Dozens of elected or appointed bodies, boards, and agencies are responsible for making decisions about the future of the Washington region's transportation system -- from where to build bike lanes and bus stops, to whether or not to expand Metrorail or area highways. These decisions will impact how people get to and from work and around the region for decades to come.
For residents who are interested in better understanding how these decisions are made and who might want to get involved, a new Transportation Planning Board website aims to explain in plain, clear terms the complicated, multi-layered decision-making process.
The site -- the Transportation Planning Information Hub for the National Capital Region, or "Information Hub" for short -- describes how decisions are made at many different levels of government and how those processes relate to one another. It also highlights several high-profile transportation projects under consideration in the region and directs users to places where they can get involved in planning and decision-making processes going on in their local community.
The site's main focus -- "Planning Process" -- provides high-level descriptions of the different planning processes in place throughout the region, mainly at the municipal, county, or state level. Local and state planners and officials are the ones primarily responsible for determining how to effectively allocate money so that the region's sidewalks, roads, and transit networks can meet current and future needs.
In addition to describing how projects are developed, the Information Hub also describes how these different jurisdictions and groups come together at the TPB to coordinate and make transportation decisions through a regional lens. Under federal law, the TPB is responsible for maintaining a constrained long-range transportation plan, or CLRP, that includes all regionally-significant funded projects that the transportation agencies in the region plan to build, operate, and maintain in coming decades, and to ensure that the region continues to meet federal clean air requirements should all of those projects be built. The TPB also conducts valuable analysis to assess how well the planned transportation system will meet travelers' needs in coming years, looking at things like changes in roadway and transit congestion and job accessibility.
Another main section of the site -- "High-Profile Projects" -- highlights many of the regionally-significant projects already in the CLRP, providing information on the location, projected cost, and expected completion date of the projects, and links to the jurisdiction or agency responsible for their implementation. The High-Profile Projects section also includes some projects that are not in the regional plan, meaning they are currently unfunded, but are regionally-significant and would have to be included in the regional plan before being built or implemented.
Finally, the Information Hub provides valuable information for residents who are interested in engaging in the many different local, state, and regional processes. The website brings together in one place contact information for all TPB-member governments and planning agencies, as well as a comprehensive library of the planning documents in which projects often appear before they enter the regional plan and move ahead to implementation. The library includes master or comprehensive plans, jurisdiction-wide transportation plans, and plans for specific travel modes, as well as six-year budgets and spending plans. In the discussion about planning processes, the website also flags opportunities at the state or local level where people can get involved.
The Information Hub represents a new effort by the TPB to reach out to the public to explain how and where transportation decisions are made in the region, and the role that the TPB plays in coordinating that process. The information on the site helps set the context for ongoing planning processes at the TPB, like the development of a Regional Transportation Priorities Plan, which will identify the top transportation strategies for achieving the region's most pressing transportation challenges.
The process by which transportation decisions are made in the Washington region is complicated, but the Transportation Planning Board's new Transportation Planning Information Hub explains the multi-layered process and makes it easier for transportation professionals, advocates, and regular citizens alike to understand the process and become involved in it.