Tag Archives: D.C.


New Funding Enables Wheelchair-Accessible Taxicab Pilot Program in D.C. to Continue

A pilot program implemented by the Transportation Planning Board to provide wheelchair-accessible taxicab service in the District of Columbia will continue now that District officials have committed a portion of the funding needed to keep the pilot going and to expand it by adding more ramp- and lift-equipped vehicles. The District’s mayor, Vincent Gray, recently […]


Surveys Show Transportation Behavior Varies Widely Across Region

The results of a series of in-depth travel surveys released by the Transportation Planning Board in March highlight key differences in how people live and travel in higher-density areas with greater proximity to transit compared to those with lower densities and fewer travel options. Of the seven surveyed areas, the three with the highest population densities were […]

Climate & Energy

Sustainable DC: A Major Advance in Moving the Region Forward

Laine Cidlowski, AICP, Urban Sustainability Planner, and Tanya Stern, Chief of Staff, DC Office of Planning On February 20, Mayor Vincent C. Gray released what is being lauded as one of the nation’s most ambitious plans to improve quality of life in the Washington Metro region. The Sustainable DC Plan establishes a bold vision to make […]


Updates to Region’s Long-Range Transportation Plan Reflect Public Input

The annual process of updating the region’s constrained long-range transportation plan, or CLRP, started last October when the Transportation Planning Board called on state, local, and regional transportation agencies to submit their proposed additions and changes. Now, following a period of public comment on the package of 21 proposals that were submitted by the Virginia and District of Columbia […]


Region’s Transportation Planning Board Urges State Leaders to Increase Transportation Funding

Note: We discussed the TPB’s action supporting increased transportation investment in metropolitan Washington in December – the post below provides a more in-depth analysis of the letter and the proposed solutions. In a December letter to state leaders, the Transportation Planning Board (TPB) urged immediate action to increase funding for transportation in the Washington region, citing […]

Land Use

Activity Centers: Where Metropolitan Washington is Growing

Regional leaders voted today to approve an updated set of Activity Centers for metropolitan Washington.* These 139 Centers include existing urban centers, traditional towns, transit hubs, as well as areas expecting future growth.

Scroll below the text to see an ABC 7 video clip and additional media coverage of the decision.

For example, Georgetown is a vibrant, walkable place already built-out with a strong mix of housing and businesses. Activity Centers also include locations as diverse as NoMa, Clarendon, downtown Frederick, and Silver Spring where major growth is expected to occur over the next several decades and where investments should be prioritized.

While the Centers vary in scale and type, the basic concept behind them is the same: concentrate development in areas that will have the planning and infrastructure in place to support it. By focusing growth in Activity Centers, the region will improve connections between housing and jobs, reduce environmental impact, and make a better use of limited funds.

The Centers will also promote development around area transit such as Silver Line Metro stations in Northern Virginia and Green Line Metro stations in Prince George’s County, Maryland. About two-thirds of Centers are or will be served by the region’s existing or future rail transit network.

The goal for this latest update was to make the Centers more broadly useful. To do so, more targeted and specific criteria were used to designate than in 2007, the last time the Council of Governments approved a set of Activity Centers. The criteria are primarily based on Region Forward, COG’s vision for a more accessible, sustainable, livable, and prosperous metropolitan Washington.

The Council of Governments views Activity Centers as the next generation of metropolitan Washington’s growth and development. The office park model of development, based on low-density sprawl, is obsolete. That is why leaders in the region are working to focus future growth – which is estimated to bring over a million more people to the region in the next few decades – in mixed-use Activity Centers.

The Activity Centers map update is a necessary step in the development of an upcoming Strategic Investment Plan currently underway by COG’s Region Forward Coalition. By pointing out the specific elements (i.e., sidewalks, ground-level retail, fresh food, parks) that each Center is lacking or could improve upon, the Investment Plan will help local governments determine how best to use limited resources.

