There's a reason why Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerry Connolly (D) puts so much emphasis on transportation and affordable housing.
"Traffic congestion and the price of homes are the two, big impediments to the local and regional economy," he said during Monday's quarterly meeting of the West Fairfax County Citizens Association (WFCCA).
Then Connolly, members of the audience and the WFCCA panel launched into a discussion of the very real prospect of 28,000 new homes being built in Loudoun County's Dulles South area and the impact they'd have on Fairfax County's roads.
According to a just-completed study by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), if Loudoun's Board of Supervisors allows eager developers to build as much as 28,000 new homes near Dulles Airport, the resulting traffic would turn both major and secondary roads in three counties into parking lots.
The new houses are expected to yield approximately 300,000 vehicle trips daily and would have devastating effects on Braddock Road and Routes 50 and 29, as well as on I-66, the Dulles Toll Road and the Dulles Greenway.
And, warned VDOT, the gridlock would stretch from southeastern Loudoun clear into both Fairfax and Prince William counties — and drivers in some area could find themselves stuck in temper-flaring, traffic jams for as long as six hours a day.
Mark McConn, who lives near the Fairfax/Loudoun border in Centreville's Bull Run Estates community, asked Connolly what he thought about the proposed residential growth in Loudoun and VDOT's conclusions. And Connolly said he was "very concerned" about VDOT's report.
"THERE'S NO way we can absorb that growth," he said. "And we can't be independent dominions that don't talk to each other. I talked to Loudoun's Board Chairman, Scott York, yesterday, and [Sully District Supervisor] Michael Frey is setting up a meeting between our two Boards. Frey's chairman of our Interjurisdictional Committee."
Connolly said Fairfax hopes to be able to have a "rational input" on Loudoun's planning process, and WFCCA President Ted Troscianecki said WFCCA members want to attend the meeting, too. Connolly said it's open to the public.
Noting how much of Fairfax County's tax dollars go to Richmond each year, Connolly added, "We already are the largest subsidizers of everything in the state, and I'll be darned if we give anything else away."
Troscianecki then asked what could be done to mitigate the impact of Loudoun's new homes and accompanying traffic on Fairfax County's roads. He remarked that widening Route 50 from four to six lanes from Route 28 to the Fairfax County line would provide relief to Braddock and Pleasant Valley roads. And he said that construction of the Tri-County Parkway and Battlefield Bypass "would also help relieve traffic on the interior roads."
"We can't stop the flood, but maybe we can channel it," said Troscianecki, who lives in Virginia Run, also close to the Fairfax/Loudoun border. "Fairfax County is bending over backward for the environment and quality of life with our watershed studies, and we're getting dumped on [from Loudoun] in the stream valleys. So can we make sure county staff aggressively manages and monitors what Loudoun County does?"
"Absolutely," replied Connolly. He said it's difficult to deal with such a "radically different" Board of Supervisors as Loudoun County has had in recent times — sometimes pro rapid growth and, other times, pro slow growth. But, he said, "We'll work with that Board and won't be shy about promoting our county's interests and the best interests of the region."
Jim Hart, who also lives in Virginia Run, said that those living west of Cub Run have had zero growth and then they hear about 28,000 homes proposed just to the west of them. Furthermore, said Hart, "[Loudoun's] attitude seems to be that Fairfax needs to reprioritize its transportation dollars to help channel [Loudoun's] commuters to Route 50 and I-66."
THEREFORE, he asked, "What can citizens or citizens groups do, in conjunction with the Board, to try to address our objections to all these new homes adjacent to people with two-lane roads with no shoulders?"
Connolly said it requires strategic thinking — "developing a sophisticated strategy to turn this thing around" — as well as starting a dialogue between the two Boards and the Interjurisdictional Committee.
"The good news is that VDOT did this [study]," he said. "We have a governor who cares about this area that we can talk to, and people running for governor." He also suggested talking with Sen. Mark Herring (D-33rd) and Del. Chuck Caputo (D-67th) who represent constituents in both Loudoun and Fairfax counties.
"We have to respect Loudoun's right to control development within its borders," said Connolly. "But we also have to lay out our concerns that need to be addressed. And it's not really Loudoun vs. Fairfax. Do you think the citizens in Loudoun really want all those houses?"
He said the whole matter "merits a reasonable dialogue. We can't let this happen by default. Now we have a big issue — we really need to have a meeting."
Troscianecki said he wants to be able to submit something in writing to Loudoun's Board stating WFCCA's position. "We want the main roads — I-66, Route 50, the Tri-County Parkway and Battlefield Bypass [routes] — improved, but not the internal roads," added WFCCA's Chris Terpak-Malm. "We can't have Pleasant Valley and Braddock roads turn into thoroughfares."
Noting that 15,000 homes, north-south oriented to Gum Spring Road, were already approved by Loudoun's Planning Commission, Hart said, "We need to research what's coming up in Loudoun and where. We need to get a handle on what cases are in the pipeline and what the time frame for them is."
HE ALSO suggested that someone from Fairfax County needs to interact with the Gum Spring Regional Citizens Network which was recently established in opposition to the 28,000 new homes proposed for Dulles South.
Bottom line, said Hart, is that, on the Fairfax County side of the line, there are about 40 houses in Centreville's Pleasant Hill community, five in Victoria View, 1,400 in Virginia Run and 70 in Fairfax National Estates. All together, that's just 1,515 homes.
"You add up everything, and we're just a drop in the bucket," he said. "Twenty-eight thousand homes is incredible."