Don't Leave It All to VDOT

Hillsboro resident Meredith Bean McMath ["VODT to Blame in Hillsboro," Letters, Loudoun Extra, Aug. 29] is right to be concerned about the Virginia Department of Transportation's ponderous road-design process. VDOT's approach is out of date, ineffective and unlikely to satisfy safety and access concerns of local pedestrians and drivers.

VDOT stubbornly insists on using 1950s' solutions to 21st-century transportation problems. Its answer always is more and wider roads, to the exclusion of all other considerations.

It is a vision not shared by the Federal Highway Administration and many forward-looking states, which advocate and have adopted modern, effective and much more economical strategies. Traffic-calming measures and modern highway designs being used throughout the nation balance the needs of local residents with the demands of highway users.

Only someone who is uninformed about modern highway engineering could dismiss these solutions as an attempt by "anti-road-improvement people" to "keep the road substandard" (as Andrew F. Pitas charged in his letter of Aug. 22, "A Missed Opportunity"). On the contrary, studies nationwide prove that these methods move traffic more safely and efficiently, with less adverse effects on surrounding communities.

In Virginia, experience has shown that when citizens become informed and involved, they can get VDOT to listen. Middleburg -area residents revolted against VDOT's retro-engineering plan that would have destroyed their community and worked to develop a modern design that not only has won national awards but that VDOT itself trumpets as a model of innovative highway design: one that balances the needs of the community (for safety, historic preservation and economic growth) with the need to keep traffic moving.

The idea that citizens should just leave it all to VDOT is as outmoded as the idea that the only way to "improve" a road is with more and wider pavement. Loudoun County has many historic communities that share main streets with growing commuter arteries -- Middleburg, Lucketts and Hillsboro, among others.

Those who do not want their communities to end up as more VDOT roadkill must inform themselves about the cheaper, more effective and context-sensitive solutions that are solving transportation challenges nationwide and join together to force VDOT to spend our tax dollars wisely and in ways that will truly address citizen needs.

Martha Polkey