The Activity Centers Strategic Investment Plan will be released later this year and is a key component of Economy Forward, COG’s plan to prepare metropolitan Washington for a future with reduced federal spending and employment.

*Post updated to reflect the Council’s vote to approve the Activity Centers and to include additional information.

ABC 7: ‘NOMA,’ Clarendon, Silver Spring to see huge growth, study says

DCist: Regional Group Outlines 139 Activity Centers Where Growth is Expected in Future

WTOP: Planners ID neighborhoods for targeted development

WAMU: Planners: Regional Job Growth Should Focus on Activity Centers


Local leaders call for end to region’s transportation funding deficit

At their December meeting, members of the Transportation Planning Board (TPB) called on state leaders to step up to the plate and end the ongoing transportation funding deficit in metropolitan Washington.

“Our local governments have done their share,” said Kerry Donley, TPB Member and Alexandria Vice Mayor. “It’s time for the states to do so as well.”

At the meeting, TPB members approved a letter to the legislatures and chief executives of the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia in support of increased funding for transportation.

The letter outlines several options that have been employed in other parts of the country to raise revenue for transportation. Potential solutions include fuel tax increases, additional toll roads, sales taxes, and local option taxes, among others.

“It’s refreshing to see specific proposals included in this letter,” said Donley. “So often you hear groups offering general calls for more transportation funding, but they don’t do the hard part of pointing out what the options are.”

Donley recently appeared alongside TPB Chair Todd Turner on NewsTalk with Bruce Depuyt to discuss the TPB’s action and the need for increased transportation funding. View clips of their appearance below.

TPB analysis shows that one of the most pressing long-term challenges for transportation in metropolitan Washington is the need for additional revenues, both to ensure the region’s existing highway and transit networks are adequately maintained and to fund increases in capacity to support future population and employment growth.

Metropolitan Washington is projected to add over 1.3 million new residents and 1.1 million new jobs by 2040. The region’s already crowded Metrorail cars, buses, and highways will not stand up to the challenge presented by this growth.

Traffic and transit congestion to worsen without changes in funding, policy

As we noted last week, new TPB analysis shows that metro Washington’s already major traffic and transit congestion will continue to worsen without greater investment in transportation infrastructure and changes in land use policy throughout the region. The following post provides greater detail about the findings.

Travelers in metro Washington will face considerably more roadway and transit congestion in coming decades if current planning and funding trajectories are allowed to continue.

That’s the main finding of a recent Transportation Planning Board analysis of how well the projects and programs in the region’s long-range transportation plan will meet the increased demands brought on by anticipated population and job growth over the next three decades.

The plan, formally called the Constrained Long-Range Transportation Plan, or CLRP, includes all of the regionally-significant transportation projects and programs that the states and local jurisdictions in the region expect to build or implement between now and 2040.

Currently the plan includes almost $223 billion in anticipated spending, 70% of it needed for maintaining and operating the existing system of roads, transit, and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. Only $67 billion, or 30%, is slated to be spent on expanding the system, whether by building or widening roads, constructing new transit lines, or purchasing railcars and buses to provide additional capacity.

The TPB’s recent CLRP analysis showed that the expansion that is planned will hardly keep pace with forecast demand.

By 2040, the region’s population is expected to increase 24% — an additional 1.3 million people — while the number of jobs is forecast to swell by 37%. The TPB’s travel models predict that such growth will lead to increases in total driving — measured in vehicle-miles of travel, or VMT — of 25%. Vehicle work trips are expected to increase by 27%, while transit work trips are expected to increase by 28%.

Meanwhile, the CLRP only includes a 7% increase in new lane-miles of roadway and specifically points out that Metrorail lacks the funding needed to run all eight-car trains during peak hours, a key to increasing the capacity of the Metrorail system.

Together these pressures will result in a 78% increase in the number of lane-miles of congested roadway during the morning peak hour, according to the analysis. And four of Metrorail’s five lines to and through the regional core will be “congested” or “severely congested” during the morning peak, compared to just one today.

