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Each year the Washington State Transportation Commission visits four or five communities around the state to learn about local transportation needs, challenges and successes. A visit to Port Townsend and Jefferson County this week kicks off the 2013 community meetings. The Commission will tour various transportation sites on Tuesday afternoon and meet all day in Port Townsend on Wednesday, May 22, at the Port of Port Townsend. In addition to hearing from the cities of Port Townsend, Port Angeles, and Sequim and Jefferson and Clallam Counties, the agenda also includes WSDOT, the local ports and transit agencies and tribes. Presentations will zero in on the importance of transportation to the area’s tourism economy and the unique demands on transit created by the state’s highest percentage of elderly population.
The Commission travels to Walla Walla in June, to Colville and Spokane in September, and to Bothell in November. During other months, with the exception of August, the Commission meets in Olympia.
The Washington State Transportation Commission (WSTC) today launched the Voice of Washington State (VOWS) statewide public engagement program, which includes seven regional online discussion forums and an online survey panel. The WSTC is asking state residents to log on to www.voiceofwashingtonstate.org to sign up and share input on how to improve the state’s transportation system.
Individuals can join the VOWS Online Discussion Forums and publicly voice their opinions, post ideas and interact with other citizens in their community. They can also join the VOWS Survey Panel to participate in occasional online surveys. The Commission is using the new online forum technology to empower citizens to become thought-leaders on transportation.
“Sparking a robust conversation around transportation issues, and collecting survey data that indicates people’s opinions and thoughts on policy and funding approaches, will help decision makers identify possible solutions and investment priorities,” noted Reema Griffith, executive director of the WSTC. “When people share what matters to them when they drive, ride, bike, walk or fly within their communities, their needs can be more effectively addressed.”
The ultimate goal is to gather public input on Washington state transportation policy and funding, and to inform the statewide discussion and decision-making process. Topics for discussion will focus on all things transportation: highways, mass transit, freight and high-speed rail, ferries, barges and aviation. The governor and Legislature will be briefed on the ideas and data generated through the online discussion forums and surveys.
The combination of the online survey and the regional online discussion forums is a new outreach strategy for the WSTC. While the Commission has conducted successful phone and email surveys through the Ferry Riders Opinion Group for a few years, the primary community input tool has been public meetings. The online tools remove the distance and travel barriers inherent to public meetings; this increases the opportunity for everyone – no matter where they live – to participate and share their views.
Details about the VOWS program components are as follows:
- The VOWS Online Discussion Forums are for publicly sharing, voting and commenting on regional and statewide transportation ideas. Participants can join any or all of the seven regional discussion forums.
- The VOWS Survey Panel is a way for citizens to communicate their opinions and preferences by taking occasional surveys on transportation policy, funding and tax issues. The result is statistically valid data representing the priorities and opinions of Washington state residents. The input from individuals is anonymous because the survey company does not attach personal information to the survey results. Each participant will receive the surveys through email.
The seven regional discussion forums are: West (Region 1), North Puget Sound (Region 2), Central Puget Sound (Region 3), Southwest (Region 4), Central (Region 5), Northeast (Region 6) and Southeast (Region 7). Discussions within each forum will focus on both region-specific issues as well as statewide topics, such as roads and pedestrian safety.
Any Washington state resident is eligible to join the VOWS Online Discussion Forums or the VOWS Survey Panel. Registration is limited to one email address per person; submission of the person’s name, email address and county is all that is required to set up a VOWS account for participation.
The West Coast Green Highway opens on Wednesday, May 30, 2012. The three-state initiative provides public electric vehicle charging stations in strategic locations to promote the use of cleaner fuels along the 1,350 miles of I-5 from British Columbia to Baja, California in Mexico.
At the Grand Opening on Wednesday, May 30, the charging stations in Blaine, Bellingham and Burlington will not be available for general charging as they will be used for charging demonstrations. The network of stations will be open for all EV drivers on Thursday, May 31.
For more information on the Grand Opening, click http://westcoastelectrichighway.eventbrite.com/
Drivers can sign-up for an AVnetwork Charging keyfob and find the most current listing of charging stations at evsolutions.avinc.com. The website will be updated as new stations come online — so check back regularly.
Construction began this week on the state’s first public charging station that can recharge electric vehicles in 30 minutes.
