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Gov. McAuliffe Needs to Resist Pressure From Usual Suspects and Reject Bi-County Parkway

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According to Leesburg Today, Gov. McAuliffe appears to be leaning towards support for the “Bi-County Parkway” project.

“We have to open up Dulles airport,” McAuliffe said. “We will have a resolution relatively quickly.”

[…]

McAuliffe pointed to stalled growth in Dulles Airport’s passenger counts as a key concern. While efforts are being made to add new flights-such as Air China’s direct connections to Beijing that began last week-increased cargo operations will be important to keep the airport growing, he said.

Bi-County Parkway advocates say the new road is needed to facilitate cargo transports. Critics say the project would be a misuse of road construction funds needed to free up other travel choke points in the region.

This is misguided, and also kind of strange to be blunt, on a number of levels. With regard to the “strange” part, recall that last October, the McAuliffe campaign was bashing Ken Cuccinelli for “pop[ping] a U-Turn” on the project, while McAuliffe “waivered” on the question, with  Derek McGinty of WUSA asking McAuliffe at a debate in August, “Don’t you owe it to the voters to take an actual position on the Bi-County Parkway?” McAuliffe’s response at that time was that “I do not make decisions nor will I make decisions until I have all the facts in front of me.” And now?

Well, now Terry McAuliffe has been Governor of Virginia for 6 months, and he appears to be leaning towards support for the Bi-County Parkway. It true, that would be a big mistake, for all the reasons the Coalition for Smarter Growth lists.

At a meeting of the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce, Governor McAuliffe expressed his opinion that the Bi-County Parkway would receive a high rating under new selection criteria to be developed over the next year for transportation projects.  He expressed this view in the context of concern about declining passenger and cargo traffic at Dulles Airport.

We support the Governor’s focus on effective transportation solutions and economic development.

However, in the case of Dulles Airport, the claimed potential for cargo expansion is speculative, as shown in the study by the GMU 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. Bacon’s Rebellion has written extensively on the issue.

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. We are, after all, a knowledge-based economy in Northern Virginia and our focus should be passenger travel.  In our view, making it easier for passengers to get to Dulles, and in particular it’s east side passenger entrance, is the key to addressing the airport’s underutilization.

We commend the Governor for his willingness to reexamine large projects promoted by the previous administration, including Route 460 and the Charlottesville Bypass, and the BiCounty Parkway should receive the same level of critical scrutiny. The evidence shows that the BiCounty 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.

The thing is, Gov. McAuliffe has generally been strong on smart growth so far, deserving major kudos for – as the Coalition for Smarter Growth statement notes – putting the brakes on the 460 boondoggle/scandal, as well as for his actions to stop the destructive, wasteful Charlottesville Bypass (Route 29) project. On the latter project, Gov. McAuliffe appointed a Route 29 task force which adopted many of the alternatives the smart growth community and the local community has long promoted (note: I’m told that “Places 29” was fully vetted and approved years ago, with local residents just insisting on implementation of longstanding and viable options), and these alternatives were voted into the 6-year plan on Wednesday. For more on this, see the Places29 plan.

Given all this, why would Gov. McAuliffe lean towards support for the Bi-County sprawl road, particularly given: a) strong local opposition in Prince William County; b) Virginia’s budget problems (just what we need, another road to spend large amounts of money on both to build AND to maintain for decades); and c) not to mention the urgent need for environmental reasons (global warming, anyone?) to move AWAY from fossil fuels ASAP, not lock in more fossil-fuel-reliant/intensive infrastructure for decades to come? My understanding is that Gov. McAuliffe’s being pressured by the usual suspects — MWAA, the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce, sprawl developers (as opposed to responsible developers who are committed to smart growth and transit-oriented development), etc. – who have emphasized unsubstantiated claims that Dulles Airport could claim a big share of East Coast air cargo, if only we do things like build this wasteful sprawl road. Don’t think so. Gov. McAuliffe: please protect our tax dollars and the environment by rejecting this road to nowhere. Thanks.

P.S. Also, it’s clear after his slam-down of Virginia Republicans today that Gov. McAuliffe has big-time cojones; he can certainly handle these sprawl developers.

  • Jim B

    I can see from the proposed site that my one or two trips to Dulles a year would be easier, but there seems to be no let up to the increase of vehicle use in Northern Va. Wouldn’t any increase in roadways help thin out some of the traffic?