The Commonwealth Transportation Board is set to consider a proposal today from Virginia’s Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton to designate an “Outer Beltway” or “Western Bypass” as a “corridor of statewide significance.” Such a designation would make it easier to acquire funding for its construction.
Meanwhile, the “don’t build anything anywhere” crowd is already gearing up to oppose it with hysterical claims that it will open up rural areas to development and “disturb tranquil areas around Manassas National Battlefield.”
We don’t need an “Outer Beltway” / “Western Bypass” — we need TWO of them plus Maryland to step up to the plate and do their part as well. The original plan for the Beltway conceived in the 1950s and cancelled in the 1980s was to have a total of three concentric beltways. (Part of one of these aligns with portions of the Fairfax County Parkway and Montgomery County’s Inter-County Connector.) This would have allowed through traffic to avoid the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Instead, travelers and freight clog residents’ daily commutes as they all pile onto I-95 / I-495 regardless of what their final destination is.
The Coalition for Smarter Growth continuously proclaims things such as it is “a development corridor, not a traffic reliever.” They provide no real solutions for traffic relief, though. That’s because the only solution they have is to pile all of us into hi-rise buildings concentrated around mass transit hubs. They fought the ICC and lost. Gov. Bob McDonnell and Connaughton should take a lesson from former MD Gov. Bob Ehrlich and get this done the way he did with the ICC. The ICC is Ehrlich’s transportation legacy that he will long be remembered for. McDonnell can make the Outer Beltway / Western Bypass his.
Development is going to happen wherever developers see an opportunity. Lack of infrastructure didn’t stop them from developing the Brentsville District in Prince William County. And we’ve heard the argument against disturbing the “tranquil areas around Manassas National Battlefield” before when Disney’s America was driven out of town only to be replaced by thousands of new homes in its place with taxpayers holding the bill for infrastructure, schools, police and fire services.
It IS possible to build this route responsibly without making it a corridor for new development. First, the local county governments have the power to zone land for specific purposes. They can take the lead by not changing current zoning designations. Second, the state can help with this by truly making the road a “bypass” as in having limited ingress and egress.
Commuters must rise up to counter the enviros / no-growthers if they hope to get some of the traffic off current routes.