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Virginia insiders pulling bait-and-switch for Outer Beltway

After a long battle, it looks like the Virginia General Assembly will approve the Governor McDonnell's borrow and spend transportation plan. Even before this plan has finally passed, state officials are poised to pull a bait and switch to add a controversial Outer Beltway project that wasn't on the list of projects sold to legislators.

The Governor's plan does not include an outer beltway. But behind the scenes it's a different story.

In a meeting of the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) last week, the Governor's Secretary of Transportation and two CTB members announced a renewed effort to prioritize a highway connecting I-95 in Prince William to Route 50 in Loudoun with an ultimate goal of connecting into Maryland.

This segment is known as the Tri-County Parkwaythe latest name for the same road that has been rejected by the public every few years since the 1960s, sometimes called the Western Bypass.

This outer beltway would destroy the historic landscape on the western boundary of Manassas Battlefieldin the very year we are honoring the 150th anniversary of the First Battle of Manassas. Furthermore, this highway would not solve our traffic problemsit would actually make them worse.

If you live in Virginia, please email Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton and the CTB today telling them you oppose the Tri-County Parkway.

If you take action today, we can also let your legislators know ASAPtheir session ends tomorrow!

The bait and switch

In public, the Governor has offered a list of some 900 road projects that might be funded by the new debt. This list does not include the controversial outer beltway project around DC. The public list played a key role in getting Delegates and Senatorswho face reelection this yearto sign off on the risky borrowing)

But during last week's CTB meeting, the Secretary of Transportation brought up an issue not on the published agenda, asking two of the CTB members, Gary Garzynski and Doug Koelemay, if they had a resolution to offer. After describing a new highway connection that follows the route of the proposed TriCounty Parkway/Western Bypass, they said that the resolution was not quite ready yet, but that they hoped it would be by the next CTB meeting in March.

Secretary Connaughton, who used to Chair the Prince William Board of Supervisors, then said, "You guys would never make it on the Prince William County Board of Supervisors; we live for bushwhacking people."

Bushwhacked (ambushed) is exactly how we feel. It's no way to conduct the public's business. First the administration had the Secretary of Transportation hold out a list of projects that was a key to winning many legislators' support for more debt and spending. Then, off the radar screen from the legislature, the media, and the public the administration is maneuvering the revival and addition of one of the most controversial highways in the state.

In fact, the inclusion of the Western Bypass and other outer loop roads was a key factor in the public's strong rejection of the Northern Virginia sales tax increase in the public referendum of 2002.

More traffic, not lessand a waste of money

This massive road, often referred to as the "Outer Beltway" or "Western Transportation Corridor," has been repeatedly rejected because it doesn't relieve traffic on the Beltway, I-95, I-66 or local roads. In fact, it would make traffic worse by opening up thousands more acres to development and feeding more traffic from the west onto gridlocked east-west roads.

Construction of an Outer Beltway would encourage increased development in areas which lack the necessary support infrastructure (water, sewer, schools, services, roads, etc.)making existing congestion, fiscal, and environmental problems worse. The real transportation need in western Prince William and Loudoun counties is for improved east-west connections, including transit.

On top of that, the project would siphon money away from projects that citizens of the Commonwealth actually need, like repair, maintenance, and enhancements for our aging bridges, roads, and transit systems, and addressing major bottlenecks within the already built up areas of Northern Virginia and other metro areas.

The Commonwealth Transportation Board must vote on where to spend the multi-billion dollar transportation bond package. Please take a minute to write to the CTB, and ask them not to waste limited funding on a project as destabilizing and wasteful as the Outer Beltway.

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. 

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The Western Bypass is badly needed. We can't expect to keep this metro area growing without a way to allow through traffic to go around the 'new' boundaries of the metro area. It's all about growth and change. It's a good thing. It sounds like Va. finally has a take charge smart governor in charge.

by Lance on Feb 25, 2011 1:57 pm • linkreport

I agree with Lance on this. It's time.

And taking on debt for long term public infrastructure is fundamentally sound.

Taking on debt for immediate social programs is not.

by eb on Feb 25, 2011 2:02 pm • linkreport

In fact, it would make traffic worse by opening up thousands more acres to development and feeding more traffic from the west onto gridlocked east-west roads.

That's right. Rather than grow and prosper, we should shrivel up and die economically. Or maybe just stack people in buildings 10 or more stories high so that we can live the 'good life' Soviet style.

Where should all the new people go? Should we knock down all of historic Washington to put in Soviet-style blocks of apartment houses? It's all about opportunity and quality of life. Exploiting available land in the metro area and making it available for new homes and business and parks and bike paths and shopping centers to be built on is the difference between making the land work for the people and making the people work for the land. Fortunately, we have the former and not the latter type of society here.

by Lance on Feb 25, 2011 2:03 pm • linkreport

eb, well said.

by Lance on Feb 25, 2011 2:07 pm • linkreport

or, instead of worrying about how not building a road will lead to bread lines and boring architecture we can talk about how the billions that need to borrowed for roads can be invested in transportation, taking all the local cars off the road and easing for people who are simply going through. Also why not upgrade 301 (including limiting development so as to not induce sprawl along there so people can cross the potomac well below DC.

by canaan on Feb 25, 2011 2:15 pm • linkreport

If I had any confidence that the Western Bypass would result in the Shangri-La envisioned by Lance, I might not cringe at the idea. However, part of knowing our history is not repeating past mistakes. In this case, there is no way I would support this if I were a Virginia resident or taxpayer.

by William on Feb 25, 2011 2:17 pm • linkreport

@Lance: Through traffic from where to where?

In all likelihood, it'd end up being a road to connect suburbs to suburbs (a la I-287 in New Jersey).

As a local route, it makes sense for some of the communities that it passes through, but I'd guess that fewer than 10% of the traffic drives over 50% of its length.

Similarly, even though this is a road "for" the outer suburbs, it'll induce more demands on the roads closer in, which are already reaching their maximum capacity. Unless you're willing to fund (and have the political clout to approve) massive capacity enhancements closer in along with this road, an outer beltway would set the region up for disaster.

I don't disagree about any particular point regarding the need for a more effective route for through traffic to bypass DC -- funneling everyone onto the Beltway hasn't worked, and building a freeway straight through DC will never happen.

If we're looking to more effectively handle through traffic from north to south, an eastern bypass would make a lot more sense.

by andrew on Feb 25, 2011 2:18 pm • linkreport

Yeah, we will need this in the future. Most PW residents commute out of the county to their jobs. Pretty soon a lot of those jobs are going to be in Loudoun County, and this will be a great way to cut down on trip time.

by Lou on Feb 25, 2011 2:19 pm • linkreport

Most PW residents commute out of the county to their jobs

Sounds like it was a pretty dumb idea for them to live in PW county.

by JustMe on Feb 25, 2011 2:24 pm • linkreport

Awesome. Another highway (with all the attendant feeder roads, fast food joints, garages, strip malls, McMansions, etc.) to make NoVA even less desirable.

I figure this can only be good for the value of my downtown DC property in my walkable neighborhood and served by public transportation.

by Horace on Feb 25, 2011 2:25 pm • linkreport

@ canaan, Upgrading 301 is a great idea. The practical problem is probably that it's politically harder to get MD to build roads than VA. Which is kind of ironic given that when the beltway was built, it was Va. that had to be dragged along ... Probably becaused they feared allowing more bridges across the Potomac would erode the (then) southern identity of Nothern Va. Of course, they were right at the time. That's what it was about then, and that's what it's about now. Some folks would rather see things always stay the same. Unfortunately, and I say this as a preservationist, that can't be. Things change. This is especially true since all things either grow and prosper or stop growing and end up dying. The best you can do is try to preserve the qualities that are best of today. So, if building further out helps preserve the open skies and 'one with nature' character of our metro area, then I am all for it.

by Lance on Feb 25, 2011 2:25 pm • linkreport

Of course, as we all know, there's absolutely no grey area between the Toll Bros wet-dream sprawl paradise that this road will bring us and "Soviet Apartment Blocks". Thanks Lance for your insightful comments.

Hint: There's plenty of room for the DC metro area to "grow and change" without building a ridiculous outer ring road that doesn't actually accomplish anything. Oh, and have fun driving that road when gas hits $5-$6 per gallon pretty soon.

by MLD on Feb 25, 2011 2:28 pm • linkreport

@JustMe Sounds like it was a pretty dumb idea for them to live in PW county.

Maybe they couldn't afford elsewhere. What's wrong with their buying where they can? I might be willing to live in a smaller space to be closer in and you might as well. But why shouldn't someone else have the choice to live further out and drive more if that's what they want? It's (still) a free country far as I can tell. As long as this person pays their gas taxes to build and maintain these roads (and to subsidize the mass transit folks like we do with the Dulles Toll Road), he should be free to decide this.

by Lance on Feb 25, 2011 2:30 pm • linkreport

As long as this person pays their gas taxes to build and maintain these roads (and to subsidize the mass transit folks like we do with the Dulles Toll Road), he should be free to decide this.

