Tag Archives: North-south corridor

Too Early to Celebrate Demise of Bi-County Parkway

Traffic back-up on Sudley Road in Manassas National Battlefield Park

Traffic back-up on Sudley Road in Manassas National Battlefield Park

by James A. Bacon

Foes of the proposed Bi-County Parkway, which would skirt the Massassas battlefield, are more optimistic than ever that the highway mega-project will never be built. Del. Tim Hugo, R-Fairfax, and Sen. Richard Black, R-Loudoun, proclaimed at a press conference yesterday that the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) “is not actively working on the Bi-County Parkway” or the related agreement with the National Park Service, which would close Rt. 234 through the battlefield and install traffic-calming measures on Rt. 29.

Said Hugo in a prepared statement: “For over two years, this has been a hard fought battle to stop an ill-conceived transportation project that would add thousands of cars onto I-66, worsening traffic congestion from Arlington to Fauquier. I am pleased that VDOT has shifted its focus to those transportation projects that will provide the most relief for Northern Virginia’s commuters and improve Virginia’s transportation infrastructure. ”

The proposed $400 million Bi-County Parkway will be subjected to a newly instituted Return on Investment analysis that ranks proposed transportation projects by benefits to the public such as congestion mitigated and economic development stimulated. The proposed four-lane highway, envisioned as part of a larger road complex providing superior transportation access for Washington Dulles International Airport, would do relatively little to alleviate current traffic congestion; indeed closing Rt. 234 would re-route more drivers onto an already-congested Interstate 66. The justification given for the road is to mitigate future congestion from growth that is projected to occur west and southwest of Dulles.

Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne cautioned that that subjecting the Bi-County Parkway to the new rating process does not mean that it is dead. Rather, it has been put on hold. It would be foolish for the state to make any decisions until that process is complete, he told the Washington Post. “A lot of people are trying to prejudge where this is going to go.”

Bacon’s bottom line: It’s probably too early to celebrate. Hugo and Black are drawing attention to a new procedural obstacle that the project will have to surmount. The Parkway undoubtedly will rank lower than many other Northern Virginia transportation projects, such as proposed improvements to I-66, for congestion mitigation. If that were the sole criteria for funding, it would be Dead on Arrival. But the McDonnell administration also plugged the Parkway as a way to jump-start efforts to build the air cargo business at Dulles, which could result in hundreds of millions of dollars of commercial development in Loudoun and Prince Williams counties, and Governor Terry McAuliffe, who deems himself pro-economic development, might think similarly. If the new ranking system gives sufficient weight to the project’s potential economic development benefits, it still could have legs.

Update: Martin DeCaro does some solid reporting on this development for National Public Radio. He posts a copy of Virginia Commissioner of Highways Charlie Kilpatrick’s letter to Hugo. I don’t see how Hugo concluded that VDOT has “shifted its focus” from that letter.

Whither McAuliffe on the Bi-County Parkway?

Over at the D.C. Streets Blog, Katie Pierce asks whether Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe will give thumbs up or thumbs down to the Bi-County Parkway. The answer: Nobody knows. (She quoted me in the article but I didn’t shed much light.) Still, it’s interesting that D.C. Streets, a pro-smart growth publication with a focus on Washington’s urban core, is paying attention.

The McDonnell administration will do everything it can to advance the project in the two months it has left. After that, it’s McAuliffe’s call. His decision will tell us volumes about the next four years of Virginia transportation policy.


MWAA Gets Its Kicks on Route 606


Orange dots show termini of upgrades to Rt. 606. Source:    2010 Loudoun Countywide Transportation Plan.        (Click for larger image.)

by James A. Bacon

Construction of the “Dulles Loop,” 18 miles of high-capacity roadway around Washington Dulles International Airport, will take a big step forward with the recently announced $106 million widening of Rt. 606 along the airport’s western edge.

Financing will come from multiple sources, including $40.5 million from the Virginia Department of Transportation, $41.2 million from Loudoun County and $24.4 million from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), which governs the airport. MWAA’s contribution includes the contribution of 56 acres of land valued at $12 million.

There is near-universal agreement that the upgrade is needed. In 2011, roughly 21,500 vehicles daily traveled on the two-lane road, which has a design capacity of 6,700 daily. Traffic is projected to grow to 32,250 daily by 2036.

“This partnership will make Route 606 safer and ensure that motorists and commuters reach their destinations more quickly,” said Governor Bob McDonnell earlier this week in a ceremony highlighting the funding partnership. “Once complete, it will mean easier, less congested commutes for Virginians on a vital transportation link.”

“Route 606, which is a bottleneck now, is a vital link that connects the Dulles South communities with the northern part of the county,” said Loudoun County Chairman Scott York. “Improvement of this road from two lanes to four lanes will be a tremendous relief to both commuters and business that depend on this route on a daily bases.”

The four-laning of Rt. 606 is uncontroversial, even among groups often skeptical of big-ticket road projects. “We have supported expansion of Rt. 606 to four lanes,” says Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. ” There is a two-lane stretch and strong existing traffic demand within Loudoun.  This would serve to better connect southern Loudoun to the Silver Line and jobs on the north side of the airport. ”

But Loudoun and MWAA have ambitious future plans for the roadway, and that’s where things get tricky.

The first ticklish point is the MWAA’s funding source. The airport authority is contributing land valued at $12 million — land donated to Dulles by the federal government. The balance of MWAA’s share is cash — cash thrown off by the Dulles Toll Road. The $12 million is a tiny sum compared to the hundreds of millions of dollars siphoned from the toll road to build the Silver Line metro extension, but it does potential set a potential precedent for tapping the toll road as a piggy bank for other projects.

MWAA spokesman Chris Paolino says the Rt. 606 funding commitment from the Dulles Toll Road goes back to the mid-2000s when MWAA took over the toll road along with responsibility for managing construction of the Silver Line.

