Maintain, preserve, and extend the life and utility of prior investments in transportation systems and services.

Why is Preservation Important?

Preservation is essential. If we can’t afford to take care of what we’ve already built, we can’t afford to rebuild it or expand it. Preservation and maintenance are the foundation of good asset management for every single mode of travel, not just pavement and bridges. Transit systems, ferries and terminals, traffic management systems, marine terminals, airports, railways, drainage culverts and stormwater systems, sidewalks, and more—protecting our existing investments is the single most cost-effective thing we can do to ensure our transportation system continues to meet our needs today and in the future.

Four Policies that Support the Statewide Preservation Goal:


Make preservation and asset management of the existing state and local transportation network a funding priority and work to reduce the backlog of deferred infrastructure maintenance.


Support optimal asset management strategies that keep life-cycle costs as low as possible, including pavement and bridge preservation, ferry vessels and terminal infrastructure preservation, transit system and infrastructure preservation, and technology infrastructure supporting traffic management and operations systems.


Promote systemic and cost-effective preservation of essential infrastructure outside the control of local or state transportation agencies, such as river locks and barges, marine terminals, railroads and trestles, and airports.


Work to eliminate activities or practices that reduce the integrity of the existing transportation system or which increase life-cycle costs.

workers cutting road

Recommendations to Support System Preservation Statewide:
Near-Term Strategies


Increase revenues dedicated to all aspects of maintenance and preservation of the transportation system statewide.

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Agencies responsible for operating and maintaining the transportation system struggle to find the resources to keep life cycle costs low through effective system maintenance and preservation. Deferred maintenance means that ferries don’t last sixty years as planned, and buses experience increased breakdowns. It can mean spending eight times as much to reconstruct roadways as it would have cost to perform optimal pavement management. WSDOT’s highway system, which makes up just 11 percent of total lane miles in the state, receives about 55 percent of the annual revenues needed for preservation. Multiply that across the remaining 89 percent of roadways, along with transit, ferries, non-motorized facilities, rail, maritime, and aviation systems, and we’re looking at a preservation deficit that we can’t afford, in terms of costs or system disruptions. New revenue dedicated to preservation and maintenance is needed.


Prohibit the legal use of studded snow tires on public roadways within five years.

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It is estimated that studded tires cause an estimated $20 to $29 million in damage to Washington’s highways annually, and that does not include damage to local streets and roads. Tires with metal studs have been banned in more than a dozen states. Studies show all weather tires perform better than studded tires in the vast majority of winter driving conditions because they have better contact with the road surface, except when driving on solid ice. Costco quit selling studded tires 10 years ago because they are not as safe as all-weather tires and they cause so much roadway damage. The studded tire fee of $5, implemented in 2016 on the sale of every studded tire in Washington, covers only a small fraction of the cost of damages they cause to public roads and highways.


Reduce unnecessary permitting delays, especially on preservation and maintenance projects where the potential for environmental impact is minimal.

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Permitting basic preservation and maintenance of existing facilities, as well as in-kind replacement in some cases, should not take years. Guidance on programmatic Categorical Exclusions—what qualifies for Categorical Exclusion and how to document the process to ensure a streamlined process—help reduce the time for environmental permitting on low-risk projects. This makes them more cost-efficient and allow for faster implementation. It also frees up resource agency capacity to focus on more impactful or complex environmental reviews.


Pursue innovative strategies to maintain the economic viability of rural regional, community, local, and general use airports.

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Chronic underfunding of system preservation needs means that transportation agencies must be prepared for the possible need to decommission transportation assets or services that can no longer be maintained in a safe and reliable manner. Are they prepared? The need to decommission facilities can affect any agency without the means to adequately maintain its system in its present condition, from roads and highways to transit service to TSMO infrastructure, airports, railroads, and trails. Guidance may be needed on how to develop a rational, evidence-based strategy for decommissioning elements of the transportation system.


Support the state’s economic competitiveness in international trade by helping to ensure Washington’s ports are “big ship ready”—in the water and on land.

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With completion of the Panama Canal expansion in 2016, global maritime trade entered a new era of mega-ships. To stay competitive in international shipping, Washington’s ports need to accommodate these larger ships, which are wider and have a deeper draft than the last generation of ocean-going vessels. In addition to waterway infrastructure— longer berths, deeper waterways, and larger cranes—larger ships require improved landside road, rail, and highway infrastructure that can move more goods faster with seamless intermodal transfers. Land constraints at Puget Sound ports may necessitate designation of an inland port to augment landside capacity.

Cross-Cutting Ideas

Cross-cutting topics can advance our understanding, preparedness, and ownership over new horizons. Here we present potential next steps and some options available to deepen understanding.

lightbulb with gears

Technology & Innovation

Innovations in construction materials and techniques, such as self-healing concrete and 3-D printed infrastructure, herald significant changes for maintenance and preservation practices in the future. Meanwhile, rapid advances in the development and deployment of drone technology and embedded sensors are creating safe and cost-effective means of conducting bridge inspections and monitoring the physical condition of infrastructure without relying on more destructive or costly techniques. Efforts to disseminate best practices and lessons learned as  new techniques are implemented will expand the knowledge base of professionals across the state and help local and state agencies navigate new legal and security frontiers.

arrows pushing inward

System Resilience

The ability of our transportation system to measure up in a disaster and support rapid response and recovery efforts depends in large measure on the state of the system before the disaster. If we are unable to effectively maintain our resources on an ongoing basis we need to consider how that will impact our overall system resiliency in times of stress, and plan accordingly.

stack of coins

Paying for Transportation

The dynamic knowledge-based economies of Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia are giving rise to a strong, mega-regional northwest technology corridor. The potential of this economic collaborative is challenged by mobility issues. Not only must these businesses overcome geographical differences and international border crossings, but they are also challenged by unreliable and inefficient travel on the existing system. To better support economic growth in this sector, the two states and the Canadian province have joined with private sector businesses to explore possible public-private investments that will improve reliable mobility, potentially including a high-speed rail corridor or an autonomous vehicle corridor connecting Seattle to Vancouver, B.C.

Further Questions

What does Travel Demand Management have to do with preservation?

Though we don’t often think of travel demand management (TDM) as part of an effective system preservation program, the two work in concert. An effective TDM program is one that helps people to travel more efficiently by changing mode of travel or time of travel, or possibly even eliminating the need to travel altogether. Even small changes in travel demand during peak periods can alleviate chronic delays, reducing the need for costly system expansion and the ongoing preservation it will require. In this way an effective TDM program is also an effective preservation strategy.

Six Statewide Transportation Goals