Coming Soon: Master Plan for NoVa North-South Corridor

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by James A. Bacon

A major north-south highway in Northern Virginia took a step closer to reality today when the Commonwealth Transportation Board voted to develop a master plan for a “corridor of statewide significance” that would cut through Prince William, Fairfax and Loudoun counties.

Northern Virginia has the worst congestion in the United States, said Deputy Transportation Secretary David Tyeryar. The gridlock is aggravated by poor access to Dulles airport, which forces people to drive much farther along major arteries like Interstate 95, Interstate 66 and the Dulles Toll Road than they should. The new corridor would better integrate Dulles with the region.

While the route bears a strong resemblance to a proposal for an outer Washington beltway spanning the Potomac River that was scrapped a decade ago, McDonnell administration officials were at pains to say that this project is more limited in scope. The corridor will originate in a southern terminus on Interstate 95, align with the proposed Tri-County Parkway (shown in map), run north past Dulles airport and terminate at Route 7, Tyeryar said. “We will not study a river crossing,” he emphasized.

Tyeryar got pushback, however, from two CTB members who said that the corridor should include a river crossing. “I don’t think we should put artificial limits on what we look at for connecting Dulles,” said J. Douglas Koelemay, who represents the Northern Virginia transportation district. “My goal is river to river. We have connectivity needs with Maryland.”

“The governor of Maryland has been contacted,” said Gary Garczynski, an urban, at-large member from Prince William County. “Senator [Mark] Warner favors a river crossing. It’s in dialogue.”

The only board member to express reservations about the study was James E. Rich, representative of the Culpeper transportation district. It makes more sense to fund smaller projects that can improve mobility in Northern Virginia right now, he said, than to conduct a long study for a megaproject for which no money currently exists, he said. “There are concrete affordable steps to improve access to Dulles.”

Other than Rich, however, when it came to a vote, all CTB members voted in favor of the study. When asked when he could get started, Tyeryar replied that he’d already taken the liberty of putting the project into motion. He promised the board to report back at 6-, 12- and 18-month intervals.

Powerful interests are pushing for construction of a major thoroughfare. The localities along the proposed route have added 300,000 people in the last 10 years, said Robert Chase, president of the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance. The next two decades will see another 650,000 people settle in the region. That’s nearly a million people — almost the population of Fairfax County. “There is a huge demand for a north-south corridor. If we do something or not, those people will be there.”

Smart Growth representatitves were quiescent at the board meeting. But they have criticized the outer beltway in the past on the grounds that it would contribute to sprawl by opening up vast tracts for development while diverting funds from smaller, more targeted improvements that would do more to reduce congestion.

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6 responses to “Coming Soon: Master Plan for NoVa North-South Corridor”

  1. ha ha ha – access to Dulles is the criteria for a road of statewide significance?

    this is starting to sound like Voodoo Transportation Policy.

    If the funding plan for access from the east to Dulles is to tax the bejesus out of DTR travelers why not set this road up the same way?

    Build the road and tax the bejesus out of those that use it and use that money to build high speed rail from Charlottesville to Dulles.

    I mean …really…if you want to think bold as in river crossings.. let’s get real.

    Maryland would undoubtedly sign on to a rail river crossing.

    All this talk about multi-modal goes to hell in a handbasket when they get down the the nitty-gritty – it’s back to the roads default from the get go.

    what a clown show.

  2. So what will be the improvement in traffic flow for building this road, especially when there is no connection to Maryland? Why not build a western toll road to connect with Dulles Airport? I suspect that this is just the same old cold soup warmed up. A number of landowners near these proposed routes want taxpayers to pony up and build them roads. As Til Hazel told the public in Richmond a number of years ago — I build things. It is the job of taxpayers to pay for the infrastructure that supports what I build.
    Is this any different than the Solyndra fiasco? We need to have Jim LeMunyon’s bill enacted into law. What projects produce the greatest return on investment for the public in terms of safety improvements and congestion reduction?

  3. I think standard operating procedure for these kinds of proposals is for an investment-grade toll study to see if the road can pay for itself with tolls – and if it cannot – then how would you pay for it?

    Groveton worries about reimbursement rates for county roads – this is why the reimbursement rates are so low – the money goes for boondoggles to profit developers – at the expense of fair (existing) road reimbursements.

  4. what would also be useful is to see how much ADDITIONAL money is spent by Henrico on a annual PER CAPITA basis.

    Are we talking about $10, $100, $1000 dollars?

    that would be an important number – a more important number than how VDOT does reimbursement rates.

    What would be the bottom line cost per capita to Fairfax citizens?

  5. The more I think about this, the more stupid it seems. We need lots of money to repair roads and to expand roads to serve Tysons Corner. Yet the CTB has proposed to build another big road that no one can fund. This has nothing to do with access to Dulles Airport and everything to do with enabling additional development to the west. Why won’t the landowners propose a public/private partnership to build their desired Western Bypass? Build a toll road if the demand is so high?

  6. the de facto standard for roads like this is that they stand or fall as a toll road.

    IF a new road is truly one of “need’, of statewide or regional significance lets define “need” as something people are willing to pay for to use instead of what developers “need”.

    The very first chapter in a NEPA doc says “purpose and need”. One paragraph that says that an investor grade toll study was performed and a PPTA contract is ready to be signed by a willing operator.

    If that paragraph is missing.. no need to do the rest of the doc

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