RECAP: Here’s what happened at the September 20 TPB meeting

At its September meeting, the TPB approved federal Transportation Alternatives funding for six bicycle and pedestrian projects in Maryland, including sidewalk improvements near Hollywood Elementary School in College Park. Here, Hollywood Elementary students participate in International Walk to School Day. (TPB)

The TPB’s first meeting back after its annual August break was unusually short—but it did not lack substance. The board approved six bicycle and pedestrian projects in Maryland to receive federal Transportation Alternatives funding and the board received several updates on the development of Visualize 2045, the four-year update of the region’s long-range transportation plan.

Actions taken by the TPB at its September 20 meeting

  • Approved funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects in Maryland. The six projects will receive $1.7 million in federal Transportation Alternatives funding. They include the first phase of a new bicycle trail and expanded bikeshare in Prince George’s County as well as Safe Routes to School improvements in Takoma Park, College Park, Brunswick, and seven other school sites in Montgomery County. Learn more about the projects.
  • Urged the EPA to retain existing greenhouse gas standards for light-duty vehicles. The board signed onto a letter urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency not to reconsider its greenhouse gas standards for light-duty vehicles, which, earlier this year, the current Administration proposed to do. The letter was developed jointly by the TPB, the Metropolitan Washington Air Quality Committee (MWAQC), and COG’s Climate, Energy, and Environment Policy Committee (CEEPC). Read the approved letter.

Six Maryland bicycle and pedestrian projects approved to receive federal funding

The TPB gave its approval for six bicycle and pedestrian projects in Maryland to receive $1.7 million in funding under the federal Transportation Alternatives program. Also known as Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside, this program provides capital funding to projects other than traditional highway construction, including bicycle, pedestrian, recreational trail, and Safe Routes to School projects.

The projects approved September 20 include the first phase of Prince George’s County’s Central Avenue Connector Trail—a path for people on foot or bike to travel easily between four stations on Metro’s Blue Line and nearby communities. Prince George’s County will also receive funding to expand Capital Bikeshare to the communities of Hyattsville, Mount Rainier, New Carrollton, North Brentwood, and Riverdale Park.

The four remaining projects all focus on making it safer for children to get to and from school on foot or by bike. These Safe Routes to School improvements will focus on the communities of Takoma Park, College Park, and Brunswick, as well as seven other school sites in Montgomery County.

The TPB is responsible under federal law for selecting projects to receive a portion of Transportation Alternatives funding designated for use in the National Capital Region. The TPB convened a selection panel of experts to review and score applications and make recommendations to the board. Half the selection panel’s score was based on how well each project supported or advanced regional priorities.

MORE: Read more about the approved projects

Visualize 2045 development is underway

Development of the Visualize 2045 regional long-range transportation plan is underway, and the board received updates on three main components at its September meeting.

The first was on the plan’s Constrained Element, which is federally required to identify all regionally significant planned transportation investments for which funding is reasonably expected to be available between now and 2045. The Constrained Element is important because it allows the TPB to determine whether current plans will support regional air quality improvement goals and allows it to “visualize” future travel patterns and conditions.

The next major milestone for the Constrained Element is a Technical Inputs Solicitation this fall calling on agencies to submit projects, programs, and policies to be included in the Constrained Element. The solicitation will also ask agencies for updated financial and other details for investments already in the previously adopted plan. In early 2018, board members will have an opportunity to review the technical inputs, including information on how they support or advance regional goals and priorities.

The board also received an update on the Visualize 2045 Financial Element, which must show that sufficient revenues are reasonably expected to be available to build, operate, and maintain the transportation system outlined in the Constrained Element. An interim financial analysis providing estimates of anticipated revenues is expected to be presented to the board in October.

Finally, board members were briefed on the first phase of Visualize 2045 public outreach activities, which recently wrapped up. The outreach took place between June and August and focused on a public input survey designed to gather general attitudes and opinions about transportation in the region. More than 6,000 people responded to the survey. To promote the survey and encourage participation, staff conducted “live-surveying” events throughout the region, handed out postcards at Metro stations and popular lunchtime hangouts, attended community events and engaged non-profit organizations serving hard-to-reach populations, and carried out a robust digital outreach campaign.

MORE: Learn about the Visualize 2045 Constrained Element, Financial Element, and public outreach.

Other items of note:

  • At its September meeting, the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) discussed the need for dedicated funding for Metro and was briefed on the Metro principles adopted by the Council of Governments (COG) Board of Directors and the TPB earlier this year. Listen to the full CAC report.
  • Public comment is now open on the results of an Air Quality Conformity Analysis of four proposed additions and changes to the adopted 2016 Constrained Long-Range Transportation Plan (CLRP). Learn more and comment by October 14.
  • COG’s Metro Strategy Group recently wrote to state and District leaders outlining the consensus they have reached on identifying additional dedicated funding for Metro. Read the staff update and full letter (starting on p. 35).
  • During public comment, the Coalition for Smarter Growth’s Stewart Schwartz commended the TPB on its focus on regional priorities in its upcoming Visualize 2045 solicitation and urged the board to further focus on greenhouse gas reductions through transit oriented development (TOD) and other strategies. Listen to Schwartz’s full comments.

Get the full audio and all the materials from the September 20 TPB meeting.

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Visualize 2045 outreach: Here's what we did over the summer
Maryland bike and ped funding, urban freight corridors, and Visualize 2045 coming up at the Sept. 20 TPB meeting