Wednesday, May 18 Vote Scheduled: Virginia Secretary of Transportation Seeks Controversial Transportation Project
Another Fight to Protect Manassas Battlefield – This Time During the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War; Loudoun, Clarke and Fauquier Counties Vote to Oppose Highway Proposal
Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton and two Commonwealth Transportation Board members are seeking a vote on Wednesday to have a new north-south corridor from I-95 to Route 7 declared a Corridor of Statewide Significance. CTB members leading the push have been Gary Garczynski, a Prince William County developer appointed by Governor McDonnell to the Commonwealth Transportation Board, and Doug Koelemay of SAIC, appointed by Governor Kaine.
“The eleven Corridors of Statewide Significance that we have today were only approved after extensive technical review, consultation with local and regional governments and state agencies, and public meetings and input,” said Chris Miller, President of the Piedmont Environmental Council. “The Koelemay/Garczynski resolution would however designate the first brand new corridor and would do so without the important advance review applied prior to the designation of the current corridors.”
The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) has submitted a letter (PDF) to Secretary Connaughton and the CTB asking for the appropriate review process before the CTB votes to add a new Corridor of Statewide Significance. SELC, the Coalition for Smarter Growth, the Piedmont Environmental Council, the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club, and Loudoun Citizens for a County Transportation Plan are among the groups opposing the proposed resolution.
The Boards of Supervisors for Loudoun, Fauquier and Clarke Counties have all issued resolutions opposing the proposed designation of a new north-south highway as a Corridor of Statewide Significance.
“The eleven existing Corridors of Statewide Significance represent the most critical multimodal transportation corridors in the state and include the I-66 and I-95 corridors,” said Roger Diedrich, Transportation Chair for the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club. “We don’t yet have the plans and funding to address existing corridors. Therefore new corridors should be designated through a careful selection process rather than by a hasty and arbitrary vote of the CTB, which is intended to facilitate a particular road project. ”
“Furthermore, the specific highway sought by the Secretary and the two CTB members – the TriCounty Parkway, clearly intended to be expanded into a longer Western Bypass — would not solve our traffic problems – it would actually make them worse,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. “We’ve repeatedly offered a comprehensive set of better solutions and higher priority projects including fixing I-66, VRE, local road connections, and stronger rural land protection.”
“As a Loudoun resident, I’m deeply frustrated by the failure to address our east-west commuting problem and I don’t want to see attention and money diverted to a north-south outer beltway that will make our traffic worse, not better,” said Greg Jones of Loudoun Citizens for a County Transportation Plan.
This 50 mile long highway, 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.
The real transportation need in western Prince William and Loudoun counties is for improved east-west connections, including transit. The critical needs include I-66, Route 50, Waxpool Road, Route 7, and VRE in the west and I-95 and VRE to the south.
“It’s our belief that Prince William commuters would want to see the I-66 corridor receive the transit, carpool and road investments it needs and not the diversion of funds to a road that would harm one of their top economic assets,” said Schwartz.
Schwartz, whose ancestor fought at both battles of Manassas in the Civil War said, “Mr. Garczynski has made clear that the proposed CTB resolution is about one highway in particular. It is a highway that would desecrate the historic landscape and historic district on the western edge of Manassas Battlefield in close proximity to some of the most intense fighting in the Second Battle of Manassas in 1862. This is the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War (150th Anniversary) and we should be doing all we can to increase the protection for Manassas National Battlefield.”