Tag: bi-county parkway

Virginia to Congress: Stop approving new flights out of Reagan National Airport

Stewart Schwartz, the executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, said taxpayers already have invested billions in the Dulles Access Road, Dulles Toll Road, Routes 606 and 28, and the Silver Line.

“Now the Dulles folks are seeking billions more for another round of highways,” Schwartz said. “Before we jump into that approach let’s first recognize the challenges that Dulles faces include the fact that they have over projected growth amid the boom in the mid-2000s and they took on too much debt.”

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

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.

Joint Environmental Groups’ Letter to Terry McAuliffe against Bi-County Parkway

Dear Governor-Elect McAuliffe: Congratulations on your victory and thank you for your support for so many of our conservation and smart growth priorities. With regard to transportation, we are particularly pleased with your support for building sustainable communities, seeking the least intrusive solutions, adapting infrastructure to serve community needs, and commitment to “pulling the plug” on transportation projects that fail to meet these standards. In keeping with those priorities…

Opponents: VDOT’s PR Effort is to Push Bi-County Parkway, Not Seek Alternatives

The recent disclosure of a nearly $300,000 contract for a public relations firm to tout a controversial road that would connect Prince William and Loudoun counties has galvanized the parkway’s opponents.

Opponents of the Bi-County Parkway, a 10-mile road to link the fast-growing counties, say the Virginia Department of Transportation’s contract with Stratacomm, a District PR firm, shows that the agency is not seriously considering other alternatives.

Although the contract mentions “education” efforts, Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William), an opponent of the road, said that VDOT has been presenting only one side of the story. Marshall obtained and released the contract.

“They’re running a political operation,” Marshall said. “They say nothing bad about this road. This is a political campaign, nothing else.”

Stratacomm was hired in recent months to work on issues related to the Bi-County Parkway, according to the August contract.

The document shows that VDOT wanted Stratacomm to build relationships with local media, as well as engage elected officials, businesses and environmental interest groups on the parkway. The bills tallied reach $299,725, according to the contract. Much of that was Stratacomm’s staff time, including a senior vice president who billed 500 hours at $250 per hour.

Stratacomm Vice President John Undeland has been a fixture on the project for months. The firm’s Web site said the company seeks “to create and run winning communications campaigns.”

Undeland did not return calls seeking comment.

Elected officials and others have criticized VDOT, saying the agency has not been transparent about its plans for the parkway. Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton said in an e-mail that VDOT was trying to respond to such criticism by hiring Stratacomm. Many have faulted the agency for failing to explain why the controversial north-south road, which would pass near protected Civil War parkland and would be adjacent to long-established neighborhoods, is necessary.

In the past, Stratacomm has been hired to work on communications efforts for other government projects, including the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project, the Interstate 66 study and the Route 1 study, Connaughton said.

“It is disappointing that we are being criticized for doing too much public outreach in response to complaints that we were not doing enough,” Connaughton said. “Our intent is to inform and educate the public about the Bi-County Parkway — to get the facts out so the public can ask questions, provide comment and come to their own conclusions about the project and its potential impacts.”

Marshall said that it is too soon for VDOT to stop considering alternatives to the project. Preliminary designs for the parkway have not been completed. And VDOT and other state and federal agencies haven’t issued the necessary approvals.

Stewart Schwartz, president of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, which opposes the project, said VDOT has refused to study alternatives to the road.

“It’s one thing to provide information to the public,” he said. “It’s another to try to basically sell the project.”

Click here to read the original story. 

VDOT Takes Heat For Big PR Bill In Support Of Bi-County Parkway

The Virginia Department of Transportation agreed to pay the D.C.-based public relations firm Stratacomm nearly $300,000 to help the agency build public support for a controversial highway plan in Northern Virginia, according to documents obtained by a state legislator through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

State Del. Bob Marshall (R-13th), a vocal opponent of the Bi-County Parkway, a ten-mile highway that would connect Loudoun and Prince William Counties west of Dulles Airport and the Manassas battlefield, obtained the contract agreement that shows VDOT agreed to pay Stratacomm $289,228 for an array of services.

Although studied for a decade, VDOT has heavily promoted the project for only the past year, with a series of public meetings, presentations, and interviews with the news media. The public relations campaign has coincided with negotiations with the National Park Service to allow VDOT to pave over part of the western fringe of the Civil War battlefield in exchange for closing congested Rt. 234 through the battlefield. Those negotiations are nearing an end, but the partial shutdown of the federal government is delaying a final agreement.

