Residents say transportation is D.C. region’s biggest challenge

WASHINGTON — Residents in the D.C. metro area believe transportation is the greatest challenge facing the region, according to a comprehensive poll released Monday.

In the Greater Washington Transportation Survey, commissioned by the Suburban Maryland Transportation Alliance and the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, 33 percent of residents named transportation as the region’s greatest challenge.

The next highest-scoring answer was jobs and the economy, at just 10 percent, followed by crime and terrorism, which each received 5 percent.

Click the picture below to go to the full survey.

The survey found that transportation residents consider traffic and transport much more important than jobs or the economy, even terrorism. (Courtesy of the Northern Virginia Traffic Alliance)
The survey found that transportation residents consider transportation much more important than jobs or the economy, even terrorism. (Courtesy Northern Virginia Traffic Alliance)

“To have three times as many people mention traffic and transportation as mention jobs and the economy is extraordinary,” said Steve Raabe, president of OpinionWorks, the research company that conducted the survey. “This is a real headline finding.”

When asked to give the region’s transportation network a grade, the most-frequently given answer was a C. Overall, 43 percent of residents said the transportation situation is getting worse while just 22 percent said it is getting better.

Asked for their opinion on the most important transportation priority in the region, 47 percent picked “reducing traffic congestion and delays.” The next highest answer was “improving maintenance of roads, bridges and transit facilities,” at 24 percent.

“In the view of the public, the transportation system is a frustration and it’s getting worse,” Raabe said.

Eighty-four percent of residents surveyed favor investing in both roads and transit, rather than one or the other, the poll shows, and 60 percent say they would be willing to pay a little more to fund projects that reduce congestion.

“Washington-area residents are clearly fed up with traffic and want to see more investment,” said Suburban Maryland Transportation Alliance Chair Jennifer Russel. “We need to stop looking at this as a ‘roads versus transit’ issue. People want to see a lot more investment in both.”

The poll finds a majority of residents in all jurisdictions support a slew of transportation projects, including the following:

  • Adding Express Lanes on the American Legion Bridge (59 percent);
  • Widening portions of the Capital Beltway in Maryland (71 percent);
  • Widening portions of Interstate 66 (70 percent);
  • Widening and redesigning Interstate 270 (70 percent);
  • Building the Purple Line (67 percent);
  • Constructing a new Potomac River bridge crossing north of the American Legion Bridge (59 percent).

“There’s a real consensus among experts that these are the kinds of investments we need to make to significantly reduce congestion, and now we know the public is on the same page,” said Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance President David Birtwistle.

“It’s time to get moving,” Birtwistle said.

On the Metro system, 75 percent of residents say they favor an investment that would provide eight-car trains. And 67 percent say Metro should focus more on maintenance and system reliability, as opposed to further expansion of the system.

“Taken together, these results indicate that the region’s residents see a broken transportation system, needing significant expansion and improvement, and want to see congestion relief as a much higher priority in future transportation investments,” the report states.

The poll was conducted through phone interviews of 800 randomly-selected adult residents in the D.C. metro area. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.

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Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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