Written by James Detke
The Highway System Plan is used to make investment recommendations to the Legislature that will result in a future highway system that is sound, safe and smart. This plan used scenario planning to test how different funding levels would affect different outcomes.
To create our final recommendation, we worked with transportation professionals, continually engaged communities across the state throughout the process, narrowed down our options, and combined all available information to create a recommendation that balances benefits and drawbacks.
Developing funding scenarios
The project team worked closely with staff from each of the programs to project their future performance and understand how funding would affect performance. This helped determine which investments might lead to the most cost-effective benefits. Combining the best available data with knowledge from staff allowed us to get a picture of how investments would affect the outcome of highway performance for all modes of transportation.
After providing information on nine of the highway programs, we asked public survey participants how they would distribute funding across these programs. This feedback resulted in eight different funding scenarios as well as the current spending scenario. These scenarios provided a starting point for how funding can be distributed.
During the community engagement process, we learned that people naturally grouped the highway system programs into the three main categories shown below: highway repair, safety and efficiency, and highway expansion. We used these groupings to structure our funding scenarios.
Through further engagement, analysis, and discussions with transportation officials, we narrowed the wide range of scenarios down to three finalists. In surveys and outreach, the public overwhelmingly rejected the idea of closing or placing new limits on some bridges and highways to spend money on other highway programs. This means that our final three scenarios included adequate funding for preservation and maintenance programs before making other investments.
Three scenarios for investing remaining funds
With all three scenarios including adequate funding for repair and funding court-mandated fish passage barrier correction, we explored how each scenario balanced the remaining funds between safety and efficiency strategies and highway expansion.
The first scenario was based on the balance preferred by most members of the public during the engagement process: committing two-thirds of the remaining funding to improving the safety and efficiency of the existing system and one-third to highway expansion strategies. We compared this scenario to a stronger shift to safety and efficiency strategies and to a complete shift to safety and efficiency strategies.
While no investment recommendation will satisfy everyone, one scenario stood out above the rest as the scenario that best represents the public interest. Our recommendation balances many competing interests and is based on public input, industry best practices, alignment with state and regional plans, and other factors. We recommend new revenue for state highways be dedicated first to adequately funding preservation and maintenance with remaining funds balanced between safety and efficiency strategies and highway expansion projects at a ratio of 2:1. This will assure that the highway system can continue to function while making smart investments in system improvements.
Following this recommendation will result in a system that is sound, safe, and smart.
- Sound : All state bridges and highways – critical to supporting our existing economy – will remain open and maintained in working condition.
- Safe : This decreases serious injuries and saves lives by providing safer spaces for people who walk, bicycle, and roll, new guardrails and roundabouts, and intersection improvements. This also results in an $8.9 billion reduction in the costs to society from crashes over 20 years.
- Smart : There will be fewer system gaps for people who walk, ride bikes, or roll; more travel options and transportation efficient communities; smoother and smarter transportation operations; improved fish passage and a healthier environment with fewer miles traveled and vehicle emissions; and equitable and inclusive policies, investments, and outcomes.
Let us know what you think about the draft Highway System Plan
The draft Highway System Plan is available for public comment, and we want to hear from you! Your comments help us make recommendations that best serve the diverse communities affected by transportation decisions. Visit the HSP website to learn more, review the plan, and visit the online open house. There will also be a link to join the virtual public meeting from 2 to 3 p.m. on Nov. 30 where you can hear more about the plan and provide direct feedback.
Public comments will be accepted through 5 p.m., Dec. 18.