The Bellingham DC fast charging station is the first sign of a border-to-border network of public electric-vehicle charging stations and the first stop on Washington’s segment of the West Coast Electric Highway along 276 miles of Interstate 5 between the state’s borders with Oregon and Canada.
The Washington State Department of Transportation selected Bellingham to break ground on the state’s segment of the Electric Highway because the city’s commitment to a sustainable future goes hand-in-hand with the WSDOT’s leading role in developing new transportation infrastructure necessary for drivers to make the switch to electricity.
“The transition from gasoline and foreign oil to alternative fuels, such as electricity, for transportation requires a huge first step – infrastructure,” said state Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond in recognition of Wednesday’s groundbreaking of the West Coast Electric Highway’s first DC fast charge station at Sehome Village Shopping Center in Bellingham.
The Electric Highway is part of the West Coast Green Highway, a three-state initiative to promote the use of cleaner fuels along the 1,350 miles of I-5 from British Columbia to Baja, Californian in Mexico.
The charging station provides a 30-minute recharge for all-electric cars such as the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi iMiev. It will also include a Level 2 “medium-speed” charging pedestal for other plug-in vehicles, such as the Ford Focus and Chevy Volt.
The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) have recognized four transportation projects by county, city and tribal governments in Washington with 2011 Awards of Excellence. The projects are recognized for excellence in safety enhancements, construction, innovative design, environmental sustainability and community involvement.
The photos in this post show the Mason County project, before and after.
Best County Award: Mason County – Tahuya River Bridge #2 on Belfair Road
The Tahuya River replacement bridge, 40 feet wide and 110 feet long, is the primary access to northwest Mason County. It replaced a structure destroyed during 2007 flooding. As primary access to NW Mason County, the loss left a 22-mile detour. Partnerships inlcuded Mason County, FHWA, WSDOT, and private contractors. Total project cost $1.9 million, with more than $1.7 million in federal highway funds.
Best City Award: City of Redmond – NE 36th Street Bridge Project
The NE 36th Street Bridge connects Redmond’s Overlake neighborhood, spanning SR 520 with two adjoining, landscaped lids designed for use by bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers. Since its opening, the bridge has allowed a great many citizens the opportunity to walk, bike, or drive to work and shopping. The new bridge provides much-needed relief to the adjacent SR 520 interchanges, and creates a safer connection. Total project cost: $26 million, with more than $7.1 million of federal highway funds.
Director’s Award: City of Grandview – “Alive Downtown” Revitalization Project
Grandview’s “Alive Downtown” Revitalization updated and added new pedestrian amenities including wider sidewalks, street and pedestrian lighting, and landscaping. The area was improved for motorists by repaving and updating the roadway drainage. Total project cost, $2.4 million, with $2.03 million of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), as well as other state and local funding.
Best Special Award: Lummi Nation – Haxton Way Pedestrian Pathway Project
The Haxton Way Pedestrian Pathway project is a two-mile, multi-purpose trail system, consisting of a paved pathway, elevated boardwalk, new pedestrian bridges, intersection improvements, and solar lighting for bicyclists and pedestrians. The project included partnerships between the Lummi Tribe, Whatcom County, FHWA and WSDOT. Total project cost: $1.71 million, with funding from the State Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Program and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
Grays Harbor’s role in renewable fuels is growing as Imperium Grays Harbor, the nation’s largest biodiesel production facility, has increased production and begun exporting its product throughout the world.
Located near Terminals 1 and 2 at the Port of Grays Harbor, Imperium Grays Harbor employs 37 local workers and 44 statewide. The renewable fuels company specializes in producing pure, unblended B100 biodiesel refined from a variety of oils, primarily canola oil at this time. The Grays Harbor facility has the capacity to produce one hundred million gallons of fuel per year. The facility is also the nation’s largest DQ9000 certified product producer, a designation of significance in the renewable fuels industry.
The following editorial from the May 5, 2011, Yakima Herald-Republic, not only mentions WTP 2030 but repeats two of the key themes the Transportation Commission has stressed in the last five years. Cooperation and partnership, along with innovation and technology, are necessary ingredients for solving many of the transportation challenges faced by communities, businesses, and governments today .
Cooperation can smooth ride for goods across state
The Cascade Curtain parted a bit in Yakima last week when officials from the Seattle area voiced what folks here have known all along: The Port of Seattle needs Yakima Valley products, and Yakima Valley producers need the port.
