The Transportation Planning Board recently welcomed Fauquier County, Virginia, as its newest voting member, now that a small portion of the county has been designated under federal law as part of the TPB's official planning area.
The new federal designation came as a result of the 2010 Census, which found that the Washington region's "urbanized area" had grown to include the Town of Warrenton and areas adjacent to Route 29 between Warrenton and the Prince William County line.
Federal law requires that certain planned transportation improvements in the newly designated area be considered by the TPB in its ongoing regional transportation planning process. Specifically, it says that all "regionally significant" projects, and any other project slated to receive federal funding, be included in the region's Constrained Long-Range Transportation Plan (CLRP) and the shorter-term Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).
The CLRP includes all projects reasonably expected to be funded and built by 2040, while the TIP focuses only on specific commitments of funding for actual project implementation over the next six years. Both plans must undergo an air quality analysis to assess whether future vehicle emissions under the plans will remain below approved regional emissions budgets.
Federal law also stipulates that the 21,000 or so people living in the newly designated area be represented in the regional planning and decision-making process, which is why Fauquier County will now be able to send a voting representative to meetings of the TPB and its various committees and subcommittees.
Fauquier County's membership on the TPB brings more than these new regional planning responsibilities. Membership also gives the county access to a variety of resources to help support local planning and decision-making, and allows it to participate in and benefit from a number of regional programs to, among other things, aid commuters and promote traffic safety.
Among the technical resources now available to Fauquier County is a trove of ongoing data collection and analysis efforts to better understand the regional transportation system. The TPB's periodic household travel surveys shed important light on evolving travel patterns in the region, while its latest congestion-monitoring efforts provide unprecedented insight into minute-by-minute variation in traffic speeds and congestion around the clock on more than 5,500 lane-miles of roadway. The TPB's regional travel demand model can also help predict future travel patterns to aid local governments in planning transportation investments.
Fauquier County is now also eligible to apply for funding under the TPB's popular Transportation/Land-Use Connections (TLC) Program, which provides local jurisdictions with technical assistance funding to study small-scale improvements to better integrate transportation and land-use systems. The county can also apply for regional funding under the federal Transportation Alternatives (TA) Program, which the TPB administers for the Washington region, to implement small-scale bicycle, pedestrian, and streetscape improvements to enhance the safety and experience of users of modes other than driving.
Fauquier County's membership on the TPB also means that county representatives will have regular opportunities to engage with fellow planners and decision-makers from around the region to discuss and share best practices on a range of planning issues. The TPB's various committees and subcommittees tackle issues ranging from traffic safety to freight movement to meeting the mobility needs of seniors and people with disabilities.
The county will also now be able to participate more fully in the regional Commuter Connections program, which gives commuters access to a regional ridesharing database and other resources to improve their daily commutes. If it chooses to, the county can also participate in Street Smart, a campaign the TPB hosts twice a year to promote safe driving, walking, and bicycling.
The last time the TPB expanded its membership to include a new local jurisdiction was 2005. At that time, Charles County, Maryland, officially joined the TPB to represent St. Charles, a portion of the county designated after the 2000 Census as part of the region's urbanized area.
Now, with Fauquier County, the TPB has 37 voting members representing 22 local jurisdictions throughout the Washington region. Another eight voting members represent the Virginia and Maryland state legislatures, the three state departments of transportation, and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.