“VDOT is saying in its scope of work that the effort will increase the credibility and trust of the Virginia Department of Transportation in the eyes of the public,” said Marshall. “If trust is lacking in VDOT, it is because of their own words and conflicting statements which they have made time and time again.”

Marshall, who is part of a group of conservative Republicans in the General Assembly fighting the Bi-County Parkway, blasted Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton for the decision to retain Stratacomm. The state is in effect using tax dollars to lobby public officials and sway residents, he said.

“They are misrepresenting to the public what they are doing. That is unacceptable public policy,” said Marshall. “Sean Connaughton should be ashamed of himself. This is, in fact, stealing from the public.”

Sec. Connaughton defended the move to hire Stratacomm as a response to critics like Marshall who claimed VDOT was not performing enough public outreach.

“As a consequence, we have turned to a consultant like we do with most communications efforts to meet with stakeholders, meet with elected officials, homeowners’ associations, to help organize a communications effort,” Connaughton said.

“The whole purpose is to educate the public on what this project is, what it is not, to dispel a lot of the myths and misinformation, so we can get the public to know what we’ve been working on for the last 12 years,” he added. “This is in direct response to complaints of Delegate Marshall and others in the General Assembly… they did not think we did enough public outreach regarding this effort.”

VDOT’s internal staffing has dropped from 8,500 to 7,100 in recent years, Connaughton said, so the agency does not have adequate staff to undertake large-scale public outreach efforts. Moreover, the transportation secretary said VDOT hires outside consultants for most large projects.

Opponents seized on the contract disclosure to criticize VDOT.

“It’s one thing to do outreach to encourage the public to participate in the study process and offer their input.  That’s a legitimate use of tax dollars, but to use tax dollars to fund what amounts to a propaganda campaign is another matter entirely,” said Stewart Schwartz, the executive director at the Coalition for Smarter Growth, which opposes large highway construction projects.

Once a final agreement is reached with the National Park Service and other signatories determining the Bi-County Parkway’s precise corridor, Virginia officials anticipate final environmental approval a few weeks later. The government shutdown is delaying the process.

Photo courtesy of Shawn Honnick. Click here to read the original story.

Bi-County Parkway Means Traffic Solution or Fresh Mess

outer beltway 3A new route through some of Prince William County’s rural north is pitched as pro-business and part of the area’s transportation solution, but critics have lined up to push back on a new run of pavement through a part of the region happy to be away from gridlock.

The Commonwealth Transportation Board recently approved a master-plan study for what’s become known as the “Bi-County Parkway,” a 10-mile road that would connect I-66 in Prince William County with Route 50 in Loudon County.

“This parkway would make people’s lives better,” said Bob Chase, president of the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance. “It provides faster, safer transportation, and takes people off local roads.”

The road’s purpose is to ease the horrendous traffic that currently plagues the area, while also providing easier access to the Washington Dulles International Airport for residents of these counties. The Virginia Department of Transportation estimates that the road could carry nearly 42,000 vehicles a day by 2020 to combat the area’s exploding population.

“We see this as a vital north-south link for Prince William and Loudon,” Chase said. “It’s a common sense solution that makes employment centers accessible and takes traffic off existing roads.”

The parkway is also seen as an economic boon for the region.

“Not only will the road reduce traffic congestion between the counties, but it will also help the region connect with the airport,” said Leo Schefer, president of the Washington Airports Task Force. “The airport’s an economic engine for the area, and better access to it helps encourage businesses to locate nearby.”

The road also has the potential to benefit the airport itself by increasing the number of passengers and encouraging more cargo to pass through Dulles.

“It would allow for a better flow of passengers and information through the airport, and cargo is a part of that,” said Christopher Paolino, media relations manager for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. “That would be a net positive for everyone, since as the airport grows, the region grows, and vice versa.”

But critics of the parkway are worried that road may harm the nearby Manassas Battlefield and Prince William’s Rural Crescent.

“This road could forever harm the landscape and the acres of historic sites it would cut through,” said Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. “Residents have real concerns about the damage that this could cause to the community.”

Schwartz’s coalition has worked with other groups in developing a study finding that the parkway will only add traffic to the area, not ease it.

“If you build it, people will try to use it, and that creates congestion,” Schwartz said. “It’s also likely that this will bring pressure from developers to convert the Rural Crescent, and that will bring even more traffic.”

The group has also developed an alternative plan aimed at dispersing traffic by improving the interchange between Route 28 and I-66 and extending Metrorail service to Centreville, avoiding the need for the parkway.

“Our best hope is to improve our existing transit options and to build compact, walkable neighborhoods with public transportation,” Schwartz said.

