Paul Akers, the schitzophrenic Editor of the Free-Lance Star, has come out with another biased editorial excretion without any semblance of balance. This one, one the topic of the much-discussed Rappahannock Toll Road.
Some background: for some years, there has been a need for a new Western crossing of the Rappahannock River. As Stafford and Spotsylvania developed Rt 17 and Rt 3, there has been a struggle to adjust to growth in those areas. In response, there have already been several projects to address that- including a botched widening of Rt 3 (with Federal stimulus money). In the 1990s and 2000s, a project called the Outer Connector would have created a short Western passage from I-95 exit 136 or 140 in Stafford, crossing Rt 17 in Stafford, then across the Rappahannock into Rt 3 in growing Western Spotsylvania. That project was nixed by the City of Fredericksburg- who (despite the project not going through the City) owned the shorelines of the river on both sides due to an historical quirk, and had the right to nix the project. Eventually those concerned with the Battlefields (not an irrelevant concern) joined to deep-six it.
So, in response, they came up with a concept of putting two new interchanges between Exit 133 and 130, two new river crossings, and a toll road going from I-95, exiting at Fredericksburg’s Central Park shopping complex, and continuing through the environmentally sensitive areas just south of the River in Spotsylvania, dumping off at Rt 3 near Gordon Road.
Two bridges, two new interchanges in a three-mile span, and a four-mile toll road (this part costing $400 million).
This is where the issue falls apart.
First, the cost of the project would have fallen almost entirely on Spotsylvanians using the toll road- and at $100 million/mile of road, that would have been no insignificant toll they would have paid per trip. The high toll per trip would have diminished the traffic benefit significantly.
Second, the brunt of eminient domain theft would have fallen disproportionately on Spotsylvanians, the road would have crossed the property of hundreds of people in a part of the county near the River and a reservoir that would have been environmentally sensitive, to say the least (not to mention tourism lost, etc). Spotsy would have been the only entity to have had to make significant residential eminent domain thefts, incurring the cost and time to do so.
Third, the only exits would have been into Fredericksburg’s Central Park and ending up onto Spotsylvania’s Gordon Road. That means that significant traffic and sales tax revenue would have been diverted away from Spotsy businesses on Rt 3 and toward the City’s Central Park (no wonder the City suddenly “forgot” their environmental concerns for this project, huh?).
Fourth, VDOT estimates that the road would have saved the average Spotsylvanian only 7 minutes to reach Gordon Road. That’s a lot of money for 7 minutes.
Fifth, if not enough money were collected from tolls, the balance would have come from- you guessed it- General Funds.
Akers makes a bunch of condescending and inaccurate assertions in his piece as well. He implies the Supervisors who voted against this only listen to NIMBYs and the Spotsy GOP. Problem is, the Spotsy GOP took no position on the Toll Road last year, at all. The new Supervisors, however, knocked on literally thousands of doors to talk to tens of thousands of voters. One wonders how many people Paul Akers talked to about this topic. Also, he neglects to mention that the vote against the Toll Road was 5-2 (Supervisor Emmitt Marshall voted against it as well, and he is no one’s conservative).
Interestingly, Akers does not take the Fredericksburg City Council to task for its environmental concerns killing a project that would have relieved these issues years ago. As usual, he lays the blame for all the region’s problems at the feet of Spotsy- specifically, Spotsylvania conservatives. The new supervisors actually wrote an op-ed explaining their position and outlining other options they would like to pursue. Akers chose to sit on that op-ed instead of printing it; instead, he took an out-of-context quote from one of the new Supervisors to make it look like he was some kind of uninformed rube. Finally, he implies that the current supervisors had opposed the 2003 Outer Connector; none of them said a peep about it then. That part was an outright misrepresentation by Akers.
Bottom line, a paper is supposed to be democracy’s forum for truth and opinion (separate sections, of course). The FLS under Akers is neither. He needs to be replaced by someone competent to tell the truth and confident enough allow for diversity of opinion.