I'm glad to hear that you support a 150% increase in the gas tax so that people who drive are actually paying their way to build and maintain those roads!

by MLD on Feb 25, 2011 2:33 pm • linkreport

But why shouldn't someone else have the choice to live further out and drive more if that's what they want?

If they're willing to deal with worse traffic and higher gas costs, that's their right, but don't expect me to send them "relief" in the form of my tax dollars. Why should everyone have to make appropriate lifestyle tradeoffs for everything EXCEPT commuting feasibility? As I said, if they can't get to their own workplace effectively from their home, then they had a stunning lapse in judgment regarding their choice of home. If you want to care about someone's choices, Lance, send some relief to the beleagured small business owners in DC who are being attacked, day in and day out by hostile, angry "neighborhood activists" trying to shut them down, not to idiots who are facing difficult commutes in PW county because of their own poor judgments.

by JustMe on Feb 25, 2011 2:33 pm • linkreport

Yes, we do desperately need this. This will bring more prosperity to the region. More houses, more businesses, more people, more revenue. It's that simple. Much more so than some choo-choos or Toonerville Trolleys. America has been a highway transported country since the 50's, and nothing is going to stop that. Please stop trying to live in the past. Americans don't like public transit boondoggles. They do appreciate government spending when it's done on infrastructure that actually benefits the 99% of Americans who use the car as their primary means of transportation. They know a waste of money when they see it, whether it's for some train to nowhere- no doubt patronized mainly by the homeless, illegals, and some urban hipsters, or whether it's to payments to deadbeats for not working.

Why try to emulate areas with moribund populations, namely old, dense, major cities? Read up on this. Randall O'Toole and Joel Kotkin have written about why the future of America is exurbia and why we need to invest there. The 'burbs are growing while the major cities are shrinking or are at best maintaining stable populations far from what they were at their heights.

Thanks, Governor. The future Virginians will thank you as well for your foresightedness.

by Fred Gibbons on Feb 25, 2011 2:34 pm • linkreport

No! Don't d...

Ah, never mind. The only thing we can count on is that the suburbs will inevitably make the decisions that will to make things worse. That's just the way they are.

I'm going to go check Zillow and see if the value of my DC real estate holdings went up over this news.

Can anyone suggest a better investment vehicle for shorting the 'burbs than DC real estate? Thanks!

by oboe on Feb 25, 2011 2:39 pm • linkreport

Wow. What a terrible scar on Virginia's land.

by Max D. on Feb 25, 2011 2:40 pm • linkreport

This "resolution" is dead on arrival. The Civil War lobby prevented a Walmart from being built in Wilderness [1]. They'll certainly be able to stop an interstate from going through Manassas.

Also, widening 301 is never going to happen. The environmental impact will be too great. Even if Maryland wanted it (they don't) it would never be approved by the EPA. Heck, environmentalist concerns have a good chance of preventing the Potomac Yard Metro from being built and that threatens a much smaller area.

Revitalizing Rt. 1 from Alexandria to Woodbridge is a much more economically sensible and feasible approach.

[1] http://www.preservationnation.org/forum/resource-center/forum-library/public-articles/walmart-drops-wilderness.html

by movement on Feb 25, 2011 2:41 pm • linkreport

Fred, this will result in a massive decline in quality of life. This isn't intelligent managing growth, this is spending billions and billions of subsidies for low-quality homebuilders and increased sprawl and traffic.

by JustMe on Feb 25, 2011 2:41 pm • linkreport

Lance is again breaking his own moniker that says that out-of-jurisdictions should shut up about events outside their jurisdiction. Live up to your ow words Lance.

Also, I thought that the Fairfax County Parkway was intended as outer Beltway. Slowly but surely, at grade intersections are disappearing.

by Jasper on Feb 25, 2011 2:42 pm • linkreport

Also, I kind of got a chuckle out of the author's description of a "long battle" over approving the transportation funding legislation. It was a slam dunk. Done and done. 34-6 in the Democratically controlled state Senate. Virginia wants this. But I can see how people who focus on Washington might not know that.

by Lou on Feb 25, 2011 2:47 pm • linkreport

Well, IF it happens, it's going to take way too long to have any practical effect on traffic. Houston has taken about 20 years to finish its second beltway and from most of the numbers I've seen, the total time spent in traffic is still going up.

And thanks Fred, your comment about mass transit being for illegals, homeless and hipsters made me laugh. Because you were joking, right? Oh.

by Mike B on Feb 25, 2011 2:48 pm • linkreport

Lou: Stewart lives in Virginia and spends much of his time advocating for issues in Virginia.

by David Alpert on Feb 25, 2011 2:50 pm • linkreport

Well I dont know.

I hear what SMART GROWTH is saying, but the fact is that the CJ bridge is swollen with stupid traffic traveling from Montgomery to Fairfax (and vis versa), and the Beltway is swollen with traffic going from suburb to suburb. 66 is swollen in the morning with traffic coming from I have no idea where - going west to Reston.

As much as I want SMART GROWTH, and I do - I bike to work everything - I am afraid there has to be a release valve somewhere. If they are going to pave, I would rather have the pave in the jurisdiction that lacks a transportation plan - than pave in places like Arlington where there is an aggressive transportation plan.

Either the outer suburbs deal with the outer suburbs dumb traffic, or the inner suburbs deal with the *outer* suburbs dumb traffic. You know what? If you are going to be stupid and not live where you work, the pave your own suburb.

My gut feeling is an outer beltway sounds like a pretty good idea.

by Stan on Feb 25, 2011 2:50 pm • linkreport

I don't think you have to be anti-public transportation to be pro-highway in this case. This highway + MD ICC (and the bridge that will inevitably be built) is more appropriate for the very large number of people who commute from the Baltimore suburbs to Dulles-ish, VA. Why are people doing this commute? Who cares, it exists. The WaPo showed that the top part of the beltway is clogged with these commuters. There's no public transportation project (other than roads) that's going to address their need because of the distributed nature of the start and end points. It clogs the beltway and hurts the local east-west traffic unnecessarily.

Should VA make itself a more attractive place to live? Yes, but it's not happening. Should MD do more to attract the types of businesses that people in their state want to work for? Yes, but it's not happening.

by eb on Feb 25, 2011 2:51 pm • linkreport

I completely agree that the western bypass isn't necessary. We don't need a Potomac crossing there.

But this is the second post on GGW today that makes no sense.

The picture isn't of the "Outer Beltway." The evidence, far as I can tell from this, is CTC members NOT asking for money. And that is what the ulimate request will be: a study to see if it should be built.

Because every other member of the Virginia House and Senate is already boasting about what they will do with their money.

@Lou; I agree that this was a wildly popular action, but that doesn't make it a good one.

Just saw my first $4 gas in DC today.

by charlie on Feb 25, 2011 2:52 pm • linkreport

@MLD I'm glad to hear that you support a 150% increase in the gas tax so that people who drive are actually paying their way to build and maintain those roads!

We had this discussion on here before, and what you're claiming is backed in fiction and not fact. It's true that currently gas taxes aren't fully covering the cost of road building and maintenance. But that is only a recent anomaly and one that could be remedied by raising the federal gas tax by a very small amount. It's also true that while a tiny percentage of road building and maintenance (5% as calculated on this very blog by someone who initially opposed what I was saying), the subsidy for mass transit is something like 70% ... Meaning that if everyone who is now asking the govt for a nickel for ever 95 cents they put in were to suddenly become mass transit users, the government would go broke trying to pay the 70 cent to every dollar subsidy. Especiallay given the fact that the number of folks nowadays NOT relying on the 70 cent giveaways are ten times or more numerous than those dependent on that 70 cents subsidy. I.e., You'd be your own worst enemy if you got what you wished for and we all became mass transit users.

by Lance on Feb 25, 2011 2:52 pm • linkreport

Makes the qualitative statement even that more odd.

by Lou on Feb 25, 2011 2:53 pm • linkreport

Everyone who thinks this is a good idea is ignoring the issue of induced demand. People who drive from PW County to Loudoun today are finding space on the roads to do so.

It may be crowded and slow, but they are able to. The fact that it's not the easiest drive is what is preventing even more people from moving to new sprawl subdivisions in PW who work in Loudoun, or vice versa.

It's also something that prevents companies from setting up office parks in Loudoun and expecting to be able to attract employees who live in, say, Howard County.

If this highway is built, then many companies will decide that it's a great idea to build their campus on very cheap land way out in Loudoun County. They could pay more for a site in inner Fairfax, Falls Church or Arlington, but that would cost more. Instead, they can just demand that employees drive 50 miles on the Outer Beltway.

And once that happens, the amount of traffic on the road will increase greatly. The road will quickly become crowded with traffic. The road boosters will then say we need an Outer Outer Beltway which is "much needed" because so many people are driving from Carroll County Maryland to Clarke County Virginia for their jobs.

If you assume everyone just lives where they live and work where they work, then any road seems sensible (cost excluded) because some people do want to drive in that direction. But if you realize that the road network shapes development sufficient to fill it up, then building this road is basically a subsidy of development in these areas, nothing more.

by David Alpert on Feb 25, 2011 2:59 pm • linkreport

Fred G.

