SEABROOK – With a projected 23 percent increase in population over the next three decades, making sure transportation systems across the Washington, D.C. region function effectively is at the top of the agenda for many leaders. This year, they are asking for the public’s ideas about how to achieve that.
The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB), the region’s coordinating agency for transportation-related projects for more than 50 years, is seeking public input about what transportation projects should be funded in the coming decades. TPB, which is staffed by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG), has launched a new survey to provide an interactive way for members of the public to provide input about the long-range plan currently under development, called Visualize 2045.
“The Visualize 2045 survey gives the public the opportunity to weigh in on the issues that most affect their travel and what could make their experience better,” said TPB Chairman Bridget Donnell Newton. “We will share the results from this survey with city and county leaders as well as state transportation agencies and regional planners as they make decisions about which projects to plan and fund in their respective jurisdictions.”
The TPB is responsible for creating a regional transportation plan at least every four years, said Ben Hampton, a planner with COG. But he said they typically work on their plans each year. And the Visualize 2045 effort is adding a new element.
“It’s different from ones we’ve done in the past in one main way,” Hampton said. “This new plan looks at projects people are thinking of doing but maybe don’t have the funding for yet.”
The idea came from TPB boardmembers – many of whom are elected officials – and staff who expressed interest in seeing the impacts on regional travel from more long-range transportation projects, beyond those already funded. Hampton said the projects included in each TPB-approved plan are put into a database and analyzed for their effect on transportation and access to employment. The new results from Visualize 2045 will be used to update the databases and re-run the analyses.
“We will see if we need to change the decisions we are making now in order to put us in a better position to have the projects that we want in the future,” Hampton said.
The survey aspect of the plan will also influence the boardmembers as they decide what projects to include in the final Visualize 2045 document, due in 2018, and which projects should be prioritized for funding.
“The survey will change that conversation because for the first time in a long time it will show what the public is looking for,” Hampton said.
TPB has begun a large outreach campaign, sending staffers to community events such as farmers’ markets and festivals, to tell the public about the plan and encourage them to take the survey. It asks about the person’s typical travel and commute patterns, what issues affect them during their daily travel, including traffic jams, Metro delays or crowding and more, and any ideas they might have for improving transportation across the region.
The survey is live until July 31 and can be accessed at http://www.mwcog.org/visualize2045/participate/.
The final plan will include public comments as well as the more than 500 recommend projects in the funded category – where money is “reasonably expected to be available” – and another 500 or more in the unfunded category. TPB staff are working to identify any in the latter group that may be appropriate to work toward finding funding for.
Many of the funded projects are included in the Financially Constrained Long-Range Transportation Plan (CLRP), the most recent version of which was approved by the TPB in December 2016. That document includes projects such as constructing eight lanes at the Branch Avenue and Capital Beltway interchange to allow easier access to the Metro station; improving the intersection of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and MD 193 in Greenbelt; widening Pennsylvania Avenue to six lanes with interchanges at Dower House and Westphalia roads; widening Collington Road to four or five lanes; and widening Annapolis Road to four lanes. It also includes the Purple Line from Bethesda to New Carrollton and increased capacity on the MARC train system. About $244 billion is anticipated to be available for these projects, and more, by 2040, with the result of completing the projects across the region being a projected 31 percent increase in the number of jobs accessible by transit.
Hampton said Visualize 2045 is important not just to help local jurisdictions plan their transportation investments, but also because long-range plans allow the federal government to step in and share the costs of some of the projects.
“A plan like this, a long-range plan in general, is something that has to be adopted by the region in order for federal dollars to come down,” he said. “It’s important for everyone to come together and reach some consensus on what is going to be in the plan.”