Air Cargo Case for Bi-County Parkway Crashes and Burns. Will McDonnell Pivot to New Justification?

Graphic credit: Center for Regional Analysis.

Graphic credit: Center for Regional Analysis.

by James A. Bacon

Cognitive Dissonance, anyone? There is an interesting juxtaposition of articles in The Washington Post today….  The local section carried an article about George Mason University President Angel Cabrera expressing support of the Bi-County Parkway, while the business section ran an article about a new report emanating from The Center for Regional analysis at GMU, which concludes that improved highway access would provide only a marginal benefit to Washington Dulles International Airport.

Chasing air cargo a fool’s errand. The Center for Regional Analysis report concludes that “improved western road access” to Dulles would increase demand for air cargo at Washington Dulles International Airport by only 8%. The McDonnell administration has cited the economic-development benefits of Dulles’ air cargo business as one of the main justifications for building the North South Corridor west of Dulles at a guesstimated cost of about $1.5 billion. (The most controversial segment of that corridor is the $400 million Bi-County Parkway.)

Coincidentally or not, the McDonnell administration has been downplaying the air-cargo angle recently. Many Prince William citizens are up in arms over the prospect of thousands of additional tractor-trailers using their roads and highways every day as the result of expanded air-cargo operations. Now it turns out that the aspiration to convert Dulles into a world-class air-cargo center is a pipe dream.

The working paper by David E. Versel, “Factors Affecting Air Cargo Operations at Washington Dulles International Airport,” notes that domestic air-cargo traffic has declined nationally since 2000 due to an intermodal shift from airplanes to trucks and trains. Meanwhile, the odds of gaining market share within a slow-growing international market are slim. The existing international gateways will not be easily displaced. “While opportunities do exist for Dulles Airport to expand its international air cargo activities, it will continue to be at a competitive disadvantage relative to other airports that have more international destinations,” Versel writes.

A 2010 study commissioned by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) projected air cargo traffic to 2030 by applying trend lines from 1990 to 2006. The volume of air cargo was expected to increase from 746 million pounds in 2006 to 1.76 billion by 2030. “The forecast now seems ambitious,” Versel observes dryly, “as the actual cargo weigh in 2012 had declined to 591 million pounds.” 

A GMU survey of freight forwarders found that traffic congestion around Dulles was a relatively minor factor in decisions whether or not to ship air-cargo in and out of the airport. Schedules, route diversity and capacity were the driving factors. Local traffic congestion was classified as more of an annoyance. “Most air cargo movement occurs overnight,” writes Versel, “and is therefore not very sensitive to the negative congestion on surface highways around airports.” (If cargo transloaded to trucks moves mainly at night, it’s worth noting, foes’ fears of tractor-trailers creating congestion- and safety-related issues are probably exaggerated as well.)

A new rationale. So much for the air-cargo justification. But real estate developers really, really want to build the parkway, which would open up much of eastern Loudoun County for upzoning of projects already on the drawing boards. Enter Angel Cabrera.

Cabrera wants improved connectivity to fast-growing Loudoun County for GMU’s Prince William campus which serves more than 4,000 students and which anchors the county’s Innovation Technology Park. Many faculty and students live in Loudoun, he says. Writing in a GMU blog, he says:

As we continue to invest in this campus, create new programs in high-demand areas and attract millions of dollars in research funding, it is critical that the transportation infrastructure around our campus continues to improve. Both east-west connectivity — which facilitates access to and from our campuses in Fairfax and Arlington and the resources in the National Capital Region — as well as north-south connectivity — which facilitates access to the growing residential and business centers in Loudoun County and our future Loudoun County campus — are critical to our future and our ability to deliver on our mission.

Bacon’s bottom line: Just as the air-cargo ploy goes down in flames, Cabrera seemingly has extended a lifeline to Bi-County Parkway supporters. But has he really? The majority of students at the Prince William campus commute from around the region because there is only one residence hall serving the campus, the GMU president mentions in passing. Hmmm…. Which would be more cost effective — building a couple of dormitory buildings with dedicated revenue streams at $20-$30 million a pop or building the $400 million Bi-County Parkway? Cabrera doesn’t ask that question. But taxpayers should.

