A story in Leesburg Today suggests that Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) is tilting toward a more positive view of the proposed Bi-County Parkway than he expressed during last year’s gubernatorial campaign.
According to the article, McAuliffe commented on the controversial project at a Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce lunch Wednesday, saying in response to a question from Washington Airports Task Force President Keith Merlin that he expects the Bi-County Parkway to receive a high priority rating among transportation projects being considered in Northern Virginia. “We have to open up Dulles airport,” McAuliffe said, according to the Leesburg Today article. “We will have a resolution relatively quickly.”
During the campaign, McAuliffe was noncommittal on the proposed north-south highway in Prince William and Loudoun counties, just west of the Manassas National Battlefield and south of Dulles International Airport. In April, Leesburg Today reported that McAuliffe said during a visit in Manassas that he liked the Bi-County Parkway “conceptually,” as a way to ease traffic in and out of Dulles International Airport. However, he went on to say he was not taking a position on the proposal, because it still must go through an evaluation process approved by the Virginia General Assembly during this year’s session.
“I have no say on it,” McAuliffe said, according to the April article. “All of these [transportation] projects are getting put into a prioritization process. The system will determine whether we do the project or not.”
The process the governor referred to is defined in House Bill 2, which he signed in early April, to take effect July 1.
Virginia’s transportation officials are still sorting out how to make it work. Before they can place projects in a priority systems, they must work out exactly how to measure projects on their merits. That process is likely to take many months.
The General Assembly defined its goals only in general terms: “The prioritization process shall be based on an objective and quantifiable analysis that considers, at a minimum, the following factors relative to the cost of the project or strategy: congestion mitigation, economic development, accessibility, safety, and environmental quality.”
The prioritization program is just one of many pieces that need to fall in place before the parkway actually has a green light. But the Leesburg Today article got the immediate attention of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, a leading opponent of the plan.
“We support the governor’s focus on effective transportation solutions and economic development,” the coalition said in a statement. “However, in the case of Dulles Airport, the claimed potential for cargo expansion is speculative, as shown in the study by the [George Mason University] Center for Regional Analysis, and the cost even to try to gain market share against well-established cargo hubs would be prohibitive, because it would require the construction of multiple new highways and highway expansions being sought by promoters of Dulles Airport.
“Instead, we should continue on the current course of connecting Metrorail to Dulles, so it can have great transit accessibility like National Airport does today.”
The statement went on to say that, “The evidence shows that the Bi-County Parkway and associated Dulles Cargo Highway would increase congestion in the areas south and west of the airport, and interfere with commuter travel by residents of Loudoun and western Prince William counties. We have recommended a range of alternative projects, which would better serve the needs of residents and commuters.”