Some local politicians echo the road rage, particularly Del. Tim Hugo (R-Centreville).

Transportation officials were trying to get the road done quietly, Hugo said. “But people woke up.”

The fight over the road has sent longtime political allies in Prince William County to opposing corners. Hugo argues support for the project is developer-driven.

“This is the wrong project at the wrong time, and the response from the people has been overwhelmingly in opposition,” Hugo said. “This road could create a commuter crisis from Fauquier to Fairfax.”

Proponents argue the goal is to get cars from one end of this rural area to the other, not increasing development within these communities. Shefer said the parkway can include easements around the road and limits on the number of exits to restrict development.

“If it’s designed the right way, then the parkway won’t harm the rural presence, but preserve it,” Schefer said.

Some changes have already been made to resolve some concerns about access and impacts on historical sites. As the project continues to take shape, Schefer and others are hopeful that the final product is controversy-free.

“The key is for everyone to work together, in order to help improve connectivity and save people time,” Schefer said. “There’s no reason this can’t be a win-win for everyone.”

Photo courtesy of VDOT.

Click here to read the original story>>

Bi-County Parkway debate fueled by research from both sides

One of our regular readers brought to our attention an issue that we haven’t been covering: Northern Virginia’s proposed Bi-County Parkway. The parkway would connect Prince William and Loudoun counties, but it has sparked an impassioned debate about our region’s growth trends.

outter beltwayOn the one side, the Coalition for Smarter Growth has done research that says that the parkway would create more sprawl, congestion, and traffic. CSG released the findings of a study on the subject last week and proposed a “common-sense, comprehensive alternative.” (CSG, 7/17)

On the other side, the 2030 Group – led by developer Bob Buchanan – commissioned a report from GMU’s Stephen Fuller which determined that our region’s continued growth will include a big increase in car use. The group is using this finding to support their push for the parkway. (WaPo, 7/21)

Here’s more context for the debate – the Washington Post’s coverage since September 2012. We’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject in the comment section. What are the pros and cons? (The good and the bad, not the professionals and convicts.)

Click here to read the original story>>

Va. transportation board approves study that includes Bi-County Parkway

RICHMOND — A state transportation board Wednesday advanced plans for a controversial project to build a parkway connecting Prince William and Loudoun counties.

The Commonwealth Transportation Board, in a 15 to 1 vote, endorsed a master-plan study that looked at potential improvements along the state’s North-South Corridor, a 45-mile route connecting the two Northern Virginia counties.

The vote was denounced by opponents of the Bi-County Parkway, who said board’s decision is a sign that the state is moving forward with the 10-mile road, which would skirt Civil War sites to connect I-66 in Prince William with Route 50 in Loudoun.

Board member W. Sheppard Miller III, of Virginia Beach, voted against moving forward, saying the board’s resolution did not adequately rule out toll roads, which he opposes.

A total of 15 people appeared before the board to comment, and several of them urged Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) officials to delay the adoption of the corridor study, saying that the state has not been transparent about its plans.

“This impacts tens of thousands who are unaware,” said Tom Thompson, who lives near the site of the proposed parkway.

Gary Garczynski, who lives in Woodbridge and represents the board’s Northern Virginia district, said the vote was a small step in a years-long process for the parkway.

“It’s not a foregone conclusion, and I regret to say that a lot of people think it is,” Garczynski said. “From my perspective, that’s just not true. We have a long way to go.”

The North-South corridor is one of 12 designated regions in which state transportation funding priorities are established. The improvements, including the Bi-County Parkway, are designed to improve traffic flow, spur economic development and provide better access to Dulles International Airport, supporters say.

Del. Timothy D. Hugo, a Republican Party leader who represents parts of Fairfax and Prince William counties, was among those who attended the meeting to object to the proposed road.

The board has “created a firestorm. . . . The rationale provided by VDOT [for the parkway] changes every time,” Hugo said. “These people deserve a straight answer.”

Residents say they worry about increased traffic and the fact that the parkway would run through a protected rural area with a rich Civil War history.

The board’s vote Wednesday came after a month’s delay. Concerns were raised by Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), who wrote a letter to Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R), to say that the state’s process lacked transparency and that more public input was needed. Six Republican state legislators, led by Hugo, have announced that they oppose the road and the state’s handling of the process.

Stewart Schwartz, president of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, has questioned whether a plan for north-south improvements is necessary.

“You started with a conclusion and went backwards,” he said of the adopted study. ““We will look back and realize that we have gained no ground and squandered billions.”