What to Ask VDOT on January 8, 2013 at Next North-South Corridor open house

question On January 8, VDOT has scheduled an open house to discuss the North South Corridor at the Four Points Sheraton next to the Manassas battlefield (10800 Vandor Lane, Manassas), 6:30-8:30pm.

Here are some questions to ask at the meeting:
– since funding for new construction is tight, what is the return-on-investment (ROI) of the different projects proposed for Northern Virginia?
– what is the relative cost-effectiveness of the proposed road segments to be built in the North-South Corridor, in particular the Tri-County Parkway segment, compared to other projects that might reduce congestion in Northern Virginia?
– how is cost-effectiveness measured by VDOT and the Commonwealth Transportation Board, when prioritizing proposed projects such as enhancing I-66 vs. building Tri-County Parkway?
– how many travelers will benefit each day from the new road?
– from where will those travelers come, and where will they be going (especially how many trucks carrying air freight from Dulles will use the road)?
– based on VDOT’s origin-destination studies, how many current commuters going from Gainesville to their jobs will drive on the Tri-County Parkway, and what percentage of current commuters is that?
– what is the cost of the proposed road segments to be built in the North-South Corridor, in particular the Tri-County Parkway segment?
– if those segments are funded as toll roads, what will be the toll (based on cost to build and the projected number of vehicles)?

It would be nice if there was a rational, analytical basis for building the Tri-County Parkway vs. other proposed projects.  VDOT says the road is needed to “ensure adequate capacity and access to allow for projected growth in the Dulles area” (see p.8)  That might justify the project, even if the road requires more government debt (and transforms traditional landscapes).

We’ve been through much debate regarding Obama’s stimulus funding for economic development.  How is this different?  In particular, why should the taxpayers go into debt for this project?  Who will benefit from new roads that spur new development at Dulles (UPS and FedEx?) and who will pay for the infrastructure that spurs new profits at Dulles?  Are the taxpayers getting a good deal here?

Sadly, it appears the taxpayers are being treated as sheep to be fleeced.  VDOT is going through the motions of public involvement, but unless the decision process addresses return-on-investment alternatives, like a Business 101 decision on where to invest for future benefits… this is just an exercise to retroactively justify a decision.

For example, at the December 2012 meeting, one of the exhibits purported to explain the Corridor Master Plan Planning Process (see page 4 of the meeting boards).

Here’s another question to ask: what is the process for designating Corridors of Statewide Significance?  The North-South Corridor was designated in a wham-bam decision process by the Commonwealth Transportation Board.  Only now is VDOT trying to come up with an after-the-fact process for creating new corridors.  Ugh, why is there no corridor of significance for the Coalfields Expressway, costing $4.2 billion, but there is a North South Corridor?

If designation as a corridor reflected an evaluation of transportation needs across the state, followed by some rational process to prioritize needs, then maybe designation would have some meaning.  Otherwise, designation as a “corridor” looks like a public relations effort, a cocoon of importance that has no justification.  The remaining natural landscape in Northern Virginia is being set up for transformation at taxpayer expense, with less justification than was used to invest TARP funds in Solyndra.


2 comments so far

  1. Nancy Vehrs on

    Do you know whether written comments are still being accepted? December 28 had been the deadline.

    • cgrymes on

      I believe comments on the material presented at latest January 8 meeting will be accepted, but it is not clear what content from VDOT will be different at this meeting…

      Also, check out the Transportation Nation stories, Part 1 (http://transportationnation.org/2012/12/19/northern-virginia-planning-big-outer-beltway-road-expansion-part-1/) and Part 2 (http://transportationnation.org/2012/12/21/northern-virginia-road-expansion-betting-on-dulles-airport-as-freight-hub-part-2/), for more discussion on the plans to make Dulles into a freight hub.

      VDOT is building a new US 460 from Norfolk to I-95, and taxpayers helped finance the Heartland Corridor freight rail expansion from Norfolk to Ohio, to transport containers from the port – but air freight to Dulles will be very different from what is shipped in containers from Asia/South America/Europe to Norfolk.

      If the purpose of the Tri-County Parkway is to move trucks from Dulles to I-81, anyone preparing a Public-Private Transportation Act (PPTA) proposal for building that road has gotta calculate two key statistics: how many trucks, paying how much in tolls. Think VDOT has any estimates that they’ll share with the public?

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