Snuff Out the Smart-Scale Revolt before it Grows

True, I-95 traffic north of Fredericksburg is a nightmare. But circumventing Smart Scale to widen the interstate for 44 miles is a bad idea.

Smart Scale prioritizes road and highway projects in Virginia by collecting metrics for congestion, safety, the environment, economic development and other indicators. Ideally, the scores ensure that scarce road construction dollars will be allocated on the basis of merit, not political pull.

But Smart Scale isn’t working for the Fredericksburg area, argues a Free Lance-Star editorial. A stretch of Interstate 95 between Fredericksburg and the Springfield interchange in Fairfax County has been identified as the location of two of the worst traffic hotspots in the country. Writes the newspaper:

The Virginia Department of Transportation … needs to prioritize the 44-mile project.

VDOT’s Six Year Improvement Program does include $125 million for the southbound Rappahannock River Crossing project, but the last round of Smart Scale did not recommend funding the corresponding northbound river crossing, much less the two-lane expansion Cole envisions.

Instead, Smart Scale directs millions of limited transportation dollars to less-urgent projects, such as pedestrian trails, bike lanes and commuter parking lots.

For 2018, VDOT has greenlighted seven projects in the Fredericksburg District, which includes turn lanes, intersection reconstruction and improving commuter parking lots totaling more than $10 million. Another $14.4 million project will widen Exit 126 off I–95 and Route 1 at Southpoint Parkway.

There’s nothing wrong with these projects. But when they take priority over keeping traffic flowing on the busiest interstate highway in the nation, there’s something wrong with Smart Scale.

Del. Mark Cole, R-Stafford, has introduced a bill for the 2018 General Assembly session that would add an additional north and southbound lane to Interstate 95 from Massaponax to the Springfield interchange: ““Such project shall be funded from existing appropriations to the Commonwealth Transportation Board and shall not be subject to the [Smart Score] prioritization process.”

The changes of the bill passing are just about nil. Why would any other legislator wish to privilege Cole’s transportation priority over their own? Passing this bill would open the floodgates for other legislators asking for exemptions for their own pet projects, effectively scrapping Smart Score as an objective means for funding road projects.

I will readily concede that the aforementioned stretch of I-95 is a nightmare. While I don’t commute on I-95, I use it with some regularity to visit my mother in Fredericksburg and my son in Fairfax. The logjams are so frequent and so bad that I periodically vow to never travel that way again. However, while adding lanes would alleviate congestion temporarily, there is ample evidence to suggest that improving travel times would induce more people to live in Stafford/Fredericksburg/Spotsylvania and commute to work in Northern Virginia. Without changing land use patterns, spending billions of dollars on congestion relief would achieve only temporary benefits.

Adding two more lanes for such a distance would cost billions of dollars. The Smart Scale methodology forces us to compare high-profile mega-projects like widening I-95 to smaller projects that may create more value for the money invested. The small projects don’t generate nearly as much attention, but there are a lot of them, and they add up. Smart Scale represents a big advance over the way Virginia used to allocate transportation dollars. We need to keep it, and that means saying no to legislators who want to carve out special exemptions.

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29 responses to “Snuff Out the Smart-Scale Revolt before it Grows

  1. re: ” For 2018, VDOT has greenlighted seven projects in the Fredericksburg District, which includes turn lanes, intersection reconstruction and improving commuter parking lots totaling more than $10 million. Another $14.4 million project will widen Exit 126 off I–95 and Route 1 at Southpoint Parkway.”

    how do you compare this against a billion dollars for additional lanes and say it’s misplaced priorities?

    How stupid is that?

    The other problem that is more serious is that smart scale DOES prioritize how many PEOPLE move for a given projects rather than how many vehicles.

    And that DOES get reflected in the ratings and yes..roads that would move a lot of single occupancy vehicles on daily commutes at peak hour congestion are not going to score well. Dynamic tolls for the same number of lanes score higher.

    What is being advocated essentially is that the Fredericksburg to NoVa solo commute should be prioritized over other projects in the region – and the state.