MWAA justifies using toll road funds to improve Rt. 606 because it falls within the “Dulles corridor,” broadly speaking. MWAA’s 2013 budget (page 202) specifies the following expenditures among its “Dulles Corridor Improvements”:

  • Rt. 606 widening, Phase 1 (study), $550,000.
  • Rt. 606 widening, Phase 1 (design), $4 million
  • Rt. 606 widening, Phase 1 (construction), $20 million

In corridor-related projects, the annual report also alludes to planned improvements to Hunter Mill Road ($4.6 million), Fairfax County Parkway ($4.6 million), Reston Parkway ($4.3 million), Centreville Road interchange improvements ($5 million).

The second prickly point is future plans beyond the four-laning. Loudoun’s Countywide Transportation Plan for 2030 shows Rt. 606  as a six- to eight-lane freeway. (See map above.) The route is critical for developing the much-touted air-cargo business at Dulles. State plans call for integrating Rt. 606 into a multimodal North South Corridor providing a freeway transportation connection between Dulles, Interstate 66 and Interstate 95. Funding sources for the corridor, which could run into the hundreds of millions of dollars have not been delineated.

There are practical objections to tapping Dulles Toll Road revenues to fund upgrades beyond four lanes — citizens are already threatening a commuter’s revolt over the toll increases required to fund the Silver Line. On the other hand, MWAA has identified Rt. 606 as part of the Dulles Corridor served by the toll road. Anything is possible.

The Ladies of Pageland Lane

Page Snyder (left), Mary Ann Ghadban and Philomena Hefter in their “war room.”

In Prince William County populist conservatives and liberal smart-growthers have found common ground in fighting Northern Virginia’s proposed Bi-County Parkway.

by James A. Bacon

The command center for the fight against Northern Virginia’s Bi-County Parkway can be found in the dining room of Mary Ann Ghadban’s farmhouse on Pageland Lane in western Prince William County. Dubbing it the “war room,” Ghadban and her buddies Page Snyder and Philomena Hefter spend countless hours huddling and plotting strategy there. They have requisitioned the dining room table, littering it with papers, notebooks, coffee mugs, pens, highlighters, post-it notes, computer paraphernalia and stacks of documents. In the corner looms a map showing where the proposed route of the $400 million parkway would snake along the edge of the Manassas National Battlefield Park. No one will be holding a dinner party there any time soon. That’s OK, Ghadban laughs. “This is putting the room to good use for the first time!”

An agreement between the National Park Service and the Virginia Department of Transportation outlining the terms and conditions for running the four- to six-lane highway past the battlefield was nearly complete when Ghadban got wind of the project last year. She turned to Snyder and Hefter, friends and neighbors whose homes would be impacted, too.The three women have dedicated themselves to dissecting the project and warning the citizens of Prince William County what it means to them.

The ladies of Pageland Lane are not professional organizers, although Snyder did learn some tricks of the trade from her mother, local legend Annie Snyder, who spearheaded the defeat of plans by Disney Corp. and, later, mega-developer Til Hazel to develop land near the battlefield. She certainly has her mother’s rough-and-tumble spirit. A banner on the fence in front of her house just down the country road shouts, “Say, ‘No!’ to Tri-County Parkway!” A home-made sign nearby proclaims, “No Highway. Manassas Battlefield Park Betrayed Us.”

Hefter, whose deceased husband served as Prince William County planning commissioner, does much of the research. She issues Freedom of Information Act requests and dredges through the mind-numbing minutiae of public documents to spot subtle changes in VDOT or Park Service stances.

Ghadban, a local real estate developer, hones the message. She downloads audio clips from public hearings, blasts out the email newsletter and maintains the web presence. “We’ve learned about Facebook,” she says, beaming as she adds, “We have 1,500 likes.” Then, she qualifies, “We don’t tweet. I can’t quite get a grasp on it.”

They may be amateurs but they have taken on the Republican McDonnell administration, the Prince William board of supervisors, local chambers of commerce and various groups funded by real estate developers, and they appear to be winning. So successful have they been in stirring up opposition and packing public hearings that a half-dozen GOP members of the General Assembly have joined the movement to stymy the project. The administration felt compelled to hire a Washington, D.C.-based communications consultancy, agreeing to pay $289,000 to “engage the public and foster a deeper and wider understanding” of the parkway project.”

The three amigas have tapped a vein of conservatism on the rural fringe of the Washington metropolitan area that responds to the call for fiscal sobriety and property rights. Remarkably, some of their most important allies in the struggle are typically thought of as liberal — smart-growth groups such as the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC), the Coalition for Smarter Growth and the Southern Environmental Law Center. While those organizations have not turned out intimidating masses of citizens to attend public hearings, they do bring to the debate a deep knowledge of Northern Virginia’s transportation system, the bureaucratic machinery of VDOT and the political process.

The working relationship between the Pageland populists and the smart-growth movement is too informal to be termed an alliance. But their messages often align. They largely agree (a) that the Bi-County Parkway is a waste of public dollars, (b) that the project is driven by developers who want to enrich themselves at public expense and (c) that building the parkway is inconsistent with the goal of preserving the Civil War heritage of the Manassas National Battlefield Park and its environs.

The cooperation is reminiscent of the ad hoc alliance between fiscal conservatives and conservationists in 2002 when Northern Virginians defeated a referendum to impose a regional sales tax to raise money for transportation construction. The arguments back then were similar — the revenue would be co-opted by development interests and tax dollars would be wasted on bad projects enabling sprawl. But after the referendum was defeated, the two sides went their separate ways.

One problem, suggests Chris Miller, president of the PEC, is that the two groups don’t trust each other due to disagreements on other issues. He points to the example of Bob Marshall, R-Manassas, a controversial social conservative who opposes the Bi-County Parkway. “There is no member of the General Assembly who is more in tune with what is going on in his district. But people [in liberal conservation organizations] just can’t get over his social positions,” Miller says. Similarly, he adds, he didn’t exactly feel encouraged to engender conversation across the philosophical divide when the Tea Party burned him in effigy. “I take it little personally.”

