North-South Corridor of Statewide Significance (CoSS): Spending *Your* Money for *Their* Benefit

The old “what to do about suburban traffic congestion” debate has a new term:  the North-South Corridor of Statewide Significance (CoSS).  The debate also has a new wrinkle, the recent political reaction to proposals for increasing public debt.

Right now, debate is white-hot regarding the national debt – do you think the government should borrow even more money now, in order to expand government services? – but many people do not realize the state of Virginia is still expanding its borrowing in 2011.   The state is going deeper in debt, borrowing money to build new roads, while simultaneously manipulating the accounting to postpone paying for Virginia’s $17.6 billion unfunded liability for pensions. 

At the end of the February 16th meeting of the Commonwealth Transportation Board, the Secretary of Transportation revealed plans to build the road known variously by state/local agencies as the Western Transportation Corridor, Tri-County Parkway, Bi-County Parkway, and the Road to Dulles.  (The Manassas National Battlefield Bypass has been mixed up in the discussion as well.  A better name for the proposed road might be Bi-County Sprawlway…)

The latest game is to for the Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) to designate a CoSS in western Prince William/Loudoun counties on May 18.  A CoSS designation may allow the state to run roughshod over local land use plans, equivalent to the Federal government’s National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors (NIETCs) that allow Federal agencies to ignore state/local objections of new powerlines.  In particular, the developer community and the CTB are looking for ways to overcome the resistance of the elected officials in Loudoun County.

We’re not talking about increasing government debt for expanding health care, welfare benefits, or any services to help current residents.  We’re not talking about more debt to improve the work commute for current residents.  We’re talking about increasing state debt to build roads in western Prince William/Loudoun counties in order to subsidize new development and attract new residents – which creates new congestion.

Is more debt to divert development away from the Route 1 corridor, so Gainesville gets the growth, really the best way to deal with our financial challenges today?  Hmmm…. when do you think the government should stop borrowing money to subsidize more private developments like Avendale?

Developers and state/local officials suggest the latest road proposals are solutions to current congestion.  However, think about it:   a north-south road won’t help people driving east-west between work and home.  Don’t buy the commuter claim?  How ’bout the claim that a new truckway to Dulles will create an office boom in western Prince William?  Don’t hold your breath waiting for those jobs to blossom forth.

(By the same logic, tax dollars for the ferry in Woodbridge will spur development in eastern Prince William, competing with road subsidies to steer economic activity in western Prince William.  Think the government should be shovelling out money to alter business decisions of the private sector?  Oh, don’t worry about inefficiency in government – we’re rich, so let’s fund all the proposals.)

A more-realistic reason for the current CoSS push: it’s part of the developer plan to create new roads that can be used to justify replanning/rezoning the land between Route 50 and I-66 for massive housing developments.  The state has stretched its borrowing to the limit under the current governor; this is the last good chance at getting a free road so new subdivisions can add to traffic on I-66.

If Virginia designates a  North-South Corridor and goes deeper into debt to build the Bi-County Sprawlway, fields and forests in Rural Area and Transition Area of western Prince William/Loudoun counties will be transmogrified into more-of-the-same sprawl.  No matter how many roads we build, the key equation is more houses = more people = more traffic congestion.  More roads, without any limits on new development, will just move congestion further west.

The designation of the North-South CoSS is a preliminary step to revelation of state plans to use borrowed money to build the “Road to Dulles.”  At best, that will move congestion problems, not solve them.   People who are concerned with excessive government debt, as well as people concerned about conservation and land use, should be equally concerned about the North-South CoSS.


2 comments so far

  1. […] highway on the western edge of Manassas National Battlefield Park.  The CTB will designate a new North-South Corridor of Statewide Significance (CoSS) that – surprise! – aligns with the preferred route of the old Tri-County […]

  2. […] What’s VDOT gonna do?  Expect a big political push for new taxes (gas tax, sales tax, new bonds financed by property taxes, whatever…) to finance more roads.  Expect to see more proposals for toll roads – even existing freeways may not stay “free.”  Expect the Washington Post and local developers to spur the local Chambers of Commerce to remain perpetual cheerleaders for more government spending, just as they did for the North-South Corridor of Statewide Significance. […]

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