How Much Have We Lost?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Weekly Column: U.S. 1 Multimodal Study is Done – Now It’s Time for Action

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of November 3, 2014.
U.S. 1 Multimodal Study is Done – Now It’s Time for Action

Last week, a long-standing debate in our community was finally resolved – what should the U.S. 1 Corridor look like? It was a long time coming.

When I was a sophomore at James Madison University, one of the first steps that newly-elected Senator Toddy Puller took was to try to generate some consensus around the long-term vision for U.S. 1.

In 1998, Senator Puller won passage of legislation requiring the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to create a master design for U.S. 1 from Alexandria to Fredericksburg. Prince William and Stafford Counties found their consensus, but the Fairfax County process stalled.  


When I was elected in 2009, I met with VDOT and asked them how we could restart that process. Senator Puller and I secured $2 million in state funding, and last week a decision-makers executive committee reached the conclusion – the U.S. 1 corridor needs a Yellow Line Metro extension to Hybla Valley and a median dedicated bus rapid transit system to Woodbridge as soon as possible.

The first question is when do we want to get there? The responses I have received from my constituents are crystal clear – yesterday!

At our last executive committee meeting, Supervisor Gerry Hyland agreed with me that the time is now. The next question is, how do we get there?

The most challenging task is finding funding. I have full faith that our federal, state and local officials can come up with the funding to pay for a $2.2 billion project.

First, the state must provide funding.  During the study process, Virginia transportation officials indicated that the state could likely provide at least $800 million in dedicated transit funds and road-widening funds. 

Second, we must access regional funding.  If the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors makes U.S. 1 and its redevelopment a priority, then the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) should be able to commit at least an equal amount from the $300 million per year generated by last year’s gas and sales tax increase. If we cannot secure $1 billion of those funds over the next 20 years for this area, then we are not working hard enough.

Third, local funding must come into play.  Fairfax County should be able to provide at least several hundred million dollars in local transportation funds.

Fourth, our Congressional delegation  should  help us secure federal funds through transit funds under the Federal Transit Administration programs or other programs. Given that Fort Belvoir is expected to have 30,000 new jobs in the next two decades and sits on 8,000 acres that neither Fairfax County or the state can tax, the U.S. military must step up and help fund this project.

The other big question is zoning. To support a transit investment that is this large, we need to replan the entire U.S. 1 Corridor. I have yet to meet a constituent who thinks the U.S. 1 Corridor is acceptable as is. This redesign of the Comprehensive Plan must look at (1) both sides of U.S. 1 and (2) at the same time. This has never been done because of the way supervisor district lines are drawn.

Most people who actually live in on or near U.S. 1 do not choose where they shop, eat, drive or send their kids to school along supervisor district lines – we must make these major planning decisions along more sensible community lines and not artificial political boundaries.

Finally, to those who say we must wait for development before we take steps to extend Metro, I would suggest that they look to our north. Just last week, the Washington Post reported that the Reston was redeveloping faster than Tyson’s Corner even though the Silver Line Metro is not opening in Reston until 2018 at the earliest. This is because the planning was done decades ago, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors sent the message that change is coming, the project was funded and people want to live and work in Reston.

It is time to take the next steps for our community. If you send the message, they will come.

It is an honor to serve as your state delegate. If you have any feedback, please email me at scottsurovell@gmail.com

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