To the Editor:
Last Tuesday night over 100 members of the Mt. Vernon community met with Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA), in efforts to prioritize funding in their upcoming two year transportation budget for the widening of Route 1 from Jeff Todd Way (Roy Rogers) to Napper Road (Costco).
The meeting started with NVTA Chair Marty Nohe, who also serves on Prince William County’s Board of Supervisors (R-Colesville), stating that he had to leave early. Nohe indicated that NVTA were presented with many “wants” and that they ultimately decide the actual “needs”, with the underlying sentiment being that Mt. Vernon doesn’t “need” this project. He affirmed this when he stated that the widening of Route 1 is not currently recommended for funding; he placated the audience by suggesting the public’s input was a factor for weighting decisions.
Unfortunately when it was time for public comments, Nohe decided to leave and wished everyone a “good night.” By leaving early, Chairman Nohe ensured that the passion and demeanor of the residents will be left unheard.
There are two metrics that NVTA uses to decide on funding priority, one being their own “needs scale,” and the other coming from the Virginia General Assembly’s (GA) House Bill 599 (HB599). HB599’s formula was created by the General Assembly in an effort “to reduce congestion and, to the extent feasible, the degree to which the project is expected to improve regional mobility in the event of a homeland security emergency.” With the presence of Ft. Belvoir (Northern Virginia’s largest employer) less than a quarter mile from the project site, it would be a tough argument to make that this funding would not reduce congestion and improve regional mobility in the event of a homeland security emergency. The application of House Bill’s metrics resulted in determining that eight of the other 10 projects that are recommended for funding in Fairfax County scored lower than our project. Thus, according to the General Assembly’s metrics, the widening of Route 1 would dramatically reduce congestion, which makes funding for the project crucial. Not only would the extra two lanes increase Route 1’s ability to sustain traffic, it would also add a bike lane and pedestrian friendly walking areas. This would allow residents to have different transportation options to choose from while making the area more attractive for WMATA to extend the Yellow Line to Hybla Valley.
The other, “needs based” metric, which according to Nohe, is “objectively infallible,” comes from the NVTA itself. I want to note that other projects such as Metro’s Silver Line, Tyson’s Corner Redevelopment, Merrifield, etc. aren’t put into consideration when NVTA makes their funding decisions. This results in most of their funding going to road projects in areas already undergoing major redevelopment, while leaving Mt. Vernon widely underfunded.
Sen. Toddy Puller (D-36) and Del. Scott Surovell (D-44) obtained funding for a transportation study which recommended the widening of Route 1. This study concluded that widening Route 1 from Roy Rogers to Costco would be the first step to bringing the Metro to Hybla Valley. This vital investment could be the first step to major economic redevelopment of our area.
Ultimately, it seemed as though the NVTA was simply going through the motions by having this meeting, and that they never fully considered this project in the first place. The citizens’ concerns went largely ignored. Mount Vernon continues to be overlooked for funding compared to the rest of the County. It’s our turn for equal transportation funding and the opportunity to enjoy the redevelopment others in the county have received.
Candidate for Mt. Vernon District supervisor