Check the rates of young college educated americans moving to cities... don't sound like the homeless thugs you think live there.

I can't wait to ride metro to work as you complain about $5/$6 gas.

by jhen on Feb 25, 2011 3:00 pm • linkreport

My gut feeling is an outer beltway sounds like a pretty good idea.

In the sense that, when you're roof is leaking, buying a bunch of buckets to put under the leaks is a good idea. And when it gets worse, buying still more buckets is a good idea, too. The only drawback is that it prevents you from ever addressing the fundamental issue.

by oboe on Feb 25, 2011 3:01 pm • linkreport

@Lance

Do your calculations include externalities like wasted time in traffic, pollution/environmental impacts and defense spending and aid to keep the giant gas station in the mideast open?

by William on Feb 25, 2011 3:09 pm • linkreport

A stupid idea. Spend the money on rail transportation.

by Carl Melton on Feb 25, 2011 3:09 pm • linkreport

http://dc.streetsblog.org/2011/01/04/actually-highway-builders-roads-don%e2%80%99t-pay-for-themselves/

Lance, about that "open space":
http://www.infrastructurist.com/2011/01/12/new-study-reveals-the-hidden-environmental-cost-of-parking/

Either the outer suburbs deal with the outer suburbs dumb traffic, or the inner suburbs deal with the *outer* suburbs dumb traffic.
Well that's all well and good until induced demand creates suburbs even further away, and today's "outer" suburbs are now inner suburbs, and they are dealing with the outer-outer suburbs traffic.

by EJ on Feb 25, 2011 3:10 pm • linkreport

@EJ

Well that's all well and good until induced demand creates suburbs even further away, and today's "outer" suburbs are now inner suburbs, and they are dealing with the outer-outer suburbs traffic.

I'm pretty sure this time things'll be different.

by oboe on Feb 25, 2011 3:16 pm • linkreport

The Manassas area needs something like this to get commuters off local roads:

http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?hl=en&ie=UTF8&msa=0&msid=207994879598287792047.000494cad95627d617dd3&ll=38.778443,-77.478933&spn=0.03011,0.077162&z=14

(and improvements to I-66)

by mcs on Feb 25, 2011 3:17 pm • linkreport

The core of the region is not growing upwards, so the region is going to grow outwards. People and jobs are coming here, and they're not going to be crammed inside the Beltway anymore.

by Lou on Feb 25, 2011 3:20 pm • linkreport

@DA
I agree with all you have to say. I personally think this "proposal" is DOA but I could be wrong. To ensure this is the case, folks like you need to do more to demonstrate that a transit-based approach is a more efficient use of funds, both now and in the future.

In an economy where jobs are scarce and people are willing to drive 50 miles to go to them, how are you going to convince companies to spend the money to place themselves in more expensive locations? I don't think you've answered this question and therefore have not presented a viable alternative to sprawl (or sitting back and doing nothing which is arguably worse).

by movement on Feb 25, 2011 3:22 pm • linkreport

@David 'If this highway is built, then many companies will decide that it's a great idea to build their campus on very cheap land way out in Loudoun County.'

You're a little late. They've already dediced to build on this cheap land. Hence why you have the bottle necks already. And what's the alternative? .... Not build on cheap land ... and let the Chinese do so instead? Costs get reflected in final prices. Ask the Europeans why they've been at a competitive disadvantage to us now for decades. We have the land, it's a resource meat to be exploited for our benefit. It's here to serve us and not vice-versa.

by Lance on Feb 25, 2011 3:22 pm • linkreport

As a former resident of Loudoun County who has already seen the eastern half of the county transformed over the past 30 years, I think this is a terrible idea.

Right now, today the bad land use policies acted out in this county have led to terrible gridlock traffic on the major thoroughfares of 7 and 15. Residents of the county have no other option but to drive to spread out strip mall commercial areas. Meanwhile downtown historic Leesburg struggles, with speeding cars having more of a precedence than people.
Adding a superhighway with all of the negative externalities that come with it is a true disservice to this part of the area. How about building the Loudoun section of the Silver Line instead of trying to add still more highways then being perplexed when they promptly get congested.

by Chris R on Feb 25, 2011 3:25 pm • linkreport

Lou has a point. Seriously, if we're going to have a free-for-all on highways, land use, and development, we do have to address DC's myopic height limit. It does force some development outward, and combined with ANC power, makes city living expensive indeed.

Someone have links Avent's and Yglesias' observations and rebuttals of BeyondDC?

by EJ on Feb 25, 2011 3:26 pm • linkreport

I can think of lots of reasons why the Europeans have issues with competitiveness, but a shortage of land is definitely not one of them. Poor higher education systems, rigid labor laws, lack of a culture of entrepreneurship, and excessive government bureaucracy yes, but definitely not land shortages.

by Phil on Feb 25, 2011 3:32 pm • linkreport

@EJ Seriously, if we're going to have a free-for-all on highways, land use, and development, we do have to address DC's myopic height limit. It does force some development outward ...

And there was an article on here some months back by some preeminent city planner (from vancouver?) who explained that the natural 'basin' of DC which doesn't include limits like bays or mountain ranges which other cities have meant that Washington could, and therefore should, spreadout vs. having to climb. That the positives outweighed the negatives given our surplus available land-pool not blocked for expansion because of geographic constraints.

by Lance on Feb 25, 2011 3:33 pm • linkreport

Not to go all off-topic, but it's arguable that there isn't even a "competitiveness gap", for whatever value that term has.

Over the last 30 years, productivity growth has been much higher in Europe than in the United States. And productivity levels are roughly similar today in the EU and in the United States.

The main difference is that Europe has used some of the increase in productivity to increase leisure rather than income — while the United States has done the opposite.

http://www.theglobalist.com/StoryId.aspx?StoryId=3954

Those suckers with the months' long vacation and fancy villas in the country! We've got bigger TVs...

by oboe on Feb 25, 2011 3:38 pm • linkreport

And there was an article on here some months back by some preeminent city planner (from vancouver?) who explained that the natural 'basin' of DC which doesn't include limits like bays or mountain ranges which other cities have meant that Washington could, and therefore should, spreadout vs. having to climb. That the positives outweighed the negatives given our surplus available land-pool not blocked for expansion because of geographic constraints.

Yes and that spread out development style leads to cities with no traffic problems like Houston, Atlanta, Dallas, and Phoenix!

by MLD on Feb 25, 2011 3:49 pm • linkreport

Lance, I don't think geography is the only constraint for growing taller, despite being a strong one. If DC should spread, than let the market decide rather than have such a strict height limit. I've been a proponent of lifting the height limit. Just like you say, "things change".

I'm not in favor of this. I never considered the Fairfax County Parkway to be an outer beltway and it hasn't operated that way.

I do think that we need better road and transit connectivity in the North-South axis in Northern Virginia. Both inside the beltway and outside of it. Prince William Parkway is probably about where you'd want to have an outer beltway for local traffic, although this would probably be where Dumfries is and go around Rt. 234 which would also be easier to construct.

I agree with the 6th post by William. I can see the need for this road, but I know it will lead to the mess that we currently have and that's a bit disheartening. There would need to be both an increase in fuel prices and a different mindset by legislators and regulators for me to be more confident in a project like this. And I'm aware of induced demand.

by Vik on Feb 25, 2011 3:51 pm • linkreport

We here in Loudoun know what our transportation problems are and how to build for the future. We need better ways to move east and west. This huge new north-south road will eat up the scarce money we need to fix the roads on which we sit all day long, and which are restricting the growth of new businesses. Lets spend our money fixing real problems, not on unneeded, expensive and useless boondogles.

by mitch on Feb 25, 2011 4:14 pm • linkreport

Loudoun should to buy back the Dulles Greenway - problem solved

by mcs on Feb 25, 2011 4:19 pm • linkreport

All: Thanks for the robust discussion. A couple of quick thoughts. The country is broke. We have a huge maintenance backlog we have to fix first. We have places of much bigger traffic demand that we need to address. The 1997 study of the Western Bypass showed it didn't relieve traffic on the Beltway, I-66, and I-95. In fact the ICC study also showed that it didn't relieve traffic from I-270, I-95 or the Beltway. Exurban highways do however induce new development and that's the conscious purpose of this new road. It would expand access into the Prince William "Rural Crescent" and the Loudoun rural "Transition Zone." The traffic problems are east-west and we don't even have enough money to fix those. A report by Smart Mobility, Inc critiqued the TriCounty: http://www.smartergrowth.net/anx/ass/library/11/smartmobility.pdf and another one critiqued the Loudoun Transportation Plan: https://docs.google.com/fileview?id=0Bx7hoKgIYzVlNjQxNTlhMzAtZDY0Yy00YjU3LTgwNWEtZDdmYTJkOTk4MzMy&hl=en

Both document the east-west need over the N-S need.

