RELEASE: CSG and Sierra Club Hail Historic Vote at the DC region’s Transportation Planning Board to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions


For immediate release: 
June 15, 2022 
Revised June 16, 2022 to reflect amended quote by Josh Tulkin, Sierra Club-MD


Stewart Schwartz

Josh Tulkin

CSG and Sierra Club Hail Historic Vote at the DC region’s Transportation Planning Board to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions 

But Decry the Continued Inclusion of the Highway Expansions – including 495/270 – that Will Undermine this Goal 

Today the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB) took a historic vote toward tackling climate emissions from transportation following an extended campaign by the Coalition for Smarter Growth (CSG), and allied organizations including the Sierra Club and 46 other smart growth, conservation, transit, bike-ped, and equity organizations. TPB members, led by Maryland jurisdictions and DC, adopted a resolution to slash climate pollution from cars and trucks by 50% by 2030 and identified strategies to pursue towards that goal. The goal and resolution are being incorporated into the region’s Visualize 2045 long range transportation plan which was also adopted today. 

“The public has overwhelmingly asked TPB to address climate change in its transportation plans. 84% of the region’s residents, including both large majorities of suburban and urban residents, want their elected officials to consider climate when planning transportation. Hundreds of residents commented that the long-range plan, Visualize 2045, did not do enough on climate. TPB board members listened, and we expect the next updates to the plan to make progress in reducing emissions and car dependency and fostering a more equitable and sustainable transportation system,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of CSG

A majority of Maryland jurisdictions along with the District of Columbia and the inner and middle ring suburbs of Virginia supported the resolution. The resolution passed with 22 yes votes, 11 abstentions, and 3 no votes. Among the abstentions were some of the outer suburban jurisdictions and the Maryland Department of Transportation, and voting against the climate resolution were the two Virginia General Assembly representatives and the Virginia Department of Transportation. The weighted vote, based on population, was 13.0 in favor and 2.0 opposed.

The adopted priority strategies for achieving the greenhouse gas reductions include: adding additional housing units near transit stations and in activity centers, reducing travel times for bus routes, improving walking and biking access to transit stations, increasing overall walking and biking for trip making while completing the Capital Trail Network, transitioning to electric cars, trucks and buses, and creating a regional electric vehicle charging network. Additional climate strategies that TPB will study include shifting more jobs and housing near transit, fare-free transit, pricing workplace parking, congestion pricing for roads and activity centers, and facilitating increased telework. TPB board members also proposed additional ways to strengthen the list of planning priorities to meet the new climate target for transportation. 

While the TPB declined to change their current list of projects in their Visualize 2045 plan, which includes numerous controversial road expansion projects that would undermine their climate goal, the TPB voted last year to create their next plan within just two years instead of the normal four, creating the opportunity to take a fresh look at the plan. The greenhouse gas reduction goal adopted today and the strategies under development will guide this next update over the next two years. 

Among the highway projects that the TPB did not vote to remove is the controversial I-495 and I-270 high-occupancy toll lane project. Many of the Maryland jurisdictions remain opposed but lost a key vote on the plan last year after Governor Hogan threatened to cut funding for local transportation projects if the jurisdictions did not change their vote in favor of putting the toll lanes back in the plan. 

“It is disappointing that our region’s long-term plan still contains a proposal to widen I-270 and most of the Capital Beltway (I-495) with private toll lanes. The last thing we want to do in a code-red climate crisis is lock in decades of fossil fuel dependence by expanding our state’s highway system. If the Metro region is serious about reaching its goal of reducing at least 50% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, then the entire toll lanes proposal must be stopped. Instead, we need to build a sustainable transportation system that gives people more options to get around without needing to drive everywhere,” said Josh Tulkin, Maryland Sierra Club Director 

“TPB’s climate study and national climate studies show that we must quickly reduce transportation emissions by both adopting electric vehicles and by helping people drive less. A national study by the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) showed that the U.S. must reduce emissions from transportation by about 45% by 2030, combined with ambitious reductions in emissions from buildings and the electricity sector, to keep warming to safe levels, so setting a stronger transportation goal in our region can help contribute to the climate action needed at all levels,” said Bill Pugh, Senior Policy Fellow at CSG.

“The adopted planning priorities for addressing greenhouse gasses, if done right, will also further transportation equity by giving lower-income households and workers more affordable transportation options, allowing them to drive less, enabling them to live closer to jobs and services, helping them own more efficient vehicles, cleaning the polluted air they breathe, and providing safer streets for pedestrians, transit users and others,” added Bill Pugh