At their June meeting, the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) approved the State’s new transportation prioritization program, known as HB 2.
Despite the General Assembly directive that congestion reduction should be the primary consideration for Northern Virginia, the CTB assigned congestion reduction only 45 points out of 100 for Northern Virginia projects.
While this is an increase over the 35% recommended initially by the administration, and efforts to further reduce the congestion metric were rejected, the final rating is significantly less than the at least 60% weighting urged by the Alliance, the Northern Virginia business community and several members of the General Assembly. (Note: Anti-highway interests lobbied heavily to minimize congestion in the weighting scheme.)
A 60% traffic congestion weight offers Northern Virginia residents the best chance to get out of congestion, as reducing congestion improves economic development, accessibility, safety, air quality and land use (the other “factors” of HB 2).
Additionally, the HB 2 process still lacks the critically important big picture, statewide perspective which is essential to achieving the well-connected Commonwealth. Responsibility for Virginia’s transportation network rests with the Commonwealth Transportation Board. However, as approved, the CTB is only allowed to submit “up to 2” projects each year, leaving the bulk of the potential project submissions, and therefore the state’s transportation program, in the hands of regional and local government entities.
What started out as a means to ensure that limited state transportation resources are invested in an objective, performance-based manner to best reduce congestion and promote economic development, while making the project selection process less-political, has developed into an overly complex process.
Diluting emphasis on the two factors of greatest General Assembly concern – congestion reduction and economic development – and limiting the statewide perspective necessary for improved connectivity, does not instill confidence that transportation has become less political.