I look forward to the continued discussion and will share want we have about this decades old issue of outer beltways.

by Stewart Schwartz on Feb 25, 2011 4:24 pm • linkreport

Also, I'll maybe take sprawl/auto based development seriously if we ever have the majority of drivers are in cars that run off a clean fuel source. Nevermind about the traffic the very act of driving is polluting and I don't want to see development that would encourage any more an activity that is inherently polluting.

by Canaan on Feb 25, 2011 4:32 pm • linkreport

This doesn't even make sense. The reason for a(n inner) Beltway at all is because there's a critical mass of built environment inside the ring that make direct routes here and there impossible. But the further out you go that's not the case. Who in their right mind would want to take a less direct route into DC, by hundreds of miles?! Scenic drive anyone?

by Matthew Jarvis on Feb 25, 2011 4:37 pm • linkreport

In case you guys haven't noticed, neither the governors of MD nor VA have much influence on the density in-fill of DC proper. Similarly, they have very few options to force the folks in Kensington and Alexandria to rip up their houses and put high rise condos there. Also, high rise condos don't really fly in DC among the purchasing public.

The problem of the "ever expanding suburb" is a "do as I say, not as I do" problem with any popular and useful city. Everyone thinks everyone else should stop being the sprawl.
However, toll roads (Which the ICC is) move the economics in the right direction by charging the outer suburbs an appropriate cost to live far. If only I-270 had been equipped with a toll feature when they expanded from the 4 lanes that I grew up with we would have much better aligned economics.

by eb on Feb 25, 2011 4:47 pm • linkreport

This road implements outmoded 1960s transportation planning concepts. It's hard for some people to let go. Spent on light rail projects, it would move a lot more people than the Western Bypass. That road initially would serve very few. But it would foster an orgy of sprawl that would mean that in 20 years it would be just as congested as the Beltway, surrounded by a bunch of blah, outdated suburbs. Those types of neighborhoods are crashing in real estate value. Interestingly, the neighborhoods that are holding their value are those served by transit. Why should big government use scarce resources to encourage sprawl that is not wanted, while there is a dearth of walkable, transit-served development that is in demand?

by Steve on Feb 25, 2011 4:55 pm • linkreport

On a somewhat unrelated note, I'd like to ask Governor O'Malley what part of the ICC fulfills his "Smart, Green, and Growing" initiative.

And in further unrelated news, I am beginning to grow a bit uneasy about the concept of the Waldorf Bypass after having driven MD 5/US 301 during rush hour, and can see how residents there could just as easily clamor for it.

Is Fred Gibbons being sponsored by the cheap homes, roads, and gas industries? Just asking the question...

by C. R. on Feb 25, 2011 5:01 pm • linkreport

The Tri-County Parkway is not a traffic reliever, rather it is a development corridor being proposed by special interest groups paid for by developers.

I don't know about you, but I'd like to see something be done now about releiving east-west traffic congestion(such as on Highway 7, Waxpool Road, Highway 50, I-66) and reducing the cost of tolls on the Greenway rather than spending resources on the "road to nowhere" that does nothing to help relieve our current traffic situation.

by Greg Joens on Feb 25, 2011 5:05 pm • linkreport

@eb actually there are a lot of options in Alexandria. Nearly the entire US1 corridor from Potomac Yard to Ft. Belvoir (if not beyond) can be redeveloped in much the same vein as Wilson Blvd.

by movement on Feb 25, 2011 5:16 pm • linkreport

If anything should be built it should be an Eastern bypass. If a trucker or through traveler looks at a map they would likely not consider it due to the extra length. A highway from somewhere near Fredericksburg using 301 and hooking into I-97 would be much better. But best of all would be to build a Freight rail bypass of DC along a similar path (Eastern) so that the rail infrastructure within the DC area can be used for seriously expanded passenger rail.

by NikolasM on Feb 25, 2011 5:18 pm • linkreport

The biggest problem is in assuming that development needs to or will continue in DC and/or inside the beltway. It's not and it won't in the future. Satellite cities like Rockville, Manasses, Tyson's and Baltimore will be the new development centers so it makes more economic sense to start to link these areas directly, bypassing DC. As they develop, these cities can create their own local transportation networks as needed.

by eb on Feb 25, 2011 5:21 pm • linkreport

@movement That's a mice nuts project. That's not anywhere near the capacity to handle the growth in the region. You can't put 100,000 new families in Potomac Yards.

by eb on Feb 25, 2011 5:23 pm • linkreport

mice nuts? cute.

Do you know what moth balls smell like?

How'd you get his little legs apart?

by Tina on Feb 25, 2011 5:39 pm • linkreport

@eb I'm not talking about just Potomac Yard. I'm talking about the entire 10 mile stretch down to Ft. Belvoir. There is a lot of underutilized space. Even Old Town isn't completely built out yet. Look at all the development going on between US1 and Braddock Rd. Metro.

The NOVA commercial corridor should run from Dulles (or even Leesburg) through Tysons, Arlington, Alexandria, Ft. Belvoir, and beyond Woodbridge, not the other way. We need to be leveraging the existing infrastructure because we can't afford to build a completely separate set of infrastructure that is independent of what we already have.

by movement on Feb 25, 2011 6:10 pm • linkreport

@eb 'The biggest problem is in assuming that development needs to or will continue in DC and/or inside the beltway. It's not and it won't in the future. Satellite cities like Rockville, Manasses, Tyson's and Baltimore will be the new development centers so it makes more economic sense to start to link these areas directly, bypassing DC. As they develop, these cities can create their own local transportation networks as needed.

So well said. I come from a part of the country much older than here, Southwestern New England. And that's precisely what has happened there over the centuries, and because of that there are no traffic problems like here. And there aren't any truely 'big' cities, yet you have millions of people living a really 'smartgrowth' life ... and not the misguided one being touted by a few unknowing folks who here who think that confining people to 'the District' or to 'the inner beltway' is somehow 'smart'. They just don't get it that this is one metro area and not just a city surrounded by bedroom communities. That there is a need for travel throughout its many nodes ... of which Washington can continue to be its center, but is also 'just one more node.' THAT is smart growth ... it is to 'a city' what a distributed network is to computers. It's stronger, more flexible, and makes better use of all our resources including our land and rivers and skies.

by Lance on Feb 25, 2011 7:18 pm • linkreport

How exactly would this form an outer beltway? I don't think there's any room for it unless they have the road rejoin I-270 at Clarksburg.

I don't see the road as a bad thing to have a level of development needed to have more dense and efficient projects.

One thing I don't understand though. What kind of new business will that corridor have? Who will buy those houses they will apparently build? As far as I know, NoVA has no industry and that's the only sector showing any growth nowadays as the "service sector" overhead has reached its limit.

by k on Feb 25, 2011 7:26 pm • linkreport

Maryland will never support this. Sorry! V.A. can build there raod to the river but that is where it will stop. We are building the following right now:

-Purple Light Rail Line connecting our 4 northern legs of the metro

-Red Light Rail Line in Baltimore City

-Corridor Cities Transit way Light Rail Line urbanizing Gaithersburg, Germantown, and Clarksburg.

-Marc Commuter Train reverse commute, weekend service, extension into southern Maryland, extension to Annapolis, and connecting to SEPTA in Philadelphia and NYC.

by MD Resident on Feb 25, 2011 7:29 pm • linkreport

@k 'As far as I know, NoVA has no industry '

Have you been to NoVa lately? It has far more industry (high tech and the business of government) than either DC or MD ... far more.

by Lance on Feb 25, 2011 7:29 pm • linkreport

*MD suburbs

by Lance on Feb 25, 2011 7:30 pm • linkreport

Maryland will never support this. Sorry! V.A. can build their road to the river but that is where it will stop. Maryland is building the following right now:

-Purple Light Rail Line connecting our 4 northern legs of the metro

-Red Light Rail Line in Baltimore City

-Corridor Cities Transit way Light Rail Line urbanizing Gaithersburg, Germantown, and Clarksburg.

-Marc Commuter Train reverse commute, weekend service, extension into southern Maryland, extension to Annapolis, and connecting to SEPTA in Philadelphia and NYC.

by MD Resident on Feb 25, 2011 7:32 pm • linkreport

@Lance
Yeah, let's follow the New England model. Maybe we can have our own "big dig".

Here's a hint: Uncle Sam isn't going to give VA a blank check to build interstates that criss-cross the region like it did for NE fifty years ago.

by movement on Feb 25, 2011 7:33 pm • linkreport

@Lance,

Yeah, I know that it has IT, which is overhead for making and moving actual stuff, and government, and I don't really know what they do besides throwing money around.

Also, when I worked in Tysons Corner I remember going south on 495 and seeing traffic be at least 30% utility trucks and vans from as far as Baltimore because products and services those IT and government companies need simply don't exist in NoVA. Also for a little NoVA hate/pity, I felt really bad for my coworkers there as they had way longer commutes despite being in the same state as their job and usually were closer to it in miles.

by k on Feb 25, 2011 8:07 pm • linkreport

@eb, An outer beltway does nothing to connect Tysons and Baltimore...and does nothing to relieve congestion on our current most congested east-west routes (besides adding an outer beltway actually makes east-west traffic much worse).

