Region’s residents hungry for transportation

A round-up of this year’s most popular PSRC blog posts call out some familiar themes:  transportation, affordability, and growth planning.

Sound Transit bus in Issaquah.

Sound Transit bus in Issaquah.

#5 Two transportation posts tie for fifth place!

Traffic delay nearly doubles on I-5 and I-405   Delay increased 52 percent from 2010 to 2014.

How is the region’s travel behavior changing?  A peek at some of the findings of the 2014 Puget Sound Travel Study.

#4  Countdown to start of Link service to UW  The latest on transit tunnel changes and light rail service between Husky Stadium and downtown Seattle.

#3  Is traffic really as bad as it seems?  The answer is yes, traffic really is that bad. Data confirms that the region’s transportation system is showing signs of significant stress.

#2  PSRC study: Affordability top factor in where to live  Housing affordability was a hot topic this year as many parts of the region boomed. Why do people choose to live where they do?  In central Puget Sound, 60% say it’s about affordability.

#1  And the number one blog post for 2015:  Issaquah’s urban core becomes 29th regional growth center  

Housing, jobs, shopping, and parks are all part of creating a vibrant new center in Issaquah. In June, the Executive Board approved Issaquah’s application for regional growth center designation.

Next week the Growth Management Policy Board will review and recommend action to certify Issaquah’s center plan. It’s the last step to becoming a full-fledged regional growth center.


Ultra large container ship in Puget Sound in February?

A new class of giant container ship pulled into the Port of Los Angeles this week—the largest ship ever to call on North America.


A new “big ship” arrived in California this week. Plans are underway to handle “big ships” simultaneously at ports on Puget Sound. (Photo credit: Port of Los Angeles)

The Northwest Seaport Alliance says it could check out Puget Sound—and dock at the Port of Seattle—sometime in February.

The CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin is 1,300 feet long, 177 feet wide and has the capacity of nearly 18,000 containers.

The News Tribune has the complete story about the ship’s sail up the West Coast.

An environmental review is underway on plans to get the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 5 “big ship ready.”

Plans call for the terminal to be able to handle two of the 18,000-container ships simultaneously – including heavier cranes and the ability to handle deeper drafts.

When the terminal went out of service last year, its capacity was one 6,000-container ship.

Test pile driving for the planned improvements is expected to start in January.

 “Upgrading Terminal 5 to handle larger vessels is critical to creating new maritime and industrial jobs for the region,” said Stephanie Bowman, co-president of the Port of Seattle, a partner in the alliance with the Port of Tacoma. “As part of our commitment to the community, we will carefully study the environmental impacts of the terminal improvements.”

Good work showing up in local planning

It’s been a busy year for city and county planners working to update comprehensive plans. The plans show how diverse communities are meeting local needs and are doing their part to achieve the VISION 2040 regional growth strategy.

Kirkland is planning for significant growth, anticipating an additional 8,361 housing units and 22,435 jobs through 2035. (Photo - City of Kirkland)

Kirkland is planning for significant growth, anticipating an additional 8,361 housing units and 22,435 jobs through 2035.

PSRC planners have been hard at work reviewing the 81 plans being updated this year to ensure they sync up to regional policies and meet state planning requirements.

Some of the themes emerging:

Planning for significant growth – Implementation of the regional growth strategy is happening in communities large and small.  Metro and core cities are planning to support significant growth, and counties are working to protect rural and resource lands.

Centers – Many communities are doing great work planning for regional growth centers, manufacturing/industrial centers and local centers. Focusing growth in centers is fundamental to the success of the regional growth strategy.

Environment – Jurisdictions are adopting important environmental policies, including support for low-impact development to improve water quality and take the pressure off of stormwater infrastructure, protection of wetlands, streams, rivers, and shorelines, local strategies to address climate change, and taking steps to support urban tree canopy.

Transportation – While paying for transportation improvements remains a challenge, jurisdictions have upped their game in planning for all types of transportation.  Many plans are strong on integrating transit and local plans, bicycle and pedestrian improvements, and focusing investments to serve compact development.

Housing – Many plans have outstanding policies and analysis related to housing.  But communities have also documented the difficulty in planning for housing that’s affordable to all economic segments and those with special housing needs. Some communities have also added new policies to address the issue of homelessness.

To date, PSRC has certified 33 plans, with 48 more to go in the next few months.

On January 7, the Growth Management Policy Board will take up the next batch of comprehensive plan certifications for Bonney Lake, Carnation, Kent, Kirkland, Lake Stevens, Marysville, Medina, Milton, Mukilteo, Roy, and Sammamish.


