At its October meeting, the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB) approved the 2015 Amendment to the Constrained Long-Range Transportation Plan (CLRP), which includes all regionally significant transportation projects and programs that are planned in metropolitan Washington through 2040. These transportation projects or programs must be included in the TPB’s CLRP in order for them to receive federal funding.
The amendment, which was approved by a divided vote, featured a variety of updates, including a Virginia proposal to add express lanes and bus service on I-66 inside and outside of the Beltway. The I-66 proposal was much discussed by officials on the TPB as well as individuals during a public comment period at the beginning of the meeting.
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is proposing to convert I-66 inside the Capital Beltway to a managed Express Lanes facility by 2017, with tolling in both directions during the morning and evening peak periods. Those with three or more people would travel for free. Today, the highway is restricted to vehicles with two or more people during peak periods, but only in the peak direction. The proposal also calls for widening a portion of the highway by 2040 from Fairfax Drive to the Beltway. The cost for the inside-the-Beltway proposal is $350 million. VDOT also plans to implement a number of multimodal improvements, including enhanced bus service and the completion of elements of the bicycle and pedestrian network around the corridor. Tolls from the managed Express Lanes will be used to fund further transit enhancements.
VDOT is also proposing to reconfigure I-66 for about 25 miles outside the Beltway between I-495 and US Route 15 in Prince William County to have three general-purpose lanes and two managed Express Lanes in each direction by 2022. One Express Lane in each direction would be built new, and the other would come by converting the existing high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane. The cost for the outside-the-Beltway proposal is $2-3 billion. The Express Lanes will be tolled at all times with vehicles with three or more people, including buses, traveling for free. Multimodal aspects of the project include implementation of a new high-frequency bus service and the construction of new, and expansion of existing commuter park-and-ride lots.
Additional updates to the regional plan included adding dedicated bike lanes to the existing bicycle network in the District of Columbia, and implementing a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system to run in a dedicated transitway between the Huntington Metro to the Woodbridge VRE station in Virginia. Last month, the board reviewed the contents of the plan, including analyses of its funding as well as its impact on future travel, the environment, and access to jobs.
While the TPB does not exercise direct control over funding and does not implement projects, it performs a range of activities that promote an integrated approach to transportation development and ensures compliance with federal laws and requirements. For example, the TPB is required to show that the region will have adequate funds to build the projects listed in the CLRP. In addition, the TPB must make sure that the projects in the long-range plan, taken collectively, contribute to air quality improvement goals for the region.