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George Mason study of future traffic flawed, group says

Friday - 10/12/2012, 8:01am  ET

beltway_traffic
The Coalition for Smarter Growth says the George Mason study fails to acknowledge that new highway capacity leads to a return of highway congestion in as little as five years. (WTOP/Dave Dildine)

WASHINGTON - Not everyone agrees with a new study by George Mason University's Center for Regional Analysis that says Washington-area traffic patterns will not change much in the next 30 years.

"The market for long-distance commuting has collapsed given high gas prices and changing demographics," says Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, a nonprofit that focuses on how the Washington region grows.

The study ignores change in development patterns in parts of the region in the last few years, Schwartz says. He points out urban centers tend to surround mass transit and vacant land along existing transit corridors, including Fairfax County's Route 1 corridor and a number of other older commercial corridors.

"The GMU view would also leave behind Prince George's and older parts of eastern Fairfax and eastern Prince William counties," says Cheryl Cort, policy director for the coalition.

"They're [study authors] making a heroic assumption that we'll have the amount of money their taking about to throw into new highway construction," says Schwartz.

While there are plans for highways on the drawing board, Schwartz says it's unlikely they'll get built.

The Coalition for Smarter Growth also says the study fails to account for the benefits of transit-oriented communities and mixed used communities that "maximize walking and biking trips and shorten many car trips."

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WTOP's Hank Silverberg contributed to this report. Follow Hank and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)