CSG primer: the Visualize 2050 transportation plan

Background and how to comment by March 30

We believe that the Visualize 2050 draft list of major projects has too many highway and arterial road expansions that will increase driving and climate emissions. We will miss our region’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030. Please submit your comments!

Read below for background, suggested points and our take on some major projects, and at the end, a step-by-step for doing the Transportation Planning Board’s (TPB) survey. 

TPB’s Visualize 2050 comment, materials and info page – comment by March 30, 2024 

1. Background on Visualize 2050

  • 48 organizations criticized the previous plan, Visualize 2045 with very similar projects
    Letter by 48 regional organizations on Visualize 2045 (May 2022)
    CSG summary article on Visualize 2045, (March 2022)
  • As a result of our collective advocacy, the TPB voted to slash greenhouse gas emissions from transportation by 50% by 2030 and do their new plan two years early.
  • Public comment last year (reported by TPB staff) showed overwhelming support for transit, ped, bike and local complete street projects – and strong opposition to highway expansion projects considered for the new plan, Visualize 2050.
  • To their credit, TPB and a few local jurisdictions held public comment sessions last year BEFORE agencies submitted their projects for Visualize 2050, but we see too little change in the plan. 
  • A few jurisdictions removed some projects following the public comments, notably Fairfax, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Charles, and Prince William counties. However, the vast majority of projects from Visualize 2045 remain in the plan, and some new wasteful projects were added, such as widening new segments of 495 and 95 in Virginia, and Maryland’s controversial expansion of I-495/270 remains in the plan.
  • Almost half of the many highway and road widening projects in Visualize 2050 claim they will contribute to reducing GHG emissions by 50% without providing any explanation. 
  • TPB’s evaluation of projects gave over a third of all road and highway expansion projects checkmarks for “Environmental Protection”.   

2. CSG recommendations for comments you can provide

General process, feedback form #2 “Transportation and our Region’s Air Quality”

  • Include real scenario analysis of an alternative climate-friendly project list with alternative supportive land use – as the TPB board discussed in 2021 and voted to do in this plan.
  • The modeling results need to show how the air quality and climate pollution impacts are due to new transportation projects versus changes in the air model used for Visualize 2050 compared to the previous plan Visualize 2045.  
  • Expanding highways generates more sprawl, driving and pollution – this has been shown in many studies. TPB’s model needs to better address this.
  • Many highway and arterial expansion projects on the list claim to help TPB meet its 2030 greenhouse gas reduction target but provide no explanation. Some of these projects aren’t even planned for construction until well after 2030. TPB should screen out projects like these that don’t take climate change seriously rather than waste a year modeling them. 

For Evaluating Specific Projects (feedback form #3 and #4)

For projects of interest, we encourage you to review the project info sheets linked in the summary table and look at questions like:

  • Does the project claim to help the region meet its GHG reduction target? (#40)
  • What TPB priority strategies does the project claim to implement? (#43)
  • What impacts on equity (#33 and #34) and safety (#38) does the project have? 
  • Does the project explain its answers? (#34b, 40b, 44a, 44b)
  • Do the project evaluation boxes checked by TPB in the summary table make sense? Or does this just mean the project sponsor checked a bunch of boxes under #45 Federal Planning Factors?

Note that the projects out for comment are just those that have to go through the air quality conformity analysis and do not include many local trail, safety and maintenance projects.

Notable Maryland Projects 

Oppose (a few examples):

  • I-495/I-270 (West Spur) Express Toll Lanes Widening: I-270 to George Washington Memorial Parkway – The project would be extremely destructive and ineffective – harming neighborhoods, parks, streams and tree cover. It would leave most people stuck in traffic or having to pay very high tolls. MDOT failed to examine more effective alternatives that begin with transit-oriented development in Prince George’s and eastern Montgomery to address the E-W jobs imbalance, along with transit, demand management, pricing and incentives. 
  • I-270 Express Toll Lanes Widening: I-270 Spur to I-370 – same comments as above.
  • Frederick Freeway (US 15) Grade Separation at Biggs Ford Road and Widening: North of Biggs Ford Road to I-270 – Project gets a perfect score 8 out of 8 in meeting regional goals from TPB despite a number of inconsistencies, like not implementing any TPB priority strategies, saying the portion north of Frederick surrounded by farmland will support “Metrobus” and “BRT”, and that the project (to be built in 2040) will help the region meet its 2030 GHG reduction goal.
  • Branch Ave (MD 5) Widening, US 301 to I-495; and Pennsylvania Ave (MD 4) Widening, I-495 to Woodyard Rd – these projects would spend well over $1B adding lanes and interchanges to highways in Prince George’s but would fuel more sprawling development and driving. Prince George’s, Southern Maryland and MDOT need to reduce sprawl, develop alternatives for faster transit and carpool options, and implement county plans for transit-oriented economic development and walkable placemaking.

