Impact of Homeless Encampments on Roadway Safety and DOT Policy: Summary of Findings from Current Data Sources

PI: Yinhai Wang (UW),

AMOUNT & MATCH: $15,000 from PacTrans; $15,000 Match

PERFORMANCE PERIOD: 6/1/2020 – 5/31/2021

STATUS: Active

CATEGORIES: Homeless Encampments, Transportation Infrastructure, Operations and Maintenance, Best Practice

FINAL PROJECT REPORT: will be available once completed

PROJECT DATA: will be available once completed

DESCRIPTION: The number of homeless living in and around the country’s metropolitan areas is a critical issue for state departments of transportation (DOTs), as the homelessness issue has an immediate effect on the operations and safety of state transportation infrastructure. Unsanctioned homeless encampments often form on DOT right of way, particularly beneath bridges, bridge abutments, and other sheltering areas. These encampments can pose safety risks to DOT and construction employees who must access those areas, as well as dangerous conflicts between motorists and the homeless. The Washington State Department of Transportation has already conducted a survey of other state DOTs to better understand their policies and practices regarding homeless encampments. This project will interview professionals to supplement the information that WSDOT has already gathered and will analyze the results. Study goals are to raise awareness of the issues surrounding homelessness on state right-of-ways and to recommend guidance to help state DOTs create more equitable policies to address homelessness. The results are intended to increase safety for all who access and use state right of way, as well as support more equitable treatment for the homeless.