A North-South Highway for Northern Virginia

The McDonnell administration has unveiled its vision for a north-south highway and other improvements to Virginia’s newest Corridor of Statewide Significance.

Source: Office of Intermodal Policy and Investment. (Click map for more legible image.)

by James A. Bacon

The McDonnell administration has unveiled a recommended alignment for a limited access highway to be built as the backbone of the North-South Corridor of Statewide Significance in Northern Virginia. The 45-mile circumferential highway would start at Interstate 95 in the south, swing west of Dulles International Airport and terminate at Route 7 in the north.

The route would following existing highways, roads and projects contained in the comprehensive plans of Prince William County and Loudoun County. In a brief presentation of the proposal yesterday to the Commonwealth Transportation Board, Deputy Secretary of Transportation David Tyeryar justified the project on the grounds that it would help Dulles airport compete in the air cargo arena and would serve an area on the fringe of metropolitan Washington whose population is expected to grow by hundreds of thousands over the next three decades.

Although Tyeryar noted that the highway would provide an estimated $3.9 million a year in annual travel-time savings, he did not tell the CTB what the facility was estimated to cost. No one on the CTB asked. However, answering questions after the presentation, Dironna Moore Belton, policy program manager for the Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment, gave a rough estimate of $1 billion to be financed by a yet-to-be-determined mix of local, state and private dollars.

The presentation inspired a sharp rebuke from Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. “I thought it was a very thin presentation. It failed in the most basic way by not even providing a price or a detailed explanation of what they were proposing.” The cost of the circumferential highway does not include a connector to Dulles airport or proposed upgrades to Rt. 606 running along the western edge of the airport, which could add another $500 million, he said. Tyeryar provided no Return on Investment analysis, Schwartz added, nor, given Northern Virginia’s many transportation needs, did he address alternative uses of public funds.

No money has been allocated to the project, Tyeryar said. The McDonnell administration has simply laid out its vision for the corridor. Before anything gets built, the eight segments of the proposed highway need to be studied in significantly more detail and gain approvals from local governments and Northern Virginia’s regional transportation planning organization. Segments will be constructed piece-meal as money becomes available. No action from the CTB was needed yesterday.

The project has been a top priority for Gary Garczynski, Northern Virginia district representative for the CTB. “This is a blueprint for the future,” he said. “We still have challenges. We’re asking for acceptance of this study to be continued.”

In making his presentation, Tyeryar summarized the findings of the just-released “Northern Virginia North-South Corridor of Statewide Significance Corridor Master Plan.” The deputy transportation secretary, a former Prince William County budget director, has acted as the McDonnell administration’s point man on the project through a series of public presentations and official public hearings over the past several months.

The Master Plan provides a detailed description of the McDonnell administration’s vision for the corridor, which the CTB had designated as a Corridor of Statewide Significance in 2011. Key elements include: Read more.

Correction: An earlier draft of this article stated that David Tyeryar estimated that the travel-time savings from the highway would be $3.9 billion. The correct figure is $3.9 million.

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19 responses to “A North-South Highway for Northern Virginia”

  1. reed fawell III Avatar
    reed fawell III

    If this is to be a strictly limited access highway then it’s is a road to nowhere.
    If it’s access is not strictly limited, this highway then will be a sprawl monster.

    If this highway is the key to Dulles airport becoming a national or international air cargo hub, where is the evidence? I’ve seen none presented.

    1. reed fawell III Avatar
      reed fawell III

      Nor is this highway circumferential. It’s the reverse of circumferential. Both of its ends, north and south, dead end into existing highways that are typically gridlocked with congestion for much of the business day. So it’s a highway to nowhere unless it provides numerous on and off access points along its way. Then it will quickly become Northern Virginia’s newest sprawl monster.

  2. The Route 28/I-66 Interchange improvement is the competing alternative to the North/South Highway. All the jobs/office buildings(many currently empty) will locate to the Route 28 corridor between I-66 and IAD or along the silver line. There should be enough office building supply on Route 28 and the Dulles Corridor to last 30 more years. The North South Road should be tabled until 2030.


    1. reed fawell III Avatar
      reed fawell III

      mcs – wouldn’t the Route 29/I-66 interchange and North/South Highway complement (rather than complete with) one another?

  3. well.. it walks and talks like an outer beltway but perhaps LITE since unless Md changes it mind, it’s not likely to cross the Potomac anytime.

    If it crossed the Potomac, it would be a game-changer in terms of East Coast Travel – because travelers would do what they do in other urbanized areas with outer belts and avoid the core – even if it adds miles.

    But I’m troubled by what Virginia did with the 460 project and that is they blended tax money with private tolls and almost no accountability (which I suspect is part of Mr. Swartz’s concerns).

