Monday, May 14, 2018

Weekly Column: Comment on U.S. 1’s Future ASAP

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and Springfield Connection in the week of May 15, 2018.
Comment on U.S. 1’s Future ASAP 
If you care about our community’s future, it is critical that you take a few minutes before May 20 to share our support for upgrading the U.S. 1 corridor, a major, but long-overlooked, commercial, residential and recreational thoroughfare in eastern Fairfax County. 
The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) is now deciding which projects to fund with $1.2 billion as part of its six-year plan.   
Fairfax County submitted several projects including widening U.S. 1 north from Fort Belvoir to Costco ($127 million) and establishing bus rapid transit from Huntington Metro to Fort Belvoir ($250 million) and made these top county-wide priorities.  NVTA ranked these two projects #23 and #24 out of 60 using the new “Smart Scale” criteria and numbers #2 and #8 out of 60 using the HB599 congestion mitigation criteria established by state law.  


If the NVTA follows the rankings, U.S. 1 should get funded (barely), but that’s before regional politics comes into play.  If one project of the remaining thirty-six projects leapfrogs U.S. 1, these two projects will again be kicked down the road again for at least another two years.  
Last week, the NVTA held two public hearings – one in Mount Vernon and one in Fairfax and I attended both.  The Mount Vernon hearing was packed with people supporting U.S. 1 projects.  The Fairfax meeting was also packed, but mainly with supporters from the rest of Northern Virginia advocating for funding all other projects.  The current NVTA Board does not have a single member who lives south of U.S. 50 or east of I-95.    
I cannot over-emphasize how important it is that the NVTA receive comments pointing out that these U.S. 1 projects are needed now, were needed ten years ago, and deserve to be prioritized.  Tysons Corner and the Dulles Metro Corridor have received billions of public and private investment at the expense of the U.S. 1 Corridor and several groups are pushing the NVTA to ignore the objective rankings and push other projects ahead of U.S. 1.  We must stop this with overwhelming community support.    
Please send me your comments and stories about why it is our finally turn.  I will personally deliver every comment I receive to the NVTA and I need yours.  Their comment deadine is May 20.    
Please give me your comments using my quick online form at http://bit.ly/US1comment. Urge your spouse, friends, work colleagues and neighbors to comment.  The future of our community depends on it.
A Little History
In 2013, the General Assembly raised transportation taxes for the first time in 27 years by passing HB2313.  We included three taxes applicable only to Northern Virginia to be allocated by the NVTA.
 
We also passed two bills to take the NOVA politics out of road building by requiring all projects to be ranked using objective metrics to measure each project’s relative ability to reduce congestion, create economic development, improve safety and improve the environment (mainly air quality).  Each project is given a benefit score and that is divided by the project cost to show which project provides the best bang for the buck.   The NVTA uses this method to rank projects in Northern Virginia. 
In 2011, former Senator Toddy Puller and I secured funds for the Route 1 Multimodal Alternatives Analysis to develop a roadmap for U.S. 1 in Fairfax County.  The final plan recommended a four-phase approach to widen U.S. 1 to six lanes, build a median-dedicated bus rapid transit system, create dual-multi-use paths and sidewalks and adopt new land use patterns with a robust, interconnected, street grid and significantly enhanced housing densities to support a two-stop extension of the Yellow Line to Hybla Valley.  The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors adopted this plan as part of the Embark Route 1 process earlier this year.   
Convincing NVTA to approve these first two U.S. 1 projects is an urgent step to bringing congestion relief, more upscale commercial activity, jobs, walkable communities and more modern amenities to our community.  Please send me your comments today at http://bit.ly/US1comment and I will deliver them to NVTA. 
It is an honor to serve as your state senator.  If you have any questions, I can be reached at scott@scottsurovell.org.

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