The TPB’s July meeting ran nearly a half-hour over schedule as board members discussed and ultimately voted to accept the recommendations of the TPB’s Long-Range Plan Task Force. The board also set Friday, September 22, as Car Free Day in the Washington region and heard from Virginia Railway Express (VRE) CEO Doug Allen about the commuter railroad’s role in the region over the past 25 years as well as its plans for future growth and expansion.
Actions taken by the TPB at its July 19 meeting
- Proclaimed Sept. 22 as Car Free Day. The TPB approved a formal proclamation identifying Friday, September 22, as regional Car Free Day. The annual event encourages people to try modes of travel other than driving alone, and aims to encourage the community and decision makers to support car-free policies and initiatives. Read the proclamation.
- Accepted the recommendations of the Long-Range Plan Task Force. The board accepted the list of ten large-scale transportation and land-use initiatives identified by the task force for further study. One of the initiatives, a new Potomac River crossing north of the American Legion Bridge, prompted extensive discussion at the meeting. (Read more below.)
The board accepted the Long-Range Plan Task Force’s recommendations after a lengthy discussion
More than an hour of discussion and debate preceded the TPB’s acceptance on July 19 of the recommendations of its Long-Range Plan Task Force. The recommendations identify ten regionally significant transportation and land use initiatives to study and assess how well they might move the region closer to achieving its long-term transportation goals.
The list included many different projects, but one—a new Potomac River crossing north of the American Legion Bridge—was the exclusive focus of board discussion.
Board member Marc Elrich (Montgomery County) proposed removing the crossing from the list altogether, saying that it would yield more congestion and more sprawl in Montgomery County and would not be politically or financially feasible.
Some board members spoke passionately about the need to study the bridge. Others acknowledged the many concerns but reminded their colleagues that the task at hand was not to look at feasibility, but rather to evaluate at a high level the relative effectiveness of the different initiatives to aid further consideration and deliberation.
The board also heard extensive public comment both in favor of and opposition to including the bridge on the study list. Montgomery County Councilmember Roger Berliner was among those who testified against including the bridge, citing increased congestion, environmental damage, and sprawl as his main concerns. Others said the bridge was needed to provide another way for people to move between Virginia and Maryland, both for economic development reasons as well as security and emergency preparedness.
Ultimately, the board voted to accept the recommendations for further study. Staff has already begun work on the comparative study and will report back to the task force in September.
VRE highlighted past achievements and plans for further growth
VRE CEO Doug Allen was on hand at the board’s July 19 meeting to highlight the commuter railroad’s achievements over the past quarter-century and its plans for growth in the coming decades.
Allen showed board members a map of VRE’s two commuter rail routes, one extending from the District of Columbia mostly west along the I-66 corridor into Prince William County and the other extending mostly south along the I-95 corridor into Stafford and Spotsylvania counties. He reported that the two lines together carry nearly 20,000 people a day over 96 miles of track between Northern Virginia suburbs and job centers in Alexandria, Arlington, and the District of Columbia. He said they are also part of a larger regional rail network, made up of Metro, Maryland’s MARC commuter rail service, and Amtrak intercity rail service.
VRE plans to expand service and increase ridership in three phases between now and 2040, Allen said. The first phase focuses on running longer trains, which will require buying more railcars and adding or extending platforms at stations. The second and third phases focus on running more trains, in part by adding extra capacity through additional tracks and by widening the Long Bridge, which carries VRE across the Potomac River between Arlington and the District of Columbia. Allen told board members that the expansion plans would allow the railroad to double ridership between now and 2040.
Allen thanked the TPB for its advocacy and support for VRE projects over the years and said he looked forward to continuing to work with the TPB in the years to come.
MORE: July 19 VRE presentation
Other items of note:
- Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) Chairman Jeremy Martin conveyed the committee’s recommendation that the results of the TPB’s Visualize 2045 public input survey, going on now, be reviewed and considered by the Long-Range Plan Task Force when it resumes its work later this year. Listen to Martin’s report.
- Two mid-year appointments to the TPB’s Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) were approved by the TPB Steering Committee to fill a vacancy created earlier this year. Former alternate member Paul Angelone became a full voting member representing the District of Columbia. DC resident David Murphy was appointed to fill Angelone’s vacated seat as an alternate.