    So, unless things change, VDOT is going to go look for a private “partner” of which they will get to run a toll road operation and backfill it with tax dollars if it falls short.

    that’s not good but no one is telling VDOT they can’t do it – so far.

    1. Larry, couldn’t agree more with regards to crossing the Potomac. Unfortunately I don’t think that will ever happen given the cash on the Maryland side.

      I’ve always been curious why Route 28 wouldn’t be used as a segment of this as much of it is already limited access, goes right next to the airport, avoids the battlefield, and parallels the proposed corridor.

    2. One of many factors influencing Maryland’s opposition to an additional crossing of the Potomac River (Outer Beltway) is the desire to protect Thurgood Marshall BWI Airport from additional competition from Dulles Airport. Like it or not, it’s an important factor.

  4. @Hokie – I agree with your comment about Rt 28. It’s curious. Anything they do other than that is going to cost an arm/leg for new r/w.

  5. we’re not there yet but we are getting close – and that is “connected” GPS that not only shows you “traffic” but actually shows you the shortest path including alternative routes when the primary route is bolloxed.

    the next step after that is to show you the cost of the alternative routes if there are tolls, including dynamic tolls.

    that could change behaviors. Instead of relying on the real estate agent’s “low ball” time estimate, you’ll be able to check yourself what the average commute time – AND tolls will be.

    If you knew this information – BEFORE you purchased a home – would it affect your decision?

    would you, for instance, do anything different if you KNEW that your prospective commute was going to be 3 hours a day and $25 in tolls?

    would it affect you if you knew your commute was going to be 4 hours if you paid no tolls?

    how about if your commute was 2 hours and $50 in tolls?

    would you be more likely to RENT rather than BUY given such information?

    what would you do if the mortgage tax deduction went away?

    OK. so have I convinced anyone that govt policies do affect your behavior and perhaps in profound ways?

    do current govt policies foster sprawl?

    is the antidote to sprawl – dynamic tolls?

  6. We hope this map will clear up the misinformation. This is the VDOT map which we marked up based on the road closures VDOT and NPS are planning for our area and the effect it has on our transportation network. Your Commute is Going to Get Worse!

    1. reed fawell III Avatar
      reed fawell III

      That is for sure. Check back here soon.

  7. “The project has been a top priority for Gary Garczynski, Northern Virginia district representative for the CTB. ‘This is a blueprint for the future,’ he said. ‘We still have challenges. We’re asking for acceptance of this study to be continued.’ ”
    Well, I should hope so! Garczynski is a developer and his prior public service includes acting as a ‘citizen’ appointee to the Virginia Housing Commission who really represented the Homebuilders Association of Virginia. Bosun

  8. cgrymes Avatar

    “Although Tyeryar noted that the highway would provide an estimated $3.9 billion a year in annual travel-time savings”

    In the presentation, the savings are in millions rather than billions:
    The project is expected to result in $3.9 million in annual travel time savings for passenger vehicles within the study area.

    1. Thanks for pointing that out. I thought $3.9 billion sounded ridiculously high. But, then, $3.9 million sounds pitifully low. Invest a billion dollars and that’s all the travel-time savings you can generate. Whatever… I shall make a correction in the original post.

  9. talk about ROI! NOT!

  10. virginiaunpaved Avatar

    The CTB and Garczynski are way out of touch with what Virginia residents and citizens need and want. We do not want a highway passing through the pristine farmlands, regions of historical significance, scenic byways, agricultural lands and tourist attractions such as vineyards, equestrian areas, bike routes and and parks and towns for those wanting to escape cities, highways and congestions, if only for a weekend. A highway would create endless development that would benefit only developers such as the promoters of this highway like Gracynski himself. A highway would further burden current infrastructures and residents. A highway would significantly attract, NOT reduce, traffic through our beautiful countryside. Anyone with any common sense can see that this highway would be a disaster for the counties it would cut through. And who decided that Dulles should be the ” east coast’s premier freight hub”? That is a disastrous idea and promoted only by those who would benefit from it, like the land holders around Dulles who can’t figure out what else to do with their property holdings in this real estate market. Just because Garzynski has been around and developing lands for 40 years does not mean he has Virginia residents’ interests at heart. Growth happens because roads are built, not the other way around. Residents should join together in a task force to defeat this project – and bury it somewhere- deep- and for good.

  11. Millynnium Avatar

    At the end of the day, Northern Virginia cannot pave their way out of congestion. Mass transit would be more efficient and reduce impact on the scenery and pollution of the region. While the expense of mass transit is massive, there’s a greater hidden expense associated with just building more roads. The voters would have to give the pols a reason to opt away from the “cheaper” paving alternative.

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