Preliminary Assessment Shows Some Progress in Implementing Regional Priorities

Apr 28, 2014

The region is making some progress in implementing key priorities spelled out in the Regional Transportation Priorities Plan, according to a preliminary assessment presented to the Transportation Planning Board in April.

The assessment found that local, state, and regional transportation agencies are pursuing many of the individual strategies in the plan. It also found that more people will, in the future, have access to or will be using more efficient travel modes like transit, bicycling, and walking -- an overarching goal the plan is meant to help achieve.

One of the main findings of the assessment is that the region is on track to ensure proper maintenance of its existing road, bridge, and transit network, the foundation for any transportation improvements the region makes in the future, according to the plan.

The assessment says that the state highway agencies and major transit operators in the region have all committed, or are expected to commit by late 2014, to keeping existing systems in a full state of good repair, by ensuring that necessary funds are available and by setting policies or establishing systems to ensure that maintenance needs are dealt with properly and in a timely manner as they arise.

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Another key finding of the assessment is that the region is taking steps to move more people and goods more efficiently, to help make the most of both existing and new infrastructure in an era of limited financial resources. Concentrating growth in mixed-use Activity Centers, connecting those centers with high-capacity transportation options, and enhancing local circulation within centers are all ways to help move more people and goods more efficiently, the Priorities Plan says.

On concentrated growth, the assessment found that 60% of all new households and 76% of all new jobs between now and 2040 will be located in Activity Centers. Today, 31% of households and 66% of jobs are located in Activity Centers.

The assessment also found that the share of Activity Centers connected by high-capacity transit will increase from 53% today to 66% in 2040, thanks to planned transit expansions like the Silver Line in Virginia, the Purple Line and Corridor Cities Transitway in Maryland, and new streetcars in the District of Columbia. The Priorities Plan emphasizes the need to explore lower-cost alternatives to heavy rail -- like bus rapid transit, light rail, and streetcars -- when considering transit expansions.

Another focus of the Priorities Plan is on expanding the capacity of the existing transit system, to help alleviate crowding and accommodate more riders, and to support further concentration of residential and job growth in Activity Centers located near existing stops and stations.

The assessment highlighted plans by the MARC and VRE commuter railroads in Maryland and Virginia to expand service between now and 2040, by purchasing new railcars, running more trains at peak hours, and operating off-peak and weekend service to accommodate more riders.

A proposal to add capacity to the existing Metrorail system by running all eight-car trains at rush hour and expanding busy stations in the system's core, among other things, has yet to receive funding commitments from Metro's funding partners -- Maryland, Virginia, and the District. The proposal is known as Metro 2025 and is a component of Metro's Momentum strategic plan, adopted in 2013.

The recent assessment also noted signs of improved circulation in Activity Centers, growing interest in tolling and road pricing to manage demand and raise revenue, and numerous efforts to alleviate key roadway bottlenecks.

It also examined facets of the third priority in the Priorities Plan: strengthening public confidence and ensuring fairness for traditionally disadvantaged populations. It specifically noted efforts to support increased development on the eastern side of the region.

The preliminary assessment presented in April focused mainly on the region's Constrained Long-Range Transportation Plan, or CLRP, and the degree to which the regionally significant projects and programs in it, taken as a whole, support the priorities in the Priorities Plan. The next assessment, planned to be complete by September, will examine more closely the other avenues through which priorities may be implemented, including the region's six-year Transportation Improvement Program, state and local plans and programs, and other regional programs and initiatives not included in the CLRP.

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