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WSDOT Active Transportation Plan – About our State Routes analysis

WSDOT owns and manages over 18,000 highway lane miles with over 3,300 bridges. Much of this was designed and built for the movements of people using motor vehicles.

In many places around the state, the highway also provides the only connection between towns. In small towns the state highway often serves as Main Street through the heart of downtown. A bicycling tourist may use a combination of regional trails and the highway shoulder to get to the next town where they’ll spend the night and support the local economy, or to the Amtrak station or ferry landing for the next leg of their journey through Washington.

We’re analyzing the current state of the highway system for use by people walking, bicycling or rolling. We’re also compiling information to prioritize future changes that would move us toward having a complete network, which would involve connections both on and off the state system. Such changes will make our highways function better for everyone’s safety, with less exposure to a potential crash.

The tools we’re creating will become part of the information WSDOT uses to understand needs and develop future projects. Projects might be small ones made when a section of highway is repaved, construction to connect a regional trail so people can use a better route than the highway shoulder, or a redesign to make a town center’s Main Street work better for everybody. Statewide needs will also consider bicycle/pedestrian projects from city and regional plans, which will become part of the needs assessment report.

Reminder that your voice matters!

  1. We want your opinion: Links to a form with questions about your transportation usage, challenges and priorities
  2. Map analysis for your feedback: A preview draft of our new way of assessing state routes for walking, bicycling and rolling

Level of Traffic Stress

WSDOT will be the third state DOT in the country to use Level of Traffic Stress (LTS) to analyze state highway for active transportation users, following Colorado and Oregon. This approach is used in Washington cities and counties including Skagit County, the Wenatchee Valley, Bellingham, and Seattle.

LTS measures specific elements of a stretch of road:

  • How many cars, trucks and motorcycles go through in a day
  • Number of travel lanes and the width of the road
  • Whether people walking, bicycling and rolling have a space separated from the vehicle lane such as a sidewalk, side path or trail, or how wide the highway shoulder is
  • The speed limit
  • If the road is in the city or in the country

Stress is measured differently for bicyclists and pedestrians. Intersections are also evaluated. This approach is helpful both for us to understand where we may need to make changes, and for a user to anticipate what a given stretch of highway would be like if they were to walk or bike there.

As we analyze LTS we’re also identifying where we need to improve data collection and connections with other information. For example, we may not have data telling us there’s a sidewalk in a given location because that’s the city’s responsibility, not WSDOT’s. We’ll continue to work toward ways to combine information from multiple sources for more accurate ratings of traffic stress.

Review our maps showing LTS and tell us what you think of this approach.

Prioritization

We’re developing an approach to prioritizing improvements to reduce LTS so we work on the most important things first when funding is available.

Factors to consider for prioritization:

  • Safety: Crash history and potential for future crashes based on a Safe Systems analysis as outlined in the Strategic Highway Safety Plan (Target Zero; 2019 update due out in late fall)
  • Connectivity and completeness: How an improvement in this location would help close a gap in the overall walk/roll network or connect to another mode such as transit
  • Population and location characteristics: Places with more low-income households, less access to a working vehicle, and other factors we consider as indicators of need under state and federal laws
  • Existing quality: The current level of traffic stress
  • Project quality: What the effects of a change would be
  • Demand: Where we can expect people to use active transportation based on where they live, work, play, shop, learn, and connect with other modes
  • Partner plans: How this fits into local and regional plans for walking and biking connections

Funding analysis

Based on our analysis using these new tools we will identify categories of needed changes and estimate the cost of making these types of changes in the future. An example of a broad category might be “Improve crossing safety at transit stops on state highways” or “Complete and connect regional trails used for transportation”.