Support these Maryland projects:

  • Good Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) projects – MD 355, New Hampshire Ave, North Bethesda Transitway, Veirs Mill Rd, Randolph Rd BRT
  • MARC Service Improvements

Notable Virginia Projects

Oppose (a few examples):

  • I-95 New Bi-Directional Operation Express Toll Lanes with Widening: Turkeycock Run to Opitz Boulevard – We support examining flexible operational strategies and pricing that helps move people through the corridor. But further widening this stretch of I-95 with still relatively new HOT lanes to add more lanes will result in more sprawl, traffic and construction delays. We also object to the inclusion of this still conceptual project when more advanced and important projects like Northern Virginia’s critical Route 7 BRT are excluded. 
  • I-495 Southside Express Toll Lanes:Springfield Interchange to MD210 – VDOT failed to seriously examine other alternatives, starting with a project purpose to extend the Express Lanes. VDOT’s plan creates a bottleneck in Maryland and builds HOT lanes in the space on the bridge reserved for future rail, likely blocking future conversion. 
  • Dulles Airport Access Road Widening – This outdated $400M proposal is unnecessary and would undermine the region’s major investment in the Silver Line.
  • Chain Bridge Rd (VA 123) Widening – Further widening this already expansive highway within the Tysons and McLean area would undermine investments in the Silver Line and a transit-oriented, walkable Tysons. This project somehow gets a perfect 8 for 8 score in meeting regional goals from TPB, despite not actually listing any TPB priority strategies that it supports or helping the region meet its GHG reduction goals.
  • US 50 Improvements – Remove further widening of US 50. Instead, support the STARS study recommendations for safety and operational improvements and study BRT on this corridor. Unbelievably, this $450M project gets a perfect 8 for 8 score in meeting regional goals from TPB, despite not actually listing any TPB priority strategies that it supports or helping the region meet its GHG reduction goals. 
  • Manassas National Battlefield Park Bypass – Remove the Manassas Battlefield Bypass (2 projects on list). Parts of this are the same as the proposed Outer Beltway/BiCounty Parkway and would harm the battlefield and Rural Crescent. We have offered local street and roundabout alternatives.

Support these Virginia projects:

  • Virginia Transit and Rail project list – contains important near and long-term priorities.  
  • Greensboro Drive Extension, Potomac Avenue Capacity Reduction for Bus Lane, North Fort Meyer Drive Reconstruction, Graham Park Road Capacity Reduction – examples of Metro station area and complete street network projects to support transit-oriented, walkable, bikeable communities. 

Support with changes:

  • Redesign planned but overly wide new roads intended to provide local safe street grids – Seven Corners Ring Road, Frontier Drive extension, Rock Hill Rd Overpass, Town Center Underpass, Soapstone Drive Overpass Extension, and various in Loudoun and Prince William – these projects, as currently designed, are oversized (4- and 6-lanes) to create expensive high-speed, high-volume traffic corridors, rather than walkable, transit-oriented places.

Notable Washington, D.C. Projects


  • DC roadway projects in the summary table are worthwhile safety, transit, complete streets and pedestrian and bicycle safety projects. 
  • Benning Rd Streetcar extension to Benning Rd Metro

3. How to voice your opinion in the survey feedback form by March 30

  • Go to Visualize2050.org and “Comment Now”
  • On the MetroQuest screen, you will see these 5 tabs:
  1. Introduction 
  2. Transportation & Our Region’s Air Quality – summary of modeling where you can make comments on the overall plan process. See CSG comments above.
  3. Proposed Project Inputs, Multimodal & Capacity Change Projects – click on project pins on the map to provide comments. Find links to project details in TPB’s Project Summary Table. This map has a mix of transit and complete street projects but also many road widening projects that are called “multimodal” because they have additional features like sidewalks or toll lanes. To make a general comment or if you don’t see a project on the map and want to comment on it, click on the bubble on the top right of the tab.
  4. Proposed Project Inputs – General Purpose Roadway Projects – click on pins on map to provide comments. Find links to project details in TPB’s Project Summary Table. These projects are almost all highway and arterial expansion projects (widenings and new interchanges) with the exception of a few local street projects. To make a general comment or if you don’t see a project on the map and want to comment on it, click on the bubble on the top right of the tab.
  5. Wrap Up – add your email for updates

Screenshots – finding key projects and where to make general comments:

1. Oppose 495 Southside widening

2. Oppose MD 495/270 Toll Lanes #1

3. Oppose MD 495/270 Toll Lanes #2

4. To add General Comments on bad road projects: click on bubble in red circle top right – e.g., Far too many wasteful road widening and interchange projects that threaten our climate goals and promote sprawl continue in the plan 

Thank you for weighing in for the future of our region!

Bill Pugh
Senior Policy Fellow
Coalition for Smarter Growth