    In other words.. because so many people move to the Fredericksburg area and commute to their NoVa jobs – solo – it should be a Statewide priority A similar argument is being made for Loudoun and other exurban counties. “Our solo commutes are more important than other priorities”

    When they say you cannot build your way out of congestion -this is what they mean. Even if you built additional lanes – all that would do is encourage more people to move to the exurbs intending to commute solo to NoVa jobs.

  2. I have a crazy idea. Since we’re not going to get any relief on I-95 by building new roads, let’s just remove a lot of the cars from the road. How do we do that? Well, that crazy troglodyte in the White House is already on the case: Reduce the size of the administrative state with its inflated salaries averaging in six digits while the private sector average is what? $30,000?

  3. It’s an issue in most urban areas and its’ roots are in the building of beltways “ring roads” that are in some respects the perfect sprawl machine.

    Sooner or later in the growth cycle of most urban areas – they reach the point where the availability of exurban land for building houses for commuters – far, far exceeds any realistic ability to widen the spoke and ring roads to accommodate the growth. The only thing that is different between the urban areas is where they are in that growth timeline. Some are already past it – others marching towards it – others still reached that point decades ago – like New York , Chicago, LA, Houston…

    as the radiating spokes converge on the beltway/ring roads, they concentrate the volume onto roads that are not easily widened without taking developed properties.. Those roads from the beltways in – were never designed to accommodate the volume of traffic that exurban spoke roads could bring.. widen the spoke roads (like I-95) and make the beltway and inner spoke roads a living hell.. for everyone who lives and works there.

    Washington is the HQ of the govt but it could just as well be Charlotte or Atlanta or Austin or Phoenix… Seattle.. the “flavor” of the jobs whether govt or private sector is not really a difference.

    Govt HQ will always exist – as will private sector and you can cut administrative but the bulk of the jobs in govt and private sector are below the administrative level.

    For instance, in Washington the HQ muckety mucks can actually afford to live in NoVa.. it’s the lower level schmucks that have to commute I-95.

    In times past – the lower level schmucks were supposed to use transit , not drive their own cars solo to work!

  4. Experience in California and elsewhere has shown that widening highways results in the same traffic congestion with wider roads in not too many years.

    We need better solutions than just more room for low-occupancy automobiles. This includes both development patterns and transportation solutions.

  5. at it’s essence.. it’s a supply/demand problem. Many people want a standard detached house in a subdivision with a nearby good school – and that commodity is scarce in urbanized areas and that incentivizes exurban commuting.

    I’m not sure how you’d fix that if the goal is to provide more detached housing that is close in and “affordable”.

    Beyond that – the govt has actually got in the business of interfering with the market by subsidizing longer distance solo commuting and were happy to do so until the gas tax money ran out.

    The reality now is that the Virginia sales tax pays more for transportation than the gas tax and in NoVa that number is higher as it has a supplementary sales tax tacked on to the state sales tax.

    One can also argue.. should the supplementary sales tax in NoVa jurisdictions be used to subsidize exurban solo commutes? or is that a cost that should accrue to the exurban jurisdictions?

    People want VDOT to “fix it” but this is way above VDOT’s pay grade and perhaps Mr. Cole has it right – it’s up to the General Assembly but I cannot imagine all the other jurisdictions in Va.. having their reps in the GA tell VDOT to reallocate it’s money to exurban solo commuters to NoVa.

    That’s essentially what Mr. Cole is saying… that VDOT has “enough” money to do that and that they are allocating their money “wrong” and he wants the GA to force VDOT to prioritize existing funding to exurban commuters to NoVa.

    That, no doubt , will be responsive to his base as well as all those exurban commuters who want “relief”. But I cannot imagine neither RoVa nor Nova wanting VDOT to take money away from them and spend it on exurban solo commuters..

  6. The age of widening roads in N. Va. should be over.

    The age of mixing traffic eating land uses and multiplying modes of transit and access points should begin. All the rest is a waste of time, money, and lives.

