Wednesday, January 14, 2015

WSDOT, Yakima Transit celebrate completion of Regional Mobility Grant program's 50th project

Improved park and ride lot for Yakima Transit
By Jef Lucero

Two years ago, the park and ride facility near the Selah Firing Center off Interstate 82 was a shadow of its current self: unpaved, under-improved and too small to adequately serve the needs of nearby residents and commuters.

That all changed when Yakima Transit was awarded a Regional Mobility Grant by the Legislature to be used toward upgrading (and just plain grading) a cracked and graveled lot into a fully paved, lighted and landscaped park and ride facility. In the process, the newly transformed facility nearly tripled in capacity, going from around 40 gravel-pocked parking spots to 114 freshly striped stalls. And there’s room for further expansion down the road, which could bring capacity to around 150 stalls.

Our staff and Yakima Transit formally cut the ribbon on the new park and ride facility in October, marking the completion of the Regional Mobility Grant program’s 50th project to date. The overall cost of the $240,000 project was greatly reduced by making use of WSDOT-owned right of way. Since the park and ride serves highway-related purposes, Yakima Transit is able to utilize the right of way for free, saving taxpayers money.

Carpoolers, vanpoolers and passengers catching a ride on the Yakima-Ellensburg Commuter—mostly students, commuters, shoppers and people seeking outpatient medical services—have kept the facility at or near its capacity since it reopened.

Created and enacted into law by the Legislature in 2005, WSDOT’s Regional Mobility Grant program supports local efforts to improve transit mobility and reduce congestion on our most heavily traveled roadways, including enhancements to the statewide network of park and ride lots. The RMG program also bears this important characteristic: Each project must expressly align with the state’s goals for greenhouse-gas-emission reductions.

Funded in statute through the state multimodal transportation fund, the program has provided $184 million to support local and regional projects since 2006. Historically, the Legislature has set aside up to $40 million every two years for RMG projects, but that amount is scheduled to increase by 25 percent in 2015.

With 50 projects completed in the past nine years, the program now turns its attention toward the 26 ongoing projects around the state. The Legislature will review a list of additional project proposals during its upcoming session, awarding as much as $50 million in grants to projects selected for funding.