Bacon Bits: Pipelines, Trucks, Express Lanes

Is natural gas supply a constraint to Roanoke’s growth? Without the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the Roanoke Gas Co. says it will be unable to reliably meet future demand or serve all of its customers on the coldest days of the year. Writes Chairman John Williamson in a State Corporation Commission filing: “Southwest Virginia has more than enough constraints on economic growth without its premier MWA flat-lined due to a lack of reliable and affordable energy supply. … MVP is critical to that adequate energy supply.” MVP critics say that Roanoke Gas, which has a tangential financial stake in the pipeline, has an adequate supply from existing pipelines. But Roanoke Gas officials insist that when they asked about additional capacity from the interstate pipelines, they were told none was available. The Roanoke Times lays explores the controversy here.

Keep on trucking. The Port of Virginia has completed a $320 million expansion of its container-loading capacity. With four new giant cranes and other improvements, it can handle three ultra-large container ships simultaneously. Port capacity has increased from about 2.7 million containers yearly to 4.4. million. But the growth in freight traffic is creating a new pain point: delays and prolonged turn-around times for trucks, reports the Virginian-Pilot. Unmentioned in the article is what impact rising truck traffic — four to five thousand trips daily when the port reaches full capacity — on the region’s transportation network.

Express lanes to the rescue! Speaking of constraints to growth, the Washington Post editorial board favorably contrasts Virginia’s transportation policies with those of Maryland. Northern Virginia, the board notes, is on its way to completing a nearly 100-mile network of tolled express lanes on the Beltway, and Interstates 66, 95, and 395, most of it financed, built and managed by the private sector. By contrast, a proposal to add express toll lanes in Maryland remains mired in controversy. The population of the Washington region is expected to grow by 1 million by 2045, car usage is increasing nationally, and transit improvements alone will not be able to prevent gridlock. Maryland’s inaction, says the WaPo, “threatens to consign [the] state to perpetual also-ran status in the regional economic sweepstakes.”

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5 responses to “Bacon Bits: Pipelines, Trucks, Express Lanes

  1. It should be noted that the Northern Virginia toll roads (I-395Express, I-66 ITB, I-66 OTB and Dulles Toll Road) are going to provide over $8 Billion to transit projects over the next 65 years.

    Maryland is at $0

  2. Even George Washington was upset with Maryland, who owns the Potomac River up to the Virginia shoreline. For its entire existence Maryland has intentionally stymied Potomac traffic crossings. More often than not these days I gotta go thru Winchester VA to get to Pittsburgh, whereas the short route is Beltway to I-70 mess. Something on the radio about Leesburg expanding Rt 15 which might be a nice bottleneck removal for that escape route, and of course hoping Maryland fixes AL I495 bridge one day-but I guess I’d be at least 75 or 80 by then.

    • The Maryland Toll Relief Plan is in both the Constrained Long Range Plan and the Transportation Improvement Plan (2019-2024). That includes the first phase (I-270), phase 2 (I-495 from Virginia to I-270) and the third phase (I-495/I-95 from I-270 to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. MDOT has also agreed to study a plan that would extend Managed Lanes from Virginia to I-270 to the ICC, where drivers could connect with I-95 north and south.

      While there are still issues in Maryland, relief is much closer than the Post understands. Of course, that doesn’t surprise me.

  3. I could make no sense whatsoever from the Washington Post editorial. The central traffic issues in Maryland are polar opposites from those in Northern Virginia, as are the vastly different geographies that impact both regions. The real story will be the re-invigoration of Thomas L. Friedman’s The Earth is Flat prognosis that will grow to work in tandem with Enrico Moretti’s The New Geography of Jobs predictions. Thus emerging synergistic relationships will cause the former to feed off the latter’s growing successes and unmet challenges. Maryland and Virginia will ride these waves in different ways and degrees.

  4. The simple reality is that we cannot build enough additional road capacity to solve the problem in NoVa and Maryland and so road capacity becomes a commodity that has a price on it (just as congestion has a “cost” to it also).

    Building more roads, even if we could, won’t fix congestion because all it really does is encourage more driving. Putting a toll on a road – causes changes in behaviors just as the variable price of a plane ticket does.

    Call it a “new reality” for some urban areas but it’s not going away despite the politicians who are politicizing it.

    We are writing this on the shores of the Snake River in Hells Canyon where there are no toll lanes nor gridlock but you better know how to drive your vehicle on roads that fall hundreds of feet if you fail to pay attention. I surmise that 90+ percent of NoVa drivers would end up off the cliff between driving like demons and screwing with their cell phones. The world might actually end up a better place!

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