At its March meeting the TPB approved its budget and work program for the year. The board also received the first quarterly briefing on road safety in the region. And got an update on discussions about bringing housing and jobs closer together, one of the Visualize 2045 aspirational initiatives that was taken up by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ (COG) Planning Directors Technical Committee.
There were three major action items on the board’s agenda. Two of them focused on the TPB’s budget and work program for the year. The Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP) is a federally required document that metropolitan planning organizations like the TPB must produce each year. The UPWP covers more than 11 work areas and contains the budget for the next fiscal year.
The also board approved carry-over funding from the FY 2019 UPWP and approved the FY2020 budget and work program. The third action item was to approve the budget and work program for Commuter Connections.
Virginia Department of Transportation safety briefing
At the January TPB meeting when the board set federally required data driven safety targets for the region. Board members were concerned that the latest numbers showed more fatalities on the region’s roads than in the previous year. As part of its resolution, the board asked for briefings from the transportation agencies about their safety programs and plans to improve road user safety. The first to present was Virginia.
For each presentation, TPB staff asked the departments of transportation (DOTs) to provide an overview of their state safety programs and discuss the factors that contribute to fatal and serious injury crashes in their parts of the region. They were also asked to talk about their strategies, programs, and activities to address safety.
VDOT representative Stephen Read, the Highway Safety Manager, provided an overview of safety data in Virginia. He also presented the most common factors seen in crashes that result in serious injury or death. These factors include speeding, distracted driving, impaired driving, and not wearing a seatbelt.
VDOT’s safety program includes addressing these factors by looking at high crash locations and improving safety at these locations an explicit factor in funding considerations. The program includes design and engineering treatments, educating all road users to address behavior, and greater enforcement on the roads.
Board members asked about programs that address driver and pedestrian behavior and how roads can be redesigned to reduce speeds.
During the discussion, board member Linda Smyth noted that speed and traffic calming is an important issue not just in urban areas but also near transit stations and in residential neighborhoods. “It gets down to the local level, and we need to work out what the speed limit should be so we can help implement the safety measures,” she said.
Board member Charles Allen asked about road design and how the data informs designs that reduce speeds and improve safety. Read explained that through Virginia’s SMART SCALE formula to prioritize projects, VDOT can work with the local jurisdictions to improve safety. “We have really been pushing home the idea of reducing conflicts and providing for all modes and then trying to get the speeds harmonized to where they should be for all users in terms of Complete Streets with transit and pedestrians,” Read explained.
The District Department of Transportation will present on its safety programs at the April meeting.
Listen to the presentation and board discussion.
An update from the COG Planning Directors Technical Committee
For the last few months the COG Planning Directors Technical Committee has taken up the TPB’s aspirational initiative to bring jobs and housing closer together. The COG Board of Directors also passed a resolution to build more housing in the region. These two initiatives are closely tied together.
At the TPB meeting, COG’s Community Planning and Services department director, Paul DesJardin provided an update focused on background information related to housing trends in the region. Then, District of Columbia Office of Planning Director Andrew Trueblood, who serves as the chair of the planning directors committee and as a TPB board member, provided an update on the conversations happening among the planning directors. He specifically went over the hurdles that must be overcome to build more housing.
TPB board member Charles Allen noted that the focus has been on building more housing but that “we need to step back and explain why we need to add more. We need to tell the story better,” he said.
Allen also noted that there needs to be more ways to have transportation and housing work together. Trueblood agreed and said that there needs to be a way to better align transportation planning with land-use planning.
TPB Board Member Danielle Glaros said she was pleased that there has been more conversation about middle-income housing and not just affordable housing. She shared some positive developments in Prince George’s County related to new employers and new initiatives connected to workforce housing in the county. “It’s taken a long road to get us here, but I think it’s a really positive opportunity for us in the future,” she said.
TPB alternate member Allison Davis, representing WMATA, mentioned work that Metro had done in 2015 focused on trying to tie jobs and housing in the region and what that meant for Metro’s ridership. “We found very similar outcomes, that there is a way to balance by really looking at a lot of these things, that land use is really a transportation strategy,” she said.
Listen to the board discussion.