Northern Virginia Highway Plans Would Fuel a Massive Increase in Driving

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The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) will make multibillion-dollar decisions this year on the region’s transportation future—updating both their long-range TransAction plan and their six-year construction plan.

Analysis from the Coalition for Smarter Growth (CSG) finds that the agency’s massive highway expansion plans would fuel increased levels of driving, on top of the additional trips anticipated from population growth. Instead of helping Northern Virginians drive less, the proposed 1,200 miles of new pavement would make the region more car dependent.

CSG’s On the Wrong Road report analyzed the current TransAction plan and found that Loudoun County would expand its arterial highways at a rate of 1.5 times its population growth and Prince William County at a rate of three times faster than its population growth. Fairfax and Manassas would also build arterial highway miles faster than their population growth.

The Impacts of Additional Miles of Driving

The well-documented phenomenon of induced demand shows that new, more expansive highways leads to more cars on the road and more miles of driving. Research also shows that wider highways often fill up with traffic in as little as five years.

CSG used the State Highway Induced Frequency of Travel calculator, developed by Rocky Mountain Institute, and found that the TransAction plans could make Northern Virginia residents and workers drive almost 3 billion more miles per year by 2040 on top of new car trips anticipated from population and job growth.

Vehicle miles traveled (VMT) would increase up to 42% on Loudoun’s highway network, significantly more than the county’s rate of population growth, and up to 60% on Prince William’s non-interstate highways, almost three times the rate of its population growth. Fairfax would also see a massive long-term increase in driving due to its roadway expansion.

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