0
Votes

Transportation Pie

To the Editor:

A recent breakfast gathering of the transportation cognoscenti of the region and hosted by the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance posed this question: How will our various Northern Virginia jurisdictions split up the pie of new transportation money? County leaders or their representatives from Fairfax, Prince William, Arlington and Loudoun comprised the panel of presenters. Perhaps the most interesting information, however, came from the discussion sheets provided to the audience.

To preface what we found on the sheets, readers need to recall that several years ago, voters approved the formation of a Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, which until now has had no abilities to function as intended, since there was no transportation money. That changed with the passage of the Governor’s transportation package, which makes available $189,475,000 for FY 14 projects. The authority is comprised of appointees drawn mainly from the chairs/mayors of the nine cities and counties comprising the authority, along with a smattering of General Assembly members, transportation officials and gubernatorial appointees. By its nature, the pie will be split according to parochial interests. There is another transportation group that has been on the ground for a number of years, the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, headed by Bob Chase. Bob and his organizations are the gurus to which our chamber and most all other chambers pay attention when questions arise about roads and bridges. They are non-partisan and they are experts. Mass transit is not part of their core mission.

So now, back to the sheets. Both groups were tasked with providing a list of their prioritized projects for spending the new money. The authority and the alliance completely disagreed on designated projects for Fairfax County.

The Fairfax representatives of the authority proposed:

  • Widening to 6-8 lanes for Route 28

  • A design/build for the Innovation Center Metrorail Station for which the county just agreed to assume the debt

  • Several smaller improvements in Herndon.

The alliance chose instead:

  • Support rehabilitating I-66 outside the Beltway to a new multi-modal facility with additional conventional lands and rail extension right-of-way to Centreville, along with upgrade of the Route 28/I-66 interchange

  • Widen to 6-8 lanes for Route 7 between Tysons Corner and the Loudoun line

  • Widen to 6-8 lanes on Fairfax County Parkway between the Dulles Toll Road and Route 50

  • Add two lanes on Route 50 (Arlington Blvd.) between Fairfax Circle to I-495.

For Loudoun County, its authority members requested:

  • Construction start of Route 28 hot spot improvements (Sterling Blvd. to Dulles Toll Road)

  • Design start of grade separation at Route 15 Leesburg Bypass and Edwards Ferry Road

  • Leesburg Park and Ride

  • 2 new transit buses

  • Widening of Route 15 from Route 7 Bypass south to Route 234 in Prince William County

Meanwhile, the alliance was recommending:

  • Route 50 widening from FC line west to Route 15

  • Adding 2-4 lanes on Route 7 Bypass between Leesburg and Purcellville

  • Widening Route 60 as part of the Dulles Loop and constructing an interchange at Route 50

  • Completion of Gloucester Parkway to Route 28 to alleviate Route 625 corridor congestion.

Both the authority and the alliance concurred about widening Route 659 (Belmond Ridge Road) north of the Dulles Greenway. The most expensive projects (as estimated by the authority) for Fairfax would be the Innovation Center Metrorail Station at $41 million, followed by the Route 28 widening from the Toll Road to Route 50, priced at $20 million. Loudoun’s most expensive project would be the Belmont Ridge Road design/build at $20,000.

Only the authority requested monies for public transit alternatives such as work at three VRE stations and two WMATA projects: traction power upgrades on the Orange Line and 10 new buses on Virginia routes, together totaling $12 million.

What does this mean to us the citizens? It gives two different views of how to prioritize transportation needs, one from a mainly legislative body, one from a transportation expert viewpoint, one encompassing both roads and mass transit, the other just roads. I hope you will use it as a road map to inform your own point of view and to share that with your legislators. It will be the authority that cuts the pie. For more information, visit www.thenovaauthority.org.