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28 responses to “Air Cargo Case for Bi-County Parkway Crashes and Burns. Will McDonnell Pivot to New Justification?

  1. I wonder whether any landowners who are stymied by their inability to develop their properties because of traffic congestion and who want the Road built have made or pledged any gifts to GMU. Nah, couldn’t be. 🙂

    • As you imply, the northern Virginia business community, and most particularly its real estate community, is largely responsible for the founding and initial funding of George Mason University. This act of philanthropy, and the local business community’s continuing support of an emerging great university, is a remarkable story, one that reflects everlasting credit on Northern Virginia business community.

      However, as well could be expected, the Northern Va. business community has long used George Mason as its research arm on an array of business initiatives, particularly on local demographic, transportation, and land use issues. For example, George Mason has performed numerous studies in support of iterations of the Bi-County parkway, such as the missing links study, and very earliest studies on the viability of air cargo at Dulles.

      (Indeed, the president of George Mason has traditionally served on the board of the Washington Airports Task Force. As of today the Geo. Mason President is listed as a board member of the Task Force (although the name shown is I believe the prior president of the University.)

      In any case I have yet to see a George Mason Study on these issues that did not support the position of the local business community that founded it.

      Hence, it appears now, contrary to all earlier assertions by Dulles airport proponents, that the critically needed Dulles Air Cargo operation will be birthed and operated under the Principles of Immaculate Conception.

      Essentially, we are being told that Dulles will enjoy the first premier East Coast air cargo facility that will not rely on a heavy volume of trucks and planes coming in and g0ing out of Dulles at all times of day and night.

      Recall how this “experts” opinion is directly contrary to earlier statements made by both the President of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and the President of the Washington Airports Task Force. See Thunder Road to Dulles on this website for only one example.

      My, Oh My, how stories, they do change.

  2. turning down money from Richmond – no matter how flimsy the justification – if Richmond likes it – is… dumb no matter how one feels about the merits.

    but TMT – is it ever true that increased congestion depresses the price of single family homes in NoVa?

    I recently accompanied a friend to finish up the details of selling his recently deceased mother’s home which was probably a thousand square feet on a 1/8 acre lot near Georgetown Pike.

    that home in the Fredericksburg area might bring 150K.. up there it sold for more than 600K.

    I’m just not seeing how congestion hurts housing prices in NoVa.

  3. Larry, under VDOT’s transportation impact analysis rules, a locality considering certain Comp Plan or zoning changes must submit a TIA for VDOT’s review. Developments proposing significant negative impacts on traffic flow without proffering mitigating measures are many times finding their Plan Amendments and/or rezoning applications being rejected.

    Some of the land near the proposed Bi-County Parkway was rejected for development by the Loudoun County BoS after the trial TIA was prepared and filed. Since many landowners don’t want to pay for mitigating facilities, they see the Bi-County Parkway as a good and well-deserved taxpayer subsidy.

    My goodness, we wouldn’t expect development to pay for the mitigation of the additional traffic congestion it would generate. Property rights in dirt trump all others. Or so they say. 😉

  4. TMT – I’ve not seen any rejected but I have seen expensive upgrades required – like full traffic signals with left and right turn lanes, etc.

    I do not think VDOT can deny a curb cut to land except under the most extreme circumstances that would amount to a “taking”.

    there are DIFFERENT requirements for 600 series roads vs US and State roads. US 1 (and others) are access-managed which gives VDOT much more authority in HOW access is gained (or not) whereas in 600 series roads, they are more locally decided.. I THINK… not 100% sure.

    I’m more on your side than opposed given the history of developers profiting from road infrastructure.

    but at the same time – people who own land cannot be denied from developing it – by right – and “by right” is determined by the BOS.

    where things go to negotiation is when a rezone (usually for more density, more trips per day) is wanted.

    but developers don’t really pay – they don’t print or create money – they get their money from people who buy their homes… right?

