Build the Roads to Jobs – Not the Road to the Wrong Side of Dulles

Bob Chase of the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance and Stewart Schwartz of the Coalition for Smarter Growth brought their “road show” to the Prince William Committee of 100 last night.

The program was designed for Chase to support and Schwartz to oppose the proposed extension of 234 Bypass into Loudoun County, the Tri-County Parkway.

Chase repeated the traditional road-builder arguments: growth is good, Northern Virginia is growing, we need more roads to support more growth, and we’ll find the money somehow. The one minor surprise: Schwartz supported two road building projects – widening I-66 and I-95.

Why would a “smart growth” advocate propose to expand those roads (as well as encourage improvements to Virginia Railway Express and expanding transit services to offer Bus Rapid Transit)?

Answer: the job engine of Northern Virginia is the Federal government.  Contractors locate their offices near their clients, and the clients are the Pentagon in Arlington County and Federal agencies in DC.  I-66 and I-95 are roads to jobs, for Prince William residents.  Northern Virginia roads are spokes in a wheel, the hub at the center is DC… and the smart investment is to expand roads that will expand employment opportunities for Prince William residents.

The dumb option?  Spend big bucks on a new road west of Route 28 that leads to nowhere, and brings no jobs to Prince William.  The Tri-County Parkway is a bad investment, if the intent is to increase job opportunities for PW County residents.

As Schwartz noted, Dulles Airport is a utility, not a job generator.  Companies want to locate near the airport – but they want offices between Dulles and their clients, so new jobs near the airport will be east of Route 28.  Building a road on the wrong side of Dulles won’t attract any businesses to Gainesville.

Companies that want new offices near the airport will… build new offices near the airport.  What businesses will build in Gainesville, when there’s vacant land zoned for offices right at Dulles?  (There is a massive amount of new development planned just north of Dulles along Route 28, including One Loudoun, Dulles Town Center, and the Kincora project that is predicted to pull the Potomac Nationals baseball team from Prince William to Loudoun County.)

Bob Chase tried to paint anyone who did not support his road projects as being anti-progress, anti-growth, and anti-job.  His transmitter was working, but not his receiver.  He never acknowledged that the smart growth advocate supported building roads to jobs, then maximizing the benefits of the widened highways by expanding commuter bus services on those interstates.

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1 comment so far

  1. Stewart Schwartz on

    Thanks to the Committee of 100 for hosting this robust debate and to Charlie’s always engaging and thought-provoking blog. We shouldn’t underestimate the benefits of high speed dedicated bus lanes for connecting workers and jobs (in both directions), with cushy seats and WiFi. It would be far more efficient, dependable and productive than the current situation for single-occupant drivers on I-66 and I-95. See also the Alborn blog post on the benefits of technology for strengthened PW economic development at lower cost: http://alborn.blogspot.com/2010/03/lets-move-knowledge-to-workers.html


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