Advancing active mobility in greater Prince William, Virginia

Category: National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board

Active Prince William Advocates Reforms at NoVA Transportation Meeting

Active Prince William Co-Chairs Allen Muchnick and Mark Scheufler submitted the following statements for the Annual Joint Northern Virginia Transportation Public Meeting that was held on December 15, 2021.


Northern Virginia needs a transportation system that moves people and goods effectively, safely, equitably, and sustainably.  Sadly, our region’s pursuit of wider and faster roads over the past 70-plus years has failed to achieve those objectives. 

It’s long past time to stop expanding regional roadways for toll-free travel in single-occupant vehicles and instead focus new homes, jobs, and transportation investments in regional activity centers served by high-capacity public transportation and expeditiously retrofit existing arterial roads for safe and efficient travel by walking, bicycling, and bus transit. 

Robust and strategic Vision Zero programs are needed at the statewide, regional, and local levels, and the region should prioritize completion of the National Capital Trail Network.

We appreciate this annual joint transportation meeting and public comment opportunity for Northern Virginia.  However, the conspicuous absence of the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (or TPB) from this annual meeting should be promptly fixed, with or without state legislation.

With the TPB excluded, the public, elected officials, CTB members, and agency staff are not fully and fairly apprised of the TPB’s critical role as the federally designated metropolitan planning organization for the National Capital Region, which includes Planning District 8, and they are not kept aware of the TPB’s many policies (e.g., the TPB Vision, Regional Transportation Priorities Plan, Visualize 2045 Aspirational Initiatives, Equity Emphasis Areas, strategies to achieve regional goals for greenhouse gas reduction and for locating the bulk of new housing in regional activity centers served by high-capacity public transportation), priorities, objectives, studies, planning activities, and transportation project and system evaluation processes.

In addition, the TPB does allocate funds for several transportation programs, including the Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside, the FTA’s Enhanced Mobility Program (Section 5310), the TPB’s Transportation Land-Use Connection (TLC) technical assistance planning grants, the TPB’s new Transit within Reach technical assistance program, the TPB’s new Regional Roadway Safety Program, the Commuter Connections’ suite of transportation demand management programs, the Street Smart Safety Campaign, the TPB’s Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP), etc.

Transparent and impactful public involvement throughout the development of transportation projects is vital for creating better transportation projects.

The CTB and NVTA should require all localities or agencies to hold advertised public hearings on their proposed submissions for funding transportation projects with SMART SCALE, NVTA, CMAQ, RSTP, Revenue Sharing Program, Transportation Alternatives, HSIP, and other non-local funds before the project funding requests are formally submitted by staff and endorsed by the local governing body.  Only if such advertised public hearings are held in advance by agency staff or a local advisory body should the governing body itself be relieved of holding a [second] public hearing and simply endorse the project funding submission(s) as a consent agenda item prior to any public comment opportunity.

The CTB and NVTA should also require localities to hold advertised public hearings that generally comply with VDOT public involvement guidelines before a locally administered transportation project is either advanced beyond a feasibility study or approved for construction.  While VDOT has excellent public participation and environmental review procedures for its own projects. Virginia’s public involvement and environmental review requirements for locally administered projects are far less stringent. Locality transportation staff have long exploited lax VDOT oversight of locally administered projects to minimize input on the scope and design of transportation projects by the public and even elected officials.

Prince William County’s rigged and prematurely aborted feasibility and environmental assessment studies for its proposed Route 28 Bypass along the Flat Branch floodplain are prime examples of a corrupted public process.  The City of Manassas has also repeatedly evaded meaningful public scrutiny of its Sudley Road Third Lane Project along Route 234 Business.


Thank you for the opportunity to address you tonight.   To meet the regional, state, and federal greenhouse gas emission objectives and goals, a structural change in the transportation planning and investment needs to occur.

In addition to improved vehicle emission standards and investing in electric vehicles and infrastructure, vehicle miles traveled or VMT for Single Occupancy Vehicles as a whole needs to decrease even as the Northern Virginia population grows.

