12s getting to Phoenix with NextGen flights

Fans on their way to the Big Game will be getting there faster and with greater fuel economy thanks to NextGen technologies being put into use by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Flights to the Super Bowl are more efficient thanks to NextGen Technology.

Flights to the Super Bowl are more efficient thanks to NextGen Technology.

The NextGen program is replacing obsolete ground-based technology with satellite-based technology, which will vastly change how aircraft fly, leading to more direct routes and increasing efficiency overall.

With funding from FAA, PSRC is currently preparing a NextGen Airspace Optimization Study, looking at ways to reduce congestion, enhance safety, and improve the efficiency of the region’s airspace.

PSRC’s NextGen Consultant – BridgeNet International – is working with FAA to prepare videos that show the application and benefits of NextGen.  Here’s their latest work, focused on helping fans and players get to the Super Bowl on February 1.


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Express toll lanes on I-405?

Drivers may soon have the opportunity to buy into the carpool lanes on Interstate 405. The Washington State Transportation Commission will begin accepting public comment on the proposal next week.

Drivers may soon have the option to speed up their trips on I-405.

Drivers may soon have the option to speed up their trips on I-405.

The proposal would allow solo drivers to pay a toll that varies by time of day and level of congestion to use the carpool lane.

During peak congestion times, only cars with 3 or more people would be able to use the lane free of charge.

The toll rate would be a minimum of 75 cents and a maximum of $10, with the average expected to be $4.

The Washington State Transportation Commission will be hosting four public meetings on the proposal.

  • February 3 in Bellevue at 6:30 pm
  • February 17 virtually through the commission website at 6 pm
  • February 19 in Kirkland at 6:30 pm
  • March 18 in Kirkland at 6:30 pm

For full details on how to comment, see the Commission’s press release.


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Region’s population shows third consecutive year of strong growth

A strong economy is attracting more people to the Puget Sound region, continuing a pattern of accelerating population growth.

Go hawks!

Go hawks!

The four-county Puget Sound region added 54,550 people last year, growing the total population to an estimated 3,835,450 in 2014.

Forecasts show the region will likely top 4 million people in 2016.

King County was home to most of the growth last year, with 35,350 more people.  Snohomish County grew by 10,500, Pierce County by 6,800, and Kitsap by 1,900 people.

It was big news last spring when the Seattle Times reported that Seattle was the nation’s fastest growing major city.

Between 2010 and 2014, Seattle grew by 31,840 people or 5.2%.

Other cities in the region are also growing fast. Auburn gained 4,450 people in the last four years, a growth rate of 6.3%.

Kirkland had the biggest total population gain between 2010 and 2014 — 33,803 people — mostly due to annexation.



For more on population of cities and towns in the region, check out the latest Puget Sound Trend – Population of Cities and Towns.


Next regional transit moves underway at Sound Transit and the state legislature

Sound Transit’s board has seen the future, and in addition to carrying millions more riders than ever before, it is about crafting an affordable ST 3 plan – with more regional connections – to put before voters in 2016.


Sound Transit marketed special service to Seahawks games. Light rail ridership has been growing by over a million riders a year and is slated for additional growth with new service to Husky Stadium in 2016.

Last week Sound Transit released a poll indicating that 70 percent of its voters would support building an additional 30 miles of light rail – finally connecting many of the region’s major cities.

Will the state legislature and the Governor give voters that choice?

So far, Governor Inslee says yes, as part of his transportation proposal.

Today, the House Transportation Committee held the first hearing on legislation needed to help make it happen.

King County Executive Dow Constantine told the committee that “better transit is an urgent matter” and this is a “pivotal moment” for the entire region. He noted that the region is expected to grow by another 1+ million people, to 5 million, by 2040, putting more pressure on the transportation system.

He said his two big priorities as Sound Transit Chair are “accountability and integration,” and that Sound Transit ridership increased from 30 to 32 million in 2014.

Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland told the committee that ST 3 is “an issue of economics. It is good for the entire state of Washington and the region” to better connect Pierce, King and Snohomish counties.

The Senate has yet to schedule a hearing on a bill, but ST 3 authorization is commonly expected to be part of a comprehensive transportation proposal being developed behind the scenes.

Last week the PSRC’s Executive Board endorsed legislation to authorize ST 3.  PSRC  plays a supporting role in the effort to vote on ST 3 in 2016.

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Congress takes up “long term” transportation fixes

Over the next three years the region is counting on about $1.6 billion in federal transportation funds to sustain and improve mobility.


The Energy Information Administration reports that gas prices have dropped $1.25 per gallon in the past year.

Yet the federal programs that support transportation – and those investments – expire in 125 days.

This week Congress starts work to sustain federal transportation funds beyond May 30th – with a hearing in the Senate on Wednesday.

The hearing is focused on “the importance of passing a long-term” transportation measure “to support the Nation’s global economic competitiveness” and will also “address the threat that businesses, states, and workers face due to the impending insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund.”

Efforts to change federal policies include Arlington Congressman Rick Larsen’s reintroduction of his “TIGER CUBS” legislation, which would set aside $100 million in federal TIGER grants for cities with between 10,000 and 50,000 people.

Lower gas prices have fueled calls to fix chronic underfunding of federal transportation programs with an increase in the federal gas tax.

The Speaker of the House eliminated that option last night.

Tax reform and additional supplements from general funding are viewed as the most likely ways Congress will agree to sustain federal transportation funding and keep the Trust Fund solvent.


Transportation project delivery on track

Thanks to the region’s project tracking program, the region has already delivered on 17% of its 2015 target as of January.

The region is on track to meet its 2015 delivery target.

The region is on track to meet its 2015 delivery target.

The federal transportation funding that PSRC distributes requires that certain delivery targets and timelines are met or the funds will be distributed to other regions.

A key goal for 2015 is for projects to secure $71 million in federal highway dollars by this summer. Nearly $12 million in PSRC funds have already been obligated for the year.

The initial deadline for delivery each year is August 1st, to ensure full delivery by the end of the federal fiscal year, September 30th.

PSRC staff is here to help its members obligate these funds quickly.   When our jurisdictions meet that deadline, we’ll be in a position to fund more projects in our region from places that don’t meet their deadline.

PSRC has new tracking procedures to help the region succeed in maximizing federal funds and earning a fair advantage for the region.

Regional wrap up

What a week in the region!

PSRC finalized its transportation recommendations to the legislature.

PSRC finalized its recommendations to the legislature.

PSRC’s Executive Board met yesterday and finalized its transportation and growth management recommendations to the legislature, approved the special needs transportation funding program of projects and rankings for WSDOT’s competition, and heard from the Governor’s staff on the proposed Carbon Pollution Accountability Act.

Read all about what happened at Executive Board here or watch the meeting here.

An event at Joint Base Lewis-McChord drew a huge crowd in show of support for jobs on post, the Puget Sound Travel Study showed people chose where they live mostly based on affordability, and there is a new Executive Director at the Port of Everett.

Read all about these events in Josh Brown’s, PSRC Executive Director, regional news email here.