Predictions like these help illustrate the impacts that current planning and funding decisions will have on the transportation system and its ability to meet the region’s needs. The TPB performs such analyses to help planners and decision-makers evaluate the effectiveness of current plans and to gauge the relative impacts of alternative growth or transportation investment scenarios.

One alternative growth scenario that the TPB studied in 2010 assumed that half of housing and job growth in the region between 2015 and 2030 would be located in mixed-use development near transit stations. The TPB’s travel models showed an 11% increase in transit ridership and a 17% increase in trips made by bicycle or on foot compared to the trajectory outlined in the then-current CLRP.

The analysis of that scenario showed that shifting anticipated growth patterns and land-use can have a significant impact on transportation outcomes. Analyses of this and other strategies will help planners and decision-makers identify those approaches that offer the greatest potential to address the transportation challenges the region faces.

The TPB’s recent analysis of the long-range transportation plan for the region paints a bleak picture of the future. And changing that future will not be easy, especially as transportation revenues continue to decline and the expense of maintaining aging infrastructure continues to rise. The analysis tools the TPB uses can assist decision-makers in their efforts to find the transportation and land-use strategies that have the best chance of improving our transportation future.

The TPB Weekly Report is a regular feature on The Yardstick and is designed to provide brief, timely summaries of recent research, analysis, outreach, and planning by the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB). Follow the TPB on Facebook and Twitter.

Congestion to worsen further without investment in transportation network and changes in land use

Metro Washington’s already notorious traffic congestion is set to get even worse in the coming decades according to new analysis by the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB).

The analysis indicates that the region will continue to experience worsening congestion for both highways and transit in the region without additional funding for transportation and changes to land use patterns.

Several media outlets reported on the analysis, including:

NewsTalk with Bruce DePuyt: Ron Kirby, COG’s Transportation Planning Director, and Todd Turner, Transportation Planning Board Chair, discuss the findings of the new analysis:

WAMU: “D.C. Area’s Transportation Future: Crowding, Crowding And More Crowding Council of governments releases 30-year transportation forecast”

The Washington Examiner: “Traffic woes likely to persist for decades, officials say”

WTOP: “More people and limited commuting options mean greater congestion”

ABC 7: “Washington metro area traffic to worsen in next 30 years, study says” (video below)

To view/download a presentation providing an overview of the analysis, click here.

New Tools Would Help Visitors Find Alternative Ways to Access National Park Sites in Metro Washington

A new website and smartphone application to help visitors of the federally-owned cultural, historic, and recreational attractions in the Washington region find ways other than by car to get to those sites could become a reality if the Transportation Planning Board and the National Park Service receive a federal grant for which they jointly applied earlier this year.

The $410,000 grant would be funded under the Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in the Parks Program, which the Federal Transit Administration has used since 2006 to support efforts to reduce congestion and crowding in and around national parks and other federal lands. This is the last year that funding will be available under the program since it was not included in the recent Congressional transportation reauthorization known as MAP-21.

In the past, Transit in the Parks has primarily funded planning for or construction of capital projects like shuttle buses, rail connections, and bicycle trails. The TPB proposal aims to promote alternatives and ease crowding by providing more complete and up-to-date information about options that are available in the region, including transit, bicycling, pedestrian, and ridesharing opportunities.

Currently that information is scattered across many different websites and other sources. Partly that’s because the region is home to more National Park Service sites — including the monuments and memorials on the National Mall and the Civil War battlefields in Virginia and Maryland, among others — than any other metropolitan area in the country. It’s also because several different jurisdictions and agencies are responsible for providing the array of transportation options that are available to visitors at those different sites.

The new web-based tools, which would be developed and maintained by Commuter Connections, the TPB program that promotes alternative modes to the region’s commuters, would bring all of that information together into a single, integrated source and include an interactive mapping feature for finding customized routes and available options.

In addition to helping visitors to the region, the new web-based tools would also provide information to low-income residents who do not own a car and who may feel unable to take advantage of nearby cultural, historic, and recreational opportunities. According to the grant applicants, avid cyclists and other users of “active transportation” modes would also benefit from the tools.