    • Larry, I believe this WaPo story from 2006 discusses what I mentioned. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/13/AR2006071301549.html

      In the face of this analysis, the Loudoun County BoS refused to grant the requested rezoning applications. But the speculators still own the land, and the taxpayers are now shelling out more money.

      • Interesting 2006 article.

        Some of the action behind this 2006 controversy was inter-developer disagreement. In 2006 the big push was already underway to build at Dulles a premier east coast air cargo hub that would drive warehouse and distribution center development within and outside the airport.

        Residential development in Dulles neighborhood threatened this dream. All night cargo fights in and out of Dulles (and all night big rig trucking and daytime delivery) was incompatibly with nearby residential housing.

        Hence Dulles airport and its real estate development backers opposed residential development in the Dulles area on “noise and environmental” grounds. They still do. What they really wanted then and now is to protect their ambition for the air cargo hub that would jump-start and feed an new industrial zone on the west side of the airport. This in turn would jump start light industrial and distribution development up and down what is now labelled the bi-county parkway to I-66 and roads south to I-95 and north across the Potomac (what later become came the Corridor of Statewide Significance necessary open up Dulles Airport in all directions).

        So what is going on now are fallback positions from this original grand attempt which is now of course is the subject of Public Relations campaign that for the past year had been denied and modified daily. The latest George Mason University Study is simply part of this PR campaign.

      • yup – ” Ultimately, though, local governments act independently when it comes to decisions on land use.”

        this is the problem in Va – and not in 46 other states, and other Va cities and towns and two counties that all own both the land-use and the transportation issue.

        but neither VDOT nor the jurisdiction can deny a curb cut and in the long run – if you allow the by-right – are you fostering more traffic to further away destinations – the same congestion …just further on out ???

    • Larry, very few landowners want to develop by right, at least not in Fairfax County. They generally need rezoning, an amendment to a Comp Plan, a special exception, etc. There is no legal right to such land use changes/permissions.

      VDOT is readily refusing new curb cuts. Except in cities, towns and Arlington and Henrico Counties, VDOT is in charge of all local roads, as you know. VDOT decides curb cuts everywhere else.

      I suspect very few developers recovered all of their costs for proffers, etc. during the real estate meltdown. Moreover, some studies suggest a high percentage of the costs flow to landowners in the form of lower prices. It’s not automatic that home purchasers pay developers’ costs. They might pay some, but in the absence of a hot market, the some is likely far from all.

      • TMT – curb cuts on 600 series roads for by-right are virtually automatic.

        if a 600 series road has a new development that then dumps traffic on a state or fed road then a major signal upgrade may be need and that can cost as much as a million and more.

        but I do no think VDOT can deny access to property. we have an issue in Fredericksburg where a property is situated problematically but the city is telling everyone that the law will not let them deny access.

        re: proffers. do you think that proffers are substantially different from impact fees (if they were allowed)? how?

        proffers are not collected until the OP is issued, right?

  5. This is ridiculous. Both Memphis and Louisville have substantially improved their local economies through air cargo. In both cases they had an anchor company – Federal Express (Memphis) and UPS (Louisville). In both cases these companies fly jets full of stuff to the city, sort the stuff and then fly the reorganized stuff back out. In other words, they transport a lot of air cargo without using a lot of trucks.

    Of course, Fed Ex and UPS were just the tip of the iceberg. Once the airport was upgraded the nearby roads were improved, warehouses built and more logistics and manufacturing companies attracted. It seems like a pretty classic way to start a cluster.

    However, both Memphis and Louisville have substantial rail and river transportation systems. Northern Virginia has neither. Memphis and Louisville also have cheap land and cheap labor. Northern Virginia has neither.

    The sequester and shutdown should have convinced Northern Virginians that being held at the economic mercy of the ass-hats in Washington is a non-starter. New businesses, new clusters need to be germinated. This will never happen with the Richmond-esque approach of just waiting for good things to happen. If that’s how the political leaders in Richmond want to roll – that’s fine. However, I think we need a more activist role for government as NoVa diversifies its economy. Of course, that will require that we cut the ties that bind us to our Dillon’s Rule masters in River City.

    Is air cargo a good idea for NoVa? Maybe. Maybe not. I’d like to see an anchor company commit to using the facility before it is built.

