Roger Berliner and Jay Fisette are the managing partners of DMV Strategic Advisors. Berliner and Fisette each chaired the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ Board of Directors while serving, respectively, on the Montgomery County Council and Arlington County Board.

The Washington metropolitan region, or as many call it, the DMV, has struggled for decades when it comes to acting regionally. The fundamental reason is obvious: Our region is made up of the one-of-a-kind District of Columbia and parts of Maryland and Virginia. It encompasses different political structures and legal authorities, and numerous cities, counties and towns, each with its own set of priorities and competitive pressures.

Despite that fundamental obstacle, the region has recently come together in admirable fashion. Our strong 2024 Summer Olympics bid proved our capacity to collaborate across borders and sectors. The decades-long effort to secure dedicated funding for Metro, the backbone of our region, finally crossed the goal line. And notwithstanding the competition for Amazon’s HQ2, the region’s leaders agreed to highlight the strength of our region as a whole, a presentation that made the decision to locate here compelling.

These successes didn’t happen in a vacuum. We have strong institutions, such as the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, which brings our region’s elected leadership together to find common ground in pursuit of regional interests. We also have strong business organizations, including the newly formed Greater Washington Partnership, and long-standing groups such as the Greater Washington Board of Trade and the Federal City Council. We have an array of nonprofits that work every day to address our region’s pressing priorities.

Despite incremental progress, we have concluded that many of our most pressing priorities — think transportation, affordable housing, sustainability and economic development — will not be met without strengthening regional cooperation.

For that to happen, we believe it’s time to create stronger regional compacts and regional authorities.

What would a meaningful regional compact look like? Our region has tried two models.

The first was the Greater Washington 2050 Compact, an ambitious effort that set goals and targets in nine major policy areas of importance to our region: land use, transportation, public safety, education and the economy, to name a few. Virtually all of the jurisdictions in the DMV signed on. But what they signed on to was merely a pledge to make “best efforts” in these areas.

The second model was used to create the federally mandated Metrorail Safety Commission in 2017. This compact was much more narrowly focused than its predecessor; it is also enshrined in law in Maryland, Virginia and the District.

We need to blend and refine these approaches if we are to make significant progress on cross-cutting public-policy issues. We need compacts that would — after much negotiation among the jurisdictions and stakeholders, including the private sector and our nonprofit partners — identify specific measures that each jurisdiction would adopt or implement by a certain date. This compact would require transparency and teeth. Failure to act would have consequences. While short of a legally binding commitment, it would be stronger than our approaches to date.

What would a regional authority look like? Economic development has long been this area’s Achilles’ heel. Too often competition, not collaboration, has ruled. Yet our experience in leading our individual county governments is that many outside the D.C. area don’t know who we are unless we add that we are part of the Washington region. That is our collective strength, and we should always play to our strength.

Without ceding control important to individual jurisdictions, a regional authority could lead on branding, marketing, expanding our exports, and research of and for our region while providing a forum for moderating internal competition. This approach is more efficient and more likely to grow the economy of the region to the benefit of all.

No jurisdiction would be compelled to join either a compact or an authority. But if some of our largest and most politically and economically aligned jurisdictions started the ball rolling, it could create a momentum in which everyone wants in.

Our region is quite extraordinary. And yet it has urgent issues that must be tackled. So let’s find new ways to get it done — together. It’s time for DMV 2.0.

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