  7. The capacity on I-95 south of Fairfax County is a joke. Six lanes, three in each direction, simply cannot handle the through traffic. I rarely drive the road during peak commuting times. Most often I’m traveling against the commuting flow. Given the trucks – many of which are plodding along in the middle lane and overall through traffic, no other state in the Union would have six lanes between Fairfax County and Fredericksburg.

    How much capacity is needed to handle through traffic alone? And VDOT should contract out operation of the truck weigh stations so they are open 24/7.

    • I think it Fredericksburg was an urbanized area similar in size to Fairfax I would agree but Fredericksburg is basically a bedroom community so you’d add more Lanes so more people could drive solo from an exurban Community two jobs in Northern Virginia?

  8. So, solving congestion for two of the worst traffic problems in the United States shouldn’t be a priority for VDOT? Instead, we should build more bike lanes. Jim, the next time I’m in Manhattan I’ll be sure to get your number to Bill deBlasio. I understand the good Comrade is looking for some help in fantasizing away his transportation problems.

    Some thoughts …

    1. Growing Metros generate the wealth that pays for everything else in the states that have growing metros. The amount of that wealth being transferred from urban / suburban to rural / small town is both staggering and growing –
    https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-divide-between-americas-prosperous-cities-and-struggling-small-townsin-20-charts-1514543401

    2. Every growing metro in the US has congestion problems. All of them. Go to Charlotte, go to Nashville, go to Austin. The idea that this is unique to NoVa is one of the great absurdities perpetuated on this blog.

    3. Virginia underfunded transportation for decades. The same conservative, Republican geniuses who held the gas tax steady in cents per gallon for 24 years while saying, “T’aint Gonna Pay Fer No NoVer Roads” were the cause of Virginia’s worst transportation problems.

    4. Transportation funds have been misallocated. The fact that a small metropolitan area like Richmond has a four lane beltway around it while I95 is 3 lanes from Fredricksburg to Springfield says it all. As much as there is a swamp in DC there is another swamp in Richmond and they both need draining.

    5. Land use reform, car pooling, mass transit, etc work when the population density reaches a certain point. Nothing will accelerate that, not in NoVa, not in Austin, not in Charlotte. Sitting on our hands hoping for a miraculous revolution in these areas is futile.

    6. There is plenty of money in Virginia for road and transit improvements that will make a difference now. However, $12.5B per year of that money is swept away in company-specific and industry-specific tax breaks handed out by the Thundering Herd of Corruption in Richmond. These tax breaks never expire and are never reviewed for efficacy. Meanwhile, the biggest tax hike in Virginia history under the Warner Administration is followed by the biggest tax hike in Virginia history under the McDonnell Administration is followed by $30 tolls for a road with no improvements under the McAuliffe Administration. Let’s face it – the individual taxpayers in Virginia are funding the systematic corruption of our General Assembly in Richmond and that is the real problem.

    • I think it Fredericksburg was an urbanized area similar in size to Fairfax I would agree but Fredericksburg is basically a bedroom community so you’d add more Lanes so more people could drive solo from an exurban Community two jobs in Northern Virginia? If all Metro areas have similar congestion problems does that mean that all those other urbanized areas also underfunded transportation?

    • I think it Fredericksburg was an urbanized area similar in size to Fairfax I would agree but Fredericksburg is basically a bedroom community so you’d add more Lanes so more people could drive solo from an exurban Community two jobs in Northern Virginia? If all Metro areas have similar congestion problems does that mean that all those other urbanized areas also underfunded transportation? Well the 12.5 billion is General fun not gas tax so seems like if you want more money for transportation in Northern Virginia and you need to have a supplementary tax in Northern Virginia so it doesn’t go to Rich

  9. I’d like to hear Jim’s thoughts on your post, which strikes me as sensible. I know from my time in NOVA working in Arlington County Manager’s office that there was always all hell to pay getting anything out of Richmond, mostly in the arena of local rights to address local problems under Dillon’s Rule.

    There may be more to it than what’s in your post. Don’t know if it’s Richmond conservatism or just Richmond/Southside tribalism. Jim may have some thoughts.