    But one thing is for sure – we’ll never move NoVa forward if we have to rely on The Clown Show in Richmond for action. They will do what they always have done … absolutely nothing.

    • ” I’d like to see an anchor company commit to using the facility before it is built.” That assumes the Washington Airports Task Force (a key group pushing the Air Freight Song and Dance and the associated Bi-County Parkway) was about airfreight. I asked Leo Shefer where were the big airfreight companies last February. MIA.

      Take a look at the Board of Directors for the Washington Airports Task Force. http://www.washingtonairports.com/ Click Board of Directors. The board is dominated by real estate developers and associated businesses even though there are some air industry players on the board.

      Money is needed in NoVA for east-west travel improvements. The biggest north-south needs are in the Route 1 corridor in Fairfax and Prince William Counties.

      • “Take a look at the Board of Directors for the Washington Airports Task Force. http://www.washingtonairports.com/ Click Board of Directors. The board is dominated by real estate developers and associated businesses even though there are some air industry players on the board.”

        Good comment – that is the Task Force’s reason for being- to promote the economic interest of its members. It is the classic example of the self appointed business group in Virginia whose real goal is to capture public taxpayer monies to push and accomplish its own business agenda.

        That is not to say that many of the members do not have the best of intentions. Nor is it to deny that often their private business interests and the public interest overlap. Often they do. See Ballston Rossyln.

        But often over time when such groups become too powerful and overbearing, and politicians become too beholden to them, their interest can diverge greatly from the public interest. This is particularly so when they get government to fund public moneys to pay for critical parts of their projects. Then the public money is free, no risk money, used to make huge sums of money for those business interests. The temptation then become is too great to resist, if only because its risk free, and free.

        In Norther Virginia this temptation has been irresistible for many years. It is a primarily reason why, for example, land use and transportation decisions have become so self-destructive, to the point that is threatens the Geese that lay the Golden Eggs, not least of which is Dulles Airport.

        • What fries me is that the Task Force claims its primary interest is in seeing IAD be successful because of all the benefits it brings to the residents of NoVA. Come on! As you say, its purposes are to advance the members’ private interests and to do so by grabbing taxpayer dollars. Of course, they couldn’t grab the free money by touting their own interests directly.

          We can see private interests coincide with the public interest, but only when the former has major skin in the game. The requirement for the Tysons landowners to pay a lot of the costs for transportation improvements that enable them to develop at urban density levels pushes on them to do sensible things — sensible things that correlate with the public interest more often.

          The Bi-County Parkway needs to be flushed down the toilet or burned with trash.

    • You raise good points Don. And, as I believe you are suggesting, Dulles will never become a Memphis or Louisville air cargo hub. It simple will not happen for whole varieties or reasons.

      • Memphis and Louisville are both at the center of east/west/north/south Interstates connections and neither place has developed in a way to destroy the utility of these interstates – unlike NoVa.

        we won’t assign blame here – just point out that when companies located, they take into consideration – mobility and how it might affect their business and truth be know – perhaps the NoVa is just a lousy place to put a Fed Ex or UPS hub.

        • Yes, Larry. And that is only one of several reasons why the latest George Mason Air Cargo study tells us nothing useful.

          Rather, the study reminds me of the man in a balloon lost in a fog high over the earth. Suddenly the clouds part slightly below. Seeing a small figure standing far below in a plaza, the lost aeronaut yells:

          “Hallo – Hallo – Where am I?”

          The tiny face looking up into the clouds yells back: “In a balloon.”

  6. 😉 does that work in NoVa?

    or.. I know EXACTLY where I am …but I just don’t know where that place is I need to get to…

    • Larry, I fear that more and more in Northern Virginia folks justify things and cook up rationales and excuses based on useless data and information. Frankly , I sympathize what the author of the report. His assigned task was a fool’s errand. A kind of tilting at windmills.

