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Corey Stewart Delivers An Education On Transportation

By Greg L | 2 October 2009 | Gerry Connolly, 51st HOD District, Prince William County | 15 Comments

Prince William County Chairman Corey Stewart’s opinion piece in the Bull Run Observer about promoting metro as the solution to our transportation problems, something Congressman Gerry “Cowardly” Connolly and Delegate Paul Nichols have advocated, is getting a lot more attention than a piece in this small (yet quite impressive) publication would usually merit.  No one has had the guts to level with the taxpayers about what Metro would actually mean for the county, and without an honest assessment of the costs and benefits, selling Metro as a transportation plan for the county is irresponsible.  Kudos to Corey for taking this on, and writing such an informative piece.

Two important things about the people of Prince William County: they want the truth, and they want the whole story. They want the good, they’ll accept the bad, and they’ll tolerate the ugly, as long as it’s all true. Elected officials have a responsibility to speak the truth—the whole truth.

Two politicians, Congressman Gerry Connolly and Delegate Paul Nichols, have told the community that they would bring Metro to Prince William. Unfortunately, Connolly and Nichols have failed to tell the whole truth about Metro, and many residents now mistakenly believe that Metro may soon be extended to our community. But the whole truth is this: even if federal and state officials decided today to bring Metro to Prince William, experts tell us it will take between 20 and 30 years, if ever.

Let me be crystal clear: I want Metro. The Board of County Supervisors wants Metro and has directed the County Department of Transportation study this issue over the years. The benefits are numerous and easy to articulate. Our county is hungry for new options to commute, and we’re eager to take advantage of the economic development and job growth opportunities that have followed Metro in the past. We will continue to work towards Metro as part of our long-term economic development plans.

So, what are the obstacles to bringing Metro to Prince William? The first is money. The approximate construction cost for an extension to Woodbridge would be $2.0-$2.1 billion in FY2007 dollars (double that if we bring it to Gainesville, as some have suggested). The County’s portion would be at least $300 million, in construction costs alone. In addition, Prince William would need to negotiate an entry into the Metro Compact. This would entail the county absorbing part of Metro’s mountain of $6 billion of debt. On top of this, the Metro system is aging and is in need of upgrades and repair, as evidenced by the tragic accident last June. Prince William would be expected to pay its portion of those massive costs.

These costs alone, which do not include the millions in annual maintenance and operational costs, would consume the County’s entire transportation construction budget. Every four years since 1988, Prince William residents have passed road bond referenda to the tune of $600 million. No other county in Virginia has done this, not even wealthier Fairfax County.  Fairfax has not invested in its roads for one major reason: it’s transportation budget is gobbled up by Metro costs. Prince William residents will need to ask the question: should we sacrifice our entire County road building program so that we can bring Metro to one spot in the County in 20 to 30 years?

But why will it take between 20 and 30 years? Consider the long-planned extension of Metro to Dulles. Since the 1960s the federal government and the Commonwealth have been working on connecting the nation’s capital with the largest airport serving it. With a less clear benefit to the federal government, Metro to Woodbridge would be subject to even more false starts and cost constraints. Between the planning, environmental impact studies, the engineering, the agreements between multiple jurisdictions and the state and federal government, and the inevitable lawsuits from multiple aggrieved parties, there is no telling how long it would take before a shovel would even be in the ground.

However, the worst case scenario is not that Metro would never come, it would be the consequences of assuming that it will. When the County plans on a longterm transportation improvement, we account for it in our Comprehensive Plan. In the past, this has inevitably led to the construction of new houses years before the transportation improvements were complete. There are many examples of this in Prince William, including the Linton Hall road corridor and the Government Center Sector Plan (at Ridgefield Road and the Parkway). The homes were built, but the roads came much later. Now try to imagine the housing construction that would occur in anticipation of Metro. Thousands of new high-density units would be built all along the Minnieville Road and Route 1 corridors years before Metro arrived. The congestion would be immense and the quality of life degraded.

In short, I am not being a pessimist when I say that Metro to Prince William County is 20 to 30 years away. All great ideas take time to develop, and we will not avoid working on this goal just because it is lofty. But we must be realistic in the way we communicate with the community.

And Prince William Residents do not have 20 to 30 years to wait. The County continues to support Virginia Railway Express. Our time and energy is well spent focusing on expanding VRE to Gainesville and Haymarket. On Tuesday September 15th, the Board of County Supervisors took the next step toward high-speed rail transit from Richmond to Washington D.C. through Prince William. This line would produce fast commuter service to the District of Columbia and to the existing Metro network. The County is even studying 21st century solutions like Bus Rapid Transit, which builds dedicated lanes for buses to travel during peak commuter hours along major thoroughfares. But most importantly, as long as the federal and state governments continue to fail to build the roads necessary for Prince William commuters, the County must continue to focus on road construction.

So when a federal or state official talks about Metro: tell them you don’t want false promises. Tell them you want them to get the job done and fund realistic transit and transportation. We will continue to work hard towards all innovative solutions, but we will also be straight with the citizens that some things will have to wait.

