Jeff Cox is president of the Dunn Loring Village Homeowners Association. Sonia Khurana is president of the Stenwood Homeowners Association. Ken Quincy is president of the Dunn Loring Woods Civic Association.
Transportation issues have long vexed Northern Virginia, which has seen incredible growth over the past few decades. The area is one of the most desirable places in the country to live and work. Businesses are thriving, and we have exceptional schools that draw families to the region. Unfortunately, we are victims of our own success as we suffer through congested roadways both during the workweek and on weekends.
Residents of Northern Virginia have long been frustrated by Richmond’s inability to solve our transportation needs, ignoring our populous region and instead shipping our tax dollars elsewhere in the commonwealth. So Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s (D) planned improvements to Interstate 66 through the “Transform 66” initiative was met with great enthusiasm.
But our communities have been in utter disbelief since learning that Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) plan to use eminent domain to uproot families in Dunn Loring and Merrifield. The scope of VDOT’s plans to take our homes through eminent domain is unprecedented.
The proposal includes the demolition of the homes of 35 families, the taking of land from another 200 parcels and the taking of play areas at Stenwood Elementary. This surely cannot be the smarter, more responsive government that McAuliffe pledged to lead on his inauguration day, when he said that “these next four years will be our moment to again . . . show Virginians that we will live up to their expectation of consensus-driven progress.”
We believe there are ways to relieve congestion on I-66, but we reject the notion that the only or best way to do so is by using eminent domain and creating new toll lanes. As longtime residents of Dunn Loring and Merrifield, we have chosen to live closer to Tysons Corner and nearby Metro stations — and the higher home prices that go along with transit-oriented housing, a key goal of Northern Virginia leaders. Now VDOT is proposing a $2 billion to $3 billion project that would push families from their neighborhoods, decrease property values and lead to years of noisy construction for no benefit to our neighborhoods.
To add insult to injury, VDOT has not yet notified affected residents that their houses are slated to be torn down.
That is why we are calling on McAuliffe and Layne to find ways to improve I-66 without taking our homes and parks and without damaging our property values. We are confident that VDOT has many smart minds to evaluate alternatives that will not do lasting damage.
Usually, Virginia’s off-year elections are a nuisance to voters, but this time residents have the opportunity to carefully screen candidates for state legislature and county government to make sure they are working for us. Democrat, Republican or independent, worthy candidates’ only test will be whether they listen to and work for their constituents to help save our homes.
With every day that passes, we discover neighbors, businesses, churches and other organizations that have similar concerns about VDOT’s eminent domain plans.