One out of every five miles of road in the U.S. is in poor condition and less than half are rated as “good,” and their condition is just getting worse. Transportation agencies in some states have committed to turning things around by prioritizing maintenance in their spending plans.
Smart Growth America and SSTI recently helped the Washington State Department of Transportation take a groundbreaking step to align its transportation investments with statewide policy goals. WSDOT is seeking to bring the state’s transportation policy goals directly into its decision making at every level, from statewide planning down to roadway design. The new framework will help WSDOT determine which transportation problems are most critical and which potential investments will move the state toward its vision for the future.
Attracting and retaining talented staff at state DOTs has been on the minds of many transportation leaders, as noted in a recent AASHTO Journal article. It was also a topic at the July SSTI Community of Practice meeting and will be the topic of our webinar next week on September 5. Each state has slightly different challenges, but many are concerned with staff having the appropriate skills for the work they need to do. Retaining talented staff and sharing institutional knowledge as retirements loom is also a common theme.
Washington State Department of Transportation has been rightfully proud of their accountability and transparency with their quarterly Gray Notebook, which details system performance and project delivery. As part of that, they have issued an Annual Congestion Report. But the 2013 report has a new name and a new emphasis. Instead of highlighting congestion, the 2013 Corridor Capacity Report focuses on capacity across all modes. Rather than measuring just motor vehicle throughput, it turns its attention to moving people, regardless of mode.
Tolled traffic lanes on otherwise unpriced facilities offer a unique opportunity to understand how much people are willing to pay for a faster commute and to truth test the assumptions used by transportation agencies to judge the benefits and costs of potential projects. One of these projects, the high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes on Washington’s SR 167, demonstrates the difficulty of accurately predicting how travelers will value reductions in travel time.
More evidence that the public strongly supports system preservation comes from a survey performed for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. When asked to rank the importance of a variety of potential priorities for WisDOT, preservation came out on top by a wide margin with 47.3 percent of respondents citing it as “extremely important.” A year earlier, a survey for Washington DOT found a similar result in that state.
The Washington State DOT currently has six statutory goals: economic vitality, preservation, safety, mobility, environment, and stewardship. H.B. 1233, introduced by a Tacoma legislator whose day job is with the county health department, would add health as a seventh goal.
The Washington Roundtable, a group comprising many of the state’s largest businesses, is urging passage of a nine-cent increase in the fuel tax. What’s most interesting about the proposal, however, is not the revenue ask, but where the group wants the money to go: for major increases in operations and in system preservation.
As part of Spitfire’s work with SSTI and the Washington State Department of Transportation to develop a collaborative transportation energy efficiency campaign, Spitfire conducted a series of research activities to inform campaign planning.