Every year the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) distributes millions of dollars in funding to communities in the Puget Sound region to build new infrastructure projects. PSRC decides which projects should get funded based on something called the Project Selection Policy Framework. That framework helps shape the grant applications that PSRC uses to score individual projects.

Every two years PSRC updates this Framework, and a task force recently recommended how it could better align it with Vision 2050, a plan for sustainable regional growth.

Now, PSRC has opened a request for public comments on how to update its Framework. We encourage everyone who wants to see a change in how we invest in transportation submit a comment before the period closes on January 5:

Some important proposed changes are currently under consideration as part of this update. In particularly, we support:

  • Creating a new standalone equity section for grant applications and awards 10% of the total points to equity, and addressing displacement for the first time
  • Creating a new standalone safety section for grant applications that gives more points to safety
  • Creating a new $5 million Equity Pilot Program that will be developed and managed by the Regional Equity Advisory Committee
  • Prioritizing funding projects with the highest air quality benefit scores within communities on the Washington Environmental Health Disparities Map
  • Increasing points for jurisdictions that have adopted Vision Zero policies
  • Emphasizing a safe systems approach
  • Creating a plan for future work to:
    • develop a tool to track health and equity considerations for projects
    • develop a region wide equity index, and mobility safety index
    • develop engagement tools
    • track where funding is going regards to equity populations
    • develop list of most effective safety interventions

Redistributing resources to areas and populations with the greatest need is a fundamental part of how we make our region more equitable. PSRC’s funding is often what makes new projects possible for local communities, and TCC strongly supports making equity a larger and more intentional consideration in the project selection process.

The issues above are the ones we’re following most closely, but they are not the only ways PSRC’s Framework could improve. Some additional ideas raised by our partners and other task force members include:

  • Increasing the amount we set aside for bicycle and pedestrian projects
  • Creating more setaside funds for local ADA compliance and transition plans
  • Incentivizing projects that help address known and meaningful gaps in active transportation and transit networks.

PSRC will collect and summarize all community feedback submitted between now and January 5, and combine it with task force recommendations for consideration by the Transportation Policy Board. The final step will be a vote by PSRC’s Executive Board, after which the changes will be put into effect for the next round of project selection.

Similar updates to the Regional Transportation Plan coming in January

PSRC’s Project Selection Policy Framework is one of two important updates the Council is currently working on.

The Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) will come up for an update in 2022. RTP aims to describe “how the region will meet transportation needs into the future, addressing existing needs and expected growth. The plan outlines investments the region is making to improve all aspects of the transportation system — from roads, transit, rail, ferry, bicycle and pedestrian systems — and ensure the safe and efficient movement of people and goods.”

Over the past several months PSRC board members have been discussing what should be included in the RTP update, and they are expected to release the draft plan for public comment in January. The key policy focus areas of the plan will include:

  • Safety
  • Equity
  • Climate
  • Access to Transit
  • Local Agency Needs
  • Future Visioning

However, much of the last meeting was a discussion of concerns that the plan didn’t go far enough on climate, safety, and equity.

When the plan comes out for public comment, it will be an important opportunity for anyone who wants the Puget Sound to improve on climate, safety, and equity to voice their support for those principles in the plan. You can read more about this on The Urbanist, view the plan summary presentation, see the schedule for public review and adoption, or watch the recording of PSRC’s last public meeting.

Submit your comment on the Project Selection Policy Framework today, and after you do be sure to encourage friends on Twitter or Facebook to join you. And be on the lookout for another chance to weigh in in January: these documents will direct funding for years, and it’s an unmissable chance to put our values into action.

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