At its October 18 meeting, the TPB approved an amendment to the region’s Constrained Long-Range Transportation Plan (CLRP), kicked off the solicitation of inputs for the new Visualize 2045 long-range plan, and approved five projects in the District of Columbia to receive federal Transportation Alternatives funding. Before approving the CLRP amendment, several board members expressed concern about Maryland’s design for replacing the Harry Nice Bridge, one of the projects in the amendment, urging the state to include space on the new bridge for people to bike and walk.
Actions taken by the TPB at its October 18 meeting
- Amended the Constrained Long-Range Transportation Plan (CLRP). In Northern Virginia, the amendment includes a new ramp on I-95 and modifications to a small number of ramp configurations in the I-66 HOT lanes project. In Maryland, it includes an earlier completion date for the replacement and widening of the Harry Nice Bridge as well as the addition of the I-270 Innovative Congestion Management project. Read the summary memo.
- Kicked off the Visualize 2045 Technical Inputs Solicitation. The solicitation calls on area transportation agencies to submit project, program, and policy inputs for inclusion in the Constrained Element of the new Visualize 2045 long-range plan. The inputs will be used to analyze the Constrained Element for fiscal constraint and air quality impacts, per federal requirements. Later this year, the board and the public will have an opportunity to review and comment on the inputs before they are analyzed and later added to the plan. Read more.
- Approved DC projects to receive federal Transportation Alternatives funding. More than $1.1 million will go to five projects aimed at improving the experience of people walking and biking or using busy transit facilities in various parts of the District of Columbia. A TPB review committee selected the projects based in part on how they support or advance regional priorities. Learn more about the projects.
Board members seek design changes in Maryland’s Harry Nice Bridge replacement
One of the projects included in the CLRP amendment approved by the TPB at its October 18 meeting generated discussion among several board members who would like to see the project include accommodations for bicyclists and pedestrians as well as wider shoulders for motorists to pull over in the case of collisions or breakdowns.
The project is Maryland’s planned replacement of the Governor Harry Nice Memorial Bridge across the Potomac River between Charles County, Maryland, and King George County, Virginia. The state has identified the aging two-lane span as a major bottleneck causing traffic back-ups on the busy US 301 corridor and plans to widen it to four lanes.
Board member Jason Groth, who represents Charles County, voiced the concern of the county board of commissioners that the state’s latest designs for the bridge would remove a planned hiker/biker trail and would narrow the shoulders from eight feet to two feet. The changes are both part of the state’s “practical design” approach to lower costs of major infrastructure projects.
“The Charles County Commissioners feel very strongly that the proposed changes, in an effort of cost-savings for the Harry Nice Bridge, will have an effect on its ability to move people in the region, both those in vehicles and bicyclists and pedestrians,” Groth said.
“The ‘practical design’ approach which the Governor and Secretary have taken on many projects is a very admirable approach, but the cost-savings could come at the expense of other items,” Groth continued.
Board member Linda Smyth (Fairfax County) was the one to highlight concerns about the narrowing of the shoulders. “It does seem to me that if you have a bridge and you don’t have enough room to pull off an accident, you’re going to have a bridge that’s going to be closed,” Smyth said.
And board members from the City of Alexandria and the District of Columbia chimed in on plans to lower the height of the bridge—also a cost-saving measure—noting that doing so might not allow tall ships, like military or historic vessels, to continue accessing the two cities’ downtown waterfronts.
The board asked the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) to fully consider all three aspects as it works to develop the final design for the bridge. Board members also said they expected more information from the state in the coming months, before the project is reaffirmed by the TPB as part of Visualize 2045, the next major update of the region’s long-range transportation plan.
Visualize 2045 update: Board kicks off “Technical Inputs Solicitation”
At its October 18 meeting, the TPB took an important step in the development of the region’s new Visualize 2045 long-range transportation plan: kicking off the Technical Inputs Solicitation for the Constrained Element and Air Quality Conformity Analysis of the plan.
The solicitation calls on area transportation agencies to submit all regionally significant projects, programs, and policies that agencies expect to be able to afford to build or implement between now and 2045. It asks agencies to provide sufficient detail to test the collection of initiatives in the Constrained Element for both “fiscal constraint” and “air quality conformity,” meaning that sufficient revenues are anticipated to be available to cover the cost of the plan and that forecast vehicle-related emissions do not exceed approved regional limits. It also asks agencies to note how the inputs support or advance shared regional goals and priorities, like expanding travel options and supporting dense, mixed-use communities known as Activity Centers.
The solicitation is an important step in the Visualize 2045 development process because it will provide board members, stakeholders, and members of the public an opportunity to review and comment on the proposed inputs before they are included in the plan, including whether and how they support the regional goals and priorities.
In addition to reviewing and approving the draft solicitation, the board was also updated on the development of the Visualize 2045 Financial Element and preliminary findings from the Visualize 2045 public input survey, carried out this summer.
Staff said that an initial financial analysis showed a gap between anticipated revenues and planned expenditures over the life of the plan. They explained that the gap will be reconciled in the coming months as agencies submit their project, program, and policy inputs as part of the Technical Inputs Solicitation, and as details are worked out among the region’s jurisdictions as to future funding for Metro.
Staff also reported that the preliminary findings from this summer’s public input survey showed “reliability” and “travel time” as top factors influencing people’s travel choices, and “traffic congestion” and a “need for rail transit options” as top issues affecting people’s daily travel experiences. More detailed analysis of the survey findings will take place this fall and winter and a full report is expected in 2018.
Additional items of note:
- The board received an update on the work of its Long-Range Plan Task Force, which recently resumed its regular meetings and met again immediately following the October 18 TPB meeting. Get the materials from the task force meeting.
- Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) Chairman Jeremy Martin said the CAC is concerned that the current schedule for the work of the Long-Range Plan Task Force precludes productive engagement in the task force’s work before it goes to the TPB later this year. Listen to the CAC report.
- Access for All Advisory Committee (AFA) Chairman Charles Allen reported that the AFA would like to see greater diversity of individuals depicted in the visual marketing materials for the TPB’s upcoming Street Smart pedestrian and bicycle safety campaign. He also reported that the committee would like to see the Long-Range Plan Task Force continue to consider issues of regional equity in its ongoing deliberations. Listen to the AFA report.
- During the public comment period at the beginning of the meeting, two commenters urged the TPB to reconsider its plan to study an additional northern Potomac River crossing as part of its Long-Range Plan Task Force work. Listen to the comments.
- The board reviewed draft Critical Urban Freight Corridor designations for highway segments in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. The board will be asked to approve the designations in November. Learn more about the draft designations.
- The board agreed to submit comments to the Federal Highway Administration urging the agency to retain its performance metric for MPOs regarding greenhouse gas emissions as part of the federally prescribed performance-based planning and programming requirements. Read the draft comment letter to FHWA (starting on p. 5).
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly suggested that Jason Groth is an elected member of the Board of Charles County Commissioners.