  7. The most obvious fact evidencing the uselessness of the professor’s opinion on Dulles Airport’s chances of air cargo success is the fact the Dulles Airport is ignoring his opinion. Dulles is going ahead with its air cargo expansion plans just as before. And of course it is also fighting for the building of the Bi-County Parkway just as before, because, as its President has stated, the Bi-County Parkway is critical to the success of its Air Cargo operation.

    Secondly, the professor’s statement that air cargo operators, shippers, and integrators place little emphasis of an air cargo airports road access and capacity is plainly wrong. All air cargo operations do. Trucks and aircraft work like yin and yang, each are critical to the other, even at hubs where much cargo never leaves the airport but flies in on one plane and out on another. Why? Because much of the cargo is trucked in, and much of it is trucked out in any case. So road access is critically important. Indeed, it is one reason for JFK’s decline in air cargo market share. JFK air cargo operations and all others similarly challenged would dearly love to have better road access. The problem is the airports were built before their traffic access problems arose and now their operations would be hugely expensive to move. So, instead they use ad hock fixes in an effort to dilute the problems. For example, they build off site but nearby cargo facilities that sort local cargo from that destined to be truck for longer distances, typically up to 400 miles out, then on-loaded new and different trucks to carry the new arrived cargo locally in delivery trucks and regionally in the much bigger rigs. This requires time and expense, two sorting/loading operations at two different locations, rather than one at the airport.

    So it is this road access problem that is now fueling the trend to locate future air cargo airport facilities out in rural and small town areas where quick access and permanent access to major interstates is guaranteed long term. This is not rocket science. Its a long standing practice to locate major ground distribution facilities out in rural and smaller town areas well served by Interstates passing through, including throughout the state of Virginia. Hence the growing trend toward the idea of locating new single purpose air cargo airports in interstate rich but congestion free areas.

    These more rural areas would also avoid many other conflicts among various airport users and neighbors that older airports such as the JFK air cargo operations now face to their dismay. Prime among these problems are the noise and pollution of the all night and all day landing and takes offs and the truck traffic generated by air cargo airports as often multiplied by nearby warehouse and distribution centers and industrial zones that air cargo operations breed. Not only is their local impact on nearby residential neighborhoods a growing source of conflict, such cargo operations also conflict with the orderly running of normal passenger flight operations, and passenger traffic in and out of passengers terminals.

    Dulles apparently thinks it can finesse these problems by the size of the airport, and by keeping residential areas buffered and at the distance by building a larger industrial and distribution zone on its west side. These solutions are problematic, however. Such industrial facilities, for example, generate their own noise and pollution and ever more truck traffic that often grows ever more independent of the airport simply by feeding on itself while at the same time such industrial zones generate ever more traffic that wants to travel in as many directions as possible, whether local, or regional.

    Thirdly, the suggestion that Dulles will never become a Memphis, Miami, or Louisville is a straw man argument. Nobody, not even Dulles officials, ever contended that Dulles could complete with this huge integrator cargo hubs, which are both dominate national and International operations, one the largest, the other two among the largest of their kind, in the world.

    Dulles knows it can’t compete these operations. But it believes that it can complete with big regional air cargo operations like those located at Atlanta and Philadelphia airports. It thinks it can lure UPS’s large Philadelphia operations from Philadelphia to Dulles because the neighbors and traffic issues there are forcing UPS to relocate at that airport. And Dulles thinks that it can substantially cut into JFK cargo market share because of the growing traffic and road access problems that airport faces. Thus Dulles considers itself a major contender for a large market share of regional business, particularly given it ambitions to be a international player in both the passenger and air cargo market. Indeed these ambitions are Dulles reason for being, and hopes for success, according to Dulles official for years. And now these ambitions are particularly critical to Dulles in light of its struggling, and indeed declining share, of domestic passenger business and its huge capital expenditures for land and infrastructures in the recent past that are currently under unitized and need to be put to profitable use.

    That is precisely why Dulles will continue to push hard for as much truck road access and air cargo business as it can get, despite all efforts to operate below the radar and dress those effort up in PR disinformation, and professorial reports that in my view are ridiculous on their face.

    Regarding the Professor prognostications on future air cargo demands, he and no better idea than anyone else, and many in the business with skin in the game hold views quite contrary to his.

