PORT TOWNSEND — It’s been a year of transition for the Peninsula Regional Transportation Planning Organization, a group with representatives from four counties that identifies project priorities and works with state officials to get them funded.
The organization (PRTPO) became fully independent, breaking away from the state Department of Transportation to create its own vision of how to improve the North Olympic Peninsula, said board member David Sullivan, one of three Jefferson County commissioners.
It also hired Thera Black, a transportation planning expert, as its coordinator.
“She’s super experienced,” said Annette Nesse, the chair of the organization who represents the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe. “She’s spent her whole career in transportation in some way, shape or form.”
The PRTPO held an open house Wednesday night at the Charles Pink House at the Port Townsend Public Library on its regional transportation draft plan for 2040, a public process that’s open for comment until noon Oct. 18.
Its goal is to gather input from stakeholders in Jefferson, Clallam, Kitsap and Mason counties to develop transportation policies and recommend solutions to address a variety of needs.
“We’re here to discuss what are those strategies, initiatives and plans people want to talk about, because the future isn’t going to look like it does today,” Black said.
Posterboards propped up on tables depicted major highways from Shelton to Forks. The plan not only aims to improve those roads, it factors in connections with transit, ferries and aviation along with pedestrian and bicycle needs. It includes county roadways, public and active transportation in addition to truck freight, rail and marine systems.
“It’s really been inclusive,” Sullivan said. “It’s a collaborative process of trying to determine what the highest priorities are.”
The top level focuses on economic vitality, with Jefferson County infrastructure such as state highways 19, 20 and 116 on the list, particularly as it relates to state ferry connections.
Preservation, safety, mobility, environmental concerns and stewardship also are among the regional strategies.
Prior to this year, a Department of Transportation staff member worked with the PRTPO. Now the organization is self-governed, said Tammi Rubert, the general manager for the Jefferson Transit Authority, which acts as the fiscal agent for the PRTPO.
“I think this group is really dedicated to making this work as a team effort,” Rubert said.
Rick Jahnke of Port Townsend suggested Jefferson Transit restore its Sunday service to connect regional residents to area festivals, and also to reduce dependence on driving.
Rubert said she appreciated the comment and added the agency is in the process of establishing a direct route for the Kingston-Edmonds fast ferry.
“It would be a very large, substantial service,” she said.
At the same time, the agency has its eyes on Initiative 976, Tim Eyman’s push to limit motor vehicle taxes and fees.
Rubert said 34 percent of her agency’s budget comes from grant funding that would be directly impacted should the initiative pass.
The regional plan includes a breakdown of three major sources of funding, which include the 10-year transportation package approved by the state Legislature in 2003, the Transportation Partnership Act in 2005 and the 2015 Connection Washington Act.
With those funds, a comprehensive list of projects overseen by cities, counties, tribes and state agencies was approved.
Upcoming projects in Jefferson County include roundabouts at state Highway 20 and Discovery Road, and a second one at the intersection of Highway 20 and Kearney Street. Both are scheduled for construction in 2022.
Roundabouts also are planned in 2022 on state Highway 104 at Paradise Bay and Shine roads, and at state highways 104 and 19.
Fish barrier removals at Harlow and Fisher creeks are underway this year.
The plan also has a list of planned priorities that currently are unfunded. Many Jefferson Transit projects and those within the city of Port Townsend have requests with matching local funds.
Sullivan said the plan has largely remained intact from its 2035 version.
“We’re updating it right now, but things haven’t changed dramatically at the state level,” he said.
The plan is available online at prtpo.kitsap transit.com/default.htm. Written comments can be sent by email to Edward Coviello, Kitsap Transit transportation land use planner, at [email protected] kitsaptransit.com.
Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at [email protected].