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Transportation Planning

 Transportation Planning

In a perfect and simpler world, transportation planning would be consolidated within one department and agency.

Since today’s world is neither perfect nor simple, transportation planning is dispersed at the state, regional, sub-regional and local levels and further by mode of travel.

In other words, no one entity or level has ultimate responsibility for planning.

That helps explain why the region has failed to identify and lacks a short list of the most regionally significant transportation priorities. Every organization below has long lists of projects it hopes to complete, but none has a short-list of those that stand above all others in terms of importance. When no such short lists exist, all projects are “in play” meaning there’s a far greater likelihood that transportation dollars will be spent on projects that will do little to relieve congestion and improve travel time and system reliability..

Here is a look at the major planning organizations impacting transportation in Northern Virginia.


  • Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) – A 17 member gubernatorial appointed body that establishes policy for Virginia’s transportation system. Duties include allocating transportation funding dollars to specific projects, preserving right-of-way for transportation corridors, and updating Virginia’s Six-Year Transportation Improvement Program.
  • Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) – Is responsible for building, maintaining and operating the state’s 12,000 bridges, nearly 60,000 miles of roadway and numerous tunnels. Is also responsible for developing the Six-Year Transportation Improvement Program, which includes CTB-designated projects and studies.
  • Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (VDRPT) – Is responsible for state planning for rail, public transit and commuter services (carpools, telework ad other alternative modes)

Regional (Metro Washington area):

  • National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB) – Is the transportation arm of the federally designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the Washington D.C. area, including the District of Columbia, southern Maryland and northern Virginia. Its central responsibility is to develop and update the region’s fiscally Constrained Long Range Plan (CLRP) and Six-Year Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). Projects must be in the CLRP and TIP to be eligible for federal funds.


  • Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) – Is an independent, congressionally created body responsible for the development, operation and maintenance of Reagan National Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport.


  • Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) – Is a tri-state entity responsible for the operation and maintenance of the 117-mile Metrorail and 1,500 vehicle Metrobus systems. Its governing Board is composed of eight voting and eight alternate directors. Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virginia, and the federal government appoint two voting and two alternate directors each. MetroAccess, the agency’s paratransit system for citizens with special needs, provides about 1.5 million trips per year.

 (Sub-Regional) Northern Virginia:

  • Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) – Created by the Virginia General Assembly in 2002, the Authority consists of 9 jurisdictions (Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties and the Cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park). The Authority is charged with preparing a regional long-range transportation plan for Northern Virginia and setting regional transportation priorities. Virginia General Assembly passage of HB 2313 in 2013 provides the Authority with approximately $300 million per year in new transportation funding, 30% of which is returned to the 9 localities and 70% remains with the Authority. Priority for regional funds is to be given to highway projects that rank high in reducing congestion and transit investments that increase transit capacity. Regional funds cannot be used for highway or transit maintenance.  


  • Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) – This six-member jurisdiction commission manages and coordinates public transit and commuter rail operations in Northern Virginia.


  • Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC) – A multi-jurisdictional agency that operates and coordinates commuter (OmniRide) and local (Omnilink) bus service in Prince William County and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park. In partnership with NVTC, it also operates Virginia Railway Express service for these jurisdictions as well as Stafford County and the City of Fredericksburg. 


  • Virginia Railway Express (VRE) – A transportation partnership between the NVTC and PRTC that provides commuter rail service from Fredericksburg and Manassas to Alexandria, Crystal City and downtown Washington, D.C. VRE operates 30 trains from 18 stations on 90 miles of track and averages 20,000 passengers daily.The system connects to Metro at five locations and to Amtrak at 7 locations.