TPB News

Tight Funding Crimps Region's Long-Range Plans for Transportation

Jan 16, 2012

In the most recent major update to the region's long-range plan for transportation, a number of significant projects to improve the region's transportation system were delayed and others removed altogether in light of updated estimates of how much money will be available for transportation through 2040.

Federal regulations require that the plan -- referred to as the Constrained Long-Range Plan, or CLRP -- only include those projects and programs for which funding is "reasonably expected to be available" over the next 30 years.

Maintained by the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB), the plan paints a picture of what the region's network of roads, transit, and bicycle and pedestrian facilities will look like 30 years from now, and how well that network will meet the needs of those who will live, work, and do business here.

A handful of "big-ticket" highway and transit projects accompany hundreds of smaller projects and programs ranging from highway landscaping and new bike lanes to ridematching services for commuters interested in carpooling and emergency response programs to cope with disruptions from natural disasters and other major incidents.

In total, the CLRP includes nearly $223 billion in planned transportation improvements to be built or completed by 2040.

But these improvements will fall short of meeting the growing needs of a region expected to add nearly 1.5 million new residents and 1.2 million new jobs during the same time -- increases of 28% and 37%, respectively, compared to 2010.

The number of lane-miles of congestion on the region's roadways during the morning rush-hour, for example, is expected to increase by 38% by 2040. In outer suburban jurisdictions, the number is projected to more than double.

And tight funding will put limits on the region's public transit system, too.

Existing commitments from the federal, state, and local governments for WMATA to purchase new railcars and expand service on Metrorail will only keep up with anticipated ridership growth through 2020. Without additional funding, the region can expect more crowded railcars and stations, added delays, and more travelers being forced to use already crowded roadways.

Such predictions, which are the result of a comprehensive analysis of how well the region's planned transportation system will perform in 2040, are also included in the CLRP.

Using forecasts of population changes, job growth, and where new development will occur in the future, the TPB can estimate where, when, and how far people will travel around the region 30 years from now, and whether they will travel by car, transit, bicycle, or on foot.

These travel forecasts are then used to predict things like future congestion levels on the region's highways and transit systems, whether residents will have better access to jobs, and how travel patterns will impact local air quality and the global climate.

The results of the performance analysis show the lasting impact that funding decisions now will have on the ability of the region's transportation system to move people and goods efficiently and to improve economic opportunity and enhance quality of life in the Washington region.

Because the CLRP is financially-constrained, and because it is the only regional plan for transportation agreed to by each of the states, counties, and municipalities in metropolitan Washington, it provides the most realistic prediction of how the region's transportation system will evolve, assuming the existing trajectory of funding and planning continues.

As such, the CLRP serves as the best starting point from which the region's leaders, policy-makers, and residents can work together to address critical funding constraints and to map a better way forward for transportation in metropolitan Washington.

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