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November 18, 2009 Published in Traffic & Transportation

AAA Voices Reservations About Lack Of Emphasis On Roads In Comprehensive Regional Planning Blueprint

Today, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Government’s Transportation Planning Board voted on a draft regional planning blueprint known as REGION FORWARD: Greater Washington 2050. Drafted by area leaders, the report calls for “a more integrated approach to regional planning.”  It proposes a new, comprehensive vision for the region designed to accommodate an additional 2 million residents by 2050.

During testimony at the TPB meeting, AAA Mid-Atlantic objected to key elements in the report. AAA spokesman Lon Anderson issued the following statement:

“From AAA Mid-Atlantic’s perspective, this report may have some realistic and redeeming sections but its treatment of transportation is not one of them. Its purported transportation vision is nothing short of myopic. This region has the second worst congestion in the United States, but from reading this report, one would never know that. Your polling indicates that the public knows that and gets it, with 54% of those polled calling transportation congestion the most important regional issue. Yet fixing transportation is not seriously addressed in this report.

“Sidewalks and bicycle paths can help at the margins. And land use can play a role. Mass transit is certainly also helpful.  But trails, sidewalks, bicycles, and land use alone don’t fix our transportation system. Not even close.

“Fixing transportation in our region also involves fixing roads.  I know you don’t want to hear this, but roads are the title bout in the fight to fix transportation in our region and this report does not deal with them. Roads are where the real transportation action is for the foreseeable future.

“So where is the discussion about strategic improvements to our highway system? Where is the discussion of the additional Potomac River bridges needed in the suburbs where our region’s growth is going to take place?  We don’t make this region more interconnected for most people with walking trails and bike paths. To suggest otherwise, is not only less than visionary, it’s  also dishonest.

“It does not tackle our region’s near-worst-in-the-nation congestion.  Isn’t that actually what 54% of local respondents – who made transportation/congestion the top concern –  wanted the report to address?  But it doesn’t.  We hunted high and we hunted low in this document, but our vision could not find this report’s vision on that single overarching regional transportation issue.

Is that an oversight or is that dishonest? Or perhaps just a by-product of the very anti-roads structure of the committee? You need to ask some hard questions about the transportation section of this report.  It will likely improve our walk in the park, but it won’t do a darn thing for the 80% plus of commuters who must rely on our road network to get to work and soccer games, and for our first responders to respond to fires and other emergencies.

“The emperor here seems to have no clothes, or the vision proffered here is suffering severe macular degeneration. We urge you to send this part of the report back to the drawing board and ask those responsible to convene a representative committee that includes road interests and commuting experts like our region’s own Alan Pisarksi. Then, perhaps you will be presented with a report that offers real insight into improving our transportation future in the Washington region.”

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