Home Transportation Thoughts on Pat Herrity’s Tirade Against Arlington County

Thoughts on Pat Herrity’s Tirade Against Arlington County


In today’s “All Opinions Are Local” column in the Kaplan Post, Fairfax Supervisor Pat Herrity lets out all his frustrations at Arlington County. Here’s a sampling, followed by a few thoughts by yours truly.

For more than a decade, the members of the Arlington County Board have thumbed their noses at every motorist sitting in traffic on our region’s congested highways. Harsh words, yes. But given the board’s gutter-style tactics to block and delay critical transportation improvements, it’s time to get real. The Arlington board is a major roadblock to improving transportation in Northern Virginia and our region.

The Arlington board’s shenanigans to stop the Interstate 95/Interstate 395 high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes project, a major transit and highway improvement to one of the most congested interstates in Virginia, have been particularly shameless. The board has attacked cabinet members of Republican and Democratic administrations for trying to deliver more travel choices. It even resorted to claims of racism and sued a federal worker for personal damages – a dangerous precedent for all our federal, state and local government workers just doing their jobs. And because of Arlington’s actions, the commonwealth is pulling the plug on the HOT lanes project inside the Beltway.

By delaying major improvements on the I-66 and I-395/I-95 corridors, the board’s bunker mentality has contributed to the region’s top ranking as the worst congested metro area in the country.

A few points here. First off, Herrity demonstrates no apparent understanding of the root causes of Northern Virginia’s traffic gridlock. Let me list a few: sprawl, sprawl, lack of funding for transit, lack of funding for roads, sprawl, anti-smart-growth policies such as Fairfax failing to focus development around Metro stops (as Arlington wisely did), oh and did I mention sprawl?  

Second, Herrity attacks one of the few jurisdictions in NOVA that actually got it right when it comes to transportation, with the result that Arlington County today is one of the most livable, walkable, and least congested places of its size in America, let alone in Virginia.

Third, Herrity’s absurd argument is basically that Arlington should suffer because of the foolish, misguided, short-sighted policies that exurban counties – and the state government – have adopted over the years, and that have encouraged both sprawl and gridlock. Now, Herrity’s answer is to pave over – and punish – Arlington County, where we’ve actually succeeded in creating attractive high-density, transit-friendly, smart growth development?

Fourth, that’s bad enough, but then Herrity attacks Arlington for having the audacity to –  are you sitting down here? – defend itself from this assault? Yeah, the gall of Arlington County, can you imagine such a thing?

Finally, with regard to Herrity’s desired “traffic relief,” perhaps he should start by looking in the mirror at his own county’s policies, how they’ve encouraged sprawl and gridlock, and what his role has been in causing that situation to come about. Of course, it’s always much easier to look for scapegoats, especially if you’re an ambitious – but not particularly successful at achieving that ambition – politicians, carrying on the family tradition of being politicians, yet with no apparent upward mobility. No wonder why Pat’s frustrated, and no wonder why he’s lashing out. I just hope Arlington County gives him all the consideration his uninformed, over-the-top tirade deserves. That would be NONE.

  • Mike1987

    I wish Fairfax were as concerned as Arlington or as active. Aside from a few enclaves, Fairfax is fully generic. You can blind fold someone from New Jersey, plop them just about anywhere in Fairfax county and they will not be able to tell you were they are.  Centreville is an intersection.

    Go Arlington for NOT wanting to be generic and a waypoint for somewhere else.

  • that people think destroying historic neighborhoods (to widen I-66) and eliminating highway shoulders that are used by first responders (I-395 HOT Lanes) are the solutions to our regional traffic problems.

  • If you were serious about finding a solution, this is exactly the op-ed you wouldn’t write – framing it as Arlington vs. Everyone Else, proposing no solutions, driving both sides further apart.

    But if you were serious about political posturing – trying to score points with your constituents without doing the hard work of finding common ground – this is exactly the op-ed you’d write.

    Thank you, Pat, for doing nothing to advance this debate.

  • sspiker

    1) There’s no reason to think that Herrity and other Fairfax politicians don’t understand the causes you mentioned, plus the other causes that exist. This isn’t a thesis; most newspapers have word limits. The simple truth is that the causes you mentioned, mostly sprawl, happened many years ago, and its the reality we live in now. Wishing the previous generation of leaders made different decisions doesn’t help us face the problems we deal with now.

    2) This isn’t really a point, as it doesn’t really mean anything or matter. But Fairfax is a multitude times larger and more populous than Arlington, and farther away from both the city and from Metro stops. Suggesting some kind of portability of Arlington-style urbanity to all of Fairfax is kind of silly, and (like above) pays no mind to the reality we live in today.

    3) I’m not really sure what hyperbole brings to the discussion. No one is talking about “paving over Arlington County”, just expanding specifically the I-395 corridor. Interestingly enough, though you talk often about how Arlington built walkable communities around Metro stops, there aren’t any along the I-395 corridor. The truth is that expanding road capacity will help everybody; bot those who live inside the Beltway and those who do not. Are you seriously trying to argue that residents in Arlington don’t use I-395, or have their roads cut through by ex-urban drivers avoiding it? And more importantly, that businesses in Arlington wouldn’t benefit from having more road capacity for their employees to get to work?

