Buckland Bypass is dead… for now

The October 28 headline in the Gainesville Times was optimistic: VDOT kills controversial Buckland Bypass proposal.  However, reports of its death at the hands of the Virgina Department of Transportation (VDOT) are premature.

A certain percentage of people continue to think that the solution to traffic congestion is simple: ignore the costs, ignore the alternatives, just build more roads.  More asphalt is the answer – now what’s the question?

The road builders will be cheerleading for a new bypass around the historic Buckland community in about 20 more years.  In the meantime, Prince William will complete Rollins Ford Road, and Fauquier may straighten out the path from Route 29 to Rollins Ford Road to create an eastern bypass around Buckland.

Still, there will be new congestion on those new roads as well as on Route 29, because jobs are centered in Fairfax/DC and new residents in Fauquier/Culpeper will commute to those jobs.  That’s the fundamental problem.  Fortunately, VDOT has the right answer to that problem now.

About the time the VDOT plans to replace the Route 29 bridge over Broad Run, the road builders will cry out for expanding Route 29 to 6 lanes, or building yet another road west of Buckland… or both.  Some people have the ability to just ignore the costs of more and more asphalt, both financial (VDOT’s already broke) and environmental (roads are creek-killers).

To think the answer is simple (“Quit talking; just build the road”), you have to ignore the reason we have new traffic congestion on old roads.  We keep building new houses far away from jobs and retail centers, forcing people to drive to work and shop.  Anyone who has lived in Prince William for about a decade has their own stories of how a road project reduced congestion for awhile, but then the road clogged up again.

Pick a road, any road.  Old Davis Ford?  Liberia?  Interstate 95?  One obvious example over the last 20 years: widening of I-66 west of Centreville to Sudley Road, then west of Sudley to 234 Bypass, then to Route 29.  Traffic still stinks.  Think building a new interchange at Route 29, or widening I-66 to Route 15, will finally solve the congestion?  (Hint: are we still expanding subdivisions up and down Route 15?)

What’s the alternative to building the Buckland Bypass?  If we extend VRE or Amtrak service to Warrenton, we just encourage more sprawl.

The question is not “How do find new tax/toll revenues to build more roads?”  The correct question is “How do we integrate land use and transportation planning so we reduce future congestion, minimize future costs for new transportation infrastrucure, and create high-quality communities?”

VDOT has the answer in its update to the draft Route 29 Blueprint recommendations:

“It is anticipated that accommodating projected travel demands through this portion of the corridor will require ongoing attention to strong access management and land use controls, development of parallel roads to the maximum extent practical, as well as provision of substantially enhanced transit opportunities.”


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