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All Opinions Are Local
Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 07/18/2013

Virginia’s road-planning disaster


It is curious how the drums are being beaten loudly for more truck traffic related to Dulles International Airport in a part of the metropolitan area that is already overwhelmed with traffic congestion.

It’s little more than a marketing campaign for the Bi-County Parkway that would link the airport with Interstate 66, which would send ill-considered sprawl in a new direction while adding thousands more trucks, making roads more clogged than they are.

Well, the airplane has been out of the hangar a little too long for Dulles.

Last year, passenger traffic there dropped 3 percent to 22.6 million while nearby Reagan National Airport and Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport saw increases of 5 percent and 2.1 percent respectively. From 2007 to 2012, Dulles air cargo declined more than 25 percent.

The cargo decreases at Dulles can be explained by the Great Recession that neatly tracks the 2007 to 2012 time frame. The passenger problem may be something else entirely. It could be related to Dulles management.

I prefer to fly out of BWI because parking is easier. I also don’t have to walk endlessly to subways because planners had to retrofit Dulles to replace those strange buses that I used to marvel over when I read my “Weekly Reader” as a third-grader in Bethesda back in 1961.

Are Dulles’ problems enough to build a highway in the wrong direction that will do nothing to alleviate Northern Virginia’s traffic jams?

Some think so. “On the East Coast, there’s one airport that has the potential to grow, and that’s Dulles,” John E. “Jack” Potter, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s president and chief executive, has been quoted as saying.

What’s more, economic development officials at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and in Loudoun County realize they have a bit of land that seems well suited to warehouses. They envision sputtering Dulles somehow being reincarnated as a logistical hub.

To do that, they want to build the Bi-County Parkway. But it’s way too late. Back when Dulles was being planned in the 1950s, there wasn’t much in the immediate area but dairy farms. Northern Virginia officials have had a half a century to figure out what Dulles could be as an air cargo hub. Instead, they always did what developers wanted, and it shows. Planners were always conjuring up new roads to resolve mistakes that already had come too late to solve.

Trucks or no trucks, the Bi-County Parkway would be yet another in a long line of planning disasters.

Peter Galuszka blogs at Bacon’s Rebellion. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By  |  10:00 AM ET, 07/18/2013

Tags:  local

 
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