Growing numbers of visitors to the region, from around 16 million last year, and an increasing local population will only add more demand and more pressure in the future to sites that are already becoming crowded.

An expanding network of shared-use bicycle and pedestrian trails linking several other parks and sites in the area, as well as new and changing bus routes and opportunities for ridesharing, especially to major events, means that park visitors will have more and more options for reaching their destination.

Recently, the Capital Bikeshare program — a joint venture of the District of Columbia, Arlington County, and the City of Alexandria to provide short-term bicycle rentals within the three jurisdictions — expanded to include docking stations at several of the monuments and memorials on the National Mall. Additional expansion is expected to occur.

If the new web-based tools proposed by the Transportation Planning Board and the National Park Service are developed, it will be easier for visitors to the federally-owned parks and sites in the region to find the most up-to-date information on ways other than by car to access those attractions. This could ease crowding and provide new opportunities for visitors and current residents to take greater advantage of the region’s cultural, historic, and recreational assets.

The TPB Weekly Report is a regular feature on The Yardstick and is designed to provide brief, timely summaries of recent research, analysis, outreach, and planning by the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB). Follow the TPB on Facebook and Twitter.

New Regional Leadership: Chuck Bean to head the Council of Governments

The Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) has named Chuck Bean, currently president of the Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington, as its executive director. Board members praised Bean’s long record of building regional partnerships, his intense focus on preparedness, and his role as a successful problem-solver. He will succeed David Robertson, who is stepping down from the post after 10 years.

Bean has said he will concentrate sharply on COG’s signature initiative Region Forward, and its new Economy Forward program. It should be noted that Bean has been involved in Region Forward from the beginning. He was a member of the Greater Washington 2050 Coalition, which developed the regional vision plan.

COG Chairman Frank Principi and incoming Executive Director, Chuck Bean

For more on Chuck Bean, check out COG’s press release.

“Street Smart” Bicycle & Pedestrian Safety Campaign to Run Nov. 12-24

Many motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians whose evening commutes last week occurred in the daylight will for the next several months be commuting in the glare of the setting sun or after dark thanks to the end of Daylight Saving Time and the earlier sunsets that accompany both it and the start of winter.

The Transportation Planning Board’s semi-annual “Street Smart” bicycle and pedestrian safety campaign — set to launch next Monday, November 12, and run through the Thanksgiving holiday — will use mass media to remind motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians of the region’s traffic safety laws and how to stay safe in the darker conditions of the late fall and winter.

Increased enforcement of traffic safety laws by local police and safety officers will also be a cornerstone of the semi-annual campaign, which is carried out in coordination with state and local agencies throughout the Washington region.

TPB Chair Todd Turner kicks off the Spring 2012 Street Smart campaign in District Heights, MD, on March 28, 2012.

This fall, Street Smart will use sponsorships of news and traffic reports on several local radio stations to reach motorists during the high-risk times for bicycle and pedestrian incidents — late-afternoon and early evening on weeknights, and all day on Saturdays.

The campaign will also reach out to bicyclists and pedestrians in areas with higher-than-normal accident rates through on-the-ground safety events sponsored by local radio stations and local law enforcement. The events will feature safety promotions with giveaways, distribution of printed educational materials, and stepped up enforcement of traffic laws.

Local elected officials and law enforcement personnel will gather on November 14 at the Belmont Ridge Road Crossing of the Washington and Old Dominion Trail in Ashburn, Virginia, to kick off this fall’s campaign. Local television, radio, and print news media are invited to attend the event, which will start at 11:00 a.m.

Street Smart started ten years ago, in 2002, as a cooperative effort by local, state, and federal agencies to reduce the number of bicyclist and pedestrian injuries and deaths in the Washington region.

According to data collected by the TPB, there were 68 pedestrian fatalities in the region in 2011 and six reported bicyclist fatalities. Both numbers have remained relatively constant on a year-to-year basis since the late-1990s.

