Thursday, May 30, 2013

VDOT Public Hearing

From Piedmont Environmental Council
Last evening the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) held a public hearing at the VDOT District Office, Potomac Conference Center in Fairfax to hear comments about the “essential” projects identified in the state's working draft of the Fiscal Years 2014-2019 Six-Year Improvement Program. The program allocates $15.4 billion, a $4 billion increase, in funding to transportation improvements over the next six fiscal years beginning July 1, 2013. The draft report was released by VDOT on May 15th 2013 and suddenly projects that had just been talked about for the future became real with the list of projects selected by the CTB for Transportation Alternatives Program funding, including the roadway variously known as the Tri-County Parkway, Bi-County Parkway, Outer Beltway and North-South Corridor. The meeting was held in a packed meeting room attended by about 160. The CTB said that public comments will be considered before the CTB adopts its final program in June, but this narrow window was the only opportunity to have input in Northern Virginia, though Deputy Commissioner Charlie Kilpatrick kindly invited anyone who was interested to drive down to Roanoke and Hampton Roads with him for the next two meetings.

The meeting was well attended by our supervisors, delegates, NGO representatives and about 150 regular folk. Our elected officials talked about the concerns and needs of their communities. I intend to only focus on some of the comments about the North-South Corridor/ Bi-County Parkway which represented about two thirds of the comments made last night. The planned crescent shaped North South Corridor, limited access cargo and truck highway, (or Bi-County Parkway) is approximately 45 miles in length, and is essentially described by VDOT as a more direct route for cargo and truck traffic connecting I-95 to Dulles Airport and Route 7. The North South section is reported to cost over $1,000,000,000, run through Prince William County’s Rural Crescent potentially damaging our watershed and impacting our groundwater resources, eliminates one of three corridors in our green infrastructure and once the segment of the Tri-County Parkway between I-66 and VA 234 is complete, U.S. 29 and VA 234 through the Park are planned to be closed. As Delegate Hugo stated in his Bull Run news conference “this road will destroy the Rural Crescent, land that the Prince William Board of County Supervisors has pledged to protect.”

Why the Rural Crescent was formed is less important than understanding that the Rural Crescent provides a significant portion of our green infrastructure to our community. Green infrastructure connects the still intact habitat areas through a network of corridors that provide for wildlife movement and trails as well as pathways for pollinators. These green corridors maintain a tree canopy and control runoff to prevent stream bank erosion and water quality impairments and maintain adequate water flows through groundwater and surface recharge. These green corridors are vital to ensuring safe water supplies, water recreation and the ecological integrity of the region. In building out the county and highway system Fairfax County overdeveloped eliminating much of the county’s green corridors and is now dependent to a large extent on the regional green infrastructure from neighboring Loudoun and Prince William Counties. It’s important that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past.

Delegate Tim Hugo was the first to speak after Deputy Commissioner Kilpatrick’s introductory comments. Delegate Hugo was succinct in making his main points: The North-South Corridor is a misallocation of resources. The planned highway closes 234 and “traffic calms 29” through the park driving all the east/west traffic onto route 66 increasing congestion.

The Loudoun County Board in the person of Chairman York voiced their support for the North-South Corridor and the importance of such a route to their National Conference Center at its northern end. Mayor Kristen Umstattd of Leesburg voiced the town’s support for the many projects in her community and her support for the North South Corridor (which those in Loudoun apparently call the Battlefield Parkway).

Marty Nohe, the Coles District Supervisor for Prince William County and Chairman of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) apparently made his specific comments in writing, but when I grabbed him on his way out the door and asked him if he supported the current planned route for the North-South Corridor through the Rural Crescent and trough the Green Infrastructure Corridor of Significance as designated by the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, he replied that he supports the connectivity that it represents, but will not support any particular route until after the June 3, 2013 VDOT public meeting to discuss the project to be held at the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas.

Delegate Bob Marshall talked only about the North-South corridor. He stated that in both his research and Congressman Wolf’s, the planned road is not supported by the freight shippers who were described as being the beneficiaries of the road and its advocates. Delegate Marshall reiterated his point that alternatives to building the road had not been fully examined and that the main beneficiaries would be developers. Many large parcels of land bordering the planned route of the North-South Parkway have recently been acquired.

When the members of the public were allowed to speak the majority of speakers spoke about the North-South Corridor. Kenn Knarr from Catharpin spoke in favor of public transit strategies that would improve and increase public transit options in Prince William County instead of building the North-South Corridor. Page Snyder of Gainesville (and “Stop the Tri-County Parkway”) pointed out that Northern Virginia already has too many toll roads and the North-South Corridor will be a limited access/ HOT lane access/ toll road. That will do nothing to alleviate traffic in Prince William County. Philomena Hefter of Gainesville and “Stop the Tri-County Parkway” spoke in support of east/west traffic solutions that would alleviate the traffic congestion problems for commuters. Ms. Hefter also pointed out that over 100 property owners would be impacted and that the North-South Corridor Parkway is not consistent with the Prince William County Master Plan. Others spoke in defense of the Rural Crescent, and some spoke of concern for the environmental impact.

Then several people spoke out against the North-South Corridor in support of Sudley Methodist Church. This church is located on route 234 in the park and would lose their road front and access. Deb Angerman, the program director for the Church, spoke passionately about the church that was founded in 1822 and used as a military hospital during the Battles of Manassas. Sudley Methodist Church is a living church that serves it community and has a vibrant congregation. The church is not a historic relic. Ms. Angerman pointed out the lack of transparency and engagement with the community and stakeholders, and asked that this project be withdrawn until its full impact on the community and environment can be evaluated.

Many more Prince William County residents spoke out against the planned parkway. The President of the Western Prince William County Homeowners Alliance that represents 5,000 families living in their member HOAs stated that none of the Alliance’s priorities included a route north from route 66 to route 50. The Alliance’s concern is east-west movement which is the main commuter traffic patterns. The Alliance also had concerns about what the impact of the plan will be on local traffic. The Sierra Club voiced their opposition to the North-South Corridor and then moved on to other topics.

Bob Chase of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority spoke in support of the Bi-County Parkway which he described as a very important road with flawed communication. He also thanked the CBT and the commissioners present for their hard work (something we should all remember to do). It seems apparent that NVTA is in support of the North-South Corridor Parkway.

If you did not attend the meeting, there will be a Public Information Meeting Monday, June 3, 2013, from 6 to 9 pm at the Hylton Performing Arts Center 10960 George Mason Circle, Manassas, VA 20110. Comments can also be sent by mail or email. For VDOT projects, the mailing address is Programming Director, Virginia Department of Transportation, 1401 East Broad St., Richmond, VA 23219 or email

No comments:

Post a Comment