The MPO Policy Board
held its monthly meeting on March 19, 2008. Highlights include an update on the proposed Regional Transportation Authority, the Eastern Connector, and efforts by the VDOT and the Federal Highway Administration to streamline the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program.
Listen using player above or download the podcast:
Regional Transit Authority update
Albemarle County Supervisor
(Rio) asked his fellow MPO Policy Board members and Harrison Rue what the group will be doing in the next few months while preparing enabling legislation to allow for a regional transportation authority (RTA). Harrison Rue of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission said Transportation Coordinator Melissa Barlow is completing the RTA study with input from the February joint work session, and should be finished with that for a presentation to the Board at the June MPO meeting.
Slutzky asked what the next steps will be considering the
Virginia Supreme Court’s recent decision that the taxing authority given to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority is unconstitutional
. Rue said the consultant writing the RTA report is revisiting the governance section to make sure the legislation is written in such a way to meet the Constitution. He said the
Hampton Roads Transportation Authority
has published a series of requested fixes to its enabling authority on its website.
asked if this region’s RTA could meet the Constitutional standard by restricting membership on its Board of Directors to City Councilors and County Supervisors. Rue said that could be one way of making it work, as long as the decision to impose taxes was made by elected bodies. Slutzky called for a lobbying effort in Richmond, but Rue said MPO staff is prohibited from making the case themselves.
Huja, appearing at only his third MPO meeting, wanted to know more about why the University of Virginia has not yet come on board as a full participant in the RTA discussion. UVa Senior Land Use Planner Julia Monteith said the university has a system that currently works for its needs. “The University has been working for a long time on perfecting its system,” she said. “Right now there’s not a strong reason for them to change their system until there’s some obvious incentive.” However, Rue pointed to the University Transit Service’s collaboration with CTS on route maps and real-time messaging as examples of how closely the two systems do work.
Slutzky added that he was hopeful Monticello would also participate in the system as well.
Eastern Connector Update
During a conversation on the MPO’s Draft FY2009 work program, Supervisor Slutzky asked what the status of the Eastern Connector is, given that the City Council recently sent a letter to the consultant overseeing the alignment study location to say any route through the City is not acceptable.
(Jack Jouett) said his concern with the study all along has been that any recommendation made by the study’s steering committee would not get built for lack of funding. “As we look at our dismal state of transportation funding, most of those recommendations would probably be a $75 million plus project,” Rooker said. The road would more than likely be a secondary road project, which would likely take decades to fully fund. He suggested the only way the Eastern Connector could be built is if it would qualify for federal or primary road funding from the state. Rooker urged the steering committee to take a look at funding as an additional criteria for the project.
Councilor Huja said a transit project might qualify, and Slutzky suggested a dedicated transit-only route could possibly qualify.
Rue said he thought the consultant introduced the concept of improving Route 250 in and around Free Bridge because of the primary funding, but he and Rooker both acknowledged the City’s concerns.
MPO Board votes to endorse VDOT’s streamlining process
the MPO Policy Board expressed concern
that a new agreement between the Federal Highway Administration and Virginia’s transportation agencies would limit its role in the approval process for roads. Under the proposed new rules, VDOT’s central office would group similar projects under one category. This would allow projects on the Statewide Year Transportation Improvement Program to be altered without an amendment by an MPO each time.
At the March meeting, Board members had several questions from Diane Mitchell, a representative from VDOT’s Central Office. After being told that VDOT would make a monthly report on what projects would be “grouped”, and being told that the MPO could request that particular projects not be grouped, the Policy Board voted to approve a resolution supporting the changes. The monthly report could possibly become part of the
MPO’s project tracking matrix
Timeline for podcast: