Greater Greater Washington

Roads


The zombie outer beltway returns

Zombies are notoriously hard to get rid of. They keep coming back. The same is true of a 1950s concept for an outer beltway that has been revived by Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton.


Proposed alignments. Image by VDOT.

In response, the Coalition for Smarter Growth has launched a petition campaign arguing that the outer beltway would waste scarce taxpayer resources, intrude upon Manassas National Battlefield, and induce more traffic congestion than it solves.

If we don't act now to call for different solutions, Secretary Connaughton will force the outer beltway through with minimal public involvement or analysis of alternatives, as he did recently for another questionable highway near Charlottesville.

A little history: The zombie outer beltway has had many names and a colorful past. In the late 1980s it was the Washington Bypass, a controversial and costly proposal for a complete outer loop highway through Maryland and Virginia. That proposal was eventually dropped.

In the late 1990s two individual segments of the original loop plan were pursued, the InterCounty Connector (ICC) in Maryland, and the Western Transportation Corridor (WTC) in Virginia. The proposed WTC would have run between I-95 in Stafford and Route 7 in Leesburg.

In 2001 highway proponents pushed for a new northern Potomac River bridge between Virginia and Montgomery County that would be part of a proposed road called the Techway. Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) halted that effort after concluding the new bridge would harm communities on both sides of the river.

In 2002 voters in Northern Virginia rejected a proposal for a dedicated transportation sales tax in a public referendum, in part because the tax would have funded multiple segments of the outer beltway.

Finally, in 2005 and again in 2011, VDOT has proposed what they call the Tri-County Parkway, a new highway to run between I-66 in Prince William and Route 50 in Loudoun. Their preferred alignment for the Tri-County Parkway runs along the western boundary of Manassas National Battlefield. It is the same alignment studied in 1997 as the Western Transportation Corridor.

It is this highway that Secretary Connaughton has made a top priority, by designating it as a new Corridor of Statewide Significance. It is this highway that the Coalition for Smarter Growth opposes today.

Instead of building yet another wasteful highway that induces more traffic and more sprawl, VDOT should focus our tax dollars on more important transportation needs. They should also avoid harming the historic Manassas Battlefield, which would be impacted by the Tri-County Parkway.

The Coalition has performed an exhaustive study of the parkway / outer beltway, and found that the major traffic problems in its vicinity are on radial east-west commuter routes, not on north-south roads. The parkway won't relieve any congestion because it doesn't serve travel paths that are congested.

This table, based on information from VDOT traffic counts, compares traffic volumes on roads in the vicinity of the Tri-County Parkway. It clearly demonstrates that radial corridors have dramatically higher volumes than any north-south routes.

Only Route 28, which connects to the strong job centers on the east side of Dulles Airport, carries significant north-south traffic. Among north-south roads west of the airport and in the vicinity of the proposed Tri-County Parkway, Route 659 carries just 9,100 vehicles per day (VPD) from Prince William to Loudoun, and Route 15 carries just 15,000. In contrast, I-66 carries up to 63,000 VPD in Prince William, and Route 50 carries up to 40,000 VPD between Loudoun and Route 28.

In 2005 the Coalition for Smarter Growth commissioned a national traffic modeling expert, Norm Marshall of Smart Mobility, Inc., to analyze VDOT's Tri-County Parkway study. He demonstrated significant flaws in that study, finding that the new highway would induce new development and traffic, but not reduce congestion. Marshall recommended a more efficient set of solutions focusing on land use, conservation, transit, and demand management.

A more recent review of the Loudoun County Transportation plan by Lucy Gibson of Smart Mobility found that transportation engineers were overestimating north-south traffic compared to east-west traffic volumes.

Overall it is clear that the push for the new outer beltway is driven at least in part by those seeking to spark more development in western Prince William and Loudoun Counties, rather than focusing our scarce transportation funds on existing congestion problems. The Tri-County Parkway is an unnecessary and costly diversion from more rational transportation planning. We urge you to sign the petition against it.

Stewart Schwartz is Executive Director and a founder of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, which he built into the leading smart growth organization in the Washington, DC region, addressing the interconnected issues of land use, transportation, urban design, housing, and energy. A retired Navy Captain with 24 years of active and reserve service, he earned a BA and JD from the University of Virginia and an MA from Georgetown University. 

Comments

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I support an outer beltway and additional Potomac river crossing to the north and the south.

The infrastructure would create jobs, develop our economy and create more affordable housing when combined with investment in regional transit.

by Redline SOS on Aug 5, 2011 9:59 am • linkreport

Done.

by Jasper on Aug 5, 2011 9:59 am • linkreport

Braaaaaaaaaaaains

by Jeff on Aug 5, 2011 10:03 am • linkreport

There is no doubt that a significant amount of long-distance traffic for the entire East Coast gets channeled into sections of I-95 between Richmond and Washington, then the Washington Beltway (or I-395 and DC-295/NY Avenue through the city). Diverting this traffic from these local-area highways would either: 1) relieve some of the congestion that affects our local area; and/or (following the popular-at-GGW unlimited-induced traffic theory) 2) permit more local residents to take advantage of these roads at the current level of congestion.

Today, this traffic doesn't show up as north-south traffic on suburban/exurban north-south highways (e.g. Rte. 28 or the FFX Parkway) because those highways simply don't connect to anything (no outer Potomac Bridge), so they're not a viable bypass around 95 congestion. All of that traffic is left to be carried on 95 and either the Beltway or through town.

For the long-distance traffic, avoiding DC congestion is almost certainly worth real $$. What's the possible harm in studying whether a "Washington Bypass" could be built to serve this long-distance traffic, employing high-enough tolls to be somewhat self-funding.

If the tolls were high enough and there were only a few entrances/exits built on this highway, there would be little likelihood that it would "induce new development and traffic," if that's the concern.

by Arl Anon on Aug 5, 2011 10:11 am • linkreport

Great article, Stewart. This is exactly about connecting traffic to the huge part of Loudon that were opened for development back in 2004.

@Arl Anon
"There is no doubt that a significant amount of long-distance traffic for the entire East Coast gets channeled into sections of I-95 between Richmond and Washington, then the Washington Beltway....Diverting this traffic from these local-area highways would...relieve some of the congestion that affects our local area..."

Um. How? It sounds like you're talking about a bypass, but this thing would terminate in the middle of Loudon County, not take inter-city traffic around DC. Moreover, if it did reconnect in Maryland, it would be to far to the West for any coastal traffic to use.

- "Dear, let us drive to-day from our home in Richmond to our friend in Philadelphia."
- "Oh, yes! And I know just the route; it's super fast. We just have to go almost to West Virginia."

by Ronald on Aug 5, 2011 10:28 am • linkreport

I understand that a road with a similar function to this Tri-County Parkway has been proposed every now and then through the years with different names, but it's sort of confusing to refer to it as an Outer Beltway. Although this parkway could be the foundation for an Outer Beltway at some point, it would be more like the Fairfax County Parkway at this point for the same reason the Fairfax County Parkway isn't an Outer Beltway, as described in the article.

I think people can see the point of having a bypass that was designed to relieve congestion closer to the city and on the Beltway, but that's not what the Tri-County Parkway would be.

by Vik on Aug 5, 2011 10:35 am • linkreport

It's pretty much useless for me to go home to Richmond in the summer. This is because in Prince william and stafford there is no north south connection other than rte 1 or 95. So all local traffic has to get on one of those roads to get anywhere as well. Something needs to be done that can move people between DC and the beaches in the summer and a western bypass wouldn't do that nor would it do anything to help commuters trying to get to major job centers that are all in fairfax/dc and such.

Let's get a third vre track/complete VA HSR and upgrade 301.

by canaan on Aug 5, 2011 10:35 am • linkreport

@ Arl Anon:There is no doubt that a significant amount of long-distance traffic for the entire East Coast gets channeled into sections of I-95 between Richmond and Washington, then the Washington Beltway (or I-395 and DC-295/NY Avenue through the city). Diverting this traffic from these local-area highways can be done by upgrading US-301 to interstate specs, and making it an extension of I-97.

The extended I-97 could branch of I-95 near Richmond or Fredericksburg, follow US-301 until US-50/I-595 and then MD-3. The MD-3 part could be a spur of I-97, the way I-270 splits at the end. Small bypasses with few exits could be built around places La Plata, Waldorf, Brandywine and Upper Malboro to "protect" them from further sprawlization.

by Jasper on Aug 5, 2011 10:42 am • linkreport

The Tri-County Parkway is in the CLRP and has been for a while. Obviously that doesn't make it a done deal, but it's on the books as having funding reasonably available.

Would the GGW community support an outer beltway if it was extremely limited access and a toll road? What about a road that is free for traffic going from end to end (bypassing DC) but super expensive for short trips going only a few exits?

The induced demand argument for highways starts to erode when the road is priced. Pair pricing with extreme land use controls can result in a road that does what it's supposed to do: provide transportation for people rather than spur development.

by MDE on Aug 5, 2011 10:43 am • linkreport

Related to what Arl Anon posted, it should be noted that I-95's serving double-duty as both East Coast through route (due to lack of alternatives) AND a local route is in no small part why we just spent $3 billion to upgrade the Springfield Interchange and the Wilson Bridge.

by Froggie on Aug 5, 2011 11:07 am • linkreport

+1 Vik. Continuing to call this the "dreaded outer beltway" is more preaching to the choir.

I have noticed toll roads in Europe with the same pattern. IN fact, that is what the Greenway does -- by having a max toll for the entire section it helps reduce the power of suburbanization.

Toll roads seem to work best when they are new roads.

@Froggie; is there a way to measure how much truck traffic is on the beltway and the WW bridge? I am not doubting your numbers. My anecdotal evidence is there aren't a lot of trucks on the beltway, but I rarely use the southern beltway.

by charlie on Aug 5, 2011 11:20 am • linkreport

There is already some development along several of the proposed corridors, so this won't turn into some sort of giant mixing-bowl type elevated highway, it seems like it will be just widenings of existing routes.

Competing developer-funded plans are already in place for several of these areas, so they would seem more likely to actually happen.

by Theo on Aug 5, 2011 11:25 am • linkreport

No, MDE. Not at all. Not ever. It's a bad idea. Roads don't solve traffic. They're expensive too. I don't believe for one second that this one would be different.

The Highway Lobby has been saying "this highway will be different from the others that were expensive and created congestion" for over 50 years. It's always self-serving bull-feathers. This zombie/turkey is no different.

by Cavan on Aug 5, 2011 11:30 am • linkreport

If there is gonna be an outer Beltway, it should come with equal mileage of new metro.

by Jasper on Aug 5, 2011 11:52 am • linkreport

alignment f has a wicked s-turn

by JessMan on Aug 5, 2011 11:54 am • linkreport

No, roads don't solve traffic. Roads move people and good from one destination to another. More capacity moves more goods and people until it's filled with additional volume.

From an efficiency of movement, a road with spare traffic capacity allows more cumulative goods to be moved than a road at max traffic capacity (upside down U shaped curve, also per time frame).

Since we're well past peak capacity (and into max capacity), there are two options, restrict capacity to peak or build additional capacity. Building additional capacity has a short shelf life before it quickly hits max capacity again since we have spare land.

I think the short term solution is metered on ramps which works quite well on the 101 along the peninsula south of San Francisco. VA's horrific experiment with it on 66 is an example of how a poor implementation works poorly, but it does work when implemented properly.

I'm not sure how the logistics work out and it does put pressure on local roads, but combined with limited access on/off ramps, could better proportion traffic between near in and outlying suburbs. That might lead to alternative traffic modes than 1 man-1 car.

by ahk on Aug 5, 2011 11:59 am • linkreport

The outer beltway is badly needed. There should be no knee-jerk response against it. Sadly, it was delayed and then derailed by radical environmentalists back in the 1970's and later. Back in the 70's it would have been an easy proposition with so few of the outlaying areas (along the proposed routes) being thinly populated. Today it is necessary for obvious reasons...traffic chokes I-95 and other arteries and such a system would enhance quality of life for those who live here.

by Pelham1861 on Aug 5, 2011 12:11 pm • linkreport

I could possibly be induced to support this if there was a dollar for dollar increase for transit

by nathaniel on Aug 5, 2011 12:13 pm • linkreport

Don't Fairfax Loudoun..oh wait that already happened...well don't make it much worse by jamming yet another road into a county already too dependent on SOV's to get around.

by Chris R on Aug 5, 2011 12:18 pm • linkreport

I would encourage folks who are concerned about this issue and those like it to support Andrea McGimsey, a Loudoun County Supervisor who has been a leader in the fight against the outer beltway.

facebook.com/mcgimseyforsupervisor

by Andy on Aug 5, 2011 12:37 pm • linkreport

No matter what streets we build along 95 it will become congested. That's why we need to invest in public transportation like the Dem's said but the stip Rep's are messing up the plan. HSR is badly needed along the Wash-Bos corridor. Personally I think the VRE trains should run during major weekend events. That will help traffic on weekend events downtown. That will get cars off 95

by Steve85 on Aug 5, 2011 12:39 pm • linkreport

A bypass of DC already exists between VA and MD for long-distance traffic going up and down the East Coast States. It's called I-81.

by Snarf on Aug 5, 2011 12:40 pm • linkreport

We need to build the route with greater utility and less negative environmental impact...

http://wwwtripwithinthebeltway.blogspot.com/2010/04/fallacy-of-not-building-dc-i-95.html

http://wwwtripwithinthebeltway.blogspot.com/2008/02/extending-legacy-with-grand-arc.html

That we don't is a most telling indication of the political nonsense at the top, which the phony smart growthers and that five sided sick joke pay their allegiance.

by Douglas Willinger on Aug 5, 2011 12:50 pm • linkreport

Oh yeah let's ride thru the mountains behind 18 wheelers on a 2 lane highway to bypass traffic hundreds of miles away from the coast. 81 isn't a bypass "Snarf".

by Steve85 on Aug 5, 2011 1:01 pm • linkreport

I would like to see an eastern bypass instead of a western bypass. Just take all the long distance off 95 at Fredericksburg and dump them back on 95 at Baltimore or something like that.

by abbey mae on Aug 5, 2011 1:10 pm • linkreport

I have removed a comment by ceefer that is an ad hominem attack.

by David Alpert on Aug 5, 2011 1:23 pm • linkreport

@nathaniel

"I could possibly be induced to support this if there was a dollar for dollar increase for transit "
----------------------

You mean the $5.4 billion Silver Line extension to the $14 billion existing Metro (the nation's second-largest most costly to build) isn't enough?

When is enough finally enough?

by ceefer66 on Aug 5, 2011 1:26 pm • linkreport

@ceefer66:When is enough finally enough?

When we have a decent metrorail network comparable in functionality with New York, London or Paris, and decent regional rail comparable with the NYC/NJ area.

by Jasper on Aug 5, 2011 1:30 pm • linkreport

@Jasper, @abbey mae - I agree; a long-distance bypass makes much more sense on the MD side than on the VA side, because that's the dominant traffic direction. The problem is that VA would get more of the benefits from a through-traffic reliever in this area, while MD would carry the burdens of the highway. As a result, MD has (reasonably) been spending its highway money on upgrades through and north of Baltimore.

by Arl Anon on Aug 5, 2011 1:31 pm • linkreport

"I have removed a comment by ceefer that is an ad hominem attack."

Oh, please!

Exactly when has Stewart Schwartz NOT opposed a highway simply by definition? And why is calling him out on it "an ad hominem attack"? To be frank, that term has been thrown around too loosly on this blog.

Are we supposed to agree with everything published here? If so, what's the purpose of inviting comments?

by ceefer66 on Aug 5, 2011 1:31 pm • linkreport

When we have a decent metrorail network comparable in functionality with New York, London or Paris, and decent regional rail comparable with the NYC/NJ area.

--------

Perhaps that will happen when we have a comparable population and level of density. Until then, it's not simply not feasable.

by ceefer66 on Aug 5, 2011 1:33 pm • linkreport

Echoing what others have said here: I'm generally anti-road, but there's definitely a legitimate case to be made for an eastern I-95 bypass. This one? Not so much.

by andrew on Aug 5, 2011 1:44 pm • linkreport

"Instead of building yet another wasteful highway that induces more traffic and more sprawl..."

In other words, let's not build another highway because (horrors!) people might actually want to live, work, and start businesses along its route.

by ceefer66 on Aug 5, 2011 1:45 pm • linkreport

Highways serve much of he public, hence elitism could not care less about them.

by Douglas Willinger on Aug 5, 2011 1:47 pm • linkreport

@ceefer66: Are we supposed to agree with everything published here? If so, what's the purpose of inviting comments?

you have answered your own question, have you not? Now, back to the article.....

by greent on Aug 5, 2011 1:54 pm • linkreport

Construction of an Outer Beltway would marginally degrade the fabric of suburban life. Therefore, according to Oboe's Law, given a choice between constructing or not constructing an Outer Beltway, suburban voters will choose the latter.

I predict a rise of at least a point-and-a-half on the Oboe-Schiller Index on this news.

by oboe on Aug 5, 2011 1:57 pm • linkreport

Regarding "induced traffic":

If traffic traveling to/from the Northeast to the Southeast is "induced" to use the bypass AROUND our region instead of driving THROUGH it on local roads, that's a good thing.

That would free up the local highways and reduce congestion and the attendant pollution, noise, safety hazards, lost time/productivity, etc.

I don't see anything wrong with that and I can't understand why anyone who claims to to have a concern for the region's betterment would.

There's a reason why we have the nation's worst traffic. And it's not because we haven't invested enough in transit.

by ceefer66 on Aug 5, 2011 2:17 pm • linkreport

@ceefer66

I actually agree with you as far as a bypass being potentially helpful, but that's not what this tri-county parkway is. That's why I don't even like the word beltway being so prominent in this story. It's Dulles Greenway than a beltway. A couple of the alignments on the graphic make me feel doubtful of its promise as an outer beltway even if it were continued to the north and south.

by Vik on Aug 5, 2011 2:26 pm • linkreport

It isn't that I am in favor of this plan, but let's face it. Calling this an "outer beltway" is just stupid. It actually harms the point of view. The Fairfax County Parkway and VA-28 are much better analogies.

Turning VA-28 into a fully divided limited access highway was a total waste of money and this would be too. I wouldn't bother building any north/south highways that did not specifically reduce congestion on I95 between Springfield and (at a minimum) Occoquan. Spot intersection modifications will be sufficient for everything else.

by movement on Aug 5, 2011 3:26 pm • linkreport

Um.... Yeah! No outerbeltway! Yeah. Lets force all that traffic from Loudon and Dulles and Sterling to come all the way into 495, Cross the Jammed CJ, or cut through 66, in order to get over to Maryland and montgomery county! Yah!

Stupid

Northern Northern virginia is being CRUSHED by traffic not of its own doing. Northern Northern virginia is getting inundated by people who live in MD and work in VA, or vice versa. Arlco is being crushed by people who cant get across the river, and therefore use the GW, 496, 66, 50, and 395 through Arlco.

Skrew it. If the suburbs wants to have dumb growth, let them have it. But stop dumping the traffic in Arlco and then screaming at Arlco that 66 should be widened. If the choice is between paving an outerbeltway and paving Arlco - pave the outbeltway and deal with dumb growth.

