Opinion

Examiner Local Editorial: COG's let-them-eat-exhaust track record

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Opinion,Local Editorial

Traffic congestion in the Washington region will not improve by 2040 and will even get worse in many places, even if all the mass transit projects currently on the books are completed, according to a report the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments presented to the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board.

The COG report was clearly intended as a way to prod reluctant legislators in both Maryland and Virginia to vote for higher taxes to fund transportation. But it's also a stinging indictment of the incompetence of its own membership -- local elected officials who have done a terrible job keeping the regional circulatory system moving.

As COG's own "total trip" figures show, the percentage of single drivers will decrease slightly from 42 percent in 2013 to 40 percent in 2040, while the percentage of carpoolers increases one percent by 2040. Eleven percent will eschew driving for biking or walking. Even with the Silver and Purple Lines, mass transit use -- both bus and rail -- will remain at just 7 percent. So 82 percent of all trips taken by Washington area residents 30 years from now will still be by automobile, just one percentage point lower than today.

Even when just work trips are considered, drivers will still account for nearly three-quarters of all commuters in 2040. Yet COG members are spending inordinate amounts of available transportation money on things like streetcars and bike lanes which will not reduce automobile traffic, but will reduce existing capacity on the roads, thus guaranteeing future gridlock.

COG transportation expert Ron Kirby predicts that jobs and population will grow at a faster rate in the outer suburbs and residents will be even more dispersed geographically than they are now. COG's current plans are already inadequate, and will become even more so in the decades ahead.

Arlington Board member Chris Zimmerman called Kirby's predictions "untenable," claiming that the cash-strapped states would eventually step in and shell out more money for transportation or the predicted economic growth will not happen. This is a case of wishing, not planning.

Zimmerman, a former Metro Board member who consistently supported transit spending that doesn't make a dent in traffic congestion, was also instrumental in blocking Virginia's attempts to expand Interstate-66 inside the Beltway or add HOT lanes to I-395. He's typical of COG's let-them-eat-exhaust mentality that is leading the entire region into decades of gridlock.

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