Transportation agencies across the country are looking at ways to tie their decisions more directly to supporting economic vitality. In Washington, economic vitality is one of six transportation policy goals established by the Washington State Legislature and is reflected in state transportation plans as well as eight of fifteen Regional Transportation Planning Organization plans. Washington’s “promote and develop transportation systems that stimulate, support, and enhance the movement of people and goods to ensure a prosperous economy” (Washington State Legislature, RCW 47.04.280, Transportation system policy goals).
Transportation investments affect the economy in many ways: attracting development, increasing property values, creating jobs, connecting people to needs, reducing travel costs, improving freight access and reliability, reducing energy use, and more. However, the state of the practice in measuring the impacts of transportation projects on the economy is limited. WSDOT worked with our partners to explore how economic vitality performance should drive WSDOT’s project development, design, and delivery decisions and inform legislative decisions.
WSDOT identified three strategic themes to describe economic vitality based on workshop participation:
To avoid double-counting, WSDOT shifted mobility-related measures to the Mobility Performance Framework. Workshop participants linked economic vitality to transportation strategies that support quality of life, including sustainable transportation, meeting the needs of disadvantaged populations, and supporting growth management and affordable housing choices near employment. Workshop participants also associated economic vitality with transportation strategies such as supporting workforce development, reducing regulation, supporting tourism, supporting employment diversification, and establishing more sustainable revenue sources for transportation.
This effort indicated that the transportation strategies that advance economic vitality in Washington overlap significantly with the state’s other policy goals, such as “mobility,” “environment,” “preservation,” and “safety.” The website will eventually reconcile the performance measures developed for all six policy areas into a single Performance Framework and will address overlap during that process to avoid double counting benefits.
Recognizing that the state of the practice in evaluating transportation-related economic vitality performance is limited, WSDOT has identified some preliminary performance metrics related to these themes to begin to understand how our transportation decisions support the state’s economic performance. The performance measures on this website are intended to be useful for a wide variety of project types and contexts. However, there are many potential approaches to evaluating how WSDOT investments and partnerships may affect the transportation system. The performance measures presented here are a starting point for analysts.
To learn more about the development of the Economic Vitality Performance Framework, refer to the following resources: