This Wednesday, July 19, the COG Transportation Planning Board (TPB), will finalize the list of projects in their long-term study (details below). The public is invited to testify and your input is crucial, either in person or via email (using the button below).
What TPB is voting on
In light of studies showing our current long-range plans do not have enough capacity to handle future travel needs for our region, and if we don’t add major new transit and road capacity, congestion gets much worse, TPB is studying 10 major projects to see what impacts they would have, including two projects SMTA has long supported (because previous studies show they would be highly effective):
- Regional Express Travel Network * Express toll lanes network (free to HOV and transit) with added lanes where feasible on existing limited access highways (including remaining portion of the Capital Beltway, I-270, Dulles Toll Road, U.S. 50); includes expanded American Legion Bridge.
- Additional Northern Bridge Crossing / Corridor * New northern bridge crossing of Potomac River, as a multimodal corridor
Key Talking Points
We are urging TPB to support of the resolution as drafted by TPB staff and their Long-Range Planning Task Force. The key issue is whether or not remove any reference to new bridge crossings in this long-term study.
- The only purpose of TPB Long-Range Planning Task Force was to look at major new projects like a new bridge, that are not in current plans. To take this out would be to abdicate TPB’s core responsibility to make sure the region has the facts and has looked at all options.
- There are several potential bridge routes that have NO impact on the Agricultural Reserve that should be studied – we won’t know if this is viable or not until we look at the facts
- Both I-270 express lanes AND a bridge are crucial – it’s not one or the other – and since I-270 is already in the plan, the only question is to study a bridge crossing or not
- Previous studies show a new bridge could divert from 40,000 to 105,000 trips a day OFF the American Legion Bridge, which is by far the region’s worst traffic choke point. How could TPB justify a long-term study that did not include this?
- A new bridge could save commuters 67,000 hours per day
- Why are bridge opponents so afraid of a study? Regional leaders need to ask them why they don’t want the public to have the facts.
How to testify
- In Person: Show up at the Council of Governments between 11:15 and 11:30am, Wednesday, July 19th (you need to be there early to sign up, just ask for the public comment list. Each speaker gets 3 minutes and several of us will be there to assist you). The office is walking distance from Union Station and there is plenty of parking in nearby garages. Here is the address: 777 North Capitol Street NE, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20002
- Written Comments: If you are sending comments, it is preferable to send them via this form/link or by email at least the day before and the staff will distribute them to the TPB members. TRY TO DO THIS TODAY. Your comments do not have to be long, but use any of the talking points above, or your own words to clearly state why the region needs to study all options for traffic relief.
Area leaders, including U.S. Representatives John Delaney and Chris Van Hollen, and a host of local and state officials from Montgomery and Frederick Counties, gathered today to launch a new coalition effort to re-start two long-delayed project studies that hold great promise for unlocking the severe traffic nightmare that is I-270 during both rush-hours. Congressman Delaney is the group’s Honorary Chair and played a key role in its creation.
The bipartisan group of business, civic and elected leaders will press for multimodal solutions, including new express-toll lanes and regional bus-rapid-transit (BRT) using those new lanes, with the current general-purpose lanes remaining free of charge. Two project studies, the I-270/US 15 Multimodal Corridor Study and the Western Mobility Study have been on hold for decades and would be necessary to complete before any long-term construction projects to add significant new lane capacity could begin. The Fix270Now coalition is urging leaders in both parties to make restarting those project studies a top priority, and to include a multimodal express-toll and BRT alternative, running from the Virginia side of the American Legion Bridge, up the 270 Spur and the entire I-270 corridor, all the way to Frederick.
In the short term, the coalition is supporting efforts by Governor Larry Hogan to upgrade key interchanges and provide an additional $100 million to explore innovative congestion management strategies.
In the long-run, studies show the addition of new toll lanes integrated with a regional BRT system that includes the long-planned Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT) would improve peak-hours speeds for outbound travelers in the afternoon rush-hour by up to 87%, and for inbound morning rush-hour travelers by up to 70%.
Maryland cannot afford further delay on proven steps to keep traffic in the state’s number-one job-creation corridor moving. SMTA is strongly supporting this effort, as both I-270 and the American Legion Bridge are among our top-priority projects that area transportation experts identified as urgent investment priorities to support our region’s economy and protect our quality-of-life. Please take a moment to add your support for this important effort by using the “sign-up” button at Fix270Now.org. Let’s get Maryland moving!
Morning rush-hour conditions created the perfect backdrop for the launching of Fix270Now.
The Washington Post recently ran a provocative article submitted by two leading transportation experts, Alan Pisarski and Peter Samuel, entitled Expand the Intercounty Connector for a Truly Regional Transportation Network.
The authors note correctly that — contrary to the “spin” we often hear from anti-road activists — tens of thousands of people are using the Intercounty Connector (ICC) every day. In fact, more passengers are traveling on the ICC each day than on the much more expensive Silver Line, traffic on the parallel section of the Beltway has dropped 8% since the ICC opened, and significant traffic relief is already being felt on surrounding local roads. It is clearly a big success. The question is, what’s next?
