At its October 19 meeting, the TPB received a series of briefings on the 2016 amendment to the region’s Constrained Long-Range Transportation Plan (CLRP) as well as the six-year Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). The briefings focused on the new projects slated for inclusion in the CLRP, the results of the federally required Air Quality Conformity Analysis, and a performance analysis showing how all of the projects and programs in the CLRP are expected to handle forecast population and job growth through 2040. The board also discussed a recent Metro announcement that the agency was considering a permanent end to late-night rail service.
2016 CLRP Amendment briefings: New projects, air quality impacts, performance analysis
Lyn Erickson, the TPB’s Plan Development and Coordination Director, introduced a series of briefings on the elements of the draft 2016 CLRP Amendment and FY 2017-2022 TIP. The board is scheduled to approve both at its November meeting. Erickson explained that developing and approving the CLRP and TIP is one of the TPB’s most fundamental metropolitan planning responsibilities under federal law.
In the first presentation, board members heard an overview of the nine major additions or changes to existing projects that are slated to be included in this year’s amendment. The new projects include new express lanes on I-395 and a VRE commuter rail extension in Northern Virginia, and new bus-only lanes on 16th Street in the District of Columbia. The briefing also included details about the draft six-year Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), including amounts and sources of funding for projects programmed for planning, engineering, right of way acquisition, and/or construction through 2022.
VDOT’s Renee Hamilton referred to a letter of commitment from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) in response to a resolution the TPB passed at their March meeting asking for a commitment to revenue-sharing for I-395. She explained that the letter commits a $15-million annual payment as part of the revenue-sharing for transit and other non-driving options in the corridor. She also noted that the amount will be increased annual to keep up with inflation.
Board member Jay Fisette (Arlington County) thanked VDOT for the commitment. “I think, with the letter of October 5th and the references you’ve just made about the inflation adjustment and then a substantial portion of any of the revenue-sharing also going into that multimodal fund; it’s all good. So I really do believe VDOT has met the intent and letter of the earlier TPB resolution,” he said.
Board member Lynda Smyth (Fairfax County) expressed some concerns about truck traffic on I-66 outside the Beltway. “There are capacity questions, in terms of what will it do if we have trucks taking up space on a variably priced facility,” she said. “What does that mean in terms of the cars using it, as to how much is that likely to raise those rates?” she asked.
Smyth also expressed concern about where the trucks would go as they travel through the corridor, to which VDOT’s Hamilton responded that the agency is still analyzing those issues, is intending to look at it further, and that the plan may change.
During the discussion, Chairman Tim Lovain also asked DDOT’s Sam Zimbabwe if he would like to respond to the public comments heard earlier in the meeting about the District’s plan for bike lanes on 6th Street NW. Zimbabwe said that DDOT is still studying many different options and that the agency had to pick one for the air quality assessment and performance analysis but that the plan could be amended once a decision is made.
Then staff presented the results of the air quality conformity analysis of this year’s amendment. The analysis is required each time the TPB amends or updates the CLRP. The analysis looks at future transportation-related emissions under the plan to ensure conformity with approved regional emissions limits. Staff explained that the analysis shows that emissions of VOCs and NOx, the two pollutants for which the TPB is required to perform the analysis, are forecast to remain below approved regional limits. Staff also explained that fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is no longer required as part of the analysis because the region recently met federal standards for the pollutant.
Finally, the board was briefed on the results of a performance analysis of the 2016 CLRP Amendment. The analysis looks at how travel demand and travel conditions in the region are expected to change over the duration of the plan given anticipated population and job growth and planned transportation improvements. The analysis showed that more people will be ridesharing, taking transit, bicycling, or walking in 2040, but that driving will remain the dominant mode of travel and roadway congestion will worsen considerably. The performance analysis also looked at measures of job accessibility, transit accessibility and connectivity, geographic differences in mode choice, and motor vehicle emissions of both regulated pollutants and greenhouse gases. It also evaluated how well the CLRP supports or advances key regional priorities spelled out in the Regional Transportation Priorities Plan.
Discussion of Metro’s proposal to permanently end late-night service
As part of his remarks, Chairman Lovain initiated a discussion of Metro’s recent announcement that the agency is considering permanently ending late-night service. Earlier this year, Metro temporarily curtailed late-night rail service as part of the aggressive, year-long SafeTrack maintenance program.
Board member Allison Davis, who represents WMATA, explained that Metro is currently taking public comment on four different options for late-night service. She also said that bus service could be used to fill in the mobility needs if rail closes earlier. “Keep in mind that mobility is not just rail. It can be provided responsibly, effectively, affordably in other ways,” she told the board.
Board member Cathy Hudgins (Fairfax County) noted that safety is a major issue but that there is also a need for an increase in funding. “I think as we’ve always identified safety as a major issue for WMATA, and recognizing that SafeTrack has been very arduous on the customer, and recognizing that without a safe rail system we will not be a good system no matter what we invest,” she said.
Board member Charles Allen (DC) expressed concern for businesses and the workers who rely on late-night rail service. He also expressed concern that buses will not provide an adequate alternative to rail. “As we talked about SafeTrack, even creating a bus bridge, putting a bus bridge will not replace the capacity of Metrorail,” he said. “You just simply are not going to have enough seats that can be replicated with that.”
Finally, board member Phil Mendelson wondered why other rail systems can find time to complete maintenance and still run hours similar to Metro’s hours. He asked if one segment at a time could be closed for maintenance, rather than shutting down the whole system. “Closing the entire system for the possibility of some work on a piece of it—because that’s really what’s going on here; you cut back the hours, you’re closing the entire system, and they’re not going to be sending out those workers to the entire system to be working every night,” he said.
Public comment on the 2016 CLRP Amendment
During the public comment period at the beginning of the meeting, three speakers commented on behalf of the United House of Prayer to express their opposition to the inclusion of the 6th Street NW bike lanes in the 2016 CLRP Amendment. All three expressed concerns that it would be difficult for church members to park their cars to attend services and they asked DDOT to consider other alternatives for the bike lane. Bob Chase from the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance spoke in favor of the I-395, I-95, VRE, and VA-28 additions. Bill Orleans, speaking as a member of the public, voiced concerns about WMATA cutting back service. He asked the jurisdictions to pay more to support the transit agency.
Other items of note
- Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) Chairman Doug Stewart conveyed a formal recommendation from the committee to the TPB asking that the board develop a specific plan for using public involvement in the development of its new long-range plan. Listen to the CAC report.
- TPB Chairman Tim Lovain announced that the TPB will host a Traffic Incident Management Conference on November 2 to highlight best practices from around the region and the country. Learn more about the event.
- The board received the latest annual report from the ongoing Street Smart bicycle and pedestrian safety campaign. Watch the video version of the report.
- A briefing on new federal planning regulations regarding transit asset management was deferred to a later meeting.