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2050 Long-Range Transportation Plan - Public Review Opportunity

Action Alert: The Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization (HRTPO) is asking for feedback on its proposed Exploratory Scenario Planning approach for the 2050 Long-Range Transportation Plan. This is apparently a plan on how to do the plan by "asking what could happen?" rather than try to predict what will happen or picking a preferred scenario.  The stated objective is to "evaluate candidate [transportation] projects across ALL plausible future scenarios." 

The big gap that I see is the lack of any criteria for how they would evaluate candidate transportation projects.  While the stated goal is "understanding how our system responds to different 'drivers of change' and increased growth, [and then] make better informed decisions about priorities and investments", my concern is that this will result in self-fulfilling prophecies. If we end up planning to build infrastructure to support the worst-case scenarios, i.e. suburban and exurban sprawl, we'll end up encouraging exactly that kind of development. The highway planners will say we need these big roads to support potential development on the fringes, and the developers will say the planners are building the roads they need so it's OK to approve their projects, and the negative cycle continues.

HRTPO shared a slide show that says they would use 4 scenarios for analysis, but they only list 3: Greater Urban Growth, Greater Suburban Growth, and Greater Inland/Westward Growth. There seems to be another scenario layer that predicts various Employment Growth with benchmarks of +5%, +24% +33% growth.

Suburban and exurban development are unsustainable in the long term. The cost of MAINTAINING the miles and miles of roads, sewers, water lines, etc. in low density sprawl will ultimately cost more than the property tax revenue generated. [Ref 1, Ref 2]. The environmental costs of the farms and tree canopy lost, of the increased impervious surfaces, of the increased light pollution, and the energy to drive longer distances is likewise unsustainable. [Ref 3] 

We should establish clear evaluation criteria to incentivize planning for the future we need to build, not just for any and all plausible futures which include future states that ultimately bankrupt our fiscal security and our ecosystem. While it is unrealistic to expect no suburban or exurban development, our transportation system should not be driving us toward those ends. We need a transportation plan that ultimately reduces dependence on long distance commutes, enables more multimodal (walking, bicycle, transit, remote work, etc.) options, that electrifies our freight transport, and ultimately reduces our carbon and energy consumption footprint.

Review the proposed framework and submit comments at News Flash • Public Review Opportunity: Exploratory Scenario (hrtpo.org)

Ref 1: https://institute.smartprosperity.ca/sites/default/files/sp_suburbansprawl_oct2013_opt.pdf

Ref 2: https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2020/8/28/the-growth-ponzi-scheme-a-crash-course

Ref 3: https://www.chesapeakeprogress.com/abundant-life/tree-canopy




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