Surge in out-of-state driver registrations continues

Last spring we noted an increase of out-of-state driver registrations during the first three months of 2015.  The trend has continued and many of the new drivers are registering in the central Puget Sound region.

Where new registrations are coming from.

Where are they coming from? California tops the list with more than 21,000 new driver registrations in the region so far this year.

In 2014, the region had 98,699 new registrations. So far in 2015 (with one more month to go), the total new driver registrations in the four counties is 105,940.

King has the most registrations (66,649), followed by Pierce (19,182), Snohomish (12,881), and Kitsap (7,228).

California, Texas, Oregon, Arizona, and Florida are the top five sources of new out-of-state drivers registering in the region, according to the department of licensing.

The region grew by 1.6 percent between 2014 and 2015, adding 63,270 new people, according to state Office of Financial Management estimates. It was the fourth consecutive year of increased annual growth for the region.

PSRC’s regional economic forecast shows the region can expect 28 percent more people and 40 percent more jobs by 2040.

Congress keeps TIGER alive

Congressional approval of a $1.1 trillion appropriations bill for federal programs for 2016 includes $500 million for the popular TIGER grant program.


This map shows the locations of successful TIGER grants in the region. The program was created by Senator Patty Murray in 2008.

Earlier this year TIGER failed to be included in the multi-year FAST Act.

Congress sent the bill to the President today.

It gives TIGER one more year of funding.

The 2016 Omnibus Appropriations Bill is loaded with provisos.

It provides a total of $76 billion for U.S. Department of Transportation programs, mostly in sync with funding levels established in the FAST Act.

The region has received $172 million in TIGER grants since 2008.

Projects include I-5 through JBLM, Tacoma LINK, a new Mukilteo ferry terminal, the South Park Bridge, rehab on the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 46 and the HOV lanes now under construction on I-90 to set the stage for light rail.



New local elected officials to tackle regional issues

Soon more than 100 newly elected local officials will be sworn into office to represent big and small communities all around the region.

Debora Juarez was elected to represent Seattle City Council District 5.

Debora Juarez was elected to represent Seattle City Council District 5 in north Seattle.

Some leaders of course aren’t really new to elected office.  Jeanne Kohl-Welles is a newly elected King County Councilmember, but has represented the 36th District in the Washington State Senate since 1994.

Bellevue Mayor Claudia Balducci, chair of PSRC’s Transportation Policy Board, also was elected as a new King County Councilmember.

Another veteran leader taking on a new challenge is the Port of Bremerton’s Commissioner-Elect Cary Bozeman, who previously served as mayor of Bremerton and Bellevue.

Of the new class of elected officials, all but a handful serve on city councils.  There are five newly elected mayors — many of them former city councilmembers — starting their terms in 2016: Jeff Johnson (Lake Forest Park), Allan Ekberg (Tukwila), Rob Putaansuu (Port Orchard), Mike Courts (DuPont), and John Spencer (Lake Stevens).

PSRC is hosting a workshop, Working Together: Regional Connections for Local Leaders, for all newly elected local officials on January 19.  Sound Transit and Puget Sound Clean Air are co-hosting.

The workshop brings together leaders from around the region to learn about the resources provided by regional organizations and ways we can collaborate on solving regional challenges. You can find out more here.

Street safety assessment of south Seattle

The Regional Freight Mobility Roundtable heard from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regarding the lessons learned from a unique safety assessment held in South Seattle earlier in 2015.

The safety assessment looked at large vehicle and bicycle/pedestrian interaction on specific south Seattle routes.

The safety assessment looked at large vehicle and bicycle/pedestrian interaction on specific south Seattle routes.

The safety assessment was focused on issues involving trucks, pedestrians, and bicycles in this area, and allowed participants to have the opportunity to learn about transportation challenges firsthand from truck drivers, bus drivers, and bicyclists.

More than 100 people participated in the assessment with varied feedback depending on perspective. There was general agreement across all interests that protected, or separated bicycle and pedestrian facilities were the most commonly favored solution.  Issues observed included crossings in the SODO area being difficult for bicyclists and pedestrians, and that bicyclists waiting to make turns are less visible and exposed to risk.  Truck observations included that the behavior of bicyclists and pedestrians can be very unpredictable, making operating a heavy truck more challenging in an urban area.  Final results are available at the NHTSA website for more details.

Additionally, the Roundtable heard an update on developments from the Northwest Seaport Alliance, and heard an overview of the new freight provisions provided for the new FAST Act transportation bill.

To view presentations from the meeting, please go the Regional Freight Mobility Roundtable Website.