Transportation equity headlined an action-packed March TPB meeting

At the March meeting TPB approved a map and methodology to analyze transportation equity. (TPB)
One of the main action items at the TPB’s March meeting was the board’s endorsement of a new Equity Emphasis Areas map and methodology for analyzing transportation equity in the region’s long-range plan.  (TPB)

The TPB’s March 29 meeting was dominated by action items—nine in all. One was the board’s endorsement of a new approach to analyzing equity in the region’s long-range transportation plan. Others included formally establishing the TPB’s Long-Range Plan Task Force and approving a work plan and budget for FY 2018. The meeting was originally scheduled to take place March 15 but was rescheduled due to inclement weather.

Equity Emphasis Areas endorsement sets up new regional equity analysis

A newly revised Equity Emphasis Areas map endorsed by the TPB at its March 29 meeting sets up an analysis of the region’s Constrained Long-Range Transportation Plan (CLRP) to test for disproportionately high and adverse impacts on low-income and minority communities. The TPB is required under federal law to carry out the analysis and will report the results to board members and the public.

Check out the interactive map of the designated Equity Emphasis Areas.

About 30% of the region’s Census tracts have been designated as Equity Emphasis Areas. Tracts meeting one of two key criteria received the designation. The first is having a concentration of low-income population greater than 1.5 times the regional average. The other is having a very high concentration of two or more minority groups or a high concentration of one minority group and an above-average concentration of low-income population.

Several board members thanked staff for their work on this project. One was Dannielle Glaros (Prince George’s County), who in January requested modifications to the proposed methodology to better reflect disadvantaged communities on the eastern side of the region with population concentrations of only one minority group.

“I just wanted to thank staff for all their work over the last few months,” Glaros said. “We really appreciated working with you all. And thank you to the other members for your patience as we worked to get this right.”

With approval of the map and methodology, staff will now begin their analysis of the 2016 CLRP, which will involve analyzing future access to jobs, educational institutions, and hospitals by both transit and automobile in Equity Emphasis Areas versus other parts of the region. Staff expect to present their findings to the TPB this summer.

Read the full technical memo and get the summary presentation from the March 29 Equity Emphasis Areas approval

RELATED: Changes are coming to the way the TPB analyzes transportation equity

 The board debated membership requirements for its new Long-Range Plan Task Force

A proposal to limit membership of the TPB’s new Long-Range Plan Task Force sparked some vocal opposition at the board’s March 29 meeting. The task force is being set up to identify a limited set of regionally significant projects, programs, and policies that make significantly greater progress toward achieving regional goals.

Board member Dave Snyder (Falls Church) was among the critics of the membership restriction. He said he disagreed with any attempt to deny membership to board members who wished to participate.

“I think limiting the membership of this group to anything less than the members of this board is a serious mistake and I can’t support that,” Snyder said.

Snyder’s comments were echoed by board member Vic Weissberg (Prince George’s County) who said that large counties should have explicit representation on the task force—to ensure that their unique needs are adequately considered.

But TPB Chairman Bridget Newton made the case for keeping the membership more limited. She explained that doing so would help achieve two desired outcomes: one, keeping the task force operating speedily and efficiently, and two, pushing task force members to think not about their own jurisdiction but about the region as a whole.

“One of the most important things to remember is that this is regional. It’s not parochial,” Newton said. “I would hope that what would be good for the region would be good for individual jurisdictions. We’re talking big-picture here. I would hope that people could think regionally.”

Newton’s comments were backed up by TPB First Vice-Chairman Jay Fisette (Arlington County), who has agreed to chair the new task force.

“My experience tells me that a task force should be a subset of the larger group. You try to find a balance of views and representation. You meet much more often. And you expect people to be there from the beginning. This seems like the only practical way to go forward,” Fisette said.

The board ultimately approved the membership proposal, but increased from six to nine the number of local officials who will serve on the body. In all, 18 people will serve on the task force—the three TPB officers, three local officials from each of Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, one representative of each state-level department of transportation and WMATA, and one member each from the TPB’s Citizens Advisory Committee and Access for All Advisory Committee.

In addition to prescribing the make-up of the task force, the board’s March 29 action also established the group’s mission and tasks, which were developed during a lengthy board discussion in February.

The group’s first meeting is set for Monday, April 10, at 10:00 A.M. The meeting is open to the public but only Task Force members will have an opportunity to speak during the meeting. The group will meet at least monthly into the summer.