America is so politically polarized today that liberals and conservatives don’t spend much time talking to each other. But the battle over transportation policy is an area where they could benefit from doing so. Strip away the culture-war issues, and the big divide in fast-growth regions is not between liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats, but between the growth party and the preservation party, between those who would utilize tax dollars to perpetuate the geographically expansionist, autocentric pattern of development that has prevailed since World War II and those who would support walkable urbanism and preservation of the countryside on the other. Read more.

McDonnell Team to Spend $289,000 in Taxpayer Money to Sway Taxpayers on Bi-County Parkway

John Undeland, StrataComm senior vice president

John Undeland, StrataComm senior vice president

by James A. Bacon

The McDonnell administration has agreed to pay a Washington, D.C., communications consultancy $289,000 to help win public support for the proposed Bi-County Parkway in Northern Virginia.

The details are laid out in a Scope of Services agreement obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request filed by Del. Robert Marshall, R-Manassas. The contract calls for Stratacomm to “engage the public and foster a deeper and wider understanding of the Bi-County/North-South Corridor and its benefits, laying a foundation of support for the subsequent steps of the project.”

Marshall said that to his knowledge it was unprecedented in the Commonwealth of Virginia for the state to use taxpayer dollars to hire an outside public relations firm to conduct a grass roots campaign in support of a highly controversial project still going through the public approval process. Said Marshall: “I’ve been in office 22 years. I’ve never seen anything like this. If it has happened, it has been very rare.”

The McDonnell administration has made it a top transportation priority to advance a North-South Corridor running along the western fringe of the Washington metropolitan area. The middle segment of that corridor, known as the Bi-County Parkway, is highly controversial. Citizens have packed public hearings in opposition, Republican members of the General Assembly have publicly denounced the project, and the Prince William County Board of Supervisors has backed off from providing its endorsement.

The Virginia Department of Transportation is required to go through public hearings and other steps as outlined in its Policy Manual for Public Participation in Transportation Projects. The Scope of Services agreement spells out how Stratacomm will supplement those hearings with “additional meetings, public interface and marketing activities”  in accordance with the Communications, Consultation, Public Outreach and Community Engagement Plan.

Stratacomm describes itself as a “strategic communications consultancy that helps clients educate, persuade and motivate people to drive desired results.” One of the company’s areas of specialties is transportation projects. John Undeland, senior vice president and partner, is a former public affairs manager for the American Automobile Association. His corporate bio lists the $2.5 billion Woodrow Wilson Bridge project across the Potomac River as the firm’s “flagship” project. “John’s navigation of the project’s public image steered it from being a magnet for controversy to a point of regional pride.”

Marshall objected to the expenditure of public funds to “lobby public officials to do something they don’t want to do.” He characterized the outreach to homeowners associations and civic groups as “propagandizing.”

“Transportation Secretary Sean] Connaughton has no business at all doing this,” Marshall said. “He ought to be ashamed of himself. This is stealing public money.”

According to the agreement, the outreach extends to elected officials, media, the traveling public, property owners, homeowners associations and civic groups and business groups. The initiative will focus on Bi-County Parkway positives, including “mobility and accessibility benefits,” “associated economic benefits,” and “safety improvements.” In coordination with state authorities, Stratacomm will develop a “comprehensive stakeholder database to track and manage stakeholder communication,” provide content for the project website, establish a point of contact for public inquiries, and assist in the development of fact sheets and a newsletter.

The Coalition for Smarter Growth, which has actively opposed the $400 million Bi-County Parkway,  also took exception to the expenditure of public funds to influence the public. Said Executive Director Stewart Schwartz in a prepared statement:

We should expect VDOT to conduct objective studies and to fairly consider alternatives when evaluating billions of dollars in transportation expenditures.   Yet for the BiCounty parkway VDOT hasn’t been objective and they never fairly evaluated an alternative to a highway in this corridor.  They have steadfastly ignored community and preservationist concerns.

Rather than reevaluate their proposal, they have decided to pay a PR firm $289,000 to SELL the public and elected officials on the highway, using our tax dollars. …

It’s one thing to do outreach to encourage the public to participate in the study process and offer their input.  That’s a legitimate use of tax dollars, but to use tax dollars to fund what amounts to  propaganda campaign is another matter entirely.

While Marshall and Schwartz both regard the expenditure of public funds in this manner as inappropriate, neither could say if it was illegal. State law does prohibit local governments from expending public funds to influence the electorate on referenda. Governments can disseminate information but it must be “neutral.”

Bacon’s Rebellion left a message with Deputy Secretary of Transportation David Tyeryar asking why the administration hired Stratacomm and whether, in his view, the expenditure is legal. In his FOIA response to Marshall, dated Oct. 3, 2103, he noted that “as of this date, no invoices have been submitted and/or paid.”

An expense itemization attached with the agreement projected 500 hours of work by a senior vice president, presumably Undeland, at a billable rate of $250 an hour, for a total of $125,210. The agreement also would pay an account director for 390 hours of work at $210 per hour, as well as smaller sums for the work of other employees.

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.

Low Truck Volume on Rt. 234? Really?

by James A. Bacon

Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton returned yesterday to his old stomping grounds in Prince William County to make the case to the Board of Supervisors, a body he once chaired, to back the Bi-County Parkway. The board took no action but, Connaughton certainly got a first-hand taste of the controversy the project has engendered.

The Bi-County Parkway is the key missing link in a proposed North-South Corridor that would connect Washington Dulles International Airport to Interstate 95 to the south, providing a free-flowing route for truck traffic and supporting the airport’s bid to become an air-cargo transportation hub. Opponents fear that the parkway would open up Prince William’s so-called “rural crescent” for development and disrupt commuting patterns along U.S. 29 and Rt. 234.

