The Richmond Report

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Since 2002, the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority has been an orphan entity. With no staff, phones, fax machines or office space, its members had little choice but to hold meetings only to make up wish lists.

Given no funding mandate by the General Assembly and by voters who turned down tax hikes, its 16 members, comprised of the most powerful lawmakers in the region, continued to meet monthly, holding out for the day when it would have the money and the mandate to solve the regions intractable transportation problems.

That day came last Wednesday, when the Virginia Legislature voted overwhelmingly to approve the most meaningful transportation funding bill in a generation. Suddenly, the little-known NVTA, which had been granted the power and function of preparing a long-range transportation plan for regional transportation plans in Northern Virginia, was back in business.

It has wasted little time, its members calling for an open public meeting this Thursday evening, April 12 at George Mason High School in Falls Church. There it will begin soliciting public comments on its TransAction 2030 Plan, forged and accepted last fall, putting into motion how to spend $550 million in annual outlays for repairing the regions clogged road arteries and expand mass transit.

The TransAction 2030 Plan documents more than $16 billion in unmet transportation needs, declaring that the regions highway and transit systems are rapidly deteriorating and buckling under the crush of over capacity. The group has called for $700 million in annual fixes over 23 years. 

Back in 2002 we had anthrax scares and the sniper shooting at people on the Beltway, said Kala Quintana, a spokesperson for the group. Voters werent really focused on fixing transportation. But when the vote came last week, the fact that we had a plan already in place was a huge positive. The bottom line here is were really ready to move forward.

Members of the group are hoping to implement a balanced approach to its projects, by creating a network of road, transit and bike facilities which provide a 72 percent increase in the number of transfer stations that allow travelers to connect between modes, such as bus to rail.

Theyve urged a doubling of the number of Metrorail stations in Northern Virginia, with extensions along the I-66 and I-95 corridors, and hope to add light rail transit and/or bus rapid transit to the Route 7, Route 28, Crystal City-Potomac Yards and Columbia Pike corridors.

This new network would increase highway capacity by 8 percent above what is already planned in the regions Constrained Long-Range Plan, and it adds 600 miles of on and off-road trails to the regions bicycle network. 

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