BTW, Manassas, Tysons, Rockville and Baltimore are already connected via Highway 28 -> Highway 7 or 267 -> Highway 495 -> Highway 95

:-)

by Greg Jones on Feb 25, 2011 9:28 pm • linkreport

28 -> 7 or 267 ? ... you've got to be joking ...

by Lance on Feb 25, 2011 10:22 pm • linkreport

There are so many reasons not to build an outer beltway lance that I'm convinced you must be shilling for the development community or otherwise have your head firmly in the sand. Arguing for a highway system from the 1950s when gas was cheap and reliable will get you nowhere fast....You can't ignore all the red flags not only in VA but everywhere in the US where infrastructure is crumbling, and sprawl-induced traffic only continues to grow where public transit is either inadequate or non existent.
The traffic problems in Loudoun and elsewhere are produced by the same kind of thinking inherent in the Guv's 'behind the scenes' plan. A north-south superhighway doesn't solve the east-west commuter problem, but will only spur development, which is exactly what the development lobby wants and was willing to pay for by way of a well-greased approach in Richmond. Further, the financing inherent will truly bankrupt the state and future administrations, but that discussion is for another post.

A generation ago, long before Loudoun and PW begin their unprecedented growth, we didn't have the traffic problems we do now. It was bad even then, but it has only grown geometrically worse as more sprawl took over our landscape. Development without any intelligent approach to transit was the nail in the coffin. Although some forward thinking planners allowed for metro along 267 two generations ago, it languished until the traffic numbers grew to the crisis level we've enjoyed for the past several years. One only has to look to any major city in Europe (and now elsewhere in the developing world) to realize that the only way to move forward is to plan for public transit and build around it accordingly. That, btw will not only create more jobs than building new highways, but will be a much more sustainable way of living.

If Richmond continues to plan for a future based on the one-person, one-car approach to transit and the ho-hum typical sprawl development, it is doomed. The instability of oil in the ME, climate change, environmental constraints and the continually expanding cost of living the suburban lifestyle will create the same problems we are talking about today. Building more highways or continually widening existing ones are no magic bullet. In order to get a different result, you have to use different tools. The current administration in Richmond would do well to remember what was said long ago (by whom no one is quite sure), but it holds true: using the same methodology will reliably produce the same results, ergo highways produce sprawl and even more traffic. Some traffic engineers discovered this more than 30 yrs ago. It's amazing that VDOT and some Va politicians have yet to understand this basic premise.

by Trent on Feb 26, 2011 8:53 am • linkreport

e. And there aren't any truely 'big' cities, yet you have millions of people living a really 'smartgrowth' life ... and not the misguided one being touted by a few unknowing folks who here who think that confining people to 'the District' or to 'the inner beltway' is somehow 'smart'.

Except that your vision of existence involves a large amount of sprawl, little-to-no investment in transit, and increased traffic due to strict, enforced separation of any and all residential and commercial activity. In short: a world of PW and Loudon counties.

by Tyro on Feb 26, 2011 10:54 am • linkreport

What about Maryland?

As I understand it, there is absolutely NO chance of getting a 6-8 lane freeway and bridge built over the Potomac into the farming area in Maryland.

And I find it difficult that Virginia would want to build a 6-8 lane freeway though rural and suburban communities in Loudoun County....but if they did, only to stop at highway 7 (short of the Potomac) near Lansdowne?

Then what...build the biggest parking lot ever or divert traffic onto highway 7 (one of the most contested areas in Loudoun County).

I guess this is why this project never went anywhere. It makes absolutely no sense (other than to developers of course who want to develop the land in northern PW, southern Loudoun, and in the farming community of Maryland

by Greg Jones on Feb 26, 2011 1:02 pm • linkreport

And to think, of all of the extra VMT of such more centrifical dynamics, largely all over avoiding a few key properties & their masters' grossly excessive and cloaked political influence

http://wwwtripwithinthebeltway.blogspot.com/2007/02/sampling-of-attitudes-towards-dc-i-95.html

http://wwwtripwithinthebeltway.blogspot.com/2010/09/washington-dcs-supreme-bridge-builder.html

http://wwwtripwithinthebeltway.blogspot.com/2011/02/feb-24-discussion-at-greater-greater.html

by Douglas Willinger on Feb 26, 2011 1:29 pm • linkreport

This debate points out the larger confrontation between urbanist ideals and actual suburban living choices. Based on my own personal experience it seems that more people will continue to move further and further out as long as it is economically feasible to do so. Of course that still raises many questions of its own. How long WILL it be feasible and what is the future of the automobile and what role might it serve in the future? Will gas prices eventually reach a point where driving long commutes simply becomes too expensive? Will hybrids/electric cars allow us to sustain this pattern longer? If costs of singular automobile transportation DO eventually become prohibitive how many young new residents with families (always the first suburban pioneers) will continue to make the decision to live further and further out? Will companies BE ABLE to move further and further away before hitting a point of diminishing returns?

I know that many friends I talk to in their late 20s/30s who are settling down with families are making decisions right now with this. Some are suburban creatures who would never even entertain the idea of even living in an inner suburb even if they could afford it, others former urban hipsters who now are drawn to a different way of life. Most tell me that they WANT subdivisions with strong HOAs, the nice backyards and winding pipe stem streets for their kids to play in, the large house, the relatively good public schools (even if they decide on private schools for their kids), the low crime rate, the (perceived) stability of suburbs and they'd prefer their houses newer and cheaper and like the natural environment of the outer suburbs, however long that may last. They may be aware of the larger concerns about sprawl but they're still fiercely tied to their ways of life and are honestly not open to debate on this.

I have one friend (a 31 year old married new mother) tell me recently that she and her husband needed to move from their condo in Arlington out to Loudoun County because her husband got a new job out by Dulles and that it was now time to "grow up" and get a "real house" for their new growing family. They're even shopping for a new minivan. This was a woman who in her 20s LOVED to hang out on H Street, go to Eastern Market on weekends, go out to Galaxy Hut in Clarendon, dance in Adams Morgan, etc. I asked her if it would be possible to live the kind of life she was looking for in an inner suburb even (say Silver Spring, Bethesda, Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church) and she said absolutely not unless you were a millionaire.

This is simply to point out that individual decisions and values about lifestyle have as much to do with how an area develops as what planners and government officials may intend. We can argue that the federal government subsidizes sprawl and strict car dependency and artificially creates these preferences. However, I still notice that people who work with me (in Tysons Corner) who complain the loudest about their commutes still seem the most stubborn about their housing decisions and ways of life. Something at some point will have to break but it will probably be more from external forces making massive commute driving untenable then by urbanists cajoling people out of their cars one major highway decision at a time.

by Mike O on Feb 26, 2011 2:54 pm • linkreport

To me the sprawl and long commutes are one of the natural outcomes from having decades of cheap and plentiful oil. But those days seem to be coming to an end, so it makes no sense to me to build an outer beltway.

by JackRussell on Feb 26, 2011 6:34 pm • linkreport

@JackRussell 'But those days seem to be coming to an end'

Actually, I believe that the recent events in the Middle East will in the long term lead to much lower gas prices at the pump.

Currently you have a bunch of dictators in the middle east (and in South America) controlling the flow of oil. It's in their interest to restrict that flow and thus keep prices high. Democracies don't operate that way. So even if it's in the long term interests of Lybia to slowly pump out its oil, once it's a democracy, market forces will be more apt to rule. Multiply that effect by a few more countries where the dictators will eventually topple, and these newly democratic states will be flooding the oil market with oil previously held back.

by Lance on Feb 26, 2011 8:12 pm • linkreport

I don't like the idea of an outer beltway/western bypass and believe, moreover, that Maryland will never let it cross the Potomac and the western Montgomery agricultural zone. But if a western bypass is ever built, then it should be exactly that. Make it like the Pennsylvania Turnpike or the NJ Pike in southern New Jersey, a toll road with exits every 10 miles or so. Then it will carry long-distance traffic, which will have to pay user fees, wishing to bypass I-495. This will help to lessen the sprawl that will otherwise be induced by a road with lots of interchanges. Unless, of course, the proponents don't really intend it as a bypass at all...

by Sarah on Feb 26, 2011 8:41 pm • linkreport

@Sarah 'But if a western bypass is ever built, then it should be exactly that. Make it like the Pennsylvania Turnpike or the NJ Pike in southern New Jersey, a toll road with exits every 10 miles or so.'

Or a combination of HOT lanes (that only exit every 10 miles or so) and regular lanes with more frequent exits. This area is going to grow and it's not fair to tell the new folks that there only recourse is to buy every smaller condos (or apartments). They deserve a chance at the American Dream too. And while we have room for some infill inside the Beltway, we couldn't come close to building what needs to be built without negatively affecting the lives of the people already here.

by Lance on Feb 26, 2011 10:22 pm • linkreport

@ Lance: They deserve a chance at the American Dream too.

For the last decade or so, the American dream is nothing more than that: a dreamworld that does not exist anymore. Reality check for dreamers:

* Average income over the last decade: down.
* Generational upward mobility: gone.
* House values: down.
* Stock value: down.
* Education: still a mess.

