STATEMENT: Officials express strong support for Metrorail on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and for transit-oriented development

But Transportation Planning Board votes to advance the 495 Southside Toll Lanes while VDOT avoids binding commitment to future Metrorail

Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director; (703) 599-6437

Regional officials on the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board made clear at today’s meeting that the region’s future depends on good transit linked to transit-oriented development, particularly on the east side of the region.

The massive number of public comments submitted — totalling 1200 pages which ran over two to one against VDOT”s current 495 Southside Toll Lanes proposal – showed the broad public support for Metrorail and TOD and concerns about the toll lanes.

However, the resolution to add the 495 Toll Lanes Southside project to the Visualize 2050 draft list of projects lacks firm commitments for VDOT to study alternatives to highway widening with HOT lanes, and leaves at risk future Metrorail on the Wilson Bridge. VDOT did not commit to ensuring that Metrorail could be retrofitted after the HOT lanes are in place nor did they address who would pay for additional costs to remove the HOT lanes in order for Metrorail to be installed.

VDOT officials at the meeting also would not commit to funding new bus services in the HOT lanes, leaving it up to negotiations with the private toll lane company. So, area officials said that’s not good enough and voted to require them to do it. Officials also noted in the resolution their affirmation of support for future Metrorail across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and transit-oriented development in Prince George’s County, but VDOT indicated it would not include a Metrorail and transit-oriented development (TOD) as an alternative in their Environmental Assessment study. 

The compromise resolution to model two scenarios – with and without VDOT’s 495 Southside widening with toll lanes – will fail to model alternative solutions and simply reinforce the bias of VDOT’s study to date. Therefore, local officials will need to be at the table during VDOT’s environmental study to insist the agency study alternatives such as near-term conversion of shoulder lanes to bus/HOV lanes, new expanded travel demand management programs, and a longer-term Metrorail and transit-oriented development alternative.

Lost in the discussion on Visualize 2050 today was the direction of the TPB board three years ago – when there was concern about the Maryland 495/270 Express Lanes project and failure to meet regional climate change goals – to do a new plan that would study multiple scenarios.

We think the rushed vote at TPB today and continued questions about VDOT’s proposal could have been avoided if TPB had followed through on its previous commitment to model an alternative long-range plan scenario that prioritizes transit, walk and bike investments accompanied by transit-oriented development – locating housing and jobs near our transit stations and addressing the east-west economic divide at the root of many transportation challenges.


The Coalition for Smarter Growth is the leading organization in the Washington, DC region dedicated to making the case for smart growth. Our mission is to advocate for walkable, bikeable, inclusive, transit-oriented communities as the most sustainable and equitable way for the region to grow and provide opportunities for all.