Fifteen local transportation projects in the Washington region will receive funding under a new, consolidated federal program aimed at supporting projects that expand travel choices like bicycling and walking, or that make other enhancements like mitigating the environmental impacts of transportation facilities.
The Transportation Planning Board selected the projects to receive funding under the new program -- known as Transportation Alternatives -- after soliciting proposals from local governments, park authorities, school boards, and other eligible agencies.
The new program, created under the latest federal surface transportation authorization known as MAP-21, consolidates several programs that previously existed under earlier authorizations, including Recreational Trails, Transportation Enhancements, and Safe Routes to School.
Among the projects selected recently by the TPB, several will improve recreational trails in the region, expand bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, or reduce runoff from impervious roadway and sidewalk surfaces during heavy rains.
In the District of Columbia, the National Park Service will use Transportation Alternatives funds to widen and repave the bicycle and pedestrian trail that connects the 14th Street Bridge with East Basin Drive in front of the Jefferson Memorial. The park service will also install safety rails and add new signage to help tourists and commuters find their way to key destinations.
The City of Takoma Park, in Maryland, will receive funding to widen sidewalks, add bike lanes, and install new pedestrian lighting along MD 410 near the intersection with New Hampshire Avenue. Fairfax County will receive funding to install bike stations and operating hardware to support the expansion of Capital Bikeshare to Reston, which the County hopes will give people more options for accessing Metrorail stations along the planned Silver Line.
Courtesy: City of Takoma Park
The main environmental mitigation projects funded under the program will be carried out by the District Department of the Environment.
One is a "green alleys" project to replace traditional concrete pavement in a small number of alleys with a new permeable pavement that allows water to seep into the soil instead of running off into nearby waterways.
Other projects will remove dead, dying, or hazardous trees from rights-of-way along roadway or use flexible sidewalk paving materials to give the roots of street trees more room to grow, thereby eliminating tripping hazards and improving the accessibility of sidewalks.
This is the first time that metropolitan planning organizations like the TPB have been responsible for selecting such projects, as past federal transportation authorizations gave states exclusive responsibility for project selection.
The law still sends funds under the program directly to the states, but it now requires a portion of the money to be spent in metropolitan areas and says that, in metropolitan areas with a population of 200,000 or more, the federally-designated metropolitan planning organization for that area is responsible for choosing which projects receive that portion of the funding.
The Transportation Alternatives program complements the TPB's existing Transportation/Land-Use Connections Program, or TLC, which helps local jurisdictions identify key improvements needed to make transportation and development patterns in the region support one another more effectively.
One of the recently selected Transportation Alternatives projects builds on the planning work completed in an earlier TLC study. In 2012, Arlington County received technical assistance under the TLC Program to evaluate sidewalks, curbs, and intersections along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. With Transportation Alternatives funds, the County will be able to carry out the study's recommendations, making the corridor more accessible.
With its new responsibility for selecting projects to receive funding under the federal Transportation Alternatives program, the TPB is helping to identify key local transportation improvements that support broader regional goals.