Now is your chance to learn about and comment on the draft 2016 amendment to the region’s Constrained Long-Range Transportation Plan (CLRP). This year’s amendment includes five major new projects and changes to four major projects already in the plan. Also available for comment are the results of the latest air quality conformity analysis of the CLRP, performed this summer, which show that future transportation-related emissions of various pollutants will, under the plan, remain below approved regional limits.
In all, the CLRP includes $42 billion in capital improvements that add nearly 1,200 lane-miles of new or widened roadways and 76 miles of new Metrorail, light rail, streetcar, commuter rail, or bus rapid transit. That’s amounts to a 7% increase in the number of lane-miles of roadway, and a 26% increase in the number of miles of transit facilities. The five major new projects in the draft 2016 amendment will mainly add new travel options in Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia:
I-395 Express Lanes
The biggest project slated to be added to the CLRP this year is new express toll lanes along an eight-mile stretch of I-395 in Northern Virginia. The new lanes will operate like the Express Lanes already found on the Virginia portion of the Capital Beltway and on I-95 outside the Beltway. The new facility will be created by converting existing reversible high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) express lanes into toll lanes as well as by adding one additional lane. Vehicles with three or more occupants will travel free in the lanes while those with fewer than three occupants will pay a toll that varies based on traffic conditions.
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), the project’s sponsor, has said that a portion of toll revenues from the new facility will pay for transit service and transportation demand management efforts in the corridor. That includes new express bus service, infrastructure to support bicycling and walking, and additional strategies to promote carpooling and vanpooling. Earlier this year, when the TPB gave its preliminary approval for the projects to be added to the CLRP, some local jurisdictions sought a specific guaranteed funding amount for such improvements. Included as part of the draft 2016 amendment now available for review and comment is a guarantee from VDOT that at least $15 million a year will go toward these alternatives.
The I-395 Express Lanes project is slated to be complete by 2019 at a cost of $220 million.
VRE Extension to Haymarket
Another key project in Northern Virginia is an 11-mile extension of the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) commuter rail line that currently terminates in Manassas in Prince William County. The extension will take VRE all the way to Haymarket and will include three new stations, each with access for people on foot or bike as well as park-and-ride lots for those driving to the station. When it’s completed in 2022, the $433-million project will provide a new non-driving travel option for people living in the county and give people living in those communities better connections to jobs, recreation, and other services.
16th Street Bus Priority
In the District of Columbia, the 2016 CLRP Amendment includes new priority bus lanes on 16th Street from H Street NW to Arkansas Avenue. This stretch of road is frequently congested, causing major delays both for Metrobus’s S-line buses and for Maryland commuter buses traveling in the corridor. To help speed the buses and improve their on-time reliability, the project will create new dedicated bus-only lanes along portions of the route and will add off-board payment kiosks to help speed the boarding process. The project will also upgrade bus stops, with more and better shelters, new waiting areas, and better crosswalks.
DC Dedicated Bicycle Lane Network
It’s not just major highway and transit projects making it into the 2016 CLRP Amendment. In the District, approximately 3.9 miles of dedicated bicycle lanes are up for inclusion, too. Not all bicycle lanes get included in the CLRP—only those that will significantly alter capacity on major roadways. This package of projects includes lane reductions on eight segments of roadway throughout the city. The new lanes will add to the city’s existing and growing network of lanes and improve connectivity. The project is expected to be complete in 2017 at a cost of $1.35 million.
Crystal City Transitway: Northern Extension
The last major new project included in this year’s CLRP amendment is a one-mile extension of the Crystal City Transitway north from the Crystal City Metro station to the Pentagon City Metro station. The transitway is home to Metroway, the region’s first true bus rapid transit (BRT) line. The proposed extension will involve constructing new dedicated transit lanes from the Crystal City Metro station (the current northern terminus of the transitway) north and west to the Pentagon City Metro station. The $24-million project will also include three new BRT stations along the route. The project is expected to be complete in 2023.
Changes to existing projects
In addition to the new projects being added to the CLRP, four projects that are already in the plan will see important changes. These changes are being highlighted in the CLRP amendment because they might affect future transportation-related emissions and must therefore be included in the air quality conformity analysis of the plan.
The highest-profile changes are to VDOT’s plans to add new express toll lanes to I-66 both inside and outside the Capital Beltway—projects that were added to the CLRP in 2015. Inside the Beltway those changes include modifications to vehicle-occupancy requirements and hours of operation for the new lanes, as well as changes to the scope of future widenings of I-66. Outside the Beltway, the changes mostly involve tweaks to the location of various access points between general-purpose and express-toll lanes. These changes are the result of ongoing project development, including the federally required environmental review process.
Another key change in this year’s amendment is additional widenings as part of a project that would widen and add HOV lanes to VA 28. And the District now has new details on the route of the proposed DC streetcar from Union Station to Georgetown that it would like to add to the plan. The changes specify what lane-reductions the District is planning in order to create dedicated right-of-way for the streetcar. The interactive map below shows all of the projects in the CLRP.
What is the CLRP?
The CLRP is a federally required long-range planning document for the region. By law it must include any regionally significant project that local, state, or regional transportation agencies in the region reasonably expect to be able to afford over at least the next 20 years, given existing or anticipated sources of revenue. The CLRP currently includes $244 billion in spending on an array of capital improvements and expansions as well as operations and maintenance of the region’s highway and transit system.
The TPB amends the CLRP each year to include new projects and programs as priorities change and funding for new initiatives is identified. When it does, the TPB must carry out an air quality conformity analysis to show that future transportation-related emissions under the plan will remain below approved regional limits. The TPB also conducts a detailed Performance Analysis to predict future travel patterns and travel conditions under the plan. Stay tuned next week for highlights from the Performance Analysis of the 2016 CLRP Amendment.
The 2016 CLRP Amendment is available for public comment through November 12. The TPB is expected to vote on the amendment at its November 16 meeting. The next update of the CLRP will come in 2018 when transportation agencies will revise their estimates of future revenues and make changes to the plan based on the new financial constraints.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that there was a 15% increase in miles of transit facilities. This has now been corrected to a 26% increase in miles of transit facilities.