationships forged during this collaborative update process,” said WSDOT Assistant Secretary for Community and Economic Development Amy Scarton. “WSDOT wants to thank all involved for a successful collaboration in development of this plan.”
Additional suggestions for improving the financial health of Washington’s transportation system include getting the most from existing revenues through efficiencies and reform, and adding new revenue sources to address the transportation needs of a growing economy and population.
“There is no better time than today – while gas prices are low – to increase the gas tax and improve our transportation system,” said Commissioner Dan O’Neal. “We need to face the challenges of aging infrastructure, future increases in travel demand to support a growing population and economy, uncertain federal funding, and a future decline in the real purchasing power of the state and federal gas tax. By not investing now, we are shifting the burden to our children and grandchildren and are not thinking long or even medium range.”
"Efficiency and safety within the transportation system is essential to a healthy economy and livable Washington State,” said Lon Wyrick, executive director of the Thurston Regional Planning Council and member of the WTP 2035 Steering Committee. “Developing this state transportation plan not only provides a transportation vision, it includes specific goals we can all work towards."
About the Washington State Transportation Commission
The Washington State Transportation Commission provides a public forum for transportation policy development. It reviews and assesses how the entire transportation system works across the state and issues the State’s 20-year Transportation Plan. As the State Tolling Authority, the WSTC sets tolls for state highways and bridges and fares for Washington State Ferries.