The main highlight of the Transportation Planning Board’s May 17 meeting was approval of eight local projects to receive technical assistance under the TPB’s Transportation/Land-Use Connections (TLC) program. The board also advanced Maryland’s I-270 Innovative Congestion Management project toward inclusion in the region’s Constrained Long-Range Transportation Plan (CLRP) and heard from a COG technical panel about unmet funding needs for Metro.
Actions taken by the TPB at its May 17 meeting
- Approved local projects to receive TLC technical assistance. The assistance will fund planning or preliminary engineering for eight local projects that support regional transportation and land-use goals. The projects include a new bike lane in College Park, Maryland, and development of a plan for monitoring non-driving travel patterns in Tysons, Virginia. Read more about the approved projects.
- Advanced Maryland’s I-270 CLRP amendment. The Innovative Congestion Management project will widen parts of I-270 and employ innovative technology in the corridor to reduce travel times. The board reviewed public comments on the project then voted to advance it toward inclusion in the region’s Constrained Long-Range Transportation Plan (CLRP) later this year. Read the public comments and learn more about the project.
- Amended the mission and tasks of the TPB’s Long-Range Plan Task Force. The change asks the task force to identify 6-10 regionally significant projects, programs, or policies to recommend to the TPB in June for further analysis rather than seeking final board approval at that time. Learn more.
- Deferred approval of regional Transit Asset Management targets. The targets—for the age and condition of transit vehicles, stations, facilities, and equipment—are required under federal rules finalized last year. The TPB is slated to approve the regional targets at its June meeting. Learn more about the draft targets.
COG technical panel says Metro needs $750 million more a year
At its May 17 meeting, the TPB heard from a COG technical panel that WMATA, the agency that runs the region’s Metro system, needs an additional $750 million a year over the next 10 years to keep the rail system in a state of good repair and to make strategic system upgrades.
The technical panel’s findings were presented by COG deputy executive director Stuart Freudberg, who also told board members that the panel looked at a variety of methods for raising the additional revenues, from a dedicated regional sales tax to property taxes to an increase in gas taxes.
“All four options were designed to raise $650 million a year annually,” Freudberg explained. “The panel did have a preference for a regional sales tax, but that conclusion is now being reviewed by the COG Board and its Metro Strategy Group of elected officials,” he said.
Freudberg also noted that any new dedicated funding source would need to be in place by January 2019. “The gap begins in fiscal 2019 and grows over time if this gap is not filled,” he said.
Metro funding has been a priority issue for the TPB for the last few years. Board chairman Bridget Donnell Newton (Rockville) reminded board members that Phil Mendelson, who served as chairman in 2015, organized a series of briefings from Metro officials on the agency’s finances and strategic plans. In 2016, then-chairman Tim Lovain helped organize a series of summits for regional leaders to discuss what it would take to return the system to world-class status.
At the May 17 meeting, one board member asked about an increased federal role in supporting Metro. Freudberg said that the focus for now is on preserving several existing federal revenue streams, and that any new funding is only under very initial discussion by Congress and the administration.
Public outreach and financial planning are underway for the 2018 Long-Range Plan
Between now and the end of 2018, the TPB will be working to develop a new regional long-range transportation plan that identifies both funded and unfunded transportation projects and programs that the region has planned through 2045.
In a briefing by Lyn Erickson, the TPB’s Plan Development and Coordination Program Director, the board learned about plans to solicit public input as part of the plan and to undertake an analysis of anticipated future revenues for transportation. Both efforts are federal requirements and will help frame the plan around public aspirations for the future and what the region can expect to be able to afford.
Public input for the plan will entail a public opinion survey which will be carried out this summer as well as a series of more in-depth focus groups and workshops to take place later this year or in early 2018. The results of the outreach will be summarized and provided to board members, member jurisdictions, and area transportation agencies this fall and included in the final plan next year.
The financial planning that is underway entails soliciting from area jurisdictions and transportation agencies estimates of revenue that is reasonably expected to be available through 2045 and then balancing that with anticipated spending on regionally significant transportation projects and programs.
Erickson said that staff would continue to update both the Technical Committee and the TPB as the long-range plan development continues.
Other items of note:
- The Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) identified its priority projects for consideration by the TPB’s Long-Range Plan Task Force in its ongoing deliberations. The CAC’s main recommendation was an increased focus on transit, including a circumferential transit line like the Purple Line. Listen to the full CAC report.
- The Access for All Advisory Committee (AFA) also commented on the work of the Long-Range Plan Task Force, highlighting potential initiatives such as reducing transit fares for low-income riders, improving transit service overall, and addressing east-west socioeconomic divides in the region. Listen to the full AFA report (starts at 4:17).
- During public comment at the beginning of the meeting, three people spoke out against VDOT plans to add Express Lanes to I-66 outside the Capital Beltway. Listen to all of the public comments.
- The TPB welcomed the City of Laurel in Maryland as its newest voting member. Laurel recently joined the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) and will now be represented on the TPB as well. Read more.