Connaughton argued that the parkway is needed to accommodate future transportation growth in the region, which is expected to see dramatic population growth by 2040, according to Washington Post coverage of the event. “How are we going to move these people back and forth?” he asked. He downplayed fears that Rt. 234 would be widened and that truck traffic would increasingly use the route to reach Dulles. Reports Jeremy Borden:

“We have no intention to widen [Route] 234,” Connaughton said. He also said that the thousands of residents who live along and near Route 234 – and fear living along a new “Outer Beltway” – will not experience huge truck traffic volumes.

Air freight going to the airport is “very low volume, but very high value,” Connaughton said.

Bacon’s bottom line: What’s this? Air freight will be low volume? I would refer readers to the 2005 Dulles Access Study, which projected traffic in and around Dulles to the year 2030. Specifically, I refer readers to page 20, where they will find the following table (my highlights):


Truck traffic to and from the airport will increase 131% to 34,000 trips by 2030. Is an extra 19,300 truck trips daily “low volume?”

Assuming those traffic volumes materialize — and there is ample reason to believe they will not — where will those trucks be heading? Some will hop straight onto the highway to far-away destinations. Others will head to nearby distribution centers where the cargo will be warehoused. Other trucks will pick up the cargo at those distribution centers, and the plan is for them to use the North-South Corridor to reach markets to the north, south and west. Some will divert west along Interstate 66 at Manassas, but others will continue south along Rt. 234 to I-95.

There is only one way that the truck traffic does not materialize, and that’s if the Dulles air-cargo business never takes off. But if the air-cargo business never takes off, guess what else happens? Loudoun and Prince William Counties won’t see the surge in logistics-related economic development that would create the demand for the workers who, with their families, account for the population growth that Connaughton says will require a north-south highway.

As argued repeatedly on this blog, population growth is shifting back toward the urban core to in-fill and re-development projects in Washington, D.C., Arlington County, Tysons, and along the planned Silver Line Metro route. If economic growth and population growth in the wide-open expanses of eastern Loudoun/western Prince William does occur, it will be driven by growth at Dulles. It all hinges on Dulles. If Dulles’ plans don’t pan out, you can kiss much of the projected job and population growth forecasts good-bye.

Connaughton can’t have it both ways. He can’t argue that there will be population growth without the truck traffic. They’re a package deal.

The Eminence Grise Behind the Bi-County Parkway

Robert E. Buchanan. Photo credit: Washington Post.

Robert E. Buchanan. Photo credit: Washington Post.

by James A. Bacon

Everybody who’s followed the politics of real estate development in Virginia has heard the name of John T. “Til” Hazel, the high-profile attorney and developer who did so much to shape the human settlement patterns of Northern Virginia. Hazel was gregarious, combative and willing to campaign like a politician to counter environmentalists, NIMBYs, fiscal conservatives and anyone else who stood in the way of his vision for more taxes, more roads and more real estate development.

Hazel, now in his 80s, is no longer active in the public arena. Filling his shoes is a fellow developer, Robert E. Buchanan, the principal of Buchanan Partners. Unlike Hazel, however, Buchanan does not seek the limelight. He is more content to work from behind the scenes.

Jonathan O’Connell did important yeoman’s work in profiling Buchanan last week in The Washington Post. The article highlighted Buchanan’s role in pushing the controversial Bi-County Parkway near the Manassas Battlefield Park, which is critical segment of a larger North South Corridor that would upgrade highway access to the Washington Dulles International Airport.

Buchanan has development projects around the Washington area, including the building of 175 apartment units over a Harris-Teeter grocery store in Alexandria. In response to shifting market demand, he’s getting out of the McMansion business, he says, and building more apartments. In the 1990s, 2/3s of the housing units he built were detached, single-family dwellings. Today, the figure is closer to 5%.

While he can alter the market mix of what he builds, Buchanan cannot as readily change where he builds. Over the years, he has accumulated a significant portfolio of properties west of Dulles airport, including a 400-acre property near the intersection of Rt. 50 and Rt. 606 known as Arcola Center. During the 2000s, go-go area of Northern Virginia real estate, he planned to build some two million square feet of commercial office space, 800,000 square feet of retail and more than 1,000 homes. But development stagnated when the housing market tanked.

Buchanan was instrumental in the creation of the 2030 Group, an organization of Washington-area developers “focused on advancing regional long-range decision-making and solutions that enable a strong regional economy.” That group, according to the Post‘s O’Connell, spent more than $520,000 over three years on economic research at George Mason University and the University of Maryland projecting the Washington region’s population and GDP growth with the aim of showing that region needs to make a commensurate investment in transportation. As one recent study stated:

The region’s economic future will continue to rely on significant investments in transportation infrastructure — investments that will need to provide key transit support for some economic centers and major support and investments for auto access and connections for almost all economic centers.

The 2030 Group website takes a high-altitude perspective in its research, press releases and blog posts, not staking out positions on specific projects like the Bi-County Parkway. Its primary focus has been to push for greater transportation funding, especially in Virginia.

But Buchanan has taken a personal interest in the Bi-County Parkway. In his article O’Connell describes him as sitting quietly in the fourth row of the auditorium in a Northern Virginia hearing organized by the Virginia Department of Transportation hearing while a crowd of  road opponents strenuously objected.

He also sits on the board of the Washington Airports Task Force, a business coalition that has actively backed the North South Corridor in support the development of a world-class air-cargo hub at Dulles. Also, Russ Gestl, executive vice president of Buchanan Partners, sits on the board of the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, which has been an outspoken supporter of the North-South Corridor and the Bi-County Parkway.

Del. Robert G. Marshall, R-Manassas, describes the Bi-County Parkway a “developer’s road” designed to open up large swaths of Prince William County and Loudoun County to development. Corbelis Development, of instance, has petitioned Loudoun County to rezone 737 acres from one home per three acres to one home per acre — an addition of 802 units — in anticipation of the Bi-County Parkway. I don’t know what Buchanan might have planned for his properties in the corridor but there is little doubt that he would be one of the biggest beneficiaries were the project funded.

