Though it’s constantly plagued by transportation funding shortages, Virginia incredibly has been pushing ahead with road projects of questionable value.
The latest to arrive with the stench of a done deal with little public input is a new 45-mile limited-access road running from near Dulles International Airport near Ashburn to the south, connecting with Interstate 95 in Dumfries.
According to The Post, “rollouts” to talk about this road were held in Ashburn and Manassas and were sponsored by the state Department of Transportation. They were rather short on information, though.
What is particularly curious is that state officials, led by Transportation Secretary Sean T.Connaughton, plan to use the state’s public-private partnership bill to get past the woeful dearth of road funding.
In December, they used the same approach to ink a $1.4 billion deal for a 55-mile tollway connecting Petersburg with Suffolk along U.S. 460. Its construction through public-private partnership funding will be led by Ferrovial Agroman US, part of a Spanish firm based in Madrid.
Although environmentalists, smart-growth advocates and city officials in Tidewater questioned the value of the road, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell insisted it will create jobs and expedite container cargo shipments by truck once bigger ships arrive in Hampton Roads following the expansion of the Panama Canal.
His people are using the same logic to justify the new north-south highway in Northern Virginia, which some see as the first step toward an Outer Beltway. Claims are that the road will handle expanded air cargo traffic through Dulles.
What isn’t answered is why more pressing needs aren’t addressed first. Northern Virginia’s traffic nightmares tend to go from the District east to west. Critics say money should be spent first on the Dulles Metro connector and dealing with clogged Interstate 66.
Instead of addressing NOVA’s real traffic issues, the proposed outer north-south route will instead open new areas to exurban sprawl.
One more worry: The Southern Environmental Law Center recently released a report showing that Virginia’s public-private transportation act is being used as a primary tool for building new roads rather than as a supplement to more traditional ways. The report says that public comment is being squeezed out when the law is used to plan and fund roads.
A lack of transparency, therefore, seems to be the very first problem with the new north-south road.