The traffic situation has to give somewhere. If Loudon and Dulles ppl are going to be dumb about traffic, then let them have the pavement.

by Wilbur on Aug 5, 2011 3:53 pm • linkreport

None of this makes much sense if you can't get Maryland to buy in to a cross river connection to either the ICC, 270 or 70.

If that is a non-starter, it makes no sense to send cars off of I-95 to drop them at Dulles.

by Andrew on Aug 5, 2011 4:14 pm • linkreport

@movement: Ridgefield Rd was supposed to provide a N/S corrider W of 123 connecting central Prince William and Fairfax Counties. Prince William buildt its bit, but Fairfax removed it from their plans.

Frankly, i could support a C/G/F routing, especially if there were few interchanges and tolls similar to on the Greenway.

I do think an Eastern bypass by upgrading 301 from 95 in VA te 50 in MD and dual-signing it with I-97 is a better option, but i don't oppose a Western one either.

by dcseain on Aug 5, 2011 4:23 pm • linkreport

We should build more highways, selectively, where they contribute to overcoming significant congestion bottlenecks. Or where there is a genuine need to enable development and growth.

Im not sure I see those factors here. I havent read the traffic tables, but I dont see anyone contesting the claim that the congestion issues north south in the tri county are much less significant than the east west ones, which would not be relieved by this. As for the long haul issues, yes, it does seem that would be better addressed by an EASTERN bypass (a tolled one, please) and by rail improvements. As for development, are there really any disinterested parties who think we should encourage more low density development Loudoun and Prince William ?

I guess the only argument pro I can see is that we WILL get more such development in Loudoun and PWC anyway, and that THEN the N-S routes will become congested, and that we should build the road in advance. Of course that makes presumptions about zoning and development policies in LC and PWC.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 5, 2011 4:23 pm • linkreport


The Western "Bypass" is a total waste. It is every real estate developers' wet dream at best. All too typical of Loudoun and Prince William counties. It wouldn't even make Dulles Airport more accessible to vehicular traffic. An eastern limited access toll road from I-95 just south of Fredricksburg going up Route 301 and I-97 reconnecting I-95 on the north side of Baltimore is the only thing that would make any sense in terms of trying to relieve traffic on I-95.

Or we could make VRE and MARC into a real commuter rail network with trains running at intervals other than just weekday mornings northbound and weekday evenings southbound once an hour (VRE).

Try taking MARC from DC to Baltimore on a Saturday to visit the Walters Art Museum for example. You can't. At least the last time I checked. You could get to Baltimore but you could only do a quick lunch and catch the train right back to DC. Or pay for a hotel room overnight. The overnight option doesn't fit in my budget. Good for you if it does. The fact that someone can't take a train on the weekend for a little day trip to a large city only 30 or 40 miles north in this country is utterly absurd. Forget the notion of ever trying to take a train to the beach. Learn to enjoy I-95 traffic in the blistering heat then.

by jps on Aug 5, 2011 4:30 pm • linkreport

@ jps
"An eastern limited access toll road from I-95 just south of Fredricksburg going up Route 301 and I-97 reconnecting I-95 on the north side of Baltimore is the only thing that would make any sense in terms of trying to relieve traffic on I-95."

Actually, bypasses on BOTH the Virginia and Maryland sides would make the most sense.

"The fact that someone can't take a train on the weekend for a little day trip to a large city only 30 or 40 miles north in this country is utterly absurd."

There is Amtrak.

"Forget the notion of ever trying to take a train to the beach."

I've never understood why there aren't trains from DC
and Baltimore to Ocean City by way of Annapolis.

" Learn to enjoy I-95 traffic in the blistering heat then."

That's why I don't bother. I haven't been to a beach in this area in years. I wait until I go to visit family in Florida and California or if I take vacation to the Caribbean.

I've never understood why a region of so many well-educated, affluent people has allowed itself to get strangled in traffic.

by ceefer66 on Aug 5, 2011 5:52 pm • linkreport

"there is Amtrak"
Cool then, it's probably cheaper to improve amtrak and vre/marc service and see improvements from that before plunking down the money on the bypasses.

by Canaan on Aug 5, 2011 5:59 pm • linkreport

@ ceefer66:There is Amtrak.