By comparison, the number of motorists and vehicle passengers killed in traffic accidents each year has declined steadily since 2001 — from 351 to 184. As a result, pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities have, in recent years, come to represent nearly 30% of all traffic-related deaths, compared to just 19% in 2001.

Beginning this year, Street Smart became a truly regional program when COG committed to the “Street Smart” program a portion of the dues it collects from each of its 22 member jurisdictions. Previously, the program relied mainly on federal funds made available through various state agencies and on voluntary contributions from a handful of local jurisdictions.

The next campaign is tentatively scheduled for April 2013. An advisory group open to representatives of all the contributing jurisdictions, as well as other area stakeholders, is already meeting to plan the spring campaign, which is expected to feature new promotional materials and an extended period of mass media messages to reach target audiences.

With the end of Daylight Saving Time, the TPB, through its “Street Smart” bicycle and pedestrian safety campaign, is working to help motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians avoid being involved in traffic accidents in the darker conditions of the late fall and winter and reduce the overall number of traffic-related injuries and fatalities in the Washington region.

For more information on Street Smart and pedestrian and bicyclist safety in metropolitan Washington, see Making the Region’s Roadways and Walkways Safe for All Users.

The TPB Weekly Report is a regular feature on The Yardstick and is designed to provide brief, timely summaries of recent research, analysis, outreach, and planning by the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB). Follow the TPB on Facebook and Twitter.

Adapting Inclusionary Zoning to a Changing Housing Market

Cheryl Cort, Policy Director, Coalition for Smarter Growth

Inclusionary Zoning is a flexible and effective tool to provide affordable housing in the expensive metro Washington market, according to speakers at a recent workshop at the Council of Governments (COG). On October 15, experts and advocates from area governments, non-profits, and the private sector convened to discuss area inclusionary zoning housing programs.

Inclusionary zoning, or IZ, requires that a certain percentage of units in a new residential development be set aside as affordable in exchange for a density bonus and/or zoning flexibility (for example, giving developers the right to build more units or build taller buildings than normal zoning rules permit). The workshop was organized by COG, the Coalition for Smarter Growth and the Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance. The goal was to convene government practitioners and affordable housing supporters to discuss current challenges, share best practices and identify issues for follow up work.

Fairfax, Montgomery and Loudoun Counties have had IZ programs in place for three decades and collectively produced over 17,000 units. Montgomery County alone has produced over 13,000 MPDUs since 1976. However, since the County’s program initially required the units to remain affordable for only a short amount of time, just over 30 percent of these units are still affordable. Fairfax County has produced over 3,400 units, has a pipeline of nearly 1,000 more, and has retained all units in the program until now, although some are due to expire soon. The District of Columbia has only recently started to see IZ units produced from its new program.

Participants tackled tough questions about how IZ programs are responding to a changing housing market, and how they are coping with new constraints from the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and commercial mortgage lenders. The workshop also discussed some of the key challenges in retaining units for long-term affordability while providing shared appreciation to homeowners. The difficulties of rising condo fees and high rise construction costs were also identified as major issues that IZ programs in the region are grappling with. D.C.’s approach of rolling the condo fee into the sales price is a newer model that will be tested as IZ units come online in the city.

Speakers noted that IZ programs continue to adapt and respond to challenges. One of the major conflicts in recent years involves the FHA not accepting certain provisions in IZ covenants on for-sale units, such as allowing affordability requirements to survive foreclosure. The District will be proposing a more comprehensive approach to ensuring that their covenants conform with FHA requirements while using alternative ways of retaining affordability of the unit or recapturing the subsidy in the event of a foreclosure.

