RELEASE: Groups challenge bloated $75.7B NOVA transportation plan



For Immediate Release:
August 1, 2022

Stewart Schwartz, CSG, (703)599-6437
Douglas Stewart, Sierra Club Virginia Chapter, (703) 407-2790
Mark Scheufler, Active Prince William (202) 210-1404
Kevin O’Brien, Washington Area Bicyclist Association, (202) 964-5419

Officials Release Bloated $75.7 Billion Transportation Plan for Northern Virginia
Plan is unlikely to “solve congestion”

Needed – A New Approach: A plan that improves access to opportunity, reduces driving, saves families money, and fights climate change

Today, the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) released the update of its TransAction regional transportation plan that guides agency funding decisions through the year 2045. The price tag of the agency’s “unconstrained” plan balloons from $43 billion to $75.7 billion, a 76% increase from the previous plan adopted just five years ago.

The public has the opportunity to review and comment on the draft plan through September 18, 2022. “Our partner groups will review the plan in detail but we offer the following based upon our experience with the last plan,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.

“A plan that we could never afford is not a plan. And if we can’t afford it, and dozens of the projects can never be built, then the NVTA can’t claim that their plan would reduce congestion,” said Schwartz.

Moreover, even if they were able to build all of the proposed roads, the science shows expanded roads in metropolitan areas induce even more driving, filling up again in just a few years. CSG’s On the Wrong Road report showed that the current TransAction plan, approved in 2017, would pave over Northern Virginia with 1,200 new miles of asphalt, far faster than population growth. The plan would fuel increased levels of driving and traffic, on top of the additional trips anticipated from population growth. “Instead of helping Northern Virginians drive less, the massive highway expansion in the 2017 plan and this new, even bigger plan would force people to be even more dependent on driving and more at risk from high gas and car prices,” said Bill Pugh, Senior Policy Fellow for CSG and author of the On the Wrong Road report.

“Like the 2017 TransAction plan, the NVTA is assuming just one wish list of projects before modeling any scenarios such as autonomous vehicles, increased telecommuting, or pricing tools. This is backwards. Conducting scenario analyses based on an identical network of 429 projects versus a do-nothing alternative, provides little useful information on what investments Northern Virginia should prioritize and how better land use and demand management solutions can help,” said Mark Scheufler of Active Prince William.

“While there are a number of large proposed transit projects, we also shouldn’t expect that all of these will be built. First, because about 60% of actual funding to date has gone to road expansion, and second, because the proposals for two very long Metrorail extensions at a cost of $7 billion won’t work without real transit-oriented development, and are otherwise too costly per mile, per rider, as compared to other transit and land use solutions we could adopt,” said Douglas Stewart, Transportation Co-Chair of the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club.

“We’ve suggested year after year, a bottom-up scenario focused on walkable, transit-oriented land use, more transit, and parking pricing among other demand management solutions. This scenario would then be supported by a different mix of projects, one that includes far fewer road expansions and more transit tied to walkable TOD, ” said Schwartz. “In fact, analyses over the past few years by the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board show that transit-oriented land use and transit investments improve job access much more than their plan’s highway expansion – and at half the cost,” said Pugh.

“The TransAction plan’s approach of running wide high-speed arterials through every part of the region does not produce safe, walkable, livable, communities where residents can easily cross a road to reach a bus stop, bike to a corner store, or drive less for daily needs. Just look at the deaths on places like Blake Lane, Leesburg Pike, and Richmond Highway in Fairfax, where agencies have prioritized wider, faster roads over safety for residents walking to destinations and transit stops,” said Sonya Breehey, CSG’s Northern Virginia organizer.

“In a time of climate change due to our fossil fuel use – causing record flooding, drought, fires, and heat waves that are killing people, destroying property, and impacting our food supply, the NVTA is not taking steps to meaningfully reduce the emissions of our transportation system.  NVTA’s report counts on electric vehicles to counteract the emissions from their road expansion. But we’ve shown, and the TPB’s climate study has confirmed, that rapid adoption of electric vehicles will not be enough and that we also need to reduce the amount people have to drive,” said Pugh. 

“Despite the inclusion of a mix of transit and bicycle/pedestrian investment in TransAction, the road building plans are extensive, and the plan takes us down the wrong road at a critical time. We urge Northern Virginia officials to redraft this plan to put our region on the right track to a more sustainable and equitable future,” concluded Schwartz.