The world has changed. Don't cling to a dream. Live in reality.

by Jasper on Feb 27, 2011 9:58 am • linkreport

Lance, do you think there is a never ending supply of oil for the world to share?

by William on Feb 27, 2011 11:55 am • linkreport

I guess I would label myself a practical urbanist. I live in Germantown and wish I could live closer or in the city. But the factors of real life outweigh my ability to move in. I already rent at over $1900 a month, if I moved in closer my rent would at least double and for me to afford that my income would have to double to over $200k/yr. Education is a sore issue in DC, but living in Bethesda is hardly affordable. Silver Spring safety becomes an issue.

Sure I don't want to encourage urban sprawl, but it's simply unattainable to live closer in, and for many this is the same choices they have to grapple with. Their jobs can be fleeting, working in DC one year, VA the next, then to MD. Their school choices greatly affect their place they call home. Safety, flexibility, and other issues greatly influence their final decisions.

I don't think that a Western bypass route would drastically alter future growth. Sure it will impact some areas, but with new efforts in places like White Flint to build mixed use communities, you may see similar efforts along that route.

It's all trivial at this point.

by LTParis on Feb 27, 2011 1:38 pm • linkreport

It doesn't matter what dictator is running those countries in the Middle East. The reservoirs are old and becoming depleted. New governments won't change that a bit.

by JackRussell on Feb 27, 2011 2:33 pm • linkreport

@ Canaan

What is this clean fuel source you speak of ?

Nothing we have on earth except for building a car made out of solar panels would be clean fuel source.

Coal, Oil, Gas, and Nuclear for obvious reasons and Solar or Wind due to land/ocean space taken up from nature which would be better off for the planet with nothing there.

@ Lance

Not going to happen; the dictators in many of the OPEC countries are why we are getting cheap prices on oil in the first place. If each OPEC nation became a democracy the people would force the government to make other nations pay full price and btw the US does not "get" oil from Libya technically.

by kk on Feb 28, 2011 12:30 am • linkreport

@Mike O:

Some are suburban creatures who would never even entertain the idea of even living in an inner suburb even if they could afford it, others former urban hipsters who now are drawn to a different way of life. Most tell me that they WANT subdivisions with strong HOAs, the nice backyards and winding pipe stem streets for their kids to play in, the large house, the relatively good public schools (even if they decide on private schools for their kids), the low crime rate, the (perceived) stability of suburbs and they'd prefer their houses newer and cheaper and like the natural environment of the outer suburbs, however long that may last. They may be aware of the larger concerns about sprawl but they're still fiercely tied to their ways of life and are honestly not open to debate on this.

In my experience, much of this is just a matter of "making a virtue of necessity". Many of my new neighbors are folks who are finally realizing a decades-long dream of moving into the city now that their kids have moved out of the house. I've never met a single person who moved out of the city into a suburban cul-de-sac because their life situation suddenly became more flexible.

Just as an aside, the idea that "democracies" don't attempt to maximize commodity prices via artificially lowering the supply is laughable on it's face (sorry Lance).

Anyway, as @JackRussell pointed out, the false assumption here is that oil-producing countries will have a choice in the matter. It's something of an open secret that the spigot's slowly drying up:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/feb/08/saudi-oil-reserves-overstated-wikileaks

by oboe on Feb 28, 2011 9:19 am • linkreport

Sorry, folks, but this article is totally off base. The Tri/Bi-County Parkway is not a new project but one that has been on local and state transportation plans for years/decades. Kate hanley was Chairman of the fairfax County Board when the current preferred alignmnent (the Bi-County) was chosen.

Also, the effort at the CTB is to declare it a Corridor of Statewide Significance, which in part will keep the project in the plans, protecting the right of way while the final alignment is worked out. The Tri/Bi-County Parkway is not part of the list of transportation projects submitted by the Governor.

This Parkway is designed to create another access point to Dulles Airport, which is essentially shut off from the west. This will aid the shipment of freight through IAD, creating new economic opportunities for our region. It has NOTHING to do with a Western Bypass/Outer Beltway/Techway crossing to Maryland. The author of this article is either very confused or has been given very bad information.

by @LoudounTony on Feb 28, 2011 4:44 pm • linkreport

Re @LoudounTony: Perhaps this is my friend Tony Howard of the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce. Let me respond:

1) Just because a project has been on a plan for years or even decades doesn't make it a good idea. We have a quite a few ideas from the past that we've rejected as we've become wiser. And we should always reevaluate proposals based on new knowledge and approaches to problems. An approach any competitive business would take.

2) Fairfax County supported the western alignment to push it out of Fairfax. That has nothing to do with whether it's a smart or priority project.

3) The CTB probably wants it to be a Corridor of Statewide Significance to override the local community and the Loudoun comprehensive plan.

4) Why protect ROW when the project isn't justified?

5) That's correct, it's not part of the Sec of Transportation's 900 project list that was used to sell the massive debt package, but that doesn't stop the Secretary of Transportation from shifting some of the $4 billion in funds to this project. If he does, given the controversial nature of this project, he certainly wouldn't be playing fair with the public and legislators.

5) It's absurd to think connecting to Route 50 a few miles west of the airport as a way to get to the airport more efficiently. There is no passenger entrance on the west side of the airport (unless you want to dig a tunnel) and current routes using I-66 and Route 50 to newly expanded Route 28 are more direct and convenient.

6) In terms of freight, VDOT's own study for the Corridors of Statewide Significance showed that air freight was only .1 percent of the tonnage and only .2 percent of the value of freight being shipped through this part of Northern Virginia. Does that merit a 10 mile, $475 million highway, and a connection to the so-called "Dulles Loop" (an 8-lane Route 606) for tens of millions more?

7) There are many better investments to enhance economic opportunities in northern Virginia and they include fixing the terrible traffic in the Route 7/Route 28/Waxpool road area at the epicenter of Loudoun's tech economy. Why not focus resources there?

8) After 14 years tracking the maneuverings of the "shadow transportation planning" apparatus that puts together the pieces for controversial projects I am certainly not confused. There are too many groups that lobby for building the outer beltway. Having failed to sell it as a single project, they seek to build it piece by piece. You can see the Northern Va Transportation Alliance's own map of all the outer beltways they would like to see built.

Again, among the major issues are that the "TriCounty Parkway/Western Bypass" doesn't relieve traffic, it will make traffic worse, it will seriously harm a historic tourism asset, and it will divert scarce resources from much more critical needs such as addressing east-west traffic.

by Stewart Schwartz on Feb 28, 2011 5:59 pm • linkreport

A Outer BeltWay is not needed. Whenever you build more roads you just have more cars. The widening of Route 28 is a good example. When it was two lanes it was bumper to bumper. Now it is 6 lanes and it is bumper to bumper. Also a north/south road is not needed. East-West rail corridors are needed not more roads. The Department of Transportation should think about moving people, not building highways.

by howard miller on Feb 28, 2011 7:34 pm • linkreport

@howard. IMO not every area is best served by rail since for many it's not practical. This is not to say it should not be looked at, and I am a huge advocate of rail (especially HSR).

For instance the Light Rail options they are looking into north of Shady Grove here in MD. Yes they are nice, and I believe they are needed, but they really only serve specific communities, and let's face it if someone is using this to connect to the Metro, it will be a long trip to actually get there.

I think all options need to be on the table. Roads, rail, bike paths, a complete multi-modal re-examination of our infrastructure in DC.

by LTParis on Feb 28, 2011 7:45 pm • linkreport

I live inside the Beltway in Fairfax County and I work near Dulles. I think that an Outer Beltway is a good idea. I think they ought to connect the ICC, the FFX county parkway, and this new segment and a bridge across the Potomac. Pretty Much how it was designed years ago. I'm also a big supporter of Public Transportation in the form or Rail. I know there isn't public support or financing for both.
I-66 to I-495 to I-270 and vice-versa is a mess. There is a ton of growth in Fairfax county..current and planned..

I'd be interested to see some traffic impact studies. As to the all the accompanying additional sprawl. Unless the proposed/previous-design has changed, alot of these areas are already built up, at least the parts from 29 upto rte 7.

by Joe M on Mar 1, 2011 8:10 am • linkreport

No traffic problems in SW New England, Lance? My wife and I drive from DC to RI three or four times a year, and without fail, the most frustrating part of the drive (outside of Delaware, whose now 6-lane freeway has not alleviated any traffic whatsoever) is the inevitable 3 hours that it takes to cross the 100 miles of Connecticut, whether we stay on I-95, take the Merritt, or wind our way through US-1.

Those "smaller hub cities" if that's what you're calling Stamford and Bridgeport, serve only to create additional traffic jams, in more directions.

by Jacques on Mar 1, 2011 9:06 am • linkreport

Stewart: I have to disagree with you on two points. First, building part of the "Tri-County Parkway", specifically between I-66 and Catharpin, would get the heavy Sudley Rd traffic *OUT* of Manassas Battlefield Park.

