Five questions for Lynn Peterson, Washington Secretary of Transportation

Cascade: A year and a half into your tenure, what are your current priorities as secretary of transportation? 

Lynn Peterson: My priorities remain the same as the day I walked in the door, 18 months ago; to ensure that we are building safe, healthy and prosperous communities with multimodal investments. 
We are implementing this priority through our strategic plan, Results WSDOT. It sets a vision that the Washington State Department of Transportation is to be the best in providing a sustainable and integrated multimodal transportation system. We have defined six goals to carry out that vision: Strategic Investments, Modal Integration, Environmental Stewardship, Organizational Strength, Community Engagement and Smart Technology.
​Action plans are being developed and carried out to meet that vision from the largest overhaul of our design standards to a usable community engagement plan for all types of work, from maintenance to major corridor studies and projects. 

Cascade: Much of the decision-making for projects happens in the regional offices. What is being done to encourage a pro-walk, pro-bike, pro-place culture for traffic engineering and project selection in the regional offices?

LP: In our efforts to improve how we engage and design for bicycle and pedestrian users of our system, we held an internal workshop on Nov. 7. The purpose of this meeting was to share resources and best practices to improve conditions for biking and walking and bring more attention to the role and responsibilities of each regional bike/pedestrian coordinator.
In addition, I have asked all the Regional Administrators to meet with modal representatives—from freight to bike—and start a dialogue of what we are doing well, and where we could work with them on improvement as part of our strategic plan.

Cascade: How will WSDOT's endorsement of the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) Urban Street Design Guide influence future projects?

LP: WSDOT was the first state agency to adopt the NACTO guidelines. Generally, we are using the NACTO guide as a resource for WSDOT designers to use in working with communities and applying practical design. More specifically, we are updating the WSDOT Design Manual right now and are incorporating the NACTO Urban Streets Guide principles so that designers have the flexibility to design urban arterials that are safe for all modes.

Cascade: Demand for the State Safe Routes to School, Bike/Ped Safety and Complete Streets Programs far exceeds the funding allocated by the legislature. What can WSDOT do to compensate for this need?

LP: In the short term, WSDOT has been looking for opportunities to make sure that sidewalk connectivity, safe crossings, bike lanes, etc., are just part of the landscape of our projects. By identifying these elements up front in the scoping we can make sure that they aren't a last minute addition.
In the longer term—through our multimodal plan, our emphasis on community engagement and the implementation of Results WSDOT goals—we will be identifying these project-level needs and streamlining our project selection and prioritization processes to better address community connections, as well as statewide and regional needs.
This will help us strike a better balance between the state and regional need for moving automobile traffic with the community need for a vibrant, connected and safe environment for biking and walking with creative and practical designs.

Cascade: What is your favorite ride in Washington state?

LP: I have spent quite a bit of my cycling time riding around Olympia (which is beautiful), on STP and bike rides with the WSDOT Cycling for Safety Team, such as the Yakima River ride. However, I have two favorite rides in Washington: Tour de Blast and Mt Adams Country Bicycle Tour—Forest Loop.

Who would you like to hear from next? E-mail us at amrook@cascade.org.