Read the full final resolution establishing the Task Force and its mission, tasks, and membership

Get the agenda and materials for the April 10 Long-Range Plan Task Force meeting

Concerned Northern Virginia residents spoke out against proposed changes to VDOT’s I-66 plans

People living near I-66 in Northern Virginia spoke during the public comment period at the TPB’s March 29 meeting to oppose changes to a Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) plan to add Express Lanes to I-66 outside the Capital Beltway. The proposed changes would significantly increase the height of new overpass ramps at the interchange between I-66 and the Capital Beltway and Gallows Road and Nutley Street, the commenters said.

Deanna Heier, the first speaker, said she represented hundreds of nearby residents who oppose the design changes. She explained that VDOT had previously removed the higher design heights from consideration after public feedback and should not be allowed to go back on their promises to residents.

“You should know that these two ramps were originally eliminated by VDOT’s own designers during the public discussion process,” Heier said. “We are concerned, and frankly disheartened, to see them reintroduced by the private partner and want assurances that the public’s concerns and VDOT’s promises to the public are being kept,” she added.

Heier also criticized the state for not reaching out to the public or elected officials with information on the proposed change before coming to the TPB for approval.

“Despite very high public interest in this project, we received zero communication from VDOT that such changes were being considered,” Heier said. “And we later learned that our state and county representatives had not been notified either. But they know now.”

Board member Linda Smyth (Fairfax County) was one of the officials not briefed by the agency.

“What the public speakers had to say today is actually quite accurate,” Smyth said. “The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has not been briefed. I have not been briefed. The state delegates have not been briefed. And these changes are significant,” she said.

Board member and VDOT representative Rene’e Hamilton assured Smyth that officials and the public would be brought into the process. “We are not MIA on this process,” she said. “We have a new partner who is just moving into the region. They have not really done any detailed design plans yet. We will be getting with the public and with the elected officials on this.”

Hamilton said that the agency has scheduled a series of three public information meetings for the week of June 12, though designs will be made public well in advance of that and agency representatives will be meeting with community groups. She said, too, that the final public hearing on the designs will take place in the fall of this year.

The two other commenters at the March 29 meeting, Marcia Hook and Julie Hirka, also spoke out against the changes, saying they would bring unwelcome traffic to neighborhood streets, lead to increased noise and air pollution, and negatively affect the visual landscape of the area.

Learn more about VDOT’s proposed changes to the I-66 Express Lanes project

Actions taken by the TPB at its March 29 meeting

  • Endorsed new Equity Emphasis Areas map and methodology. The approach identifies areas with especially high concentrations of low-income and minority individuals. The TPB will analyze its long-range plan to ensure that these areas are not subject to disproportionately high and adverse impacts under the plan.
  • Established the Long-Range Plan Task Force. The group will be identifying transportation priorities above and beyond what’s in the region’s Constrained Long-Range Transportation Plan (CLRP). In establishing the task force, the board also established the group’s mission, tasks, and membership.
  • Approved the FY 2018 Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP). The UPWP is the TPB’s work plan and budget for the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1. The FY 2018 UPWP outlines $16.4 million funding across 12 key work areas. Learn more.
  • Amended the FY 2017 UPWP and approved carryover funding to FY 2018. This action was required before the board could approve the FY 2018 UPWP. Learn more.
  • Approved the FY 2018 Commuter Connections Work Program (CCWP). The Commuter Connections work plan and budget for FY 2018 outlines $6.1 million in spending on activities to promote ridesharing, transit, bicycling, walking, and teleworking.
  • Amended VDOT’s portion of the FY2017-2022 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). The amendment adjusted funding for a small number of roadway improvements in Northern Virginia. Learn more.
  • Amended MDOT’s portion of the FY2017-2022 TIP. The amendment added approximately $560 million in funding for replacement of the Governor Harry Nice Memorial Bridge in Charles County. Learn more.
  • Amended WMATA’s portion of the FY2017-2022 TIP. The amendment accounted for a re-obligation of funds from prior-year FTA grants to an updated grant for the current fiscal year. Learn more.

Other items of note:

  • Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) Chairman Jeremy Martin gave a report of the CAC’s March 9 meeting. Martin emphasized the committee’s continuing interest in seeing robust public involvement in the work of the Long-Range Plan Task Force and 2018 update of the Long-Range Plan. Listen to Martin’s full report.
  • Notice was given for a proposed amendment to the 2016 Constrained Long-Range Transportation Plan (CLRP). The amendment includes ramp modifications to I-66 and I-95 in Northern Virginia and moving up the replacement of the Harry Nice Memorial Bridge in Maryland. The amendment will require an air quality conformity analysis, which is slated to take place this summer pending board approval in April. Public comment is open through April 8. Learn more about the proposed amendment.
Here's what's coming up at the Apr. 19 TPB meeting
Equity Emphasis Areas are up for board approval at the Mar. 29 TPB meeting