Loudoun Housing Plan Irks Neighbors

By Amy Gardner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 21, 2006

Civic activists and elected officials from Fairfax and Prince William counties are criticizing a plan to allow thousands of new homes in southeastern Loudoun County, days after the release of a state study that predicts the homes would cause gridlock across the three Northern Virginia jurisdictions.

Others, however, have excoriated the Virginia Department of Transportation study, saying it was poorly conducted, politically motivated and cynically timed to be publicized before the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors was scheduled to begin discussing the controversial Dulles South proposal. The study was released July 13.

Supervisors met Tuesday, and several of them were so angry at VDOT district chief Dennis C. Morrison that, after taking turns verbally lashing him, they voted to delay action on the plan until a more complete traffic analysis can be done by the county. Among other things, they accused Morrison of painting a dire portrait of Dulles South to create support for Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D), who is seeking new taxes to fund transportation improvements.

"You're part of a big political magic show now!" Vice Chairman Bruce E. Tulloch (R-Potomac) yelled as Morrison stood silently at the board room's rostrum after presenting the findings. "You are no longer credible in my eyes."

Still, more of the reaction across the region has been alarm over the potential impact of the proposal, which would allow 28,000 homes on a mostly undeveloped swath of farmland west of Dulles International Airport.

"I just find it scary," said Martha Hendley, a resident of the Sudley Springs area of Prince William and vice chairwoman of the local planning commission. "VDOT's assessment was painfully accurate."

In Prince William, county planners are drafting a letter to Loudoun government officials explaining their traffic and environmental concerns. In Fairfax, supervisors have asked for a meeting with their Loudoun counterparts to do much the same.

And dozens of residents and civic groups in Prince William and Fairfax have called and e-mailed their local officials to tell them to do something to ease the effects of the plan.

"There's a very broad awareness of the proposal," said Prince William board chairman Sean T. Connaughton (R), who has received calls and e-mails and has even been stopped by passersby in public. "It's on their front burner. It's sunk in."

The VDOT study causing all the ruckus predicts that more than a dozen regional roads -- including Interstate 66, the Dulles Toll Road and Routes 50, 29, 28 and 7 -- would be hit with long traffic delays as a result of the Dulles South plan.

Morrison, in a presentation of the study to Loudoun supervisors Tuesday, said that by 2025, the new homes would create hours of stop-and-go conditions on many of the roads.

"Twenty-eight thousand households would place a significant burden on the regional transportation network," Morrison said. That's true even with the completion of a number of planned transportation improvements, Morrison said, including the extension of Metrorail to Dulles and the widening of three of the highways in question.

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