Regions Northern Virginia

Study suggests changes to region’s transportation system

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Print this page by Brian J. Couturier
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Photo courtesy Virginia Department of Transportation

Transportation problems in the corridor stretching from Baltimore to Richmond are going to get increasingly worse unless changes are made, according to a new study.

The changes needed to revamp the transportation system are expensive but doable, says the chief executive of the group behind the report.

The Capital Region Blueprint for Regional Mobility contains recommendations for short-term and long-term solutions to improve transportation in a region with 10.2 million residents. The 40-page report, the product of a 16-month study, was issued in November by the Greater Washington Partnership, a group of CEOs from an area that includes Baltimore, Washington, D.C, and Richmond.

“We need to as a region increase our aspiration for transportation,” says Jason Miller, the partnership’s chief executive.

The study says the region’s current transportation problems cost it more than $7 billion annually in wasted time, money and productivity.

Miller says the major takeaways from the report are: gridlock will get worse; development of a better regional transportation system will take a consistent effort from government, businesses and other stakeholders; but the undertaking is attainable.

“We’re not leveraging the assets we have,” Miller says. “While we have some good pieces in place, we don’t have a transportation system that meets the needs of the region.”

The plan outlines seven solutions and 20 concrete actions the region needs to take in transforming its transportation system. The plan says the current disjointed system is on a path toward worsening congestion.

At current transportation funding levels, travelers will go from sitting in traffic congestion 30 percent of each trip to nearly 50 percent of each trip by 2040, the report says.

The report outlines seven solutions: modernizing intercity and commuter rail, improving roadways and pedestrian trails, upgrading public transit, developing employer mobility programs, expanding access to regional transit options, enabling a technology-driven future and reforming transportation governance and funding.

Among its recommendations, the report urges expansion of the region’s high-occupancy toll lane network, better coordination of traffic signals and possibly charging drivers more for entering Washington’s congested areas.

Some of the big-ticket projects include a new American Legion Bridge over the Potomac River on Interstate 495, expansion and modernization of Amtrak’s Union Station in Washington, D.C., and redevelopment of  Amtrak’s Penn Station in Baltimore and Staples Mill Station outside Richmond.

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