    Indeed, to my mind, it is hard to imagine how anything could be more unreliable than a college professor rendering his expert opinion on the chances of success or failure any risky entrepreneurial business venture. Ad the odds against the accuracy of any such opinion is reduced to near zero when it projects that volume of business up to 30 years out, and predicting not only the volume of its business, but also the volume of truck traffic on a single route that its customers will use 27 years hence, down to a SINGLE PERCENTAGE POINT!

    WHAT KIND OF WORLD DO WE LIVE IN WHERE SERIOUS PEOPLE TAKE SUCH A PREDICTION SERIOUSLY. ITS ABSURD.

    The unknowns, the uncontrollable variables, the contingencies, the acts of God, and subjective judgements involved in such a calculation render any such calculation a fools errant. Any entrepreneur with any experience, and anyone else in venture capital or how the real world works knows this. If colleges professors could make such calculations, all of them would be far richer that Warren Buffet and Bill Gates combined a thousand times over.

    And yet the local media and press report it, and many do so without serious challenge or the slightest understanding. And at the same time Dulles Airport itself ignores the report, and continues on with its original air cargo expansion plan, all as reported by the Professors himself to his credit. And they do it because they don’t believe it either.

    In my opinion this is another example for reports that “experts” the are paid by business people people (and now even the State perhaps) to order to achieve their own ends rather that an impartial result. And indeed in far to many cases now in order the obfuscate the truth. Indeed, I suspect (but do not for sure) that this Dulles Air Cargo Report was most likely purchased to serve as a sale piece in a much larger marketing operation.

    Such “exert reports” are becoming ever more commonly attached to reports or actions taken by folks who are purporting to act in the public interest. See for example the expert report handed out by the Virginia Business higher Education Council. It is discussed on this website in the article titled “University Coalition Bereft of New Thinking”.

    • Ouch!

      I have to say, I took the report at face value. My thought was this: If a GMU professor from the Center for Regional Analysis thought Dulles doesn’t have a shot at becoming a major air-cargo center, then it really has no chance. After all, the CRA has been so bullish about anything and everything relating to economic development in the region.

      So, you think this is disinformation. That’s pretty subtle, and it goes very much against type, don’t you think?

      How about the argument that much of the cargo transloaded to trucks moves at night?

      • Jim asks “How about the argument that much of the cargo transloaded to trucks moves at night?”

        Think of a regional air cargo hub has a grand accordion. This grand accordion has has two primary movements every twenty four hours.

        During the evening hours, and all night night long, through the early morning hours, Dulles air cargo facility will inhale truck traffic into the airport from all around the region, most of it coming in from a distance of up to 400 miles away. So all evening and all through the night, the airport and the industrial zone around it will collect fully loaded cargo trucks. All night the arrivals, the unloading, the sorting and reloading will go on, like a huge conveyor belt, machine shop, and truck depot.

        Then,during the daylight morning hours the grand accordion exhales. Now it will disburse the truck traffic out into the local areas and the region as well – and this exhale of truck traffic will contain far more trucks because there will be many smaller loads for local delivery, amidst the larger ones going regionally off planes flown the night before.

        So George Mason claim of solely all night traffic argument is bogus.

        In addition, looking closely at all the elements and factors at play here, I have little doubt that the truck traffic on any Bi-County Parkway built will be very large, absent totally unexpected circumstances, and circumstance highly contrary to the intentions of the road’s proponents.

        In short, the potential of the Bi-County Parkway to serve as a major truck route remains, and likely always will remain, a primary motivator behind the efforts of the Dulles airport, and real estate developers to get this road built with public monies. The Professor’s report, in my view, is almost surely nothing more than a red herring tossed out to hide this fact and these intentions from the taxpayers and public generally.

        • Here are the key issues that I believe are driving the Bi-County Parkway, regarding the Dulles air cargo and Dulles industrial zone.

          1/ The bi-County Parkway is key to any realistic chance for the growth of Dulles Airports Air Cargo operations into a major regional player.

