Region Forward: Greater Washington 2050

“It’s 2009 and you are trying to figure out if you should support a local project.”  That’s an excellent starting point for Region Forward, the vision of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) for the National Capital Region and the Greater Washington 2050 Coalition

Public comments are due by November 30.  Wondering what to say?  Check out the comments already provided by the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust.

Long term planning has value when you can use it to guide decisions we make today, so step by step we grow towards our goals.  One thing is certain – this region will grow significantly between now and 2050.

The DC area has 5 million people now.  Demographers predict 2 million more will arrive over the next 40 years.   Growth can add new economic and cultural energy… but growth can increase traffic congestion, crowd our schools and parks beyond capacity, and fill creeks with sediment.

How we grow is up to us.  Our elected officials have choices and the capacity to grow “good” or grow “bad.”

The blame-game, I-am-not-responsible officials claim the recession, the Dillon Rule, or previous administrations dug a hole too deep.  They can’t change business as usual, so let’s keep approving subdivisions like Avendale.  Let’s keep locating cultural facilities like Hylton Performing Arts just as we did the two campuses of Northern Virginia Community College and the Nissan Pavilion – far away from where people live, so we keep increasing traffic jams rather than create walkable communities.

C’mon – at a minimum, we can at least quit digging the hole deeper, and stop encouraging new housing over there when the jobs are over here.

Prince William supervisors, Manassas and Manassas Park city councilors, and other elected officials have the responsibility to shape growth rather than just complain about it.  County supervisors define their vision in the Prince William’s Strategic Plan and Comprehensive Plan.  Those two documents in particular are supposed to guide our participation in regional plans for water supply, the Constrained Long Range Plan for transportation, the State Implementation Plan for air quality, and soon the Watershed Implementation Plans for the Chesapeake Bay cleanup – plus budget decisions to implement various plans.

Prince William County and other cities/counties in the DC area will be asked to commit to the vision, and plan growth based on the nine goals and various metrics defined in Region Forward.  Coordinating with adjacent jurisdictions is not a new concept, but if Prince William doesn’t push to reshape the regional growth pattern, we’ll continue to be a bedroom community with high property taxes, ever-expanding schools, and atrocious commutes… while closer-to-DC jurisdictions get the tax revenues from employment centers.

We already have a regional approach to major road and transit projects, for drinking water supply planning, and for treating wastewater.  Different jurisdictions already share jails, libraries, parks, and other services.  Two key features remain distinct about our separate cities/counties:
– separate school systems
– separate land use plans

Standards of Learning are standardizing the curriculum in the schools.  Now Region Forward proposes to unify the land use plans in Northern Virginia.

Somewhere in the future, we may end up with an elected regional “board” able to set some regional tax rates.  There is already a 2.1% wholesale tax in Northern Virginia jurisdictions on gasoline to finance Metro, VRE, and other transportation projects.

Not having any officials elected with a metro/regional focus makes it harder for separate jurisdictions to work together… but not impossible.  Region Forward assumes we can put aside jurisdictional differences and focus on nine common goals.

If we commit to common action strategies to implement those goals, and measure progress through some common metrics… we might be at risk of planning “smart” and creating good growth in Northern Virginia between now and 2050.


3 comments so far

  1. mike bebb on

    Most impressed with depth and format. Plz put me on yout email list .Dr M Bebb

  2. Emily on

    When you state that 2 NVCC campuses, Nissan Pavillion & Hylton Arts Center being “far away from where people live,” you are missing an important fact– people DO live in Prince William. We deserve & USE the higher educational and culturual facilities located in our county, and in the case of the arts center, helped to fund it. DC/Arlington has plenty of wonderful educational & arts opportunities, there is no reason we should not enjoy some in our community as well. If PWC is to play ball on a regional vision, the vision first must not dismiss our county as not qualified to have the same convenient amenities that our neighbors to the north enjoy.

  3. cgrymes on

    Emily is correct, Nissan Pavilion & Hylton Arts Center are not isolated from the community, and we need such cultural centers. They are essential to “livability,” making Prince William an even more attractive place to live.

    The problem is that we built Nissan Pavilion and Hylton Arts Center far away from where people live, so few people are close neighbors who will walk to the cultural centers. We’re still designing our community as if it’s 1955. By locating cultural centers away from housing, we keep requiring that almost *everyone* must drive to get to cultural centers in Prince William.

    There’s no way we’ll become a car-less, walk-everywhere county in our lifetimes. There’s no vision of Manhattan in our future. After shopping at the grocery store, we’ll want a car to tote the bags home.

    Still, we need to reduce the number of trips/day that are required to live here, if we ever expect traffic congestion to stop getting worse.

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