At a basic level, this means that we need to stop expanding unmanaged roadway lane miles.  This means Northern Virginia’s section of the Visualize 2045 constrained long-range plan needs to be radically changed. Any government funding for highway expansion is one less dollar going to meeting these urgent climate goals in the transportation sector.

A large number of major roadway projects in Northern Virginia are going to be completed in the next few years that will dramatically increase the VMT in the region.  We need to change the paradigm that Congestion is reduced–not by adding roadway supply to the system–but by reduced Single-Occupant-Vehicle travel demand.  This will require reducing car dependency by developing near high-capacity transit, repurposing roadway space for transit and non-motorized users, and reforming parking requirements and level of service standards, especially in outer jurisdictions.

Route 1 in Fairfax County is an example of a project that we cannot afford to replicate. Instead of repurposing the existing roadway corridor with dedicated bus lanes, we are investing over $1 billion to keep or expand to six lanes of high-speed traffic plus added dedicated bus Lanes to create an unsafe environment for all users in the corridor that will take additional 10 years to complete.

But, most importantly, the public needs to be educated on why these structural changes in transportation planning and investment need to be implemented. We need to move away from “investments in ‘multimodal’ transportation solutions” to “investments in everything but projects that induce SOV travel demand”. We need to start tonight…time is running out.  Thank you for considering this input.

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APW Urges Its TPB Members to Ensure New Transportation Plans Meet Climate and Equity Goals

 

On June 15, 2021–in advance of the June 16 meeting of the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB) at which the project submissions for updating Visualize 2045, the region’s long-range transportation plan, were scheduled for adoption –Active Prince William sent the following message to Prince William County’s two representatives on that regional transportation planning body–Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Ann Wheeler and Neabsco District Supervisor Victor Angry.   We also sent similar messages to the TPB members who represent the Cities of Manassas and Manassas Park–Manassas Vice Mayor Pamela Sebesky and Manassas Park Mayor Jeanette Rishell.

Here’s a summary of the contentious June 16, 2021 TPB meeting, at which a proposal to craft a climate-friendly regional transportation plan for adoption  by 2024 was agreed to


The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB) will be taking up a resolution at their June 16th meeting regarding a Visualize 2045 Alternative Build Scenario that would aim to achieve TPB climate and equity goals through the use of transportation demand management, transit, and land use strategies consistent with regional policy goals, a modified regional project list that reduces the number and scale of road capacity expansion projects in accordance with anticipated reduced travel demand, and with particular focus on public transportation and pedestrian/bicycle improvements needed to serve mobility disadvantaged populations.  This is being brought forward because the recently submitted project updates to Visualize 2045 will not meet the TPB climate and equity goals.

Due to the time and resource constraints at this point in the Visualize 2045 update process, Active Prince William recommends Prince William County support the following action plan to support meeting TPB climate and equity goals:

1)    Commit to completing the TPB Climate Change Mitigation Study and review it thoroughly at the regional and jurisdictional levels through the first quarter of 2022.

2)    Formally commit to assisting the TPB to develop a set of transportation policies and projects, by the end of 2022, which would be implementable at the jurisdictional and regional levels, consistent with the recommendations of the Climate Change Mitigation Study, that, when fully implemented will assure the region will meet its climate change mitigation goals

3)    Commit to take actions to officially adopt the projects and policies developed to attain the region’s climate goals within the transportation sector, and advance these projects into the region’s LRTP for a mid-term update to be completed in 2024

As voting members of the TPB, this is an opportunity for Prince William County to be a transportation planning leader as it relates to climate and equity in the region.   Supporting this initiative aligns with PWC BOCS Resolution 20-773: Regional Climate Mitigation and Resiliency Goals and the Prince William County Equity and Inclusion Policy.

The updated mobility chapter of the comprehensive plan should be aligned with this action plan.  Prince William County should also advocate these measures be included as the starting point for the next NVTA Transaction Plan.  To support this the Prince William County should advocate that the General Assembly act to modify the NVTA statute to align with your climate and equity goals.

The climate is not waiting. The time to act is now.