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Metro leaders not on board with transportation council’s long-range plans

October 26, 2018

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ “Visualize 2045” transportation plan has key proposals for Metrorail, but the transit agency’s leaders are not on board.

Visualize 2045, also known as the “Long-Range Regional Transportation Plan for the National Capital Region,” lays out a road map to meet the needs of the greater D.C. area until 2045, when an estimated 1.2 million more people will live here.

The 102-page plan proposes switching Metro’s six-car trains to eight-car trains that “run on all lines at all times,” expanding mezzanines and adding fare gates and escalators in downtown stations “to handle new riders with less crowding.”

Visualize 2045 also says a new line should be built to connect Rosslyn to Georgetown.

Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld told The Washington Times that with “investment from the region, these are all achievable goals,” and Metro Board members Christian Dorsey and David Horner agreed.

But other board members expressed doubts.

Board member Steve McMillin said in an email that “the ridership goal has too many factors for me to judge its feasibility.”

Mr. McMillin expressed the same reservations as fellow board member Clarence C. Crawford, who told The Times that more information is needed “in terms of the nature of where people will work, how they will move.”

And board member Michael Goldman said in an email that the plan to build “a second tunnel to DC which would be very expensive; and cannot be justified until VA ridership to DC increases substantially in the future.”

“Keep in mind that Metro ridership has just stabilized after declining for the past 9-10 years,” Mr. Goldman told The Times in the email.

Average daily ridership on the Metro ridership now is 125,000 trips, less than it was a decade ago, with consistent losses for the last eight years.

Critics, reports commissioned by Metro and the agency’s Riders’ Advisory Council have recommended restoring late-night service and decreasing delays to boost ridership.

Visualize 2045 budgets $291 billion for more than 500 projects such as widening highways and creating bike paths over the next 27 years. It was created by the COG’s Transportation Planning Board (TPB), which allocates federal funds for regional projects.

TPB Director Kanti Srikanth said his panel can withhold federal funds for projects that don’t align with the Visualize 2045′s goals.

Mr. McMillin said in a board meeting this month that running more trains would be “crazy.”

Board Chairman Jack Evans estimated that a new rail line would cost $5 billion, and said means would necessary to prevent trains from “bottlenecking” at Rosslyn once the second phase of the Silver Line is completed.

“Increasing Metro ridership may require innovate first mile/last mile arrangements with Uber Lyft to encourage suburbanites to leave their cars at home at use a ride hailing service to get to a metro station for their trip downtown,” Mr. Goldman told The Times, echoing Metro’s endorsements of its ride-sharing competitors.

The TPB is required to revise its long-range transportation plan every four years and include a budget listing how much projects would cost to build and maintain. But this year’s plan, Visualize 2045, added a wish list.

Its proposals for expanding downtown stations and railcars are included in the funded half of Visualize 2045. The plan’s suggestion to build a new line and a station in Georgetown is part of the “aspirational” plan that lacks a budget estimate.

Visualize 2045 also includes plans to:

Widen MD 201, MD 97, and US 301 and add tolls lanes to Interstates 495 and 270 in Maryland.

Expand bus rapid transit region wide and add dedicated bus lanes to some highways.

Build a 20-mile network of trails to act as “bicycle beltway” around the District.

Mr. Evans criticized Congress for being slow to projects like the Rosslyn tunnel and pointed to federal lawmakers’ recent letters in support of the board not abolishing its Riders’ Advisory Council (RAC), as had been planned for Thursday.

“I like the RAC,” said Mr. Evans. “But they’re sending me letters about RAC when we have all these major issues facing Metro billions of dollars unfunded.”

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