In a meeting yesterday, September 13, Thurston County’s Transportation Policy Board (TPB) approved the draft Thurston Regional Trails Plan that will be released for public review.
The Thurston Regional Trails Plan is a blueprint for expanding and enhancing the countywide shared-use trail network.
“You have been a catalyst in many ways for TRPC's role in advancing and promoting the development of a shared-use network across Thurston County,” said Thurston Regional Planning Council’s Senior Planner Paul Brewster. “Active transportation is one of the means that we can reduce carbon emissions and our communities to get around and travel.”
The current regional trails network consists of 59 miles of shared-use trails, with around 37,000 people living within a half-mile of a network trail. This population is expected to increase to 82,000 or one in five county residents by 2045.
If the trail system is built out to the full 169 miles proposed, that population would increase to about 160,000, or 40% of county residents.
“The current trail network has about 14 distinct corridors, with 60 miles of existing trails,” Brewster reported.
Brewster added that the draft plan would increase the corridors from 14 to 15 or 16, going from 60 to 170 miles.
“Why do we have a regional trails plan and why do we plan for our shared-use trails in our community? And there are a number of benefits– sustainability and greenhouse gas emissions reduction,” Transportation Manager Katrina Van Every explained during the introduction.
“We know that when people have the option to safely and conveniently travel by foot, bicycle or mobility device, fewer cars are on the road and that means less air and noise pollution,” explained Every.
“The county, cities, have their own visions for other parks, arts, recreation plans, or transportation plans. And so our regional vision for a shared-use trail network complements those local agency visions,” Brewster said.
Brewster highlighted five goals for the Regional Trails Network
“The real heart of the plan, the thing that most community members are excited about, are the actual trail projects,” Brewster said. “These are expanding existing trails, filling in gaps, expanding it to new sections to extend to communities that aren't connected to the network.”
There are 33 policy recommendations and 51 project recommendations in total. Eleven project recommendations are foreseen to be done within the next five years, 14 within the next 20 years, and 26 in the next 20 years or more.
“From this, you'll see that there are areas of Yelm, Tumwater, and Hawks prairie of Lacey that have higher employment densities that aren't necessarily accessible via a shared-use trail. Also, note that areas of employment density and Grand Mound in the Nisqually Indian Reservation are completely isolated from the trail network,” Brewster said.
Brewster said that looking into the future employment density in 2045, the proposed trail network would do a much better job of connecting people to employment centers.
“Funding is the second part of how we get to the vision. Our region does prioritize and fund trails and other active transportation. Between 2007 and 2022, TRPC has awarded $4.3 million in federal funds for trail projects specifically,” Every reported.
Every added that the region also received funding from the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), amounting to $5.3 million through the Pedestrian and Bicycle Program and $4.5 million through the Safe Routes to School program.
Every said that the plan calls for TRPC to commit to three things: establish a regional trails planning workgroup, convene an annual regional trail meeting, and update the plan every five years.
The TPB authorized the plan’s release for the public comment period, which formally commenced on the same day, September 13, and will end on October 9. During this period, an online open house will be available that provides accessible resources relating to the plan.
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