Regional business leaders converged on the Capitol Hilton Hotel in northwest D.C. on Tuesday or a transportation forum aimed at improving transit between Baltimore and Richmond, Virginia.
The forum generated several ideas, including increased tolls on roadways near business districts, the expansion and modernization of D.C.’s Union Station, and building mixed-use and affordable developments so low-income residents have more access to mass transit.
One topic of discussion was a recently released report titled “Capital Region Blueprint for Regional Mobility,” which suggests ways local and state governments in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia can make transportation cost-effective.
“The blueprint builds off of prior plans and recommendations for our region uniting many different efforts and coordinating good ideas from many sources into a strategy intended to move us forward together,” said Jason Miller, CEO of the Greater Washington Partnership, which issued the report.
The 40-page report released Monday, Nov. 26 comes two weeks after Amazon announced its plan to build new headquarters in New York City and Arlington County, Virginia.
Both locations would provide at least 25,000 jobs near commuter rail, apartments and airports. In Northern Virginia, the online retail giant plans to build a 4 million-square-foot office building less than three miles from the District. The area known as Crystal City would be rebranded as National Landing.
“I think one of the things we’re learning is that there’s a tremendous demand for seamless mobility across our networks, but also within the communities in which we live,” said Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “I think with Amazon that challenge really became very clear.”
The report, which was prepared in July 2017, emphasizes increasing resources for mass transit agencies, and less on building additional highways.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan had proposed more funding toward highways such as widening the Capital Beltway (I-495) and Interstate 270. In September, his administration awarded about $58 million to local jurisdictions for road improvements.
The report seeks regional cooperation and coordination of transportation plans and investments for the 10.2 million residents in the region. According to the report, another 2.4 million people will reside between Baltimore and Richmond over the next 20 years.
The report highlights how Metro’s Silver Line, which stretches from Largo Town Center in Maryland to Wiehle-Reston East in Reston, Virgnia, has provided more options for mass transit in the D.C. area.
However, it notes transportation could be bolstered with specific proposals in Baltimore that include redevelopment of the city’s Penn Station, increasing the speed of its transit system, and replacement of the 145-year-old Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel that “could create long-term jobs in West Baltimore and triple capacity in the Northwest corridor for the MARC train system … and increasing ridership to 70,000 riders per day.”
Other recommendations are designated within seven sections with about 20 possible actions, including:
• Challenge the region’s employers to incorporate mobility programs such as alternative work schedules and encouraging carpooling.
• Adopt hiring local hiring, procurement and contracting policies.
• Establish a coordinated autonomous vehicle (AV) strategy.
The partnership co-chairs — Thomas F. Farrell II, chairman, president and CEO of Dominion Energy; Kenneth A. Samet, president and CEO of Medstar Health; and Mark A Weinberger, global chairman and CEO of Ernst & Young — wrote the executive summary with an urgency for state, local and business leaders and residents to take a bold and innovation approach to improve transportation.
“Unless we can move together in a new direction, we will remain tethered to the flaws of the current approach,” the report said. “If we can move together, however, we can deliver a transportation system consistent with the needs and aspirations of the millions of Capital Region residents today and tomorrow.”