Northern Virginia Transportation Priorities: Time to Focus on Needs, Not Wants

May 7, 2012
By The 2030 Group

Bob Chase is President of the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance.

The Rolling Stone’s Mick Jagger has reminded us for years that, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.”

According to the Texas Transportation Institute, Northern Virginia (along with Suburban Maryland and the District) ranks —

  • #1 in traffic congestion
  • #1 in time spent in traffic
  • #1 in fuel wasted sitting in congestion.
  • #2 in commute travel times and commuter stress.

Northern Virginia has no lack of transportation wants. In fact the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (not theAlliance) has just tested another 200 highway, transit, bicycle, sidewalk and trail projects as part of its 2040 regional plan update.

What Northern Virginia lacks is a well defined, short-list of performance-based highway and transit projects that will do the most to reduce congestion and the amount of time residents spend in traffic.

Rather than 200 new projects, the focus should be on 20 or fewer.

The following are six new corridors or “missing links” and a dozen or so improvements to existing corridors the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance believes would do the most to improve regional mobility, prosperity and quality of life.

Missing links:

  • Northern Potomac River Crossing – It takes two (MD and VA) to tango, but Northern Virginia needs to recognize and plan for the extension of Route 28 to the Maryland shore as an essential macro-regional priority.
  • North-South Western Suburbs Corridor – A bi-county parkway extending Route 234 at I-66 in Prince William County north to Route 50 in Loudoun County creating a continuous link to I-95. The Tri-County Parkway connecting Prince William-Fairfax and Loudoun is another priority.
  • I-95 Eastern Bypass – A connection from I-95 inVirginia to an upgraded Route 301 to divert long distance traffic away from the Springfield Mixing Bowl andWilsonBridge.
  • US 15 Relocation north of Leesburg and new Point of Rocks Bridge – A limited access parkway to divert traffic off historic U.S. 15
  • Route 9 Relocation to Bypass Town of Hillsboro – A new limited access parkway connecting Route 9 west of Hillsboro to Route 7 near Purcellville in Loudoun County.

Top priority improvements to existing roadway corridors, include:

  • I-66 inside the Beltway – an additional lane in each direction.
  • I-66 outside the Beltway – upgrade to multi-modal facility with additional conventional lanes and rail extension right of way toCenterville. Upgrade Route 28 interchange.
  • US Route 1(Fairfax/Prince William)—widen to six to eight lanes with an upgraded public transit/express bus component.
  • US Route 50– Add one lane in each direction betweenFairfax Circle and the Beltway; widen to 6-8 lanes betweenFairfaxCounty line and US 15 in Loudoun..
  • Route 7 (Fairfax) – Widen to 6-8 lanes between Tysons Corner andLoudounCounty line.
  • Route 7 (Loudoun) – add one or two lanes in each direction between Leesburg and Purcellville.
  • Route 28 – Widen to 8 lanes between I-66 and Route 7. Eliminate remaining at grade intersections.
  • Route 234/Route 234 Bypass (Prince William)– Construct interchanges at select intersections.
  • Route 286 (Fairfax County Parkway) – Widen to 6-8 lanes between Dulles Toll Road and US Route 50 with grade separations at selected interchanges.
  • Route 606/Dulles Loop – Widen to 6-8 lanes.
  • Route 659 (Belmont Ridge Road/Loudoun) – Widen to a minimum of 4 lanes on a protected six-lane right-of-way.
  • Route 2150 (Gloucester Parkway/Loudoun) – Complete Parkway to Route 28.

Major transportation corridor improvements should include provisions for regional bus rapid transit where appropriate.

The above list is a starting point that’s open to discussion and improvement.

However, it’s time to focus on the most important needs as opposed to long lists of wants.

It’s time to stop dumbing down transportation planning with scores of options and choices that do little other than divert attention and resources away from projects that make a real difference for most people.

It’s time to get smarter by focusing on transportation investments that matter most to regional mobility, prosperity and quality of life.

That’s what we really need.