So now that the adults here have weighed in, perhaps we can have a responsible discussion about this before we plow billions of dollars into a system that won’t resolve congestion for Prince William County commuters and travellers.  Metro might be a good answer for the county as a long-term solution, but we better well understand what we’d be giving up in order to get it.



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15 Comments

  1. startover said on 2 Oct 2009 at 4:23 pm:
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    This is a very good article. We do not need Metro.
    Work on the Rail Service and our major roads.

    This pie in the sky that these Democrats want to keep promising,they know it won’t work. It will take every Cent we have left and then what??

    Somethings is just throwing money out the window,just like the Ferry idea. It is not good or right for the people.

    To put all of our solutions in one basket is not the thing to do.

    Enhance the Rail,the buses and roads to make it easier for the commuter to get to work. But most of all Bring those Government Jobs here. We have alot to offer.

    If D.C. keeps going their way,we will not want our Government Buildings in D.C.

    Bring the Buildings to the people.

  2. NotTimothyGeithner said on 2 Oct 2009 at 4:58 pm:
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    How exactly would Metro expansion work anyway? They can’t just expand an existing line and put more cars on without major changes to metro up-line. In a lot of ways, Metro is already at capacity on that line. Most people would want to use it to commute. Its full already. They’ve added the trains they can run without delaying service.

    The metro expansion to Dulles was based on servicing the airports, but they can work that around so it doesn’t interfere with commuters already on the line.

    Thats a problem without even looking at cost. Anyone who is telling you metro can just be expanded is delusional, a liar, or ignorant. Perhaps all three.

  3. Howard the Duck said on 2 Oct 2009 at 6:21 pm:
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    You really want to get stuck in the tunnel between Foggy Bottom and Rosslyn, which often happens, in an unairconditioned car, in the face of a total stranger, instead of doing something enjoyable with your time? How about a three hour delay?

    The PW Connector is a nice ride, you sit in a comfortable seat and drive past the really nice things to see in DC, it would be more affordable to expand the fleet of buses and provide more local bus transit to where you live. I rode the blue line for years from Fairfax County and it’s already maxed out. It costs a fortune to ride Metro.

    Also, what every Blue line rider knows, Metro runs two Orange Line trains for every Blue line at rush hour.

  4. Ron said on 2 Oct 2009 at 7:54 pm:
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    Believe me, you should keep the OmniRide buses. You get to your destination faster, cheaper, with an express ride. I wish we could do that from Western Fairfax County!

  5. Harry said on 3 Oct 2009 at 9:08 am:
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    Corey Stewart has an excellent vision of yesterday, he has no vision of tomorrow, next year or 10 years from now, (other, of course, how he palns to be elected to congress). Stewrt, in the past has, indicated that Metro was a good idea, but could never happen. What Connolly has done is to get a federal study to determine feasibilty and viability. There are numerous reasons for Metro to eastern PWC: 1) reduce the commute for thousands now sitting in traffic; 2) revitalization of the Rt 1 corridor, Metro would bring business to eastern PWC, high speed rail will not. Stewart in the past bragged about how the improvements at PW Parkway and Old Bridge Road would alleviate traffic on Old Bridge Road, another fabrication, now it takes 45 minutes in the morning to travel fro that intersection to Rt 123. Tell Corey, the transportation fairy is not coming to solve the mess we’re in, essentially beacuse former politians like McQuigg kept their heads in the sand and didn’t see the crisis coming because they were only looking at yeasterday, just as Stewart is doing now.

  6. Citizen12 said on 3 Oct 2009 at 1:51 pm:
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    There is only one realistic solution and it has been ignored for over 20 years now. Startover touched on it.

    startover said on 2 Oct 2009 at 4:23 pm”But most of all Bring those Government Jobs here.”

    A metro transit system only really works moving people within a district, not in and out. The added lane on 66 we got in the 90’s only bought us at best 2 years relief which was quickly offset by expansive development.

    The roots cause it trying decade after decade to funnel more and more people in and out of the D.C. area, all the while doing this primarily on 5 or 6 roads originally designed to bring goods in and out of the Alexandria waterfront over 150 years ago.

  7. Greg L said on 3 Oct 2009 at 2:03 pm:
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    Good point. Take a look at Bailey’s crossroads, for example.

    They announced that metro would go there, and in advance of the first rail being laid the place exploded with high-rise apartments and the existing infrastructure was utterly swamped in short order. There’s still no Metro there, and the place has become a transportation disaster. Announce that metro is coming to Woodbridge, and in five years there will be high-density residential development all over the place, no metro, and absolute chaos on the roads.

    Instead, if the jobs were in Woodbridge and people wouldn’t have to drive on 95/495 to get to work, there wouldn’t be nearly the gridlock we see on those interstates. Instead of trying to get Metro in 20-30 years and having proposed stations act like huge bug lights for residential development for decades, we can bring the jobs out to Prince William and actually solve the problem, instead of creating new ones.

