Action Taken to Update Region's Long-Range Transportation Plan

Aug 5, 2013

The Transportation Planning Board in July approved 20 major roadway or bicycle and pedestrian projects in Virginia and the District of Columbia to add to the region's constrained long-range transportation plan, or CLRP.

Before being added to the plan, the projects were included in a TPB analysis of future vehicle-related emissions that are expected to occur given the system of roadways, transit, and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure that is expected to be in place, as well as the forecast distribution of population and employment throughout the region. Their inclusion in the plan also signifies a commitment by the agencies responsible for the projects to fund and complete them by specific dates spelled out in the plan.

Almost all of the major new projects proposed by the Virginia Department of Transportation involve building new roads, widening existing ones, or otherwise adding roadway capacity.

The plan updates call for widening portions of Leesburg Pike, Jefferson Davis Highway, the 495 Express Lanes on the Capital Beltway, and I-395. The updates also include new on- and off-ramps on the Dulles Toll Road in the vicinity of Tysons Corner and Leesburg, and at the Capital Beltway, as well as a study of a new bypass of Manassas between VA 234 and I-66.

The additions proposed by the District of Columbia are mainly lane-reduction or reconfiguration projects as well as changes to three bike-lane projects that are already in the CLRP. Most of the lane-reduction projects would remove one travel lane in either direction from roads that currently have a total of four or six lanes. In most cases, the reductions are designed to make it safer and easier for bicyclists and pedestrians to travel along the route, usually by slowing traffic to a safer speed.

Not all of the proposed additions to the plan received full and final TPB approval, however.

Plans for the two most costly projects, both proposed by the Virginia Department of Transportation, will require further work before the transportation agency can identify specific funding for the projects or move forward to construction.

The first is a proposal to provide better access by car and truck to Dulles International Airport from Loudoun County on the airport's western side, which planners and elected officials say will help support significant growth in passenger and air cargo traffic at Dulles in coming decades.

At its July meeting, the TPB approved a "no-build" option for the new highway, one of four alternatives put forward by the state last year when the TPB issued its call for proposed changes, because state planners and officials had not agreed on one of the other three alternatives analyzed by the TPB. If and when the state eventually settles on a particular alternative, it can ask the TPB to amend the CLRP to include the chosen alternative.

The other major VDOT proposal that will need additional work before plans for construction move forward is the addition of two new local access lanes in either direction along a six-mile stretch of the Dulles Toll Road between Spring Hill Road and Wiehle Avenue in Fairfax County.

At the TPB's June meeting, local elected officials from Fairfax County raised concerns about the effects of the proposal on the nearby Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts -- which is protected from encroachment by Congress -- and the difficulty of acquiring adjacent land owned by the National Park Service. During the public comment period that followed, the Wolf Trap Foundation submitted formal comments expressing its concerns about the proposal.

In July, the TPB gave the project conditional approval for inclusion in the 2013 update to the CLRP, provided that the various issues raised can be resolved. Any agreements that the parties reach, including any changes to the existing proposal or measures to mitigate the effects of the lane expansion, will be addressed in the next update to the CLRP in 2014.

The annual process of updating the region's constrained long-range transportation plan, or CLRP, starts every October when the TPB calls on state, local, and regional transportation agencies to submit proposed additions and changes. The TPB reviews the proposals, assesses future vehicle-related emissions expected given current transportation plans and trends in land-use, and opens the proposals to public comment. Final approval of any changes or additions typically happens in July.

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