Opinion: Commentary: Ending Gridlock, Seeking Transportation Funds for Area

Opinion: Commentary: Ending Gridlock, Seeking Transportation Funds for Area

As traffic congestion continues to plague us, I am intensifying my fight for more transportation resources in our area. Last week, I testified before the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) and made the case for more funds for several critically needed transportation projects: the I-95/Occoquan bottleneck, U.S. 1 widening and bus rapid transit, U.S. 1 in Dumfries and several other projects.

A few years ago, we began scoring projects based on objective criteria including congestion relief, economic development, environmental benefits and safety improvements. Not surprisingly, U.S. 1 scored relatively high using these new metrics as compared to projects around the rest of Northern Virginia, a result that underscores my long-term point that U.S. 1 has been long ignored over the last few decades.

In 2013, we also created a regional transportation funding pool with regionally-administered taxes disbursed by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA). About two months ago, the NVTA agreed to invest over $450 million in widening U.S. 1 in Hybla Valley, U.S. 1 bus rapid transit, reconstructing the CSX Bridge on U.S. 1 just north of I-95 and acquiring right-of-way on U.S. 1 through the town of Dumfries.

The CTB was considering eight projects in the 36th Senate District.

I pointed out that the I-95/Occoquan Bottleneck is chronically jammed. This is my constituents’ number one traffic complaint. Prince William County has asked the CTB to allocate $25 million to add a lane between VA-123 and the Prince William County Parkway in both directions. Achieving this will require a payment to Transurban to compensate it for lost tolls. I have been pressing Governor Ralph Northam to negotiate this quickly and I am hopeful we might have progress soon.

I also supported Fairfax County’s request for an additional $139 million to fund U.S. 1 widening and U.S. 1 bus rapid transit from Huntington Metro to the Woodbridge VRE Station. This project has become more expensive and the more money the state invests, the more likely the federal government will award a significant transit grant to fund the balance of the project. These funds, coupled with the $377 million already allocated by the NVTA, are real investments in U.S. 1. This is also one of the largest transit projects pending in the entire state.

I argued for investing $77 million in building a new interchange at U.S. 1 and VA-123 just south of the Occoquan River. The Virginia Railway Express Station there will bring significant growth to that area. This project will help people cross U.S. 1 more safely, keep traffic moving, support predicted growth and facilitate commuting.

I requested $77 million to support the $45 million allocated by the NVTA to complete rebuilding U.S. 1 through Dumfries. Each time I-95 is gridlocked, Dumfries gets pummeled. The existing configuration of U.S. 1 has limited economic development in the town and this project will transform the town with new sidewalks and multi-use paths.

Lastly, I supported two smaller Prince William County projects — $8 million to improve the intersection of Old Bridge Road and Occoquan Road and $32 million to complete Summit School Road’s connection with Telegraph Road near the Horner Road commuter lot in Woodbridge. Interconnectivity is critical in this area as it continues to develop because of its proximity to I-95 and the Potomac Mills Shopping Mall.

Overall, we have requested an additional $350 million to couple with the $434 million allocated by the NVTA for the U.S. 1/I-95 Corridor. The new transportation taxes we enacted in 2013 are finally starting to pay dividends. I will continue my work to see that transportation officials fund our requests.

It is an honor to serve as your state senator. Email me at scott@scottsurovell.org if you have any feedback.