  10. How many times have our local state senators and delegates voted for major bills that serve downstate interests and don’t advance or even harm NoVA interests? Way too often. I understand compromise, but not legislation that provides nothing to one’s constituents. Good legislators would and do withhold their support for major bills that failed to provide a fair share of the pie for their constituents.

    And Fairfax County supervisors, Republicans and Democrats alike, created traffic hell by approving development and dense development without first ensuring adequate transportation facilities were in the works and that sufficient proffers were negotiated and collected. I’ve watched Fairfax land use decisions fairly closely for the last 15 years or so. Very few projects have been built by right. The vast majority required rezoning, special exceptions or even, Comp Plan amendments. Under state law, proffers are applicable in these instances. Moreover, many of these land use changes now require a 527 transportation impact analysis. As most will remember, that law was enacted when Kaine was Governor and is a shining example of how the GA protected Fairfax County residents against the developer-worship from our county supervisors.

    • Anything to also remember is that you just don’t add Lanes to a road you have to tear down and rebuild overpasses Bridges and interchanges and that adds a lot of money to the cost in addition you have to buy developed properties and that adds a lot of money so who are you blaming TMT are you blaming Fairfax seems like Fairfax is not that different than most other urbanized areas when it comes to approving new growth

      • Larry, on what basis have you concluded Fairfax County has behaved the same as most other urbanized areas when it comes to approving new growth? Many other locations are responsible for local roads. Many other states have mandatory impact fees.

        The state supreme court has held that a local jurisdiction does not have to approve a zoning change when the development would cause transportation problems unless the developer proffers either construction of a facility improvement sufficient to address the problem or a cash payment that would achieve the same result. Fairfax County failed to exerciser its authority under state law to balance growth with adequate public facilities. I’m sure other localities around the country have not always done a perfect job, but Fairfax County, given its size, rate of growth historically and lack of adequate infrastructure, has certainly done as bad of a job as anyplace else.

        • why? because almost all urban areas have the same congestion issues.

          DJ thinks it’s a money issue with money that could be used to build roads going to RoVa – but how does that explain all the other urbanized areas with similar congestion issues? Does that mean that all of them also got money stolen from them by their rural/suburban locales?

          And you say Fairfax has not “controlled growth” as well as others have but what other urbanized areas would you point to that have solved their congestion issues by controlling growth “better”?

          I just don’t see a dimes worth of difference congestion-wise on the money or the policies.

          Here’s the thing – there is far, far more land that can be developed that we can build enough road capacity to serve – at least at peak hour. At other times, some urban areas roads look like ghost roads at the wee hours of the day… others have congestion 24/7… I don’t think Fairfax can hold a candle on that issue with the likes of Chicago or LA or New York.. Are you, in effect, saying that Fairfax has done an even worse job on growth and congestion than these places?

          What has changed is the advent of hub/spoke beltways.

          It’s the folks in the exurbs who commute to NoVa and Fairfax that have added to the congestion – not the growth policies. All these folks who moved to Fredericksburg did not move because Fairfax approved too much development.. they moved because Fairfax did NOT approve ENOUGH development to provide those folks with affordable detached housing and so they were forced to go to the exurbs to get that affordable housing.. but the problem is they commute BACK to NoVa to those jobs… you said yourself that I-95 S does not have “enough” capacity and I asked you – if you actually added MORE lanes to I-95 – would that make Fairfax “better” on congestion or just bring even more exurban commuters into Fairfax and NoVa roads?

          I’m looking at seeming contradiction here in what we are saying are causes…

          what say you?

  11. I-95 between Fredericksburg and Springfield is routinely backed up during hours of the day when I am fairly certain that almost nobody on that road is commuting to a job–like Saturday and Sunday.

    I-95 is a major traffic corridor for the east coast.

    It’s been at least 30 years since I-95 was widened to it’s current configuration.

    What I am hearing here is:

    “It’s OK to screw the entire east coast by not widening I-95 to handle current off-peak, non-rush hour, weekend traffic loads because some people might be tempted to move to Fredericksburg and commute to DC”.

