Before a transportation project is funded and built, it usually appears in an approved state or local plan. Such a plan identifies how a project meets needs and demands, serves community goals, and fits into the existing transportation system. State and local governments also conduct a variety of studies to identify solutions to key transportation challenges.
Planning at the State Level
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) takes the lead in most statewide transportation planning in coordination with the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (VDRPT).
VDOT is responsible for the third largest state-maintained highway system in the U.S. (after Texas and North Carolina), which includes most local and county roads. VDRPT is an agency under the Virginia Secretary of Transportation (as is VDOT) that provides technical and financial assistance to transit, ridesharing and railroad operations.
The Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) guides the work of VDOT and VDRPT much like a board of directors. The Virginia Secretary of Transportation serves as chairman of the 17-member CTB, which also includes the commissioner of VDOT, the director of VDRPT, and 14 citizens appointed by the governor. Among other things the CTB is responsible for developing the Six-Year Improvement Program for transportation.
Click here for the CTB meeting schedule.
State-Level Plans and Studies
VTrans2035, Virginia’s long-range transportation policy plan, lays out statewide goals and programmatic investment priorities for the entire state. Twelve Corridors of Statewide Significance are identified in VTrans2035, including four in Northern Virginia.
The development of VTrans2040 began in 2014. This plan will identify multimodal needs across the Commonwealth. Moving forward, only projects that help address a need identified in VTrans2040 will be considered for funding under the statewide prioritization process required under House Bill 2, which was enacted in 2014.
The Virginia Surface Transportation Plan (VSTP) is a long-range project-based transportation plan that identifies specific transportation improvements including many that cannot be funded with currently anticipated revenues. The VSTP integrates the priorities and project lists included Virginia’s statewide modal plans including the Statewide Rail Plan, the Statewide Highway Plan, and the Statewide Transit & TDM Plan.
Some state plans and studies focus specifically on Northern Virginia. For example, the Super NoVa Transit/TDM Vision Plan, developed by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, recommended a dramatically expanded network of transit facilities and services. Another example is the Master Plan for the North-South Corridor of Statewide Significance, initiated by VDOT in 2012, which will recommend transportation improvement for the band of transportation facilities roughly running in a wide band between Dulles Airport and I-95. The state also conducts a variety of studies specifically linked to specific projects, including those classified as “mega projects.”
Subregional Planning for Northern Virginia
The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) has its own long-range transportation plan. The most recent version of this plan, called TransAction 2040, was adopted in 2012. TransAction 2040 contains an ambitious multimodal list of projects, which are prioritized within eight transportation corridors. The plan identified more than $23 billion in unfunded capital needs.
Visit the NVTA meeting calendar for information opportunities.
Virginia Local Plans and Studies
In Virginia (as throughout the U.S.), local governments are typically responsible for land-use planning and zoning. The characteristics of land use – purpose (jobs, housing, etc.), density and location – play a powerful role in determining the transportation facilities and services a community needs and can accommodate. Local master plans or comprehensive plans, which show existing and planned land uses, usually include a chapter (a “transportation element”) that identifies transportation projects that will be needed over the period of the plan—usually 20-25 years.
Local governments in Northern Virginia also operate and fund transportation directly. Local transit services include the Fairfax County Connector, Arlington Transit (ART), Alexandria’s DASH and the City of Fairfax CUE system. Loudoun County offers its own commuter bus service into D.C. Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park operate commuter buses through the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC).
In most counties in Virginia, the state DOT is responsible for the construction and maintenance of most public streets and roads. (Arlington County, an exception, does have control over the majority of its streets and roads.) In contrast, independent cities in Virginia (including Alexandria, Falls Church, Fairfax, Manassas and Manassas Park), have control over local roads and streets, including fixing potholes and other maintenance.
Five independent cities in Northern Virginia are not part of counties and are considered “county-equivalents”: City of Alexandria, City of Fairfax, City of Falls Church, City of Manassas, and City of Manassas Park.