Remarks by James M. LeMunyon before the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority

10.10.14

Remarks by James M. LeMunyon

before the

Northern Virginia Transportation Authority

October 9, 2014

 

Mr. Chairman and members of the Authority, I appreciate your interest in obtaining comments related to updating TransAction 2040, the Authority’s long term transportation plan. Your invitation requested ideas about guiding principles and concepts, rather than a discussion about specific projects, and my remarks aim to address the “big picture” issues.

In my view, the objective of the updated plan should be to create a map of what Northern Virginia’s transportation system will look like when our congestion problems are solved. Implicit in this statement is defining what “solved” means. As long as our region ranks among the most congested regions of the United States, the NVTA, in my view, has no other purpose than to execute a strategy to solve our transportation congestion problems in the most efficient way possible in terms of time and tax dollars.

After all, if the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority isn’t the entity that can present to the public a vision of what our transportation system should look like without chronic traffic congestion, and offer a plan to get there, then who is?

Taking this approach may represent a significant departure from the way NVTA has considered past TransAction updates. The current TransAction 2040 map seems to be a collection of transportation improvement ideas, which is careful to include something for advocates of various modes of transportation, something for all major corridors in the region, and something for all localities in our region—while offering little or no information about how much congestion would actually be reduced if the plan were implemented. In fact, the purpose, goals, and vision statements of the current TransAction 2040 plan do not explicitly mention congestion reduction at all. I respectfully ask that the NVTA not repeat this mistake.

Since the last TransAction update, significant changes have been made to the NVTA’s responsibilities that are defined the Code of Virginia, as well as funding for transportation projects in our region. These changes emphasize that congestion reduction is the priority of the NVTA, and in particular, require most projects to be evaluated to establish each project’s congestion reduction benefit.

With this in mind, it only makes sense that transportation projects that reduce congestion the most on a regional basis be included in the updated TransAction 2040 plan. The plan should present a justification for the need and timing of each project so that the traveling, taxpaying public can be confident that the overall plan offers the fastest, most cost efficient way to solve the region’s congestion problems. As the NVTA takes up this task, I recommend:

* NVTA consider regional land use assumptions, so that transportation and land use can be better synchronized. If certain land use assumptions are obstacles to reducing congestion in the fastest and most cost efficient way, this should be pointed out for public discussion;

* The updated TransAction 2040 plan should indicate the required amount and likely sources of funding for each project, and in particular which projects should be funded by the NVTA, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or both. If funds that are reasonably expected to be available to fund the updated TransAction 2040 plan are not sufficient, then this should be pointed out for public discussion;

* NVTA should not give consideration to criteria other than congestion reduction, unless needed to break a “tie” between different projects of similar congestion reduction benefit. To do otherwise would only prolong the day that the region’s congestion problems will be solved, while Northern Virginia residents continue to waste million of hours of time each year sitting in traffic.

Mr. Chairman, in summary the NVTA needs to use the opportunity to update the TransAction 2040 plan in a way that results in a picture of what our regional transportation system will look like when our congestion problems are solved, and then implement the plan.

To the extent there is any ambiguity or obstacles in the Code of Virginia that limit the ability of the NVTA to do so, or if any additional encouragement in the Code of Virginia is needed, I would welcome the opportunity to work with the NVTA on legislation to address those issues.

Thank you for this opportunity to testify. I’d be happy to answer any questions.