ICYMI: May 18 TPB meeting

Maryland officials briefed the TPB on the public-private partnership to design, build, and operate the new 16-mile Purple Line between Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. (Maryland Transit Administration)

At its meeting on Wednesday, May 18, the TPB awarded funding to 8 local projects under its popular Transportation/Land-Use (TLC) Connections program. The board also discussed Maryland’s public-private contract to build the Purple Line, an updated list of priority unfunded bicycle and pedestrian projects, and ways the TPB can support regional coordination during Metro’s upcoming SafeTrack maintenance surges.

Action taken by the TPB at its May 18 meeting:

  • Approved projects to receive TLC funding. The board approved funding for 8 local planning studies or preliminary designs for projects aimed at better integrating transportation and land-use planning at the local level. The projects support regional priorities like strengthening Activity Centers, improving access to transit, and serving transportation-disadvantaged communities. Get more details about the projects receiving TLC funding.

LISTEN: Board member Julia Koster introduces
this year’s TLC projects (starting at 0:22)

Priority bicycle and pedestrian projects list presented

Staff briefed the TPB on a recent update to a list of top unfunded bicycle and pedestrian projects in the region. The list includes a total of 12 projects that the TPB’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Subcommittee has said should be given priority consideration for funding over the next 6 years.

MORE: Read the memo detailing the priority projects

Each of the region’s jurisdictions and state-level transportation agencies gets to nominate one project to be on the list. In selecting projects for the list, the subcommittee gives preference to those that enhance bicycle connectivity, increase pedestrian safety, or improve access to transit stops and stations.

Board members Charles Allen (District of Columbia) and Todd Turner (Prince George’s County) both thanked the subcommittee and TPB staff for compiling the list and said they appreciated the work that went into it.

Board member Jay Fisette (Arlington Co) asked staff whether any portion of a proposed “bicycle beltway” for the region was on the list or had been considered. Mike Farrell, the TPB’s chief bicycle and pedestrian planner, said that the Bicycle Beltway Working Group has identified the major segments of the route and that the National Park Service has included the projects in its regional paved trails plan. He said that the TPB’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Subcommittee will probably propose that the projects also be included in the TPB’s new long-range plan of unfunded transportation projects, currently under development.

LISTEN: Full presentation and discussion


Maryland’s public-private Purple Line partnership

Board members heard from Chuck Mattuca of the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) on the state’s 30-year contract with Purple Line Transit Partners to design, build, and operate the new transit line between Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

Mattuca touched on many aspects of the project, including forecast ridership numbers, the line’s specific route and frequency, the collection of private partners that will be involved in the project, and the details of how the state expects to manage the contract, including incentives to meet key milestones and service standards.

Construction of the Purple Line is set to begin later this year. The line is expected to be open for service in 2022.

More than a dozen firms will under the state contract play a major role in the design, construction, and/or operation of the Purple Line over the next 30 years. (MTA)

MORE: Get the full Purple Line presentation

Board member Gary Erenrich (Montgomery County DOT) reminded his fellow members that both Montgomery and Prince George’s counties are making significant financial contributions to the Purple Line. He said Montgomery County in particular will be building tunnels and elevator shafts for some of the key stations and will be building a new bicycle and pedestrian trail along the line between Silver Spring and Bethesda.

Lattuca thanked the counties for their contributions. “There’s a very intricate number of agreements,” Lattuca said. “The counties are major funders of the Purple Line and have made significant contributions.”

LISTEN: Full Purple Line presentation and discussion


Regional coordination during Metro’s upcoming SafeTrack maintenance plan

An item not on the TPB’s May 18 agenda was a discussion of Metro’s upcoming SafeTrack maintenance plan. The yearlong effort consists of 15 multi-day shutdowns or single-tracking of segments of the rail system for intense maintenance periods known as “safety surges.”

Several board members said they wanted to have regular briefings on Metro’s plans and to discuss ways the region’s jurisdictions and transportation agencies can work together to mitigate the impact on riders.

Loudoun County’s Ron Meyer shifted the conversation somewhat to the long-range implications of SafeTrack. He, Metro’s Shyam Kannan, and Rockville’s Bridget Newton stressed the need to identify steps the region should take now to avoid longer-term problems and more shutdowns in the future.

LISTEN: Full SafeTrack discussion (beginning at 6:17)

MORE: Read the full staff memo outlining COG/TPB’s proposed coordination role (see p. 17)

During public comment, WABA’s Greg Billing highlighted some of the resources available from WABA during SafeTrack and asked local jurisdictions for help in giving travelers alternatives for getting around:

Other items of note

  • The deadline for implementing 15 bus priority projects in the region under a $58.8-million federal TIGER grant is approaching. Find out what still need to get done.
  • The City of Alexandria honored long-time TPB staff director Ron Kirby at a memorial ceremony on Sunday, May 15, at the base of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Read more.
  • Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) Chairman Doug Stewart urged the TPB to partner with area advocacy organizations and community groups to get the word out about upcoming efforts to identify priority transportation projects for the region. Listen to Stewart’s report.
  • During public comment, retired traffic engineer Carroll George urged area transportation agencies to consider a new acceleration-lane design for area highways to improve safety and reduce congestion caused by merging traffic. Listen to George’s comments.
  • A second regional Metro summit, organized by COG and the Greater Washington Board of Trade, is planned for June 13. The gathering will focus on how other major transit systems in North America are funded.
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