The idea of future extensions of the ICC — both to the west, into Northern Virginia, and to the east, to Route 50 in Prince George’s County are both worth exploring. The economic benefits from tying our region together with a more efficient highway network could be extremely significant, and it would open up new possibilities for a truly regional bus-rapid transit network using the new capacity.
What do you think? Give the article a read and share your comments here. Does extending the ICC across the Potomac and over to Route 50 make sense to you? What other priorities should we also be looking at that could deliver the same kind of game-changing impacts on congestion and overall transportation network performance across the Washington region? Let us know.
The SMTA Board was briefed recently on two efforts to expand bus-rapid-transit service, also known as “BRT” (or the more appealing acronym “RTV” for “Rapid-Transit-Vehicle”). RTV systems are seen as a cost-effective alternative to either single-occupancy-vehicle automobile travel or more expensive fixed-rail transit systems.
The first is being pursued in Montgomery County by County Executive Ike Leggett’s Transit Implementation Task Force, which is looking at a county-wide system covering as many as 18 routes. The system under consideration would be the region’s first “gold” level RTV system, meaning its vehicles would move in their own dedicated lanes and provide a much higher level of service and shorter travel times than traditional bus systems.
The second is currently under study by metropolitan Washington’s Transportation Planning Board. New modeling data presented this week shows significant traffic relief — a 12% reduction in travel delays — can be achieved through a scaled-down combination of new toll lanes on major highways, conversion of some existing lanes to toll lanes, a network of regional bus-rapid-transit lines using those managed lanes, and more focused development around transit stations. The study also conclusively shows that transit-oriented land-use changes, by themselves, do nothing to relieve congestion, but in combination with new lane capacity and transit service, yield significant positive results. The best part of all, the revenue from these new toll lanes more than pays for the construction and operating costs of the entire system, including the new lanes and RTV transit system. You heard that right, a self-financing project that cuts congestion delays in the entire region by 12%. This ought to be one of THE top priorities for local jurisdictions in the Washington region.
A new report by the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy sheds important new light on the growing worldwide trend away from light-rail-transit and toward new bus-rapid-transit (or BRT) systems. BRT generally offers lower levels of capital investment and more flexibility in its operations than most fixed rail systems.
What’s been missing so far, however, is any way to clearly evaluate what is and isn’t “true BRT” and the design attributes that are most important in identifying it. There is a world of difference, both in perception and reality, between running a bunch more smelly old busses on the same old routes and calling it “BRT” (which it is not), and investing in a true BRT system with the attributes cited in the report, which together provide an entirely new type of efficient and attractive mass transit experience. While the metrics in the report may not be perfect, they are a good place to start.
Cities around the world are figuring this out, and the U.S. is pretty far behind. This is another of the report’s key findings. However, both the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and Montgomery County are taking a hard look at “BRT” at the regional and local levels (and yes, we have to come up with a better name for it – BRT doesn’t really cut it) .
It is too early to tell exactly what impact BRT can have in meeting our transportation needs in the Washington area, but the early indications seem promising.
The preliminary report on Montgomery County’s proposed Bus-Rapid-Transit (BRT) study is posted on-line, but in a recent email from the County, it was disclosed that due to a traffic model coding error, some of the results will need to be recalculated.
The net effect was that ridership figures across much of the system were overstated. County officials noted that the cost figures would likely be revised downward as well, as fewer BRT vehicles would be needed once the lower ridership numbers were adopted.
Read the preliminary report here.
This week the Montgomery County Council was briefed on the summary findings of a new report, due to be released soon, on the feasibility of building a new countywide rapid-transit system, using bus-rapid-transit (BRT) technology.
The proposed system would divert an estimated 85,000 drivers per day off existing roads, and cost roughly $2.5 billion to build, and another $144 to $173 million annually to operate.
Look for more detailed coverage here when the entire report is released. See our News Page for recent coverage in the Gazette.
Last month, the Rockville City Council abruptly reversed itself on the Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT), asking the State of Maryland to re-route the CCT alignment away from King Farm, one of the major communities it was designed to serve. The State is now in the final stages of identifying it’s “Preferred Local Alternative” for the long-awaited transit line extending from Shady Grove Metro Station north to Clarksburg. Supporters of the CCT are asking the State to continue with current plans and retain the alignment through King Farm, which was designed around the CCT as a “transit-oriented development” (or TOD) from its inception, with the full support of the City. Without the CCT on the alignment that was envisioned in County master plans, the fear is that traffic conditions on surrounding roads, access to jobs and housing for King Farm residents and neighbors, and King Farm property values would all be negatively impacted.
The CCT will add tremendous value to King Farm by providing convenient transit access to destinations up and down the heavily traveled I-270 corridor, and it was a big part of the reason King Farm is there at all. This is what transit-oriented suburban development was supposed to be all about. Rockville would be better served by retaining the current alignment and the more sustainable development patterns that can be achieved through transit-oriented development, in King Farm and elsewhere.