Building the Bi-County Parkway and up-zoning land along it, should that occur, would create windfall profits of hundreds of millions of dollars for landowners along the route. I have no problem with developers making profits…. even big profits. They take considerable risks in assembling land, developing a plan, getting it approved, investing millions of dollars in infrastructure and waiting for the market to materialize. Capitalism is a beautiful thing. But I do have a problem with developers racking up windfall profits — reaping private rewards while the public pays the freight — because they worked the political system to get highways and interchanges built near their property. Crony capitalism is an ugly thing.

Should Dulles Co-opt NoVa Economic Development?

air_cargoby James A. Bacon

Last week, Reed Fawell III noted in his article on this blog, “A Mortgage on Northern Virginia’s Future,” that few Northern Virginians or Washingtonians had paused to ask whether the massive road investments proposed to advance Washington Dulles International Airport as an air-cargo hub made sense. But clearly people are beginning to pose that question. In a Washington Post op-ed today, David Alpert, editor of the Greater Greater Washington blog, took on the Bi-County Parkway, which has been justified largely on the grounds that it would stimulate air cargo-related economic development at Dulles.

If people want to use Dulles, great. But if Dulles lacks demand, our region needs to invest its limited transportation and infrastructure funds where that demand exists.

Northern Virginia’s strength isn’t warehouses. Its strength, and that of the District and Maryland, is knowledge jobs in high tech, biotech and defense. Rather than a $1.5 billion parkway at the edge of the region where demand isn’t strong, let’s put transportation dollars toward growth that will attract knowledge workers and jobs that are the engine of Virginia’s success.

Permit me to elaborate. Dulles needs two things to become competitive as a major air-cargo hub. First, it needs truck-friendly transportation corridors capable of handling as many as 34,000 tractor-trailers daily. Second, it needs the kind of workers who would be happy to work in the largely blue-collar occupations tied to warehousing and distribution. Right now, Northern Virginia has neither.

Northern Virginia is one of the most affluent communities on the planet. Loudoun County, where Dulles is located, has the highest per capita income of any jurisdiction in the country! None of the surrounding counties have zoned for workforce housing. Dulles will not be able to find an industrial workforce locally. Employees will have to commute from many miles away, from places like Winchester, Culpeper and Fredericksburg.

Check the map accompanying Reed’s post. It shows the massive, multibillion-dollar transportation corridors that, in the estimation of the airport itself, Dulles needs to connect to major markets and import an industrial workforce. Without those highways, Dulles will find it very difficult to vault into the air-cargo big leagues.

The North South Corridor, of which the controversial Bi-County Parkway near Manassas Battlefield Park is a key part, would provide only a fraction of that connectivity. In other words, the $1.5 billion that Alpert cites for the cost of the North South Corridor and related improvements is only a fraction of the investment that Dulles really requires. The actual cost is likely in the multiple billions of dollars, some portion of which would be paid for by tolls. No one has tallied a price tag on the projects for the likely reason that the public would gag at the number. Instead, Dulles officials and their allies appear to be pursuing a strategy of pursuing piece-meal improvements that won’t cause sticker shock.

Meanwhile, the Dulles agenda has become the economic-development agenda of Loudoun County, Prince William County and the Commonwealth of Virginia. If Northern Virginians are going to be asked to help pay for the transportation infrastructure, they have the right to ask themselves what kind of future they want for their region. If they decide they want to morph from a high-tech hub into a middle-tech logistical hub, that’s their business. But I’m dubious that’s the vision most would choose. With luck, Reed’s article and Alpert’s op-ed will stimulate more debate.

A Mortgage on NoVa’s Future

Dulles’ speculative bid to become a national air-cargo hub dominates the transportation, growth and economic-development agenda of Northern Virginia. Can it succeed? And if it does, will it crowd out other paths to prosperity?

air_cargoby Reed Fawell III

In 2005 the Washington Airports Task Force (WATF) hired William G. Allen, a transportation planning consultant, to conduct an assessment of surface transportation demand in and around Washington Dulles International Airport. Dulles was in the midst of a $4.1 billion capital improvement program, including construction of new air cargo facilities. Everyone knew the traffic situation in Northern Virginia was bad but WATF wanted to know how bad.

That October, Allen submitted his findings in the “Dulles Airport Access Study.” Without prompt action to stem the rising tide of traffic, he warned, the major transportation arteries around Dulles would be gripped by gridlock by 2015. Northern Virginia was “trying to squeeze a quart-and-a-half of traffic into a pint-sized road system.” By 2030, the region would be paralyzed.

The problems were complex and not readily solved. Loudoun County’s land use plans called for an estimated 29,000 new households within a 15-minute drive of the airport by 2030, while jobs would soar by 99,000 to 201,000. At Tysons, at the other end of the Dulles Toll Road, Fairfax County expected to double the number of vehicle trips generated daily to 500,000. Then there was the impact of Dulles’ own ambitious growth plan to consider. The air cargo initiative would boost large-scale industrial development west of the airport. All together, a tidal wave of growth and development would add a mind-bending 1,100,000 trips per day — including 34,000 tractor-trailers — most of it in an east-to-west direction, through and around Dulles Airport, by 2030.

Compounding the challenge of accommodating the traffic surge, the 17-square-mile airport itself posed a major barrier to county-to-county movement. Traffic originating west of Dulles would have to snake around the airport — along Route 50 on the south and Route 7 on the north, both severely congested even back in 2005 — to reach job centers on the east, and then run the same gauntlet on the return trip.

Despite the devastating numbers, which showed Northern Virginia plunging into traffic sepsis, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and its allies have proceeded full bore ahead with their expansion plans. The McDonnell administration is pushing hard to win approval for a series of projects — the Rt. 606 segment of the so-called Dulles Loop, a set of highway improvements circumscribing the airport, and the North-South Corridor, providing access to Interstate highways — that could cost $1.5 billion to $2 billion or more to complete. (No definitive cost estimates have been made.) Yet those investments fall far short of what Dulles needs to become competitive in the air-cargo arena, according to one of the airport’s own studies commissioned in 2009.

