WASHINGTON – With the region’s population expected to reach more than 6 million by 2040, transportation officials warn already sluggish highways will likely become more congested, Metro trains could reach capacity and drivers may have to pay higher fees to fund projects.
This long-range plan, presented to the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board, projects most of the population growth will be in the outer jurisdictions, which have fewer transit options.
More people with limited commute options will add up to greater congestion on the roads, members say.
“We’ve had a long period of time of inadequate funding for transportation,” says Ron Kirby, director of transportation planning.
“Certainly the issues of Metro’s rehabilitation are well known, but perhaps less well known is the lack of capacity expansion that we’ve been able to do,” he says.
In particular, Kirby cites a lack of eight-car trains on Metrorail and “relatively limited new highway capacity.”
The transportation planning board points to construction of mixed-use development around Metro stations and new toll facilities, such as the Intercounty Connector and Virginia’s High Occupancy Toll Lanes, as positive steps.
“There’s more opportunity for that kind of investment,” Kirby says.
But the board says additional funding to keep up with growth is essential for managing congestion, and that could mean more fees for drivers.
“The gas tax, other user fees, the vehicle registration fees — both governors in Maryland and Virginia are talking about addressing those in these next sessions,” Kirby says.
“That is really critical because that’s where the funding comes from for those expansions and also maintenance.”