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Is cooperation the answer to a better commute?

Tuesday - 7/26/2011, 2:08pm  ET


Adam Tuss,

WASHINGTON -- What's it going to take to make your commute better?

The answers aren't easy, but the Greater Washington Board of Trade is starting an in-depth transportation study to produce some key points.

While projects like Virginia HOT Lanes, the Dulles Rail Project and plans for streetcars chug along, the Board of Trade says the real solution may come down to better regional cooperation.

"It can't just be everybody for themselves," says Jim Dinegar, head of the Board of Trade. "There's [a] different dynamic in Greater Washington about how people are commuting, about where they are commuting to. It's not just the District as the center of attention any longer."

He cites Tysons Corner and Prince George's County as two emerging areas where the landscape is literally changing. By 2030, the D.C. Region is projected to add over 1 million new residents, according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

The last time the Board of Trade put together a transportation study of this scale was in 1997. Back then, there was more optimism about resources.

"The region has substantial financial resources at its disposal," said the study. "Coupled with expanded federal and state investment, the region can fund a transportation network that works."

Obviously times are different when it comes to funding -- there just isn't much to spread around for large-scale projects. That means that as the region moves forward, smaller and less-sexy projects like timing traffic lights, clearing accidents and maintaining the Metro system may be the best way to keep the region moving.

Innovative funding mechanisms like public-private partnerships, or P3's, could also help infuse dollars to help get projects off the ground.

"We need to take all of that into account -- look at how we approach traffic incidents, look at how we approach the commuting patterns, look at how we approach shifts in populations," says Dinegar. "All of that needs to be considered as the Board of Trade rolls out its next regional transportation plan."

The Board hopes to have its 2011 long-range transportation study put together in a few months.

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