Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Creating our recommendation for the Highway System Plan

By James Detke

The Highway System Plan is used to make investment recommendations to the Legislature that will result in a future highway system that is sound, safe and smart. This plan used scenario planning to test how different funding levels would affect different outcomes.

To create our final recommendation, we worked with transportation professionals, continually engaged communities across the state throughout the process, narrowed down our options, and combined all available information to create a recommendation that balances benefits and drawbacks.

Developing funding scenarios

The project team worked closely with staff from each of the programs to project their future performance and understand how funding would affect performance. This helped determine which investments might lead to the most cost-effective benefits. Combining the best available data with knowledge from staff allowed us to get a picture of how investments would affect the outcome of highway performance for all modes of transportation.

After providing information on nine of the highway programs, we asked public survey participants how they would distribute funding across these programs. This feedback resulted in eight different funding scenarios as well as the current spending scenario. These scenarios provided a starting point for how funding can be distributed.

During the community engagement process, we learned that people naturally grouped the highway system programs into the three main categories shown below: highway repair, safety and efficiency, and highway expansion. We used these groupings to structure our funding scenarios.

Through further engagement, analysis, and discussions with transportation officials, we narrowed the wide range of scenarios down to three finalists. In surveys and outreach, the public overwhelmingly rejected the idea of closing or placing new limits on some bridges and highways to spend money on other highway programs. This means that our final three scenarios included adequate funding for preservation and maintenance programs before making other investments.

Three scenarios for investing remaining funds

With all three scenarios including adequate funding for repair and funding court-mandated fish passage barrier correction, we explored how each scenario balanced the remaining funds between safety and efficiency strategies and highway expansion.

The first scenario was based on the balance preferred by most members of the public during the engagement process: committing two-thirds of the remaining funding to improving the safety and efficiency of the existing system and one-third to highway expansion strategies. We compared this scenario to a stronger shift to safety and efficiency strategies and to a complete shift to safety and efficiency strategies.

Our recommendation

While no investment recommendation will satisfy everyone, one scenario stood out above the rest as the scenario that best represents the public interest. Our recommendation balances many competing interests and is based on public input, industry best practices, alignment with state and regional plans, and other factors. We recommend new revenue for state highways be dedicated first to adequately funding preservation and maintenance with remaining funds balanced between safety and efficiency strategies and highway expansion projects at a ratio of 2:1. This will assure that the highway system can continue to function while making smart investments in system improvements.

Following this recommendation will result in a system that is sound, safe, and smart.

  • Sound : All state bridges and highways – critical to supporting our existing economy – will remain open and maintained in working condition.
  • Safe : This decreases serious injuries and saves lives by providing safer spaces for people who walk, bicycle, and roll, new guardrails and roundabouts, and intersection improvements. This also results in an $8.9 billion reduction in the costs to society from crashes over 20 years.
  • Smart : There will be fewer system gaps for people who walk, ride bikes, or roll; more travel options and transportation efficient communities; smoother and smarter transportation operations; improved fish passage and a healthier environment with fewer miles traveled and vehicle emissions; and equitable and inclusive policies, investments, and outcomes.

Let us know what you think about the draft Highway System Plan

The draft Highway System Plan is available for public comment, and we want to hear from you! Your comments help us make recommendations that best serve the diverse communities affected by transportation decisions. Visit the HSP website to learn more, review the plan, and visit the online open house. There will also be a link to join the virtual public meeting from 2 to 3 p.m. on Nov. 30 where you can hear more about the plan and provide direct feedback.

Public comments will be accepted through 5 p.m., Dec. 18.


t said...

The plan gives preference to walking and rolling, yet utterly fails to recognize that those users will pay nothing for the roadways that they use -- roadways that are often taken away from motorists who have already paid for them and continue to do so via gas tax, etc.
The plan is unfair and misguided in this area.

Tim said...

I would think about adding more passing lanes on US 2 east of the summit going east and west of the summit going west. I'd accelerate completion of the North Spokane bypass and the SeaTac Airport south project link up with the I-5. I'd also add more airport signage on the I-405, I-5, and make it clear how to get to the airport from the I-90/I-405 interchange. I'd add the "cats eyes" reflectors that we have in the UK to all major roadways and arterials as they render the lanes clearer to see. On rail, I would accelerate development of the Stampede Pass railroad project going through Auburn, Cle Elum, Ellensburg, Yakima, and the Tri-Cities toward Spokane and add trains on both that route and also on the existing Great Northern Empire Builder route so that we can get to Spokane in daylight hours. I hope this helps! I'd also double up the SR 522 so that it is consistently two lanes in each direction. The SR900 between Issaquah and Renton needs to be rendered safer than it is with added lane reflectors (the "cats eyes") and possible doubling of the roadway. The ferries obviously need improving and I'd add a ferry from Tacoma to Seattle, although that would excessive pressure on the road network in the Point Defiance area of Tacoma, so that wouldn't work without a dedicated freeway from the SR16. Completion of the Columbia Road Bridge with something much more special than what is planned! How's this for starters!

Steve L said...

More emphasis needs to be placed on expansion. Washington state has neglected any type of increase to the capacity of our roadways, we are operating with greater traffic volumes on the same number of lanes for the last 20 years. When you have no new capacity on highways, all the side streets become congested causing safety to drop on those roads. BUILD MORE LANES!!

WSDOT said...

t, thank you for sharing your preferences with us! WSDOT makes recommendations on investments, but is not directed to recommend to the Legislature on how to pay for those investments. If you want to read more about what we heard from Washington residents and the likely amount of state funds for highways, you can see our previous posts here:

WSDOT said...

Tim, thanks for sharing your preferences with us! This plan only covers the state owned Interstates, US Routes, and State Routes. There are a separate plans for Washington State Ferries and other modes of transportation.

WSDOT comment policy

Post a Comment