Second, it's pretty clear to me that additional capacity across the Potomac between the Beltway and Chain of Rocks is needed. Because of adjacent parks and the MoCo agricultural preserve, bridge placement would be difficult. But because of that, it would be more appropriate as an arterial than as a freeway. Something upriver of Great Falls but downriver of Algonkian would be useful in this regard.

by Froggie on Mar 1, 2011 10:34 am • linkreport

Froggie: We agree with the goal of getting traffic out of the park. That's why during the Battlefield Bypass study (somewhat redundant study to the TriCounty Parkway study) we called for LOCAL road connections for existing residents that would take them around the park. Part of our recommendation is for roundabouts at Pageland and 29; Pageland and 234; and Pageland and 659 for the N-S movement and western side; and a two lane local road paralleling and directly adjacent to I-66 on the south side of the battlefield. But with the new highway available, then development access will be vastly expanded west, NW and north of the battlefield.

As for the bridge crossing, we took a look at the 2005 VDOT Origin and Destination survey which tracked every license plate crossing the American legion bridge. Only a very small percentage of vehicles had the so-called "U-Shaped" commute between Gaithersburg and Herndon/Dulles. The vast majority of commuters were moving radially in and out, or traveling to and from destinations adjacent to or inside the Beltway. So from a priorities perspective we need to address those trips -- including providing a bus or rail transit option between Rockville and Tysons.

by Stewart Schwartz on Mar 1, 2011 7:05 pm • linkreport

Stewart: have you been up that way lately? Pretty much everything north and west of the battlefield for at least 3 miles is already "developed". Very low density, but still already developed.

Also, Pageland doesn't extend north of 234, so unless you suggest extending it northeast over to 659, you can't exactly put a roundabout at 659, unless you were referring to the 234/659 intersection. We can argue 2 lanes vs. 4 lanes until we're blue in the face, but either way, you still need to connect Pageland to the 234 bypass for it to work. And Pageland itself would need to be improved from the current narrow 2-lane-with-no-shoulders.

by Froggie on Mar 2, 2011 7:37 am • linkreport

Good grief, new roads will create traffic jams? No, population increases create traffic jams. Northern Virginia has had tremendous growth in population, with a notorious absence of the corresponding development of new roads.

If we were a nation of such nincompoops and NIMBYs 100 years ago, American would never have become the powerful and prosperous nation it is today. We never would have built the interstate highway system, and all the additional roads that support and feed it.

All the NIMBYs griped and moaned about the high tension power lines recently installed in Loudoun County, and as a result of all the battles, the power company ended up zig-zagging the poles back and forth across Rt. 7, making a much greater eyesore than would ever have existed if they pursued their original construction plans. (Not that I consider power lines any more an eyesore than, say, paved roads or road signs or other evidence of modern civilization.)

As for those of you so worried about sprawl, how about we cut off taxpayer-funded benefits to people residing in this country illegally? You'll see a voluntary exodus of millions of people nationwide.

by Momma on Mar 15, 2011 1:06 am • linkreport

@Momma. Actually there is a lot of evidence that roads do create traffic jams. As new roads are built, they provide new arteries to different parts of the region and encourage people to move to those areas. Just look how much urban flight happened over the past 50 years. And what happens is all these traffic jams occur, so the solution from the old school way of thinking is just to expand or build new roads.

This is not that I don't think this road is not necessary. I think it could quite possible be necessary. But there is a lot of evidence to support the idea not to solve transporation woes with simply new roads.

I disagree that the nation could not have been "as powerful and prosperous as it is today" with the suburban model. We could have easilly be just as powerfula nd prospurous with urban development.

by Lou Paris on Mar 15, 2011 8:34 am • linkreport

@Momma,

Just want to thank you for driving up the value of my house. Best of luck with the new road!

by oboe on Mar 15, 2011 10:14 am • linkreport

Seems to me to another means for spawning the argument for a lower Potomac Crossing to Charles County. Well guess what. We have enough traffic of our own without adding Northern Virginia's to the mix and I am sure NoVa doesn't want our traffic. Ditto for increased traffic on U.S. 301. If anyone thinks that new road relieve traffic rather than causing more I suggest they take a look at Rt 228 in Charles County and Rt 270 in Frederick County. all the new roads did was increase development and thereby increase traffic. In addition, as the Charles County Commissioners stated increased residential development actually cost the county money in increase expenditures for services. So borrowing money to build this road will result in increased development which will cost the counties more at the same time the state is reducing payments to the counties. Any way they can't sell the houses they've already built as well as those they've foreclosed on, so why build more?

by Edward Joell on Mar 15, 2011 4:41 pm • linkreport

@Lou: the rural Interstate system did much to spur economic growth in the country. It's the urban Interstate system that's been the root of many problems.

by Froggie on Mar 17, 2011 10:57 am • linkreport

@Froggie

Yes, that's quite true.

Imagine if the complete federal policy had mirrored what happened in DC instead - interstate highways in rural areas, beltways around cities, and rapid transit instead of urban highways through the core.

by Alex B. on Mar 17, 2011 11:01 am • linkreport

That is not a pro road RX, but rather a false claim that our cities are medieval cores- simply for the sake of avoiding the properties of a few neurotic and outmodeled political entities that have abused their power and the population far too long.

by Douglas Willinger on Mar 17, 2011 11:38 am • linkreport

@Douglas W:

a few neurotic and outmodeled political entities that have abused their power and the population far too long

That seems uncharacteristically circumspect. Pray tell, who or what are these entities?

by oboe on Mar 17, 2011 12:26 pm • linkreport

@Froggie Rural interstate produced economic growth? If you mean by economic growth, urban sprawl of vast expanses of cookie cutter development. The deforestation of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, which increases urban runoff to the Bay and the continued growth of dead zones in the Bay leading to the extinction of the Chesapeake Blue Crab, the Rockfish, and the oysters that have defined the culture of Maryland for 375 years is another result of your so-called rural economic development. Charles County derives a major part of its income from national Bass Fishing Tournaments and heritage tourism. But an interstate highway will turn this county with a nice rural character into another piece of urban sprawl, which no one will want to visit. And the additional urban runoff will kill off the Bass, turn the Potomac into a big ditch, and the Chesapeake Bay a cess pool. This will deprive the county of a major source of its income, and and turning it into just another piece of urban sprawl and traffic like Prince Georges, Montgomery, Prince William, or Fairfax county.

by Edward Joell on Mar 21, 2011 10:41 am • linkreport

"Rural interstate produced economic growth? If you mean by economic growth, urban sprawl of vast expanses of cookie cutter development. "

Was that not said say about a century ago regarding trolly car lines and rail car transit in such places as Queens NY- given the relationship between transport ability and development?

by Douglas Willinger on Mar 25, 2011 11:49 pm • linkreport

Yes and look at the horrible place it is today. 30 years ago Hunt Valley, MD was beautiful rural country side with rolling grass covered hillsides, a park with a water filled former quarry where we would go swimming, and an open field where they held motocross racing. Then they made York Road into a four lane highway and put in an exit ramp from I-83. Then they added the light rail. Now it is a massive conglomeration of shopping centers, malls, office buildings complexes, tech parks and apartments, filled with the constant noise of eternal traffic jams. Horrible place. I spent the worse Xmas of my life there.

by Edward Joell on Mar 26, 2011 1:10 am • linkreport

I would just like to ask all of you that are against any new outer bypass over the Potomac: If the Beltway and American Legion Bridge had never been built would you still be against that? Fortunately, that was constructed at a time when it was politically much easier without all of the squabbling and roadblocks nowadays.

Do you consider the Beltway a failure because it is so busy and that things would be better if it had never been built? Then we would be living in a great world in which there is no Potomac crossing between the Chain Bridge and US 15.

I know it is very frustrating how much traffic congestion currently exists is on roadways, but how does that indicate that it would therefore be better that they were never built at all *because* they are popular? If a new store opens and is filled with customers, does that mean it has failed?

It is a joke that the need for a new Potomac crossing is even questioned. Sure, it's not a *need* in the sense that the world would collapse without it, but it would be of great social benefit given its usage. Otherwise, what would it take for you to qualify it as necessary?

I admit that I'm not hugely in favor of all the development that would inevitably occur, but I accept to a degree that it will happen. Development will still occur otherwise and people must have a place to live and work.

Yes, this road was proposed 50 years ago because it was *projected* that it would become useful, and those projections have been absolutely correct. It now would be *extremely* useful, by any definition, considering the population growth that has occurred in Northern Virginia and Maryland. Consider the number of people that it would serve and connect inside and outside the metro area.

If there had been this much bellyaching about every road proposal 50 years ago, then nothing would have ever gotten built.

by BPH on Jan 26, 2013 1:02 pm • linkreport

@BPH "If there had been this much bellyaching about every road proposal 50 years ago, then nothing would have ever gotten built."

