The myth about Comprehensive Plan roads – and why it creates future congestion

Believe in the tooth fairy?  Believe you’ll see Sasquatch – or a balanced Federal budget next fiscal year?

Then you’re ready to perpetuate the myth that Prince William County must list every possible new road in the draft Transportation Chapter of the Comprehensive Plan, before requiring a transportation proffer from a developer.

Based on this myth, the Comprehensive Plan (specifically, Table 2 – “Thoroughfare Plan Summary” in the Transportation Chapter) must propose building 700 lanemiles by 2030… just in case some developer proposes a new subdivision.

The county’s construction plans ought to match a realistic budget.  There’s no requirement to list all the possible new roads in the Comprehensive Plan, in order to get developers to make future transportation proffers.

That’s a “suburban legend” in Prince William county offices (though relevant for other jurisdictions in Virginia).   So what’s wrong with making a list, checking it twice, and waiting for Santa Claus to fund a road?

Even those who keep the faith in tooth fairies know that the county will not spend $150 million/year for 20 years on roads, plus more on transit.  There’s no way the Commonwealth Transportation Board or local taxpayers will finance $3 billion to construct 700 new lanemiles in Prince William County by 2030.

The political advantage of listing all those potential road improvements in the Transportation Chapter: it enables county officials to claim there are plans to fix every congested highway in Prince William – without having to make any hard choices about priorities, or tell someone that their preferred project is not #1 on the list of 700.

You’ll hear county officials justify rezonings (even Comprehensive Plan Amendments for dumb growth subdivisions like Avendale), citing proffers that will widen a highway adjacent to the development.  However, the cost of upgrading the roads further away are not in the proffers.

When county officials refuse to decide where to locate new growth or new transportation capacity, they perpetuate sprawl.
When county officials approve new housing separately from highways/transit, they increase future traffic congestion.
When county officials claim they must avoid setting priorities and put every possible road into the Comprehensive Plan… they perpetuate a myth.

If county officials planned for population growth in just a few locations, we could focus a realistic set of $$$ on widening appropriate roads, building some new grade-separated interchanges we can afford, and providing transit for those specific “centers.”

Prince William County is the third-largest jurisdiction in Virginia.  We should be able to hire/elect officials smart enough to understand the rules of land use planning, and honest enough to stop perpetuating myths…


1 comment so far

  1. David on

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    Our website,, strives to be a valuable resource for learning about – and expressing your opinions on – all the issues of the day. We invite all political writers to visit us, and perhaps set up a profile, and post more links to articles such as this.

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