WSDOT weighs in on bill to make health a goal in transportation policy

by Eric Sundquist

The Washington State DOT currently has six statutory goals: economic vitality, preservation, safety, mobility, environment, and stewardship. H.B. 1233, introduced by a Tacoma legislator whose day job is with the county health department, would add health as a seventh goal.

Specifically, WSDOT would be required “to improve the health of Washington’s citizens and reduce health care costs by considering health implications when designing, building, and maintaining Washington’s transportation system.”

WSDOT supports the measure. A Seattle magazine’s blog recently highlighted testimony by Planning Director Brian Smith, who deftly defended transportation choice from attacks that a health goal is inappropriate for a transportation agency because it intrudes on “individuals’ personal health choices.” Smith argued that allowing travelers choices, in fact, is what the health goal is about.

“You can either provide options for folks, or you can foreclose options for folks,” he said. “We all ought to be looking at keeping options open.”

He provided an anecdote about his own home’s lack of access to transit due to poor local street connectivity, which had been mitigated by construction of a walkable shortcut.

He also pointed out that pedestrian-friendly systems improve efficiency, including for drivers.

The video embedded in the blog, which captures a few minutes of the hearing, is worth watching. Note that we link to the blog because it spotted the testimony and provides the video, but we disavow the blog’s glib partisan remark. Efficient and healthy transportation has champions on both sides of the aisle.

Eric Sundquist is Managing Director at SSTI.