    Well, I don’t think you have to worry about that anymore. Just a few days ago you posted data showing that high-income people are moving out of Virginia. That commuting problem seems to be taking care of itself. Perhaps people who have options are stepping back and looking at how this state is being run and voting with their feet.

    People who don’t even live in this state but just pass through on I-95 get a taste of how this state is run.

    By the way, you may recall that Ford had a plant in Norfolk. They closed it some years ago. They stated that one of the reasons for closing it is because of traffic congestion. I’m going to take a wild guess that trucks delivering parts for the assembly process were getting jammed in traffic on I-95 too much. See, the industry like to use something called just-in-time delivery–it works except when your state is run by an imperial clown show. When that happens, trucks sit in traffic. When trucks sit in traffic, someone’s costs are going up.

    Now, if the left-lane passing rule were actually enforced on I-95 such that someone in the left-lane matching speeds with someone in the middle lane actually got pulled over and ticketed, you might find that the highway works better and has more capacity with it’s existing three lanes. Since that will never happen, the only other options are to build Metro and bike paths to Fredericksburg, or widen the damned thing to 4 lanes.

  12. re: ” “It’s OK to screw the entire east coast by not widening I-95 to handle current off-peak, non-rush hour, weekend traffic loads because some people might be tempted to move to Fredericksburg and commute to DC”.”

    no.. but here’s the deal. You widen I-95 and those lanes get almost instantly overwhelmed with more commuters from the Fredericksburg area.

    The only way to actually help east coast traffic is to build lanes that cannot be co-opted by NoVa and the exurbs that ring NoVa.

    How would you do that? How would you discourage NoVa and it’s exurban commuters from gobbling up any increased capacity?

    I don’t think you can every build enough additional lanes for east coast traffic without it being gobbled up by NoVa/exurban commuting.

    The only way is to toll those “through” lanes so that only those who really need to get through the NoVa monster… like we actually see around other large metro spoke/belt regions.

    You can never build enough capacity… there’s not enough raw land nor enough money from gas taxes… to get ahead of the demand.

    blaming Richmond or Fairfax or VDOT or corrupt govt .. and other conspiratorial type things.. just is avoiding the reality.

    the best you can do probably beyond tolling is to look at specific local bottlenecks… and pay out the nose to buy the developed right of way necessary to do the deed – for local/regional traffic but not the East Coast… they need something the exurban county communities will not gobble up.

  13. re: ” By the way, you may recall that Ford had a plant in Norfolk. They closed it some years ago. They stated that one of the reasons for closing it is because of traffic congestion. I’m going to take a wild guess that trucks delivering parts for the assembly process were getting jammed in traffic on I-95 too much. ”

    could be … but that kind of “problem” could be similar to just about every urban area in the country.

    So here’s the question – which urban areas have the least congestion as a result of policies explicitly designed to reduce congestion and encourage economic development?

    so .. now we’re actually advancing the discussion to the point where BOTH transit shortcomings AND road transportation congestion are being roundly condemned as a FAILURE of govt …both local and state as well as the DOTs!

    As I’ve said before – I’d actually like to hear some real solutions – not just opinions but actual real places that have actually done what people are suggesting should be done – and as a direct result have reduced congestion!

    Or how about this – give a top 10 ranking of the least-congested urban areas in the country… we already know all the “bad”ones.. how about a list of the ones that are good.. where govt and the DOTs have successfully tamed congestion?

    I’m betting the response is going to be “crickets”.. 😉

  14. Larry,

    You regularly use this “but-so’s-your-mother” kind of argument, that somewhere or someone else is also bad. It’s wearisome. I really don’t care what others are doing.

    I’m with idiocracy on this one. Roads are one of the core jobs of government, and, in case you hadn’t guessed, I don’t think government should do much. If the lefties would get out of the way, maybe there would be some money available for this core function instead of the social engineering and transfer payments that we all endure. I will grant you that downstate lawmakers have misallocated some of this core money for stupidity like 460 from Petersburg to Lynchburg. The solution, as you ask, is for proper allocation of funds. But Idiocracy is correct: The problem has much more impact than just whether people commute to Fredericksburg. The whole east coast suffers because of the state of I-95.
    Recently drove through Knoxville on the interstate. They have three lanes each way, traffic is heavy but it moves. I’m having difficulty understanding why we think three lanes is adequate where the population and traffic is at least three times greater.