The officials, including port CEO Tay Yoshitani, spoke at a roundtable discussion that was part of a statewide tour as the port seeks to work with exporting businesses. The port manages cargo terminals, on Seattle’s waterfront, as well as Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Top of mind was the coming cherry crop, a time-sensitive commodity whose exporting success, especially overseas, hinges on efficient air service. But overall freight mobility is also an issue, and that’s where the discussion expands outside the realm of port and producer.
The Seattle area’s familiar struggle with traffic issues is not just a local concern when transportation choke points, whether in highway, rail or air, compromise the ability to move goods from around the state. Also of concern is Snoqualmie Pass, where construction of phase one of the Interstate 90 project between Hyak and Keechelus Dam is under way. When complete, the expanded highway will help speed the way for timely delivery of products from east of the Cascades.
It’s a start, and a good one, but it can’t end there. Higher gas prices and increased auto fuel efficiency have combined to cut fuel consumption and reduce income from state and federal gas taxes. The Washington State Transportation Commission Plan 2030 warns, “By conservative estimates, at least $175 to $200 billion in funding is required to meet statewide needs over the next 20 years.”
State officials say the present gas tax can’t cover the state’s future needs, and that other revenue sources will need to be tapped. Thus we see the $100 annual electric-car fee that the state Senate recently approved, along with discussions of tolls for the second phase of the I-90 project from Keechelus Dam to Roslyn.
Port officials in Yakima last week noted Seattle is constantly competing with other West Coast ports, and a smooth transportation system is essential to keeping Seattle in the game.
As westside officials support and promote future projects — and the revenue sources needed to finance them — they should do so with an eye toward accountability and the most efficient return on our investment. East of the Cascades, naturally tax-skeptical agricultural interests should keep an open mind on investing in projects that could yield huge returns.
With such cooperation, perhaps someday we could drive a truck through the opening in the Cascade Curtain. A truck with Yakima Valley goods, of course.
* Members of the Yakima Herald-Republic editorial board are Sharon J. Prill, Bob Crider, Frank Purdy and Karen Troianello.
The Washington State Transportation Commission is pleased to present the Washington Transportation Plan 2030 (WTP 2030). The Commission adopted WTP 2030 at its December meeting, subject to final edits, formatting, and proofing. The final product is now complete and online.
WTP 2030 was developed through an inclusive process of engagement with a diverse group of stakeholders and partners around the state. The Plan was informed by a broadly representative Advisory Group, and through input gained from statewide regional listening sessions and stakeholder presentations sponsored by the Commission. In all, over 700 individuals and organizations provided input into the Plan’s content.
You can view the final plan here.
The Regional Listening Sessions proved to be a valuable outreach tool that provided the Commission with an array of feedback on a variety of issues. Along with important input on the major themes, people from across the state identified the strategies they believe are most critical to meet the transportation needs of a diverse and growing population.
One strategy that participants viewed as essential to a successful Plan was strengthening the link between transportation and land use planning. It was emphasized that different types of transportation systems require different types of land use policies. For instance, in order for a public transit system to be successful, a pedestrian oriented, safe environment must be developed around stations.
A number of participants advocated for the “Complete Streets” concept, which entails designing and operating shared roadways that provide safe and comfortable access for pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and public transport users. In general, participants showed support for a greater overall investment in non-motorized transportation infrastructure, including sidewalks and bicycle lanes. They pointed out that such investments lead to improved safety and public health, and have the potential to provide opportunities for economic growth.
At the Regional Listening Sessions, we received a lot of feedback on a wide variety of issues addressed (or not addressed) by the Draft WTP 2030. Each of the five regions where sessions were held had its own unique perspective on what the most critical transportation issues were and what needs to be done. That said, a few major themes came up at all sessions, including the desire for stronger local involvement and the need for better public education and outreach regarding the importance of transportation.
So what exactly does stronger local involvement mean? Generally, participants emphasized the importance of involving local jurisdictions in implementing policies and allocating funds. Locals noted that they have a much better understanding of local needs and local context than state or federal agencies. Participants stressed the importance of respecting local differences and recognizing that “one size does not fit all”. For instance, with an issue like land use and transportation integration, different approaches are necessary for urban and rural areas. Overall, the message to the Commission was clear: a successful plan must allow for local involvement and local flexibility.