The Dulles expansion amounts to one of the biggest economic-development gambits in modern Virginia history — if the multibillion-dollar Rail-to-Dulles METRO line is included as part of the package, nothing comes close. But a Bacon’s Rebellion analysis suggests that the bet may be a head’s-you-win, tails-I-lose proposition. If Dulles succeeds in transforming itself into a world-class air-cargo hub, the ensuing real estate development and traffic will overwhelm the road network in Loudoun and western Fairfax Counties, making the region unlivable for citizens and unattractive to other industries. If the initiative fails, Virginia will have diverted $1.5 billion from other pressing transportation needs to build highways that no one but the airport needs, and the highly leveraged airport authority could find itself financially maimed.

The truly remarkable thing is that, while bits and pieces of the plan have been presented to the public, only a handful of insiders are aware of the full scope of Dulles’ ambition and the risks it entails, not just for Dulles but the entire region. Loudoun County has part of the picture, Fairfax has part. The McDonnell administration is in a position to put the pieces of the puzzle together, but it is not clear if anyone within state government actually has. The general public around Dulles is only dimly aware that a massive industrial and truck-depot zone is part of their planned future. Other than a handful of conservationists and citizens who stand in the path of the planned highways, few are asking whether these massive road investments, or the Dulles air-cargo strategy they are designed to advance, even make sense. Read more.

Source: "Connections between Washington Dulles International Airport and Corridors of Statewide Significance in 2035."

Source: “Connections between Washington Dulles International Airport and Corridors of Statewide Significance in 2035.”

Dulles’ Grand Plan

dulles_neighborhoodHow is it that Northern Virginia, with some of the worst traffic headaches in the country, has embarked upon an economic development plan to bring thousands more trucks into the region?

by Reed Fawell III

In October 2005, the Washington Airports Task Force (WATF) got a wake-up call. Its transportation consultant reported that traffic heading east and west past Washington Dulles International Airport had begun to strangle both the airport and its neighborhood. Travel around the airport was already impaired, and gridlock soon would be overwhelming. Jobs, prosperity, education, leisure, shopping and normal daily activities were all at risk. Stated the report: “If prompt remedial action is not taken, gridlock will lead to economic decline in 10 to 15 years.”

Despite the dire warning, airport officials have embarked upon plans to triple the airport’s daily passenger traffic, triple daily truck volume and vastly expand the number of employees commuting into the airport. New strategic and development plans outline an intention to build what amounts to an entire new city in and around the airport property. “We are sitting on the crown jewel at Dulles,” Jack Potter, CEO of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) said December. “The combination of convenient global and regional access plus a healthy business environment make Dulles the land of opportunity.”

Airport officials, along with their allies in Loudoun County and Virginia state government, see Dulles as the nucleus for a massive logistical complex growing out of the airport’s air cargo business, as well as massive commercial development with no direct aviation tie-in. MWAA plans six million square feet of development in just the first phase of development on airport property, encompassing 430 acres among the 3,000 acres available — equivalent to two downtown Restons. Much of that anticipated development will feed off proximity to Dulles’ passenger service and development advantages such as the lower cost to develop and hold land exempt from various state and local taxes and land-use regulations.

Essential to the success of Dulles’ massive commercial venture is improved road access for thousands of new workers and visitors, not to mention the long- and short-haul tractor-trailer cargo trucks that will load and unload at a vastly expanded air cargo facility. The truck traffic will drive up the proposed North-South Corridor from I-95, I-66, U.S. 29 and I-8I. A critical link in that “corridor of statewide significance” is the proposed Bi-County Parkway through the Manassas Battlefield Park that has roiled so much controversy in Prince William County. The North South Corridor also is deemed critical to handle all the new auto commuters that a development boom would create.

In addition to the six million square feet of building on Dulles property, Loudoun County plans call for massive development on privately held land nearby. As reported by the Loudoun Times, Robyn Bailey, manager of business infrastructure with Loudoun County’s Department of Economic Development, said in April that land along the Rt. 606 corridor on Dulles’ western edge has the potential for 14 million square feet of high-end industrial space, while land north of the airport served by METRO and the Dulles Greenway has building potential for 23.5 million square feet of commercial and office space. Land slated for commercial and industrial development on nearby Routes 7, 28, 25 and 50 could accommodate another 38 million square feet.

Enjoying a unique central location for long- and short-haul trucks, Dulles airport officials aspire to be the major growth gateway for international air cargo into the eastern United States. Fifty-six percent of the nation’s population resides within 1,000 miles of the airport, a catchment area extending from Jacksonville, Fla., to southeastern Canada, to Chicago, Ill., Nashville, Tenn., and Birmingham, Ala. Boosters envision Dulles as the entrepot between international airlines and the trucks delivering cargo across most of the eastern United States. That’s the plan. And that’s why Dulles Airport and its friends all want this North South Corridor built.

Remarkably, this flood of traffic is being proposed for Northern Virginia despite the fact that Dulles, from an air cargo perspective, is located at the end of a cul de sac. There will be no way for trucks to exit the Dulles neighborhood except by the way they came — heading south down the North South Corridor before jumping on to Interstate 66, Interstate 95 or U.S. 29 on the way to destinations north or west — or venturing onto congested local roads.

What happens if the main routes are gridlocked, like I-66 at Manassas, one of the most congested intersections in all of Virginia? What happens if truckers or airport workers decide to go directly north to Point of Rocks and cross the river to Maryland, or head west on Route 50 to Winchester and I-81, or go east on the Dulles Toll Road into D.C. or Maryland? Will they swell the traffic load on Northern Virginia’s already overloaded roads?

How did airport officials go from a 2005 expert’s warning of an impending traffic disaster around Dulles to instituting plans that would only accelerate the automotive Armageddon? How do airport authorities propose to make all of this work? How do they expect to get away with it? How will their schemes affect the citizens of Virginia?

Upcoming articles to be posted here on Bacon’s Rebellion will try to sort these questions out.