    • re: ” Roads are one of the core jobs of government, and, in case you hadn’t guessed, I don’t think government should do much.”

      Geeze Crazy – what does that mean? You blame the govt for not doing much but you don’t want them doing much to start with?

      re: ” “but-so’s-your-mother”

      well no … what I’m saying is that this is a pretty common problem not one that is unique to one place… and if it is a ‘fail’ virtually everywhere then I do ask for someone to show where there is success.. as a model for those places where it is not a success.. i.e. can we learn lessons or do we just want to blather conspiracy theories and blame all parties?

      Urban congestion is a common problem at virtually every urbanized region in the country… there should be a lesson or two in recognizing that.

      so yes you are right – it IS wearying to keep hearing the same refrain… yes

  15. The problem is not roads per se, but roads for whom? Through traffic? Commuters? Interstate trucks? Shoppers and soccer moms? To fix it right we need a regional fix, a road parallel to 95 that cuts west of the Marine base and past Manassas and Dulles, and yes, over to Frederick, MD, not just more and more lanes in the existing 95 corridor. Will it happen? I’m not holding my breath. I drive all over the Northeast occasionally and see many examples where each State manages to delay or strangle the construction that only benefits out-of-Staters. Remember that missing stretch of I95 in SC that just happened to divert all n-s traffic over to US 1 right past the entrance to “South of the Border”? Bypassed now. But what about I-95 from Lawrenceville NJ to Brunswick NJ? Still not built. What about the BQE from Verrazano to Queens and the Bronx? Still not fixed. What about the US 30 corridor from West Chester PA to Harrisburg PA? Only improved at the ends. Known problems for through traffic – of course. But then I recall the entire stretch from Baltimore to Wilmington on US40 and how, even after I95 opened alongside, it took 30 more years to eliminate those notorious tollbooth backups at Newark, DE. My point is not that Virginia could not do better, but there’s plenty of precedent for States doing worse. The overarching federal mandate, let alone guidance, just isn’t there.

  16. Acbar –

    You make excellent points. Let me try to elaborate on them and suggest some additional complications that will impact N. Va.’s future.

    You say:

    “To fix it right we need a regional fix, a road parallel to 95 that cuts west of the Marine base and past Manassas and Dulles, and yes, over to Frederick, MD, not just more and more lanes in the existing 95 corridor. Will it happen? I’m not holding my breath.”

    I am not holding my breath either.

    Still I agree to the crying need for your iteration of an “outer beltway” if one were possible. But it is not for several reasons. Should we destroy a region’s identity, its history, its sacred places and so turn Northern Virginia’s historic Piedmont into an eastern version of Los Angeles, only paste over and delay the real solutions to the systemic causes of gridlock that lie elsewhere?

    And should we do that, even if we could, if it only gives a short term license for yet more irresponsible behavior like what been going on in Fairfax County for the past nearly 50 years?

    Consider the planned future for 4 sq. miles of Tysons Corner?

    In 2012, confronting a 20% vacancy rate in existing buildings amid a sea of traffic gridlock in all directions atop the intersections of 4 mayor highways of national significance, Fairfax County approved a plan to more than double the square footage of buildings in Tysons Corner to 113 million square feet, and to more than double it daytime population to 300,000 by 2050. And it did so without, in my view, an real and enforceable solution to its traffic gridlock problem at its current size and population.

    What will be the consequences of doubling Tyson’s population and building sizes – should that plan for the next 30 years succeed?

    For one thing, this not only explains the dynamic tolls but it tells us that the dynamic tolls must only get far far worse if current plans in Fairfax County are implemented in part or whole, and irrespective of the looming regional disaster that will be caused by the “doubling” of Tysons Corner over the next 3o years.

    I’m interested in the views of TooManyTaxes on views, since the plan was sold on replicating Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor, yet another fairy tale coming out of Fairfax County, in my view.