Apparently you weren't around 50 years ago. I was. And yes there were many, many warnings about possible consequences 50 years ago. However, no one believed those providing the warnings because it hadn't happened. 50 years ago Tyson's Corner, Oxon Hill, were small rural communities with peaceful way of life. Timonium was a small community whose main business was the Maryland State Fair and the Timonium Drive Inn. Hunt Valley was farmland. 40 years ago Oxon Hill had become the outlier suburban communities for the very upper middle class. Now it is considered an interior community. Now these areas are considered congested urban centers. 50 years ago people would fish and swim in the Anacostia and the Potomac. Now it is considered very unhealthy to do so. 50 years ago, the Bay was so enormously productive of oysters, blue crabs, and rock fish that there was no thought of their being threaten. The "Shad" and River Herring runs on tributaries of the Potomac (including the Anacostia as far up as Bladensburg) were massive and an annual Spring Ritual for families throughout the area. In the past few years, even on the Mattawoman Creek, which was as recently as five years ago was proclaimed by MD DNR as being "the best most productive tributary of the Chesapeake Bay", they have been almost non-existent. (I know because I do fish egg sampling throughout the entire spawning season and the last two years I have not seen one shad or herring.)

So if you hate seafood, fishing, oysters and crabs. If you have no interest in swimming or boating on the Potomac or the Chesapeake, if you like paying huge tax dollars to pay for the cleanup of all the damages caused by urban runoff to the Bay, then by all means advocate more impervious surface throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed. But I don't want to hear any whining about bans on crabbing, fishing, oystering, swimming or boating. You were warned, 50 years ago, and you see what you got. You're being warned now. Wait to see how much worse it can get.

by Edward Joell on Jan 29, 2013 9:18 am • linkreport

If environmental impact statements were required 50 years ago, the northern part of the Beltway between Georgia Avenue and Bethesda would not have the configuration it has today. In fact, I am not sure it would have been built at all.

I would also suggest BPH read up about the "freeway fights" across the region in the 1950-1973 time frame.

by William on Jan 29, 2013 9:27 am • linkreport

I have since moved away from the DC area but still wish I were there and am still very interested in developments like the Outer Beltway.

I am still convinced that the Outer Beltway would be a net positive. However I still also think that there has to be a large set of solutions on the table, rail, bike, walking paths, etc, that need to be incorporated into the plan to make sure that when development does happen, that communities are already planned around a multi-modal design to get them to and from.

The cat is already out of the bag in the DC area when it comes to sprawl. And while it is nice to live closer into the city, the fact is DC, Bethesda, Arlington and other communities are very expensive to live in. I know when I lived in Germantown my rent was about to exceed $2k and that is in the outer edge of the suburbs before you start to consider the hellish commutes from those farther away.

Done right, this could relive some congestion, spring up new urbanist communities that will at least encourage people to live and shop in, and hopefully even work in if businesses are drawn there. Done wrong, it will simply add more sprawl in different areas. Doing nothing is the worst solution.

by LTParis on Jan 29, 2013 9:33 am • linkreport

For many its not the presence of an outer beltway per se, but rather the resources it would take away from other projects. If an outer beltway is built say goodbye to any major transportation start in this region for a very long time.

So we could either spend billions on an outer beltway that would primarily benefit developers wanting to capture a certain market or we could spend those same billions improving metro and adding LRT to areas that are already populated and could sustain the growth an outer beltway would cause but in an already developed area.

by drumz on Jan 29, 2013 9:37 am • linkreport

@Edward Joell

I am amazed that I have brought back this discussion board that has been dead for a year and a half now.

I am intrigued to hear from someone from 50 years ago when the Interstate highway system was first starting up. I have been very interested in learning more about this period of time (even though I have learned quite a bit of the basic history already). This was obviously a very different political climate, unlike today in which there is a huge amount of red tape, arguments, and studies to get the slightest things done.

Now, I’m really trying to be open-minded here, and I was struck by what you said, and I had never thought about it like this before:

“And yes there were many, many warnings about possible consequences 50 years ago. However, no one believed those providing the warnings because it hadn't happened. . . .”

Are you saying that back then the designers thought these new roads would be a lot more “innocent” in the sense that they wouldn’t have as much traffic, but in effect, they *have* failed since they have produced much more traffic and pollution? I suppose this might make sense, and theoretically the road construction itself wouldn’t cause the destruction as much as the fuel-burning vehicles on it would. It would also explain why the backlash didn’t come until later.

The truth is: I really do care about the environment. After all, it is our home--our own planet that we’re talking about here, and I have been torn on this issue my whole life. I have been hoping for cleaner vehicles, better fuel, emissions standards, etc. I consider gasoline to be something that is basically already used up: We are still using what is left of it, but the earth is not creating any more. If we come up with more fuel efficient cars, that will simply buy us more time. And we still do have more time. And I have hope that we will somehow, some way find some viable alternative fuels, although it may be painful at first, and these alternate methods are only in their infancy how. There is still a future in wind energy, solar, nuclear (Yes, . . . I know!), and unfortunately other stuff like coal.

Furthermore, with road construction nowadays, things are more environmentally sound. There is stormwater management with filtration and treatment devices, so that polluted runoff does not need to flow directly into streams. If the Capital Beltway were built today instead, it could have been built with higher environmental standards in order to not destroy the Chesapeake Bay.

I greatly feel from all the environmentalists and “car-hating fundamentalists” a definite double standard. It’s like: “All the roads already built before 1975, those are okay, but anything nowadays is just anathema! After all, there are already enough roads!” But that means that we today must be dependent on what the population and travel patterns back then. We cannot build any new future for tomorrow. Like: “Everybody put down your shovels right now and stop where you are”, even if it means leaving a project half done with an incomplete system.

I will say that it is *staggering* the number of freeways that were built in this country between 1955 and 1970--of unbelievable public benefit. But after 1975, all of the new building virtually stopped while the population and traffic has gone up.

The funding is a definite issue. This is why I would be *highly* in favor of a greatly increased gasoline tax. It would cover the costs for road maintenance and construction, plus it would help to cover the negative externalities of gasoline consumption. There would effectively be a toll, but all roads would be tolled equally.

So factoring together all of these issues, I still believe that an outer bypass of the Washington area, and many other possible roads, would be a successful idea.

by BPH on Feb 3, 2013 7:58 pm • linkreport

Believe or not when the Baltimore and Washington Beltways were built they were supposed to be relieving traffic on the main commuter routes of that time, the Baltimore Washington Parkway (which was built to relieve traffic on US Rt 1 which was know as the Death Highway or Killer Highway), Kenilworth Ave, Route 50 in both Va and MD, Rt 29 in Md and Va. They were two lanes wide. At the time, it was prophesized that these highways would attract development, then more traffic. However, these were very unpopular opinions. As for the designers, there main concern were the same as Adolf Hitler's rationale for building the autobahn purposes of National Defense to enable the government to move resources around the country expeditious in times of National Emergency. (Reminder this was the height of the Cold War when everyone was afraid that the Russia's were about to invade at any moment, and where air raid drills were carried out weekly in schools). I don't know if they were innocent of the idea that these highways were attracting development and traffic, or if they simply didn't care. However, all the predictions about increase development came true. As did the predictions of increased traffic. "We build and build but we never seem to have enough roads."

The movie Field of Dreams stated "If you build it, they will come." This has proven to be the case of highways. If you build highways to relieve traffic it ends up creating more traffic than it was build to handle.

The way around this is to build more attractive alternative methods like light rail. The metro was supposed to do this. However it has itself become overwhelmed by the increase in development in the areas it serves.

The Stormwater management techniques currently being employed are not as effective as the forests that are being cut down to enable development. The run off from impervious surfaces are destroying the Bay and other watersheds around the country.

As for the pollution from Cars, I am depressed because the International Report on Global Warming pointed out that unless there is a significant REDUCTION in the amount of greenhouse gases very soon (I think it was like by 2015) the process of Global Warming would be past the point of no return. I don't see this as happening in time considering all the resistance to the idea of global warming. So while I support the ideas of alternative fuels and means of transport in my view we would not recognize the planet 100 years from now. So my main concern is to protect what we can for as long as we can. Therefore I am opposed to anything that causes development in previously undeveloped areas. I support redevelopment of already developed areas, i.e Smart Growth. I support the transformation of developed areas to walkable communities. I support the improvement of existing higways and creation additional alternative means of transportation. In this way we will be able to enjoy our streams and waterways, until such time as the chaos engendered by Global Warming destroys our civilization.

by Edward Joell on Feb 8, 2013 1:31 pm • linkreport

Well, that seems to perfectly illustrate that whole “double standard” when you actually state: “”

In other words, that if something like the Outer Beltway actually had been built fifty years ago when it was first planned, then it would be fine. But since it wasn’t--too late!

I definitely agree with global warming being a threat, but I'm not convinced about the solution of simply discouraging people from moving around and expecting them to sit around at home more often or use more public transportation. Your idea of punishing people for driving, if carried out to its extreme, would actually mean failing to maintain existing roadways or even adding potholes just to make using an automobile even more inconvenient. As I've stated, the solution is alternative fuels ASAP, especially due to peak oil.

Now, do you really think that development in Northern Virginia wouldn't have occurred if Beltway hadn't been built? Maybe only in the sense that traffic would be even more unbearable forcing people into other cities or other parts of the DC region. But mostly it would force more traffic onto existing roads like Gallows Road or Little River Turnpike and the development would have happened anyway. At least some had the foresight to plan roads to make it easier for those making trips because an often congested beltway is at least better than no beltway.

by BPH on Feb 20, 2013 7:17 pm • linkreport

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