(Above) Vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in the region have continued to keep pace with population and employment growth.
It’s hard to miss Interstate Highways 81 and 70, the most visible transportation projects in our area funded with Federal dollars. But our transportation infrastructure is much more than highways. Matt Mullenax, Executive Director of Hagerstown/Eastern Panhandle Metropolitan Planning Organization (HEPMPO), points out that Federally-directed planning also includes the network of local highways, passenger and freight rail infrastructure, and even the two airports in the region. The 1962 Federal Highway Act designated a comprehensive transportation planning process for urban areas and HEPMPO is the planning organization for the three county region of Jefferson County, Berkeley County, and Washington County (MD).
Earlier this spring HEPMPO conducted an online survey of residents as part of updating its long-range transportation plan through 2050. Mullenax describes the continuous cycle of planning: “The Long Range Transportation Plan looks ahead 25 years and we update it every 5 years. (Download PDF of 2045 Long Range Transportation Plan). This is a high level analysis of the needs and resources that helps identify preferred options and priorities.” To guide planning in the near-term, HEPMPO updates its Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) on a four year cycle. “The TIP represents our recommendations to West Virginia and Maryland on the prioritization of investments. These are not binding recommendations, but projects do need to be in the priority plan to be eligible for Federal funding [for design and construction].” Mullenax noted that not all of the projects included in the long range plan will be included in the near-term priority plan, and that both of these plans focus on identifying feasibility and options rather than specific construction details. Once the state decides to propose a project for funding, there are still multiple rounds of engineering studies, environmental review, and public comment.
HEPMPO also conducts special studies as requested by state and local governments. The Regional Bicycle Plan (2016)(Download PDF of the 2016 Regional Bicycle Plan), the MARC Comparative Analysis (2018), and the Foxcroft Avenue Pedestrian Road Safety Assessment (2020) are examples of studies that incorporate the “Complete Streets” principles that encourage new or improved road facilities be designed to prioritize safety, comfort, and access to destinations for all people who use the roadway including non-motorized travel. Earlier this year, HEPMPO conducted two studies in Jefferson County, one in Charles Town and another in Shepherdstown, using this Complete Streets approach.
All current planning documents and special studies from the past ten years are available on the web at HEPMPO.net.
By Staff Contributor