I figured since I was going to be re-using the photo from my earlier post “A Tale of Two Senate Candidates” that I should try and keep to a similar theme. This truly is, though, a tale of two projects. Both are in eastern Prince William County, but couldn’t be more different. One is private sector and will be a big boon to the area while the other is a public boondoggle.
First up, the private sector project…
PWC Chairman / Lt. Gov. candidate Corey Stewart (right) and U.S. Sen. candidate George Allen (left) tour the high-end Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center mixed use development construction site in Prince William County near Potomac Mills Mall
Stonebridge is already home to Wegman’s, Orvis and other shops and later this year a host of high-end stores and restaurants will open their doors. This development finally recognizes and accurately reflects that PWC is one of the ten wealthiest counties in the U.S. and a great place to do business. I cannot say enough good things about what is going on there.
Now, heading down Route 1 to the south just a few miles, we find the other extreme in projects.
According the Prince William County:
Today the Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) cut the ribbon on the Route 1 improvements from Joplin Road to Brady’s Hill Road. This project widened Route 1 to six lanes to improve traffic flow and address flooding issues. It is part of the larger effort in the County to redevelop this important gateway to the County! www.pwcgov.org
Oh, where do I begin?
First, I wholeheartedly believe that Route 1 must be widened throughout PWC from the Fairfax county line at the Occoquan River in the north to the Stafford county line to the south. However, starting here made no sense whatsoever. Traffic flows to the north in the morning towards DC and to the south in the evening. The further north you travel in the morning, the more cars are added to the flow of traffic as they come out of residential developments along the way. The reverse holds true in the evening, with traffic decreasing the further south you go as drivers turn off into their subdivisions along the way. The smart thing to do would have been to start the widening in the north and work southward. That would have begun to provide immediate congestion relief for everyone in eastern PWC and spurred redevelopment in areas of Woodbridge in need of it the most.
Instead, they picked a half-mile stretch towards the southern end of the county just north of the entrance to Quantico Marine Corps Base to widen. Don’t be fooled by the proximity to Quantico as most cars cross Route 1 after exiting I-95 to enter the base. This section of Route 1 is perhaps the least congested of any portion of the road in PWC with the exception of the stretch south of there leading to Stafford County. Widening this half mile provides little to no real congestion relief.
Second, the entire business tax base on that stretch of the road was wiped out. The landscaping with trees, bushes and other ornamentals is beautiful, but they don’t pay taxes! The 7-11, McDonald’s, Burger King, Dent’s Sea Food, military surplus store, furniture store and the legendary Globe and Laurel restaurant all were torn down. (The Globe and Laurel has since relocated — to Stafford County.)
To this, the county responded:
The new six-lane design allows for traffic to move through this area much more efficiently, fixed the extensive flooding problem in that intersection, and lays the foundation to bring in businesses to serve that area. It is also a tremendous gateway to our community for those passing through and those who visit Quantico and the National Marine Corps Museum.
Problem is, the available land for new businesses to serve that area is a fraction of what there was for the old ones that are now gone. Were the old ones nice looking? Other than the Globe and Laurel, not really. But they looked a heck of a lot better than areas around Marumsco Plaza in Woodbridge on Route 1 and some cosmetic changes to the exteriors (perhaps some low-cost tax incentives would have done the trick) could have gone a long way towards improving the image of this stretch of the road without decimating the tax base. Talk to any military family and they will tell you they are shocked at the lack of businesses outside of Quantico MCB as every other experience they’ve had elsewhere is quite different. People were already heading to Stafford County from Quantico to shop and dine. This gave them virtually no other choice nearby.
Finally, there is what I like to refer to as the “Sidewalk To Nowhere.” It is an approximately 6-foot wide asphalt path (well, it will be once they pave it) on the west side of Route 1 that stretches the full half-mile where the road was widened. I don’t have the foggiest idea of who will use it or where they would come from or where they would go on it. There is a standard concrete sidewalk on the east side of Route 1, but this extra-wide path is apparently meant for joggers and bikers (wherever they may magically materialize from.)
If there is one good thing I have to say about this project, it is that the foolish idea of putting a traffic circle at the intersection of Route 1 and Joplin Road was scrapped. Call them traffic circles, roundabouts, rotaries, whatever. They’re nightmares and placing one at that intersection would have backed traffic back up onto I-95 for vehicle trying to enter Quantico. I’ve driven on them in New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts not to mention D.C. and I can only point to two that actually work well and that is because they are grade separated with through traffic able to continue at speed beneath the circle. One is DuPont Circle in DC which is okay and the other is Latham Circle in upstate NY which has a very unique design (see below) and has functioned well for decades.
So, when both of these projects are complete, one will be met with accolades while the other will elicit yawns. Unfortunately, that is our tax dollars at work once again…