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State transportation plan open to review, comment

OLYMPIA — Kitsap County residents will have a chance for public review and comment on the Washington State Transportation Commission’s draft of the Washington Transportation Plan (WTP 2035) that was released Aug. 5.

A forum is scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 11, at the Norm Dicks Government Center, 345 6th St., Bremerton.

The WTP 2035 plan will chart a course for how Washington’s statewide transportation system will change and grow over the next 20 years. It will guide the direction for transportation policy decisions and investments across modes and jurisdictions—advancing future strategies that will impact how we live, work and commute.

Recognizing the current and future needs of the Puget Sound Region and Olympic Peninsula, the draft plan emphasizes the importance of maintaining and preserving a host of important transportation systems — from roads and bridges to transit buses and ferries. It also stresses the need to improve travel time reliability.

The draft WTP 2035 is the result of close collaboration and input between the Washington State Department of Transportation and Regional Transportation Planning Organization, an advisory group made up of a diverse set of key stakeholders including representatives from cities, counties, ports, transit and organizations representing business and environmental perspectives throughout Washington state, including the Puget Sound Region and Olympic Peninsula.

Transportation Commission Chair Anne Haley emphasized that the focus of the long-range Washington Transportation Plan update is to keep the transportation system we now have in good operating condition.

“We must do more to maintain and preserve our current transportation assets,” Haley said. “When new resources become available, it is imperative that we use them effectively and efficiently to get the most out of our transportation system.”

From now through Sept. 25, the commission hopes to hear robust, statewide ideas, comments and concerns from the general public.

Key aspects of the draft WTP 2035 plan are as follows:

• Our State’s Quality of Life and Transportation System are intertwined. Washington’s future economic vitality and quality of life depend on efficient implementation and effective operation of a connected multimodal transportation system—whether moving harvest from the farm to market on the roads, waterways, or rail; or getting children safely between school and home using sidewalks, bicycles or buses. A connected and multimodal system requires an integrated and coordinated planning process supported by best management practices.

• A Healthy Transportation Future Depends on a Strong Statewide Multimodal Network. Establishing a more defined role for the State in multimodal transportation—including public transportation and special needs transportation—is important for Washington communities across the state.  Service providers must be given the tools and authorities to ensure they can deliver efficient services that meet the unique needs of their respective areas.

• Establishing Sustainable Transportation Funding is Imperative. Statewide, there is a clear and immediate need for secure, long-term sources of funding for transportation.  Continuing the funding status quo will result in declining conditions and performance of Washington’s transportation system, due to inadequate maintenance and failure to address growing demand.

“We will use this Washington Transportation Plan update as the future framework for providing safe and efficient transportation options to Washington residents, businesses and visitors,” said Amy Scarton, Washington State Department of Transportation assistant secretary for Community and Economic Development. “We want people from around the state to look at the ideas in the draft plan and tell us how it fits their needs for today and the future.”

WTP 2035: Top Trends that Will Impact Future Transportation Decisions

According to the draft WTP 2035 plan, the following trends reflect the most important factors affecting the status and trajectory of Washington’s transportation system:

• Demographic changes. Washington’s population is aging, as well as growing—raising new challenges for addressing the different needs of transportation system users.

• Changing Preferences. While the majority of state commuters still drive alone, individuals on average drive slightly fewer miles and consume less fuel. In the state’s urban areas, an increasing number of people are biking, walking and using public transit.

• Aging Infrastructure. Overall, Washington’s roadways have experienced moderate declines in conditions since the Commission’s last plan, WTP 2030. Across modes, maintenance and preservation needs remain unmatched by transportation revenues.

• Shift in Funding. State and local governments are shouldering an increasing proportion of transportation expenditures previously funded by other means. Addressing this shift will mean asking tough revenue questions at the State level.

The WTP 2035 plan also addresses funding options to address our state’s aging infrastructure, future population and economic growth, as well as federal funding uncertainty and likely continued decline in revenues from the State Motor Fuel Tax.

• State Motor Fuel Tax. The State Motor Fuel Tax remains the single largest source of funding in the state and is vulnerable to inflation and decrease in consumption over the long run.

• Freight Growth. Freight tonnage has increased post-recession, and operators are stretching capacity across a range of modes as expansion needs continue to grow.

•Environmental Protection. Reducing local and global environmental impacts from transportation and finding ways to make the transportation sector more energy-efficient remains an important priority.

• Technology. Rapid technological innovations have a growing impact on transportation demand and supply. There are promising opportunities to gain more effective capacity from existing transportation systems, as well as great uncertainty for system planners, managers and operators.

• Shape the Outcome: The commission is seeking broad public comment on the draft plan. To help meet this objective, it will host online, in-person and webinar forums, in addition to taking comments via email and traditional mail.

The public can view the WTP 2035 draft plan at www.wtp2035.com or on the Commission’s website: www.wstc.wa.gov. The website also provides an opportunity for members of the public to comment directly on the plan.

In addition, comments are accepted by email (Transc@wstc.wa.gov) or by mail (P.O. Box 47308 Olympia, WA 98504-7308) through Sept. 25.

After the close of public comment, a revised and final plan will be issued and submitted by January 2015 to the governor and Legislature for consideration.

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