New $9 million parking lot: more of the same ol’ same ol’ for Gainesville

The county and VDOT are marching forward to build another parking lot for commuters. The Cushing Road lot to be approved on Tuesday will be located at Wellington behind the 7-11 at the intersection of Balls Ford Road and Route 234 Extended.

Everyone is a cheerleader for increasing carpooling capacity on the I-66 HOV lanes.  We need to do something about traffic congestion – so what’s wrong with this parking lot?

Answer: Once again, we’re applying band-aids rather than curing the problem. There’s a big difference between “doing something” and “doing  something right.”

We’re doing the same ol’ thing at Cushing Road on I-66 that we did at Horner Road on I-95.  Expanding the Horner Road lot got us more cars on local roads, and more people leaving the county for jobs in Fairfax/Arlington/DC.   As for quality of life – well, a commuter lot improves our ability to commute, but it’s not an attraction you’d show off to visitors.

The Cushing Road commuter lot may get up to 450 people out of single-occupancy vehicles, but each of those people will still need to drive to the parking lot.  Congestion at the Balls Ford/Cushing Drive/234 intersections will increase, with all the extra cars turning left.

The Cushing Road commuter lot is one of the last gasps of the dying-for-lack-of-funds VDOT construction program.  At the same Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) meeting to approve the $9 million lot, the BOCS will approve a new Six Year Secondary Road Plan that cancels the Balls Ford widening project.  Commuters coming to Cushing Road from Manassas or Linton Hall will stay clogged up in the 2-lane sections on Balls Ford.

Building a commuter lot at Cushing Road will encourage more people to move to western Prince William and commute to jobs closer to DC.   We’re investing in a road system that will shape our land use.  We’re designing it so PW County will get stuck with the tax burden for more schools, while other jurisdictions get increased commercial property revenue.

This is smart growth for Fairfax, Arlington, DC… if PW County stays dumb enough to keep absorbing the costs.  It’s a fair and balanced pattern, but only if you look at the arrangement from a jurisdiction located on the other side of Bull Run.  If commuters with kids will live in Prince William, then other counties make a profit from property/sales taxes from the job centers where commuters work.

Remember when you could convince a child that a nickle was bigger than a dime, so the nickle had to be worth more?  That’s the same logic used to convince PW County that new commuter lots are “more” and more must be good.

$9 million for a commuter lot.  $9 million for more-of-the-same.  This is a bandaid, but not a step towards a cure that deserves cheerleading.

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