  8. Dittyman8 said on 3 Oct 2009 at 8:18 pm:
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    Greg L:

    Ditto! I fully agree that DC, Arlington, and Alexandria are pretty much maxed out when it comes to transportation capacity. The notion of adding a Metro station at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars when we already have a VRE station here is silly. The money would be better spent moving jobs out here. Besides no one is really discussing direct mass transit options to other job growth areas such as Tysons Corner or the Dulles Corrider. Gee, for me to get to work from Woodbridge to Herndon using mass transit, I would have to take the VRE into Springfield, then transfer to Metro and take the Blue & Orange lines to West Falls Church, take a bus to Tysons and catch my firm’s shuttle to Herndon. Or I can drive there myself in about 45-60 minutes.

    One bad development I have noticed that no one is really been talking about is that DoD commands have been given permission to delay their moves under the BRAC to 2014 vice 2011. If they kept to the original schedule, many of the jobs in Arlington and Alexandria would already be heading in thei direction. At least the move of the FBI’s Washington Field Office was a step in the right direction.

  9. Anonymous said on 4 Oct 2009 at 6:58 am:
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    I took public transportation from Kensington to Manassas just this past Friday night. I left a little after 8. Walked to the bus stop. Waited for the bus. Took the bus to the metro station. Waited 15 minutes for the next train. Then went to Metro Center and waited another 14 minutes. Then my wife picked me up at Vienna. I got to Manassas a little before 10.

  10. Monster_Mom said on 4 Oct 2009 at 10:37 am:
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    I took my 2 kids to DC recently at non-peak times to have lunch and wander around the Memorials. I drove to Vienna and took the Orange Line. Parking at Vienna was $5 as it was off peak. Farecards for each of us were $5. That’s $20 for 3 people to spend the afternoon in DC. It took over an hour one way.

    A week or so later I took my kids and friend to DC to see the Air and Space Museum and Natural History Museum. I parked at a garage near the Navy Memorial that I like to use (because it has restrooms that are clean). Parking in the garage cost $20 for all day parking. It took about a hour to drive one way and park

    Metro’s great in the city, but it stinks if you’re outside the city center. The stops are too far apart, it takes too long to get where you’re going, and, if you’re traveling with more than 3 people, it’s cheaper to drive.

    PWC should be investing in expanding VRE to Gainesville and Haymarket, high speed bus, and high speed rail to Richmond. We should be looking to build roads to take people from the west end of the county to Chantilly and Reston. We should be looking to develop flexible office space at Innovation and in other areas around the county so that we can attract larger businesses and government agencies to come out here.

  11. legal2 said on 4 Oct 2009 at 11:35 am:
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    Every time DC Government people rant to charge fees on commuters working in DC, more agencies and employers should move out.

  12. Robert L. Duecaster said on 5 Oct 2009 at 9:43 am:
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    Metro stinks. It’s too expensive, environmentally unfriendly, and presents a target-rich environment for our enemies. Can the metro plan.

    Some of the posts above have touched on the solution(s) to our commuting problems:

    1) The federal government needs to disperse. In this age of instant communications, video-teleconferencing, etc., there is no need to have federal offices concentrated in D.C. Dispersion is a cheap answer to security. Every 2nd lieutenant knows that.

    2) Buses. More buses and more buses. And neighborhood parking lots at bus stops.

    3) HOV-3 reinstituted on I-66, and enforced. Commuter parking lots to facillitate slug lines.

    4) A recent quip by Delegate Nichols actually has more truth than humor to it. Sidewalks on (parellel to) I-66 and I-95. Facillitate bikes, motor scooters, and even foot traffic as alternatives to cars.

    These solutions are low-dollar, hence unattractive to politicians who won’t get their kickbacks from contractors. But they’ll work.

  13. Casanova Frankenstein said on 5 Oct 2009 at 11:52 am:
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    Compare what one trip of the VRE costs using a monthly ticket from Woodbridge / Rippon to Union Station to what Metro would charge for a similar trip (check out the cost from Franconia-Springfield to Union Station and extrapolate from there.) The VRE would cost about the same as Metro and get you there faster without having to change trains.

  14. Tom Andrews said on 6 Oct 2009 at 5:25 pm:
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    I’m just happy we have one politician with the backbone to actually tell it like it is, rather than continue to paint some picture that everybody knows isn’t economically feasible or even on a reasonable timetable. Too many politicians will say what their handlers and pollsters tell them people want to hear; at least Corey, love him or hate him is shooting straight with everybody on the transportation issue. It’s refreshing to hear someone say out loud what everybody else is standing around in their backyards saying.

  15. John Light said on 10 Oct 2009 at 2:35 pm:
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    Here’s an idea. If you work in DC…SLUG. Also, look at what Metro has done to the Springfield Mall area…crime has gone up with gangs, etc. coming from DC and other locations to spread their crime and make a “get-away”. No need for a police chase when you just hop on Metro and off you go.

    PWC had the opportunity for Metro YEARS ago when it was MUCH cheaper…but the Democratic controlled BoS shot THAT down because they wanted PWC to be a “bed-room” community.

    Stop building houses and instead start building high wage businesses would also be a good start. These McMansions that have been going up all these past 10 years have REALLY put a drain on the area. Unfortunately, BOTH parties seem to be beholden to the Real Estate Developers/community and won’t stop what they see as “revenue” builders (read tax payers).

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