          2/ The success and growth of Dulles Airport Air Cargo operations into a regional player is important to jump starting the large warehouse, distribution and Light industrial zone currently planned for on the land west and south of Dulles Airport, which later development has been in the doldrums since the 2001 Dot.Com bust.

          3/ The bi-County Parkway is not only the key to the growth of Dulles Airports Air Cargo operations, the bi-County Parkway is also key to and essential for the growth of the warehouse, distribution and Light industrial zone around Dulles whose development has been in the economic doldrums for since the Dot Com bust of 2001.

          Hence, the airport air cargo business and the industrial zones in eastern Loudoun County are highly dependent on one another, and also on the construction of the Bi-County Parkway.

          And, because all these industrial uses are highly dependent on large volumes of truck traffic, these industrial uses if successfully developed will put a large and ever growing volume of truck traffic on the Bi-County Parkway, and on all the roads surrounding Dulles Airport.

          I believe these opinions are widely shared. Hence I believe, without knowing, that the George Mason Report is a red herring. I believe it misleads on the question of the consequences that the Bi-County Parkway will have on the volume on Truck Traffic on the Parkway and within the region generally. And I also believe that this would be the case even if the the Parkway only increases Dulles Airports Air Cargo volume by 8%, which possibility I believe is not only highly unlikely, but also impossible to predict with any accuracy worth relying on.

  8. Yeah, Jim, it is indeed a very clever gambit. Quite counter intuitive.

    But these are clever folks. Otherwise they would not be so successful and affective, or have “muscle to get things done” as the President of the Dulles Airports Task Force liked to say.

    Nor was the professor’s report all wrong. Much was quite on target, and insightful. And much else of it may prove roughly close to true.

    But who in the world but a damn fool would bet serious money on his prognostications. No mortal on this earth possesses the powers of an omniscient God to perform the task that he was assigned.

    Let me cogitate on your last comment a while.

  9. It’s quite likely that the objective of the George Mason University Report is to put public concern about trucks on the Bi-County Parkway “to sleep.”

    Thus, the airport’s failure to date to get its cargo operation up and running for lack to decent and sufficient truck access is now being used by the major Parkway proponents for best advantage to obfuscate their ultimate intent.

    The strategy is “to put the public to sleep” long enough for Dulles Airport, its proponents, and the State, to accomplish the states acquisition of a right of way, and to gain as many other approvals for the road as possible. This helps to to freeze land acquisition and other approval costs in place, and it will go a very long way towards assuring that the truck road ultimately will be built, thus locking in the hard parts of the road building and use process.

    Along the way, it also adds tremendous value to the land held by developers along the right of way. This in turn over time will build ever more political pressure on future governors to build the road, and thereafter to add in more truck lanes and tolls on the road to assure rapid truck traffic to and from the airport, attracting ever more traffic of all sorts over the road. And this in turn will build up ever more pressure for more roads, particularly roads busting out across the Virginia Piedmont to the north and the west.

    Why? How will this almost surely happen? Here’s why.

    Once the Bi-County Parkway is built, it will generate tremendous traffic that will be locked in on the north and west by the road cul de sac the surrounds the airport. This cul de sac will then generate not only tremendous traffic pressure, but it will also generate tremendous political pressures. Everyone will be forced to find no win solutions. What does the least damage, when no solution is a good solution? That will be the question of the day?

    Thus the Bi-County Parkway once built will bust open the airport to heavy traffic heading not only south and east but also to heavy truck traffic headed west and north in all directions to relieve the huge congestion nightmare that it is already creating to the east and south of the airport. This “busting out” scheme is the Bi-County Parkway developers’ overarching plan.

    And once this occurs (the parkway is built and traffic nightmare builds up as a result), then almost everyone, including any governor looking for funds and for the political support to win an election will easily be “persuaded” (indeed will have to) the build truck routes in all directions, particularly north and west, to relieve the horrible problem that the Bi-County Parkway, the Dulles air cargo operations, and developers industrial and distribution zone, has created for all Northern Virginia, and for the region at large.

    See Dulles Grand Plan for background details on the this website.

    • See also article titled “A Mortgage on NoVa Future” on this website for details of the “bust out plan” that would result if gambit is successful.

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