Autumn on Lake Audobon

Autumn on Lake Audobon
Autumn on Lake Audubon, Photo by Alison Kamat

Friday, March 7, 2014

One expert's opinion: How the Washington area has flubbed transportation for 50 years, Washington Business Journal, March 7, 2014

Michael Neibauer, WBJ, writes an excellent article on a paper just published by John McClain of GMU's Center for Regional Analysis on the history of transportation development failure in the Washington.  The article provides a variety of details from the paper.  Here are some of them (with our emphasis added):
There was a time, a half-century ago, when the Washington area was on the road to developing a well-conceived system of highways and transit to serve its burgeoning population. But a failure of regional leaders to implement and fund those plans drove us to where we are today: Muddling along.
So says John McClain, a regional planning expert who has served in various policy roles for more than 30 years, with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, the Greater Washington Board of Trade and George Mason University's Center for Regional Analysis.
McClain has penned an interesting paper for GMU, which he calls "Reflections on the National Capital Region: Transportation for the Past Half-Century." In it, McClain details transportation planning efforts since the 1950s, and the efforts that local, regional and federal leaders have made to see them through.
His conclusion: Between a lack of leadership, a lack of dedicated funding sources and a lack of a regional authority to drive progress, we're stuck in the mud. . .
"So 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," he continues. "It seems it will more or less muddle along — developing reasonably good plans but no really good way to get them done." . .
"One conclusion from the past perspective is that we have not been deficient in developing good plans," McClain writes. "The region has done pretty good regional planning. The failure has been in acting on, funding, and implementing what has been planned."
Nothing much here that those following transportation issues reasonably closely haven't observed and often commented about, but it really helps when someone who has been in the business for decades takes the time to lay out the case in clear black and white for all to see.   Moreover, the condition McClain comments on directly affects the land use planning and its implementation that we in Reston and Tysons have been working on for years because a robust transportation infrastructure--roads, transit, bikes & pedestrian access, and TDM--are all vital to successful implementation of urban development, especially TOD. 

One reason the problem has been particularly acute in Northern Virginia is that the local governments are largely unable--in McClain's phraseology--to act on, fund, and implement their own transportation plans.  Richmond--the General Assembly, VDOT, and VDRPT--keeps a close hold on transportation decisionmaking and funding, leaving local governments, including Fairfax County, only the opportunity to request, implore, and even whine for crucial transportation funding.  To make matters worse, Richmond has created independent bureaucratic entities, such as the NVRTA, that tend to have operational control of key funding and answer to virtually no one, including Richmond.  

It's a wonder we don't have to ford more streams on our roadways in NoVa.  Those of us who have lived in Reston long enough remember doing that regularly on Lawyers Road long before there as any auto access to the Dulles Corridor.  

Please read the rest of the WBJ article here.

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