Over 350 people show up to hear VDOT explain how they’re going to be screwed
Yesterday’s Gainesville District Town Hall meeting at Bull Run Middle School was a perfect demonstration of how citizens react when government agencies seem to threaten their quality of life and don’t appear to be very interested in addressing their concerns. Supervisor Pete Candland and Delegate Tim Hugo’s meeting with representatives from the various agencies involved in a new North-South Connector between I-95 and Route 7 through Dulles Airport drew a massive turnout of concerned citizens who left the meeting more alarmed, confused and upset than when they first arrived.
This is government at it’s most depressing worst.
If you ever want to see horrible government in action, just watch local, state or federal bureaucrats explain to citizens what is happening with some project or program in which those citizens will inevitably suffer to some degree. I don’t expect the public spokesmen for these bureaucracies to be tremendous public relations people, or have the authority to take input from citizens outside the strict confines of some formal process and realize the citizens might have a point and modify what’s going on. It would be nice to see that, but I certainly don’t expect it.
McDonnell’s representative from the Commonwealth Transportation Board explains how he will make sure this happens
Instead what we almost always see is an exhausting brief of the byzantine bureaucratic process that is underway and the tremendous progress being made to ram this initiative to completion despite there being three hundred and fifty people packed into the room who desperately want that initiative stopped that instant. VDOT and the other agencies represented at the meeting gave a brief that would be well regarded during some transportation planning conference, but absolutely the wrong briefing for this audience. The people in the room didn’t care about corridor studies from 2005, the process used to complete an environmental impact study, or which regulations govern transportation projects that use money from the National Highway Administration.
They just want to know how they can stop this disaster — and it is all that and more — from happening.
Since these bureaucrats won’t tell them how to do that and obviously aren’t that interested in hearing about the impacts their grand plans will have on communities and individual residents, folks start getting angry and unavoidably come to the conclusion that VDOT, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, and the other agencies at the meeting are the enemy. Elected officials in attendance, such as Bob Marshall, Dick Black, Tim Hugo and Peter Candland, all of whom know how to actually listen to citizens and try to address their concerns are their only saviors. One side of this equation is concerned about complying with federal wetlands regulations and ‘corridors of state significance’, and the other side is concerned with people.
Delegate Rich Anderson is clearly not amused by these bureaucrats
Supervisor Pete Candland and Delegate Tim Hugo don’t seem much impressed, either
I appreciate the courage of these bureaucrats to come out and put on full display the degree to which they inadvertently foster such widespread contempt and wrath, as it’s not comfortable to stand up in front of hundreds of people and carefully paint a bullseye on your chest. Someday maybe they’ll figure out that their participation in this kind of meeting doesn’t necessarily have to inflame the audience, but that day is not today. For now, these bureaucrats conduct their “outreach” with all the gentleness of the Third Panzer Group during Operation Barbarossa.
But even an effective public engagement by VDOT couldn’t mask the disaster this plan has in store for residents in Prince William County.
Residents are still protesting this plan 2 1/2 hours into the meeting
For all the discomfort and pain Prince William County residents will feel from the implementation of this North-South Corridor, it is clear they will accrue no appreciable benefit. There simply is no pressing problem of people getting from Dumfries to Route 7 in Loudoun County. Sure, it’s not particularly convenient to do so, but so vastly few even want to it begs the question of why we’re even considering this debacle in the first place. The transportation problems we suffer from in Prince William County almost entirely relate to inadequate East-West transportation corridors and half a billion dollars (the projected cost of this project) thrown at that problem instead might just improve things a bit. Plowing that money instead into a North-South Corridor will simply not benefit county residents in any meaningful way. This is a complete waste of taxpayer dollars.
Delegate Bob Marshall points out flaws in the planning and intent of the project
This project has to benefit someone, as there certainly is a push for this project despite the huge costs and disruption for many residents in the Gainesville District. The stated rationale is that this project will support economic growth in the two strategic areas Governor Bob McDonnell has identified: the ports in Hampton Roads and Dulles Airport. We’ve already invested a shocking amount of money building an alternate bypass for the lightly-traveled Route 460 between Petersburg and Norfolk and there’s no evidence at all this massive suck on taxpayer dollars is going to yield any benefit. The same outcome is quite likely from this project as well.
The only beneficiaries to this project would appear to be those interested in increasing development density in the Gainesville District and Loudoun County between the county line and Dulles Airport where there’s already been a substantial residential development boom. An additional high capacity road would make it possible to open pretty substantial tracts of land up to development, and the wide easements for that road would easily accommodate water and sewer lines as well. Gum Springs Road is already being widened, Pleasant Valley Road could be widened without too much difficulty, and this corridor running right in between them to the Loudoun County Parkway could turn a pretty huge tract of largely undeveloped and low-density land into the next iteration of Ashburn.
Half a billion dollars of taxpayer money being spent to help developers transform another part of the Rural Crescent into another high density residential profit center for builders and developers. How wonderful.
In order to do this landowners near the Battlefield are going to pay a heavy price, a portion of the Battlefield itself will be turned into a four or possibly six lane highway, and portions of Route 29 and Sudley Road will be closed. Bureaucrats are quick to tell us that the decisions about whether this project makes sense and where it will be sited have already been made, and now we’re just working through the rest of the process before this road project gets built. Our elected officials, who got quite a surprise after this project which has been largely dormant since 2005 suddenly seems to have funding to move forward are struggling to understand what’s happening and what the impacts are, and vowed to me they’re going to at least make sure citizen concerns about this project get addressed.
Let’s hope they’re successful.
The opinions expressed here are solely the views of the author, and not representative of the position of any organization, political party, doughnut shop, knitting guild, or waste recycling facility, but may be correctly attributed to the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. If anything in the above article has offended you, please click here to receive an immediate apology.
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