Report: Region Has Long History of Lackluster Traffic Planning

Metro SIlver Line Map/Credit: MetroAs Reston residents continue to wait for an opening date for Metro’s Silver Line, a new paper by John McClain with George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis outlines the many missteps area’s transportation planning has taken over the last 50 years.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which is overseeing the Silver Line construction, said Monday there are no updates on the completion of Silver Line’s Phase 1, which will run from East Falls Church to Reston’s Wiehle Avenue.

Dulles Transit Partners, the contractors that building Phase 1, told the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority on Feb. 7 that it had reached “substantial completion” on Phase 1 of the Silver Line. But after a 15-day review period ending Feb. 24, MWAA said it and found issues in 7 of 12 areas, ranging from leaks to problems with the automatic train control system.

DTP is correcting the issues, but MWAA spokesman Marcia McAllister said there is no progress report as of yet.

Meanwhile, McClain says  in Reflections on the National Capital Region: Transportation For the Past Half Century that “… in looking back over the past half-century at the region’s transportation process development and evolution, there are serious doubts about the region’s ability to address and resolve its needs in the most effective way. It seems it will more or less muddle along – developing reasonably good plans but no really good way to get them done.”

Several issues have affected Metro, as well as area highways, says McClain:

* One of the key failures regarding the region’s transportation system has been the lack of dedicated regional funding for regional facilities, he says. While federal funds were key to building Metro and regional highways, it may be time to diversify the sources.

The federal government gave $900 million to Phase 1 of the Silver Line, but nothing to Phase 2, though local funding and expected TIFIA funding should help cover some of the $2.7 billion Phase 2 costs.

“The region’s economy has diversified enormously over the past five decades, and Federal employment now only represents about 12 percent of total employment, McClain writes. “Attempts have been made to find some source of regional funding for Metro and those attempts have so far failed. But in looking ahead to rehabilitation needs of Metro (as well as regional highways), and future extensions, efforts should continue to seek a regional funding source. It is likely that federal funding levels and options will continue to decline, and the National Capital region will need to become more self-sufficient.”

* Planning and building of the region’s highway system has had mixed success. Plans written in the 1960s called for three three circumferential highways and other freeways within the region were obviously not completed as called for, but a case could be made that if the planned circumferential highways had been built and connected with the radial corridors containing both freeways and transit, then the region’s development patterns and transportation systems would have made for a region better positioned in the 2000s for economic growth and better quality of life (read, less gridlock).

“A case could also be made that much of the reality that did happen — 12 circumferential facilities taken off the plans — was because the region did not need so many roads,” writes McClain. “However, taking those facilities off the plans meant that rights-of-way could not be protected for potential future needs. While some
circumferential roads like the Fairfax County Parkway and the InterCounty Connecter did get built, their transportation usefulness to the region could have been much greater.”

 Read the entire report here 

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