The Walla Walla Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization has released its draft regional transportation plan update for public comment.

The public can review and submit comments on the draft through January 10, 2021. It is available online at wwvmpo.org/public-participation.

The WWVMPO is the federally-designated and state-recognized agency responsible for coordinating transportation planning and investments in Walla Walla County and northeast Umatilla County.

According to the organization, the plan guides regional multi-million-dollar investments into all modes of transportation — roadways, bicycle, pedestrian, public transportation and freight _ to the year 2045.

The plan examines current infrastructure, services, safety and deficiencies, as well as forecasts regional growth and anticipated needs in the region.

Its goal is to ensure transportation investments in the region facilitate the movement of people and freight efficiently, effectively and safely.

Although $501.2 million for infrastructure investments are estimated to be available through the year 2045, more than half of the 218 originally submitted projects remain unfunded, according to the draft.

“The anticipated funding is scarcely enough for the very basic maintenance and preservation of existing infrastructure and will only allow the implementation of 106 pedestrian, bicycle, roadway projects, which are predominantly focused on reconstruction and safety improvements,” it stated.

Key proposals in the draft are aimed at improving transportation safety, especially for pedestrians and bicyclists, who are considered vulnerable and accounted for eight of the 26 area transportation fatalities during the most recent five-year period.

The draft also focuses on improving mobility options for people, including the young, the elderly and the disabled.

The plan notes that youths under age 18 are generally dependent on rides from parents, public transit or a school bus, as well as walking or biking.

Among older adults, they may eventually become less able to drive themselves, or may no longer be able to afford to own a car on a fixed income.

Individuals with a disability may experience mobility challenges that affect or impede their access to education, employment opportunities, and essential services.

The plan identifies the cost of transportation as major strain on budgets of low-income households, for whom vehicle ownership may be completely out of reach.

In addition, people with limited proficiency in English often face difficulties in gaining access to information and resources, which may affect their ability to use transportation options to access education, employment and essential services.

Improvements to existing roadways and measures to improve traffic safety are also a focus of the plan.