    4) Again, this really isn’t a point. You’re falsely characterizing it as an “assault”, which again is hyperbole based in fantasy. It’s a regional effort to improve transportation. The entire region and the state is in favor of it. In a desperate move to prevent transportation improvement, Arlington filed a lawsuit. I don’t know why anyone would particularly surprised that this ruffled some feathers.

    5) And once more, this really isn’t a point, especially since you try to pass the buck and call the county who filed a lawsuit to prevent transportation improvement a “scapegoat” and the subject of a political witch hunt, completely ignoring their role in this.

    All of your points revolve around one core issue: “Why can’t Fairfax, Loudoun, and Price William County be more like Arlington?” It’s one of the sillier points to focus on, since the reasons are as obvious as they are intractable. Rather than do anything to improve the lives of Virginia residents, you’d rather stroke your chin and fantasize about a region that could have never existed the way you wished it did.

    There are serious people of both parties who are trying to improve the lives of literally millions of Virginia. Mass transit is one factor of that improvement, but so is expanding road capacity. The idea that the 1.6 million residents of Fairfax, Loudoun, and PWC can get around on mass transit solely—and the idea that those solutions will be available any time soon—is impossible in every sense of the word.

    By filing a lawsuit against the state to prevent this improvement in the lives of Virginians, and by supporting them as you are, you and Arlington have removed yourselves from serious debate about this. And resorting to personal attacks on Pat Herrity and his family only cements how flimsy your case really is.

  • listlady

    favored by Herrity et al. has another major flaw: it tries to bulldoze past the normal federal requirements for environmental and other impact analyses. That’s why Arlington sued. VDOT had gotten around NEPA and wouldn’t pause to analyze and devise remedies for all the adverse effects of the HOT lanes deal. Why should convenience for one group — drivers willing to pay potentially high fees — trump all the other public interests in this dense corridor?

    Point #2: By demonizing Arlington,the HOTties have managed to divert attention away from the dubious structure of the private deal. It is not a good long-term bargain for the taxpayers, or for residents of the 395 corridor.

    All in all, the major flaw in Arlington’s position was poor public messaging. It was a good case not well explained.

  • Catzmaw

    I grew up in Fairfax County and spent decades watching Herrity’s father and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors hand over the county to developers with nary a thought about all the transportation problems they were engendering with their “hands-off” attitude toward huge, sprawling developments containing only two or three methods of egress and ingress on overburdened roads and lacking any concept of travel by anything but cars.  The only planning they ever did was for more power lines and proposals that they pave over more of Arlington on the way to the bottlenecks called bridges.

    My home was across from Pimmit Run. When I was a little kid the creek had fish, crawfish, frogs, and other wildlife.  As Tysons Corner was taken over and developed and other places built up and down Leesburg Pike the creek became polluted and unlivable, eventually being turned into nothing more than a rivulet running through a concrete culvert.  Now they’re playing catch-up, trying to bring back some of the life to the creek and talking about a bike trail which as far as I’ve seen they haven’t even started yet years after it was supposed to have been started.

    Fairfax County is finally waking up to the fact that there are some developments so ill-conceived that people on one side of the main road going through cannot get to the stores and shops on the other side of the road without getting in a car and driving there because there are no pedestrian or bike-friendly methods of getting across the road.  It’s literally too dangerous to try to walk to the store.  Doubt me?  Go take a look at Centreville along Route 7.  

    Herrity can take his complaints and stick them where the sun don’t shine.  

  • pontoon

    worked in Washington, then Tysons, then Reston….trying to get closer to home to shorten the commute, but it didn’t work.  It took me one and a half hours to go 23 miles to work and that was in the early to mid 80’s. I finally gave up.  It wasn’t worth the hassle, the money, or the time away from my family.  So I moved to Central Virginia.

    Fairfax and Loudoun have allowed SPRAWL as Lowell refers to it without any concern for the quality of life of their  residents (new and old), the county roads, water quality, sewer capacity or any other sane planning issue.  My 82 year-old aunt who has lived in the same house for 45 years in Loudoun now has to buy bottled water to make her pickles, because the tap water in her town rots the cucumbers before the soaking process involved in pickle making is complete.

    When I go to visit once I arrive in Warrenton, I take every little two lane road I can find to get home…in an attempt to stay away from Routes 29, 66, 15, 7, and 50.

    While I feel for each of you trying to commute into the City, you knew what it was going to be like when you decided to live in Loudoun, Fairfax, Fauquier, or some other hub of suburbia.  A very simplistic approach to the problem is this:  If you work in the City, live in the City.  If you work in Loudoun, live in Loudoun, et cetera.

  • jules

    For those of you who may not have been paying attention, under Sharon Bulova’s leadership the Fairfax Board has made a big change in it’s growth strategy. She chaired COG’s GW2050 Committee which came up with a regional smart growth compact that was unanimously adopted by all 22 member local governments. http://www.regionforward.org

    Also the Tysons plan has been nationally recognized by the American Planning Association, the rest of the Silver Line corridor is undergoing a planning study to re-plan for transit oriented development.

    The County is currently putting together, a bicycle master plan, a countywide transit study, seeking funding for a Route 1 transit study.

    • more mountains blown up, more ice caps melted, and more planets ruined.

    • Catzmaw

      to fund these alternatives?  To encourage people to use these other alternatives?  To demand of its developer friends that design INCLUDE all these alternatives?  They may be more supportive of it now than they were back in the day, but it always boils down to the same proposal:  let’s pave over Arlington.