Where? I live literally on the block of a train station. Other than at rush hour, there are no trains. None. Why can't I take a train to Baltimore and go watch a game and get back at night? Why can't I take a train to Richmond to go shopping there? Why can't I get a train to the beach?

This may sound incredulous, but these things are utterly normal in other countries. Sherlock Holmes used to take the train from London to the British coast. Back home, I used to live on the German border - the non-seaside of the country. I could walk to a train twice an hour between 6am and midnight, sit in it for 2h30, transfer to a streetcar and be on the beach. Why is that possible from a remote (for Dutch standards) town in the Netherlands but not from the Capital of the US?

by Jasper on Aug 5, 2011 7:31 pm • linkreport

Paul Farmer, Executive Director of the American Planning Association, rarely speaks out negatively against individuals. He made this exception for Secretary Connaughton, at the beginning of an editorial entitled "A Return to the 190s Just is Possible" in the current issue of Planning magazine:

"I recently heard Sean Connaughton, Virginia's DOT Secretary and a former staff member of the American Petroleum Institute, espouse the ideas of the last 60 years: Build more highways, expand more intersections, stop spending money on bikeways, and get rid of those pesky environmental and participatory hurdles. Oh, if we could just return to the 1950s, all would be right with the world!"

by Daniel on Aug 5, 2011 8:26 pm • linkreport

The editorial was entitled "A return to the 1950's just isn't possible." Mis-type.

by Daniel on Aug 5, 2011 8:38 pm • linkreport

I've never understood why a region of so many well-educated, affluent people has allowed itself to get strangled in traffic.

Because some of those people believe that they can live far from the places they need to get to and when traffic gets to the point of being intolerable, taxpayers will bail them out with a new highway. If traffic is too bad where you live, then move. The number one reason given by the National Association of Realtor for why people pick a home is "commuting time". So, it's not crazy to expect people to pick homes or move to a location where they can tolerate the traffic. And for those saying "traffic wasn't as bad when I bought my house originally", the writing has been on the wall for decades. Given trends, traffic has ended up being exactly as bad as predicted.

Now, if one can make a cogent argument for why a new road will pay for itself and make a good investment, go right ahead and share those numbers. Just bear in mind that what makes for good transportation investments is the creation of high paying, high skill jobs. Typically, companies that employ those kind of people need access to a large population because only a small percent of the people have the right skill set and only a small percent of those people are looking for a job at any given time. Hence, companies with high paying jobs tend to locate in areas of high density, not areas like where the outer beltway will run.

Cool then, it's probably cheaper to improve amtrak and vre/marc service and see improvements from that before plunking down the money on the bypasses.

That's probably not true. Roads are almost always a much cheaper form of transportation than transit (even if you factor in the externalities caused by oil-based transportation). Transit works from an economic perspective in three situations:

1. If it creates the population density needed to attract high paying jobs

2. If land is very expensive. While a highway lane can only carry 2000 cars/hour, a single track can carry up to 40,000 passengers/hour. So, you get a lot more transportation per square foot of space with transit.

3. If transit creates the kind of density where people don't need to travel as far to get where they need to go to (i.e., while transit might cost more per mile of transportation, transit helps create communities where people have to transport themselves far fewer miles).

by Falls Church on Aug 5, 2011 11:38 pm • linkreport

None of this makes much sense if you can't get Maryland to buy in to a cross river connection to either the ICC, 270 or 70.

Nonsense! We have an existing crossing at White's Ferry. Simply widen White's Ferry Rd and connect the ICC to it through Poolesville. The existing ferry will connect the "last mile" to Leesburg. Of course, naysayers will point to "throughput" as a problem. The solution? Congestion pricing!

by oboe on Aug 8, 2011 10:58 am • linkreport

USNCPC's Extending the Legacy has a quote about amphibious autos as the answer making bridges obsolete.

by Douglas Willinger on Aug 8, 2011 12:34 pm • linkreport

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