Washington is determined to up its transportation game. Urgency to update systems of transportation to alleviate traffic, improve emergency response, and incorporate innovative technology has prompted the Washington State Transportation Commission to plan for long-term goals with WTP 2040 and Beyond.
The online, interactive transportation plan — which is the first of its kind in the country — engaged diverse representatives from across the state to weigh in on a wide variety of issues. A major challenge currently is the state’s lack of funding not only for an improved system of transportation, but even for the maintenance of the current system.
“When we look around the state, we recognize the hard choices that communities are facing when it comes to paying for transportation,” Jerry Litt, chair of the citizen Transportation Commission, said in a statement. “They’re working to make the best use of existing resources and stretch their transportation dollars further, but it’s an expensive system to maintain. Existing revenues don’t cover all the basic needs, much less pay for the retrofits and upgrades that are needed.”
According to Secretary of Transportation Roger Miller, taxpayers have invested about $200 billion in highways, bridges, and ferries — a number that should be doubled to adequately keep those assets in good repair.
WTP 2040 and Beyond emphasizes the need to incorporate technology, update system resilience, and pay for transportation in a sustainable way. The plan is optimistic, looking for places where progress can be made and emphasizing collaboration.
“Now more than ever we need to work together to tackle these transportation issues,” Andrea Weckmueller-Behringer, executive director of the Walla Walla Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization, said. “Every one of our regions has partnerships already in place that provide a strong foundation for the more refined work that WTP 2040 and Beyond calls for.”
While the plan does not include project-specific funding recommendations, it builds a strong foundation for identifying projects, investment strategies, and responsibilities across the state. Ideally, the plan would keep local and state plans working in tandem so that Washington keep moving forward.