The city of Bellevue will receive up to $300,000 in state funding for a program designed to ease traffic congestion downtown by reducing the number of solo drivers and increasing the use of alternatives such as transit.
The Washington State Commute Trip Reduction Board announced this week that Bellevue is one of seven cities statewide selected to get money for its Growth and Transportation Efficiency Center program, also known as GTEC.
GTEC is a $2.4 million pilot program created in 2006 and funded by the state Legislature earlier this year. It allows cities to designate urban centers where alternatives to single-occupancy vehicles have the best chance of reducing traffic on city streets and state highways.
The program combines the state's interest in reducing the number of one-occupant cars on highways and the interests of cities such as Bellevue, which is experiencing unprecedented commercial and residential growth downtown.
Bellevue City Manager Steve Sarkozy said the GTEC funding will roughly double the city's investment downtown aimed at reducing solo commuting.
"To maintain Bellevue's livability and the health of its transportation system, it's vital that we shrink the number of single-occupancy cars and make alternatives such as transit more appealing," Sarkozy said. "We thank the Legislature for developing the GTEC program to help us accomplish our goals."
Examples of how the GTEC funds will be used include: rebates to employers providing transit passes to employees, assistance to employers in setting up commute benefits for employees, providing information to the downtown community about commuting options and creating a new website -- called chooseyourwaybellevue.org -- that will debut in mid-November with information about travel options.
In Bellevue, GTEC represents a new partnership between the city of Bellevue, King County Metro, Sound Transit and TransManage, the transportation management arm of the Bellevue Downtown Association.
"We’re pleased about the opportunity to continue working with the city on ways to address congestion as we grow," said Leslie Lloyd, president of the Bellevue Downtown Association. "The downtown business community feels that the efficient movement of people and goods is necessary for a robust economy."
Bellevue transportation planners say the GTEC program's emphasis on increasing transit and other alternatives to solo driving options will help address several areas of concern downtown:
- The number of people who currently work in downtown Bellevue, about 35,000, is expected to increase by 80 percent, to 63,000, by 2020; the residential population is forecast to jump from 4,500 today to 14,000 by 2020, an increase of more than 210 percent.
- In 2005, the percentage of travel downtown by transit, vanpool, carpool, biking and walking was 29 percent, meaning that 71 percent were in cars with one driver. By 2020, planners say that share must increase to about 50 percent for the street network to remain functional.
- The program provides for a better outreach effort to employees of small companies in downtown office towers; about 90 percent of downtown employers have 20 or fewer workers.
A total of 14 cities developed GTEC plans and applied for state funding. The exact amount of funding Bellevue receives will be announced by the Commute Trip Reduction Board and state Department of Transportation early next year. Bellevue will match the state's funding amount with its own contribution.
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