Commentary: One Major Hurdle Cleared

Commentary: One Major Hurdle Cleared

Several more to go in Richmond Highway revitalization.

Last week, our region took a major step forward in the revitalization of Richmond Highway when it passed the Embark Comprehensive Plan Amendment. This was the next major hurdle in re-imagining and redeveloping the Richmond Highway corridor and moving us into the 21st century. The Plan Amendment clears the way for modern, high-density transit oriented development in the corridor to support a bus rapid transit (BRT) system, from the Huntington Metro Station to Fort Belvoir, and ultimately a Yellow Line Metrorail extension.

Over the next decade, we must work through several challenges to stay on this path to revitalizing Richmond Highway. To understand the process and see the results that can come from this type of redevelopment, you only have to look to our north. The signs of growth and redevelopment abound around the I-95/495 intersections, the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and the Huntington Metro Station, where more than 10 years ago the federal, state and county governments made significant infrastructure investments. Today, you can see the many benefits of this public investment and the private investment it has brought, from better traffic flow and new housing to improved parks.

We now begin the next steps in implementing our vision along the Richmond Highway corridor, and that means securing the funding to make it happen. The highway and transit improvements included in the Embark Plan are critical to bringing private investment, new housing and development to both sides of the highway. This development, in turn, is critical to the success of BRT, and ultimately Metro, along the corridor.

The Richmond Highway transportation projects are estimated to cost $700 million, with less than $100 million allocated to these projects to date. Securing the additional $600 million in funding will be a huge challenge and must come from many federal, state, regional, county and local sources. Making matters even more challenging, if the current State budget proposals to fund Metro pass as written, a significant portion of the new Metro funding will come from diverting local and regional transportation funds from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA). With $377 million in funding for Richmond Highway improvements projected to come from future NVTA allocations, the funding of Embark is in jeopardy.

We need your help advocating now to secure this much needed investment in the revitalization of the Richmond Highway corridor. You can start by contacting the Governor and your state representatives today to tell them to find new funding sources for Metro. Check out our website for more information on contacting your representatives about this important issue. Then, stay tuned as we engage the region in continuing to fight for this critical transportation funding which will bring exciting revitalization to the Richmond Highway corridor.