Dave Wilkinson of CityFirst Homes, the District’s manager of a housing land trust, noted that the FHA rules are difficult or impossible to change, and working to avoid foreclosure through effective stewardship is a better approach to retaining units. He noted that foreclosure rates among housing trusts with stewardship programs are close to zero, compared to 22 percent and 14 percent for programs with no stewardship. Other struggles with FHA financing were encountered and resolved by Montgomery County, which worked for a year to obtain FHA’s agreement that its approaches to resale formulas, capital improvement credits, and enforcement actions conform to FHA standards. The county does not use a covenant that allows affordability of the unit to survive foreclosure but it retains a first right of refusal and could use its housing trust fund to purchase units.

Deborah Watson, representing Bank of America, explained that lenders can work smoothly with IZ programs by reviewing the provisions of the program as a whole, and ensuring conformity with secondary mortgage institutions like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Bank of America currently has a database of 400 approved IZ programs.

COG, the Coalition for Smarter Growth, and the Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance will work with participants to convene a series of follow up meetings on specific topics identified during the event for further discussion and development of solutions. Topping the list is examining how construction costs, IZ unit pricing, and income targeting affect programs.

Integrating Transportation & Land Use at the Local Level

Nine studies aimed at promoting the integration of transportation and land-use planning at the local level will kick off around the Washington region in the coming weeks.

The projects will be funded under the Transportation/Land-Use Connections Program, which was created by the Transportation Planning Board in 2006 to help local jurisdictions identify key improvements to help make the transportation system and development patterns support one another more effectively.

All nine projects funded under the program, often referred to as TLC, will be completed by June 2013, which is the end of the TPB’s fiscal year.

Of the nine projects funded this year, six will take place in Maryland, in part because the Maryland Department of Transportation commits extra funding each year to support additional TLC projects in Maryland jurisdictions.

Transportation/Land Use Connections Program

In the City of College Park, a consultant team selected by the TPB will complete a market analysis for potential mixed-use, transit-oriented development on an 18.2-acre site immediately adjacent to the College Park Metrorail station, the College Park MARC commuter rail station, and a planned Purple Line light rail stop.

Also in Prince George’s County, another consultant team will assist the City of Greenbelt in carrying out safety and accessibility evaluations of its 136 bus stops and drafting a multi-year strategic plan for making it easier and safer for local residents to access bus transit.

In Montgomery County, consultants will assist county planners in determining the extent to which it’s possible to ease minimum parking requirements for developers in areas served by bikesharing systems. The team will use the experiences of other metropolitan areas to determine how much parking demand is reduced by having access to such alternatives.

In the City of Rockville, planners will receive help in evaluating development-related traffic impacts that cross jurisdictional boundaries and in identifying appropriate capacity improvements or transportation alternatives to mitigate such impacts.

And in the City of Takoma Park, consultants will assess the feasibility of transforming New Hampshire Avenue from a six-lane suburban arterial into a multi-way boulevard, with center travel lanes for faster-moving auto and bus traffic separated by tree-lined medians from side lanes designated for slower-moving traffic, on-street parking, and bicycle facilities. The study will complement a TLC project completed last year that developed streetscape standards for the corridor.

The sixth project in Maryland falls under TLC’s new Design Pilot Program, which for the first time makes funds available to help jurisdictions complete conceptual design and preliminary engineering for a key project with the goal of moving it closer to full implementation.

The City of Frederick will receive assistance under the Design Pilot Program to design a new trail — including bike lanes, sidewalk upgrades, and a shared-use path — linking the existing MARC commuter rail station with a newly-installed bike lane that connects residential areas and major job centers in the City.

Across the Potomac River, in Virginia, two TLC projects will soon kick off, too.

One will be in the City of Falls Church, where planners want to increase the use of alternative modes of transportation along the Washington Street corridor, which connects the East Falls Church Metrorail station with the city’s southern gateway. The study will develop recommendations to promote transit-oriented design principles outside the quarter-mile radius of transit stations or stops that is the traditional focus of planners.

In the Town of Middleburg, in Loudoun County, a consultant team will help develop plans — including cost estimates and an implementation timeline — for carrying out a streetscape improvement project on Washington Street, the town’s historic main street. The study will focus especially on how to preserve the street’s historic character, address aging street lights, and develop a succession plan for overgrown trees.

