SJR 121

Joint Subcommittee Studying Creation of a Northern Virginia Regional Transportation Authority

September 13, 2000, Annandale

The meeting's primary focus was two presentations: the first, by the director of Fairfax County's Department of Transportation, summarized Northern Virginia's 2020 Transportation Plan; the second, by the director of the Department of Transportation Planning of the Metro Washington Council of Governments (COG), highlighted the differences between the 2020 Plan and the financially constrained long-range transportation plan developed for the Washington Metropolitan region by COG, pursuant to federal law.

2020 Plan

The 2020 Plan was developed by the Transportation Coordinating Council (an entity created by Governor L. Douglas Wilder in 1991 to provide policy guidance for implementation of Virginia's portion of the transportation plan for the Washington metropolitan region) to show what changes in transportation programs and infrastructure would be required by 2020, in order to prevent increases in population, economic activity, and traffic from seriously eroding the area's prosperity, environment, and quality of life. Unlike an earlier 2010 Plan that served as a baseline for the 2020 Plan, the 2020 Plan has been adopted by all 13 localities represented on the TCC. Nevertheless, it is important to bear in mind that the 2020 Plan is NOT a product of the Washington metropolitan planning organization or of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).

The 2020 Plan focuses on six major transportation challenges:

1. Replacement of the present "hub-and-spoke" transportation network (connecting suburban population centers with a downtown core) with a "spider web" network (not only connecting the suburbs with downtown, but with one another as well);

2. Expansion of modal choices available to move transportation consumers from one activity center to another throughout the area;

3. Reduction of congestion on major highway corridors;

4. Improvement of air quality by reducing vehicle-produced air pollution;

5. Maintenance of an aging transportation infrastructure; and

6. Funding.

This last element is the most troublesome. There is approximately a $700 million annual shortfall between the requirements of the 2020 Plan and best estimates of available funding. Aside from existing state, local, and regional agencies, there are no "new" entities available to carry out the 2020 Plan, even if full funding were available.

Long-Range Plan

The second presentation highlighted the differences between the 2020 Plan and the financially constrained long-range plan (CLRP) developed the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB), the designated metropolitan planning organization (MPO). The TPB plays an important role as the regional forum for transportation planning. The TPB (and other MPOs in their regions) prepare plans and programs that the federal government must approve in order for federal-aid transportation funds to flow to the Washington metropolitan area.

TPB's primary functions are:

  • Development of a Long-Range Plan (covering at least 20 years) and
  • Development of a six-year Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP).

The long-range planning process involves two kinds of plans: a Vision Plan (one that considers new approaches to the region's transportation future without reference to available funding) and a Constrained Long Range Plan (one that responds to federal requirements that funding sources be identified for all strategies and projects included in the plan). The TPB is presently in the process of adopting its CLRP for 2000.

The CLRP differs from the 2020 Plan in many ways, largely because of the need of the CLRP to take funding possibilities into account.

Next Meeting

Chairman Barry announced his intention, at the panel's next meeting (October 11, 2000), to begin a discussion of whether the joint subcommittee would recommend creation of a regional transportation authority for Northern Virginia and, if so, how that authority would be organized and what its powers and duties would be. Staff was asked to prepare a "decision tree" to assist the members in these discussions.

The Honorable Warren E. Barry, Chairman
Legislative Services contact: Alan B. Wambold