Reed Fawell III was formerly president of a Washington, D.C., law firm and head of its commerical real department practice. He has developed commercial real estate in Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C.

VDOT Terms Conservationist Alternative an Impractical “Thought Exercise”

Traffic on I-66

Traffic on I-66

by James A. Bacon

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has fired back at conservation groups opposing Northern Virginia’s Tri-County Parkway, asserting that their proposed alternatives would cost $6 billion to implement compared to an estimated $450 million to build the parkway. Ignoring the realities of the transportation planning process, says VDOT, the “substitute vision” amounts to little more than an impractical “thought exercise.”

“The suggested improvements represent not a simple alternative to the TCI project, but more of a substitute transportation vision (such as might be found in a regional or sub-regional transportation plan) rather than a transportation improvement alternative that could be implemented as a single project or a single project package in lieu of the proposed TCI,” states a newly published VDOT memorandum, “Analysis of the Substitute Vision Provided By SELC Et Al. As An Alternative To The Tri-County Parkway.”

“Efforts to combine a package of disparate components of a Substitute Vision into an alternative to a single proposed action (such as the proposed Tri-County Parkway) do not reflect the realities of the transportation planning process and, other than serving as a sensitivity analysis and planning/thought exercise, are largely impractical,” states the document.

The Tri-County Parkway (also referred to as the Bi-County Parkway) is a key link in a proposed North-South Corridor running west of Washington Dulles International Airport down to Manassas and Interstate 95. The project has provoked a strong reaction among citizens living around the Manassas National Battlefield Park and the designated Rural Crescent in western prince William County.

In January the Southern Environmental Council (SELC), Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC), Coalition for Smarter Growth (CSG) and other preservation groups issued a document, an “Updated Composite Alternative,” that detailed alternatives to the proposed parkway. Ideas included making major upgrades to existing roads, such as improvements to the I-66/Route 28 interchange, HOV lanes and mass transit on major arteries, and installing roundabouts to reduce congestion at intersections of heavily traveled two-lane roads.

Conservation groups contend that the parkway is a speculative project designed to address population growth forecast to occur over the next three decades in Loudoun and Prince William counties, draining money from projects needed to ameliorate the congestion that already exists in Northern Virginia’s east-west corridors.

To analyze the Updated Composite Alternative, VDOT broke the ideas into specific projects, identifying specific improvements and start- and end-points for each. Then it used the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments traffic and land-use model to analyze the results. “The most notable conclusion is that, even with the changes assumed for the Substitute Vision, travel demand on the Tri-County Parkway remains relatively unchanged,” the memo states.

Further, the document added, “The components of the Substitute Vision do not take into account any elements of actual project development, which are factors that are critical to the realistic recommendation of an alternative/set of alternatives. Such factors include … funding, assessment of potential environmental impacts or constraints, and public/agency involvement and comment. In contrast, the Tri-County Parkway has been undergoing the NEPA process since 2001.”

Concludes the memo: “The Substitute Vision clearly is not a ‘low build’ alternative that could be implemented easily in a timely fashion.”

Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, said that the conservation groups behind the Updated Composite Alternative have not had an opportunity to study the highly technical VDOT memo in detail. However, he did offer this response to some of the memo’s more general comments:

We included projects that are common sense priorities that VDOT has left out of both short-term and long-term plans and priority lists.  What stands out from their report is the number of projects which they have NOT placed on the region’s Constrained Long Range Plan and/or are not included in their new draft six-year construction plan,  but would offer real benefits for commuters today.  These include projects like the Route 28/I-66 interchange to address the demand to reach jobs east of Dulles Airport and reduce delays on I-66, and the Route 28/Braddock Road interchange to replace a traffic light-induced bottleneck.  Our list also includes projects that Loudoun has placed on its County Transportation Plan to fix the Route 50 corridor, and critical transit investments to help Prince William commuters, like extending VRE and adding express bus service, and in the future extending Metrorail to Centerville.  Why aren’t these projects VDOT priorities?

It’s simply misleading of VDOT to call our alternative a $6 billion package as compared to their $450 million TCP.   In a number of cases, it is VDOT that defined oversized, more costly versions of what we proposed.  But more importantly, as I just said above, the many projects we list are necessary to address the primary problem of east-west congestion and other current and future needs.  Therefore, they should and would naturally be included a similar area-wide package by VDOT totaling in the billions as well.

It is because of these significant needs, that we and others are questioning why VDOT would spend not just $450 million on the TCP but $1 billion or more on the Outer  Beltway from I-95 to Route 7 and the associated Dulles Connector that could cost another $500 million.   Note that the Outer Beltway would likely cost much more than $1 billion if the TCP is indeed now estimated at $450 million for the ten miles from I-66 to Route 50. But whichever way you cut it, VDOT is proposing $1.5 billion or more for a highway that doesn’t address priority commuter needs.

What we expect to find when we complete our technical review of VDOT’s report on our alternative and their other report updating their traffic numbers for their Draft Environmental Impact Statement is that the new north-south highway through the Prince William Rural Crescent and rural Loudoun Transition Area will itself induce new development and create new traffic.  So, not only does the TCP not address priority transportation needs, the highway will make traffic worse.

Battle for the Battlefield

Manassas Battlefield Park Superintendent Ed Clark stands by a federal cannon with a statute of Stonewall Jackson in the background.

Manassas Battlefield Park Superintendent Ed Clark stands by a federal cannon with a statute of Stonewall Jackson in the background.

The Manassas Battlefield has become the scene of yet another irreconcilable conflict: this one between VDOT’s road-building plans, park service preservation goals and local residents protecting their way of life.

by James A. Bacon

As superintendent of the Manassas National Battlefield Park, Ed Clark enjoys regaling visitors with stories about the colorful characters who took part in two of the most important battles of the Civil War. But the administrative aspects of his job require most of his attention. Clark oversees the restoration of historical structures in the park and the updating of exhibits. He directs the plan for restoring the landscape to its 1862 form, which means cutting down some of the woods that have grown up since then, replacing invasive trees with native species, and doing something about those confounded deer. He keeps careful tabs on the private property inside the park and on its periphery. He would love to buy out the handful of property owners who still live within the official park boundaries, and he dreams of acquiring select properties outside the boundaries.