Finally, the ninth project to be funded under the TLC Program this year will take place in the District of Columbia. Consultants will help planners there carry out an extensive survey of residents and managers of residential properties to try to quantify the benefits of being able to access jobs via walking, bicycling, bus, or rail, rather than by car.

In all, twelve county or municipal governments applied for funding for 16 projects under the program this year. In June, a panel of transportation and land-use experts assembled by the TPB chose nine of the projects to receive funding.

Now in its seventh year, the TPB’s TLC program has funded more than 50 technical assistance projects to help local jurisdictions better integrate transportation and land-use planning, and to identify key improvements to help make the transportation system and development patterns support one another more effectively.

The TPB Weekly Report is a regular feature on The Yardstick and is designed to provide brief, timely summaries of recent research, analysis, outreach, and planning by the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB). Follow the TPB on Facebook and Twitter.

Kicking off the annual update to the region’s transportation plan with a “call for projects”

It’s time again for transportation agencies in metro Washington to identify new projects or programs to include in the region’s constrained long-range transportation plan (CLRP), which goes out to the year 2040, or in the six-year transportation improvement program, known as the TIP.

The “call for projects” for the CLRP and TIP — which kicks off an annual update process — was approved by the TPB at its October 17 meeting. Now the individual counties, municipalities, and state, regional, and federal agencies that fund transportation improvements in the region have until December 14 to submit their proposed additions, or to propose changing or removing projects or programs that are already in either document.

Under federal law, transportation projects or programs must be included in the CLRP, and eventually in the TIP, before they can be built or implemented. New projects and programs, or changes to existing ones, must be approved by the metropolitan planning organization, or MPO, for a metropolitan area, which in metro Washington is the TPB.

Agencies are limited under federal law to submitting for inclusion in the CLRP only those projects or programs for which funding is “reasonably expected to be available” and that fit within federal and regional policy frameworks, which prioritize things like protecting environmental quality, minimizing adverse impacts on vulnerable populations, and ensuring adequate public participation in the transportation planning process.

Together, these requirements mean that the CLRP is the most realistic prediction of what the transportation system will look like by the year 2040 because it is based on current planning and funding trajectories.

Planners at the TPB use the CLRP both to evaluate how well the planned transportation system will meet the growing and changing transportation needs of the region through 2040 — by predicting future levels of congestion or access to jobs from different parts of the region, for example — and to determine what effect future travel patterns will have on the region’s environment, especially its air quality.

The annual process for adding new projects or programs to the CLRP or TIP, or making changes to existing projects or programs, begins every October when the TPB issues the “call for projects.” The process ends the following July when the TPB votes to adopt final updates.

During that nine-month period, agencies’ submissions are reviewed by the TPB’s Technical Committee, which includes transportation planners, engineers, and other technical staff from each of the transportation agencies in the region.

The TPB also performs an air quality conformity analysis of all the projects and programs in the CLRP and TIP, including the proposed additions and changes, in order to demonstrate that future emissions of vehicle-related pollutants will not exceed targets approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The emissions forecasts — which are required by the federal Clean Air Act — are usually prepared in March and April.

One other essential part of the process is two public comment periods that provide opportunities for individuals and advocacy organizations to comment on proposed additions or changes. One occurs soon after the December deadline for agencies to submit their initial proposals. The other occurs in June after a draft list of all the proposed additions and changes, as well as the results of the air quality analysis, are released by the TPB.

On October 17, the TPB invited transportation agencies in the region to propose new additions or changes to the constrained long-range plan and six-year transportation improvement program, kicking off the annual update process of both documents. The CLRP and the TIP are cornerstones of the TPB’s work in metro Washington, bringing together planners, policymakers, and decision-makers from around the region to discuss and make decisions about the future of the transportation system.

The TPB Weekly Report is a regular feature on The Yardstick and is designed to provide brief, timely summaries of recent research, analysis, outreach, and planning by the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB). Follow the TPB on Facebook and Twitter.