Tag: press release

RELEASE CORRECTED: Removal of 495/270 Toll Lanes from Regional Plan

RELEASE CORRECTED: Removal of 495/270 Toll Lanes from Regional Plan

PRESS RELEASE – CORRECTED (to identify the correct motion maker)

For Immediate Release
June 16, 2021

Contact:
Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director, 703-599-6437

Concern about Climate Change Leads to Historic Vote at the Region’s Transportation Planning Board

Vote removes 495/270 toll lanes from the long-range plan, requires next plan to meet climate goals

Today, in the latest of several significant debates at the Transportation Planning Board, the regional body of local and state officials charged with creating a regional long-range transportation plan Visualize 2045, the body voted to remove the I-495/I-270 toll lanes from the draft plan and to require the development of a climate-friendly plan by 2024.

Gary Ehrenrich, representing Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich made the motion to remove the I-495/I-270 toll lane project from the plan and it passed 16 to 12 with 6 abstentions. Mayor Bridget Newton of Rockville and other Maryland leaders spoke firmly about the reasons for removing the project, with the vote attracting near universal support from local Maryland jurisdictions as well as support from DC and some Virginia jurisdictions. This was followed by a vote on the draft 2022 long-range transportation plan – now minus the toll lane project, and with provisions advanced by Montgomery County Councilmember Evan Glass to commit the TPB to create a new plan by 2024 that significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions. The TPB voted 26 to 4 with 4 abstentions on the measure.

“The unifying theme in today’s vote was the overwhelming concern of elected officials about climate change. It motivated the vote to remove the toll lane project and to do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our region’s transportation sector,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.

A number of outer Virginia jurisdictions thought it was too late to change the current draft plan which will move forward into air quality modeling and adoption in the spring of 2022, but they ultimately also joined Maryland and DC in voting to begin work to adopt another more climate-friendly plan by 2024. “We wish the TPB would have acted this cycle to fundamentally reform the current plan because we have no time to waste,” said Schwartz. “Nevertheless, they made an important commitment today to adopt a more climate-friendly plan by 2024.”

  • The scientific consensus is that we must slash our emissions by 2030. The Biden Administration and our regional Council of Governments have each set a goal of cutting CO2 emissions 50% below 2005 levels by 2030.
  • Transportation is this region’s and the nation’s largest source of CO2 emissions.
  • Recent studies show that electric vehicles will not be enough, therefore the region will need to use transit-oriented development, transit, and demand reduction solutions to reduce vehicle miles traveled and associated emissions.
  • The Council of Governments’ recent Voices of the Region Survey found that 84% of the region’s residents want elected officials to prioritize climate change in transportation plans.
  • Public comment on Visualize 2045 has overwhelmingly supported a plan that addresses climate change.

“Removal of the I-495/I270 project from the draft plan means it will not be included in the federally mandated air quality conformity modeling, a huge roadblock for the controversial project,” said Schwartz. “I believe the many flaws in the Hogan Administration’s approach to the project including failure to analyze more sustainable and less destructive alternatives, failure to hear the public outcry or account for the strong opposition of nearly every local jurisdiction, and rush to commit the state to a long-term contract before finishing all of the environmental impact studies, contributed to the resounding rejection of the project today at the TPB.”

“There may also be implications for Virginia’s 495Next HOT lane extension contract with Transurban but that would have to be confirmed with VDOT,” said Schwartz. “Many of us had urged Virginia not to rush into that deal because of the controversy in Maryland and the similar failure in Virginia to consider alternative approaches. We want to see solutions for the American Legion Bridge and 495, and the best solutions lie in addressing the east-west jobs/housing imbalance, focusing jobs and housing near transit, and in the growth in telecommuting.”

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Coalition for Smarter Growth Speaks Out on Rapid Transit

The Coalition for Smarter Growth has released the following regarding Rapid Transit in Montgomery County:

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 21st, 2013

Contacts:  Stewart Schwartz, Coalition for Smarter Growth, (703) 599-6437

 

Montgomery Planners Propose 78-Mile Rapid Transit system 

Today, Montgomery County planning staff present to the Planning Board a 78-mile version of the proposed Rapid Transit System, based on several months of data-driven modeling and analysis.  The Rapid Transit System would be a premium, reliable transit service using dedicated lanes as much as possible to bypass traffic, running frequently throughout the day, and stopping at enhanced stations featuring real time arrival information and efficient boarding like that found on Metro.

“The Rapid Transit System will complement the Purple Line and our Metro system, offering high quality transit to more of Montgomery County and helping to address traffic and future economic development. It is an essential investment, providing residents more affordable transportation and a better option than sitting in traffic,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.

Facing an additional 200,000 residents, 200,000 new jobs, and a 22% increase in the amount of time residents will spend on roadways by 2040, planners know that the county’s roadways, already overburdened with traffic, will be unable to handle additional vehicles.  Their analysis, forecasting ridership to 2040, demonstrated that dedicating lanes to transit on several corridors could move more people per lane than individual vehicles, while improving traffic countywide.  They are recommending a phased approach based on that data, with a first phase that would include two lanes dedicated to the Rapid Transit System in the center of Rockville Pike and northern US29, and one reversible lane in the direction of rush hour traffic on parts of Georgia Ave, Viers Mill/University Blvd, and New Hampshire Avenue.   Their models show that their recommended network would attract a ridership of approximately 184,000 daily riders by 2040.

Said Lindsay Hoffman of Friends of White Flint, “We’ve come together in our neighborhoods and supported a vision for a walkable community in White Flint where it will be possible to leave the car at home and live a healthier, more affordable lifestyle.  Improved and expanded transit service on Rockville Pike is critical to making that vision possible, and we as residents will need to work together to ensure this proposal meets our communities’ needs and becomes a reality.”

“The planning staff’s network is smaller than the full Transit Task Force proposal but also much larger than the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) proposal.  The staff’s analysis is both rigorous and practical, and results in a network that can be effectively implemented,” concluded Schwartz.

In the planning staff’s brief, they reported, “ITDP did not do any ridership forecasting, whereas our transportation modeling work has shown that the forecast 2040 ridership on MD355 is far higher and we are confident that we should begin planning for a two-lane median busway for most of this corridor.”

The Montgomery County Planning Board will now have a month to review the staff’s recommendations before they release a draft for public hearings to be held in the beginning of May.  After public hearings, the Planning Board will submit their draft proposal to the County Council.

Read the original article here >>