But Clark’s biggest preoccupation these days is traffic… rush hour traffic. The theme that animates his thoughts is how to improve the experience of the roughly 600,000 people who visit the park each year. And traffic congestion, he says, is ruining that experience.

About 24,000 vehicles per day use two two-lane roads — U.S. 29 (Lee Highway) and Rt. 234 (Sudley Road) — that intersect in the heart of the battlefield park. The two roads are direct descendants of the old Warrenton Turnpike and a local dirt road that played key roles during the battles. Clark knows they can’t be restored to their primitive, 19th-century condition but he’s not happy with the way they have been co-opted as regional transportation arteries serving the development sprouting all around in western Prince William County.

For three to four hours each morning and then each evening, traffic stacks up at the intersection near the old Stone House, one of the most visible battlefield landmarks. The driving tour, which many people take because the distances are too far flung to walk within the seven-square-mile park, requires crossing that intersection eight times. “The traffic detracts from the visitor experience,” says Clark. “Basically, it shuts down the park to visitors.”

The superintendent now finds himself embroiled in a political slugfest worthy of the artillery duel where General Thomas J. Jackson was said to stand as steadfast as a stone wall. But the 21st-century conflict is more complex and more drawn out. Manassas Battlefield sits athwart the route of a four- to six-lane highway that the McDonnell administration wants to run from the City of Manassas past Dulles airport. Local landowners, smart growth groups and even many local Republican legislators don’t want to see this rural corner of Northern Virginia developed.

Clark says he is doing his best to reconcile the park service’s preservation goals with McDonnell administration transportation policy, all the while respecting the rights of local landowners. He is negotiating a “programmatic agreement” with the Virginia Department of Transportation that would allow the state to run a major north-south highway past the western edge of the park, sharing alignment with a portion of a planned battlefield bypass that will loop around the northern periphery. In exchange, the park service would get to close the north-south segment of Rt. 234 inside the park and, when the bypass is complete sometime in the indefinite future, close the east-west segment of Rt. 29.

“We’re at the end game of a lot of conversations,” he says. Now the negotiations have boiled down to minimizing the footprint of the highway and mitigating its noise and visual impact.

But Clark may not be as close to the end game as he thinks. Only recently have citizens gotten wind of the details of the draft programmatic agreement, and they’re fired up.

“We feel like sacrificial lambs. Our way of life, our quality of life, our ability to live here” are all threatened,” says Page Snyder, daughter of the legendary Annie Snyder, who successfully spear-headed resistance to a regional mega-mall next to the battlefield park in 1988 and a Disney theme park five years later.

Snyder is one of roughly 100 property owners along Pageland Lane who will be directly affected by the agreement. But neither she nor they act like lambs being led to slaughter. Local foes of the proposed plan have packed public gatherings by the hundreds, joined forces with Smart Growth groups, recruited six Republican General Assembly members and Rep. Frank Wolf, R-10th, to their side, extracted a promise from the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) to delay accepting a Master Plan for the proposed North-South Corridor of Statewide Significance, and persuaded the Prince William board to delay a vote affirming its support for the Bi-County Parkway, the linchpin of the North-South Corridor.

The outcome appears very much up in the air. Continue reading

PW Supervisors Delay Endorsement of Bi-County Parkway

Traffic back-up on two-lane Sudley Road near the Stone House in Manassas battlefield park.

Traffic back-up on two-lane Sudley Road near the Stone House in Manassas battlefield park.

So much news today, I can’t keep up! … The Bi-County Parkway, the key missing link in the proposed North-South Corridor, took another hit yesterday when the Prince William County Board of Supervisors delayed a vote to reaffirm its support for the project.

The issue has pit Republican vs. Republican. PW Board Chairman Corey A. Stewart blasted legislators who oppose the road, saying that they need to propose their own solutions. “Everyone who is opposed to the road and not offering an alternative is a coward,” he said, as reported by the Washington Post.

Six Northern Virginia delegates, all Republican, had previously denounced the proposed highway, which would cut along the edge of the Manassas National Battlefield Park and potentially open up western Prince William to development.

The business wing of the Republican Party, including Stewart and Governor Bob McDonnell, tout the North-South Corridor as an economic boon to Washington Dulles International Airport. But the populist wing, including legislators representing the affected districts,  sides with local residents who worry about the impact on their way of life. Del. Bob Marshal, R-Manassas, and others have argued that the $1 billion-or-more cost of developing the North-South Corridor should be reallocated to eliminate current traffic bottlenecks, not to alleviate anticipated future growth that may or may not occur.


Governor Bob as King George?

Bob Marshall

Bob Marshall

This quote from Del. Bob Marshall, R-Manassas, at the Commonwealth Transportation Board was just too good to bury in the longer news story I filed last night….

Here’s the context: Marshall was making the argument that the Virginia Department of Transportation and McDonnell administration had provided insufficient transparency to the approval process for the Bi-County Parkway (a key link in the North-South Corridor) and inadequate opportunities for citizens to express their opinions. He then referred to the CTB meeting itself, where only a dozen or so residents among the hundreds who had gathered in Northern Virginia meetings to protest the project, had made an appearance. Holding a CTB meeting more than 100 miles away in Richmond, in the middle of a weekday when working people affected by the project cannot in all practicality attend, he said, “is a profound disservice to citizens.”

Then he added this zinger:

Reflect on this fact and consider that America’s Founding Fathers detected the same fault in Britain’s King George: “He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the repository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.”

Shades of the Tea Party? The Bi-County Parkway is giving rise to the same alliance that defeated a proposed increase in the regional sales tax a decade ago: small-government fiscal conservatives and Smart Growth-minded liberals. Governor Bob McDonnell would do well to reflect upon his legacy.