    In addition I see no chance that Maryland would approve any such outer beltway. Fairfax, most particularly Tysons Corner, has single-handed and IRREVOCABLY DISTROYED Maryland’s interstate access south into Virginia on the west side of Washington’s DC Capital Beltway, but Maryland is still thriving and has good access down I-81. Why should Maryland spoil its own historic and beautiful lands on the north side of the Potomac to solve the mess Northern Virginia has created for itself?

    So I agree with your comment in spades. This only reinforces it.

    • TooManyTaxes-

      Here is a pretty good history of Tyson’s Corner, one you have likely read:

      https://www.washingtonian.com/2015/03/29/the-audacious-plan-to-turn-a-sprawling-dc-suburb-into-a-big-city/

      Is Tyson’s Corner’s future as it is outlined in the article an air-conditioned nightmare kicked off by the dynamic tolls, all as disguised in this Washingtonian infomercial?

      Or will Tyson’s Corner be, as suggested therein, be the greatest urban renewal project in the modern history of mankind?

      Who knows?

      You, however, are as informed and knowledgeable and honest a n individual on this subject, as about anyone around the place. And how proven that by action. What is your considered view?

      In any case, Tysons Corner as it was built surely deserves to be the textbook study of what not to build in the future. How that happened also surely deserves far more study than it to date has received if Tyson’s Corners are to be avoided in our future.

      For, remarkably, Tyson’s Corner was continued to be built grossly wrong in the face of, and despite, the obvious success in Arlington, the poster child of how to built cities right in that place and time.

      And, in stark contrast, all of the gross mistakes in Fairfax were inflicted on an entire region by the very same people who built George Mason University’s “great” center for the study of excellence in real estate development. Imagine that! What an irony. What an indictment of modern experts. And how easily experts are corrupted.

      And where did Arlington County, a bunch of amateurs really, get all their wisdom and real life expertise? And thus build a modern day miracle. The Blue Print of the future. How? And Why? Did it happen?

  17. >>Geeze Crazy – what does that mean? You blame the govt for not doing much but you don’t want them doing much to start with?>>

    Larry,
    This is the neatest bit of sophistry you’ve come up with in a long time. You think that because I believe there are very few legitimate functions of government (at least a helluva lot fewer than the left) that I can’t blame government when it screws up one of them ??

    • Well sure you can Crazy – but when ever major urban area has essentially the same congestion problem – are you actually saying that govt has failed massively and maybe this is not a legitimate core function since nowhere does it succeed?

  18. Re: dual I-95 corridor.

    been interesting watching the Feds trying to add right-of-way for rail… between Richmond and Washington… it’s a tiny corridor compared to a 4 lane or 6l lane interstate.

    I can just imagine what would happen if someone drew a line on a map between Richmond and Washington for a “new” interstate… The Nimby revolte would make the current Nimbyism in NoVa look like a cake walk.

    Then you have Congress who flat refuses to raise the Federal Gas tax

    Then Finally – any road you build is going to be almost immediately co-opted for exurban solo commuting unless you make it too expensive to use for that purpose.

    TMT thinks Fairfax has encouraged too much growth… Others will point out that Fairfax policies have encouraged people to take jobs in NoVa but go to the outer counties to live.

    People who do that – 7 out of 10 … want to solo commute.. and that’s not just up I-95… that’s in NoVa regional roads also!

    Most all the folks who work in Crystal City or the Pentagon… or David Taylor, Andrews, Belvoir do not live “nearby”..

    Most of the worker bees – not the top-of-the-heap HQ higher graders – the worker bees commute to the exurbs for housing.. that’s the bulk of a lot of the traffic.

    How can out-of-region travelers get through the DC area on the way to/from Maine/George/Florida without getting tangled up in the NoVa congestion monster?

    Good Question… how do they do that in other places? Every try to get “through” Charlotte or Atlanta or Houston or Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia at peak hour?

    The places that seem to “work” are the ones that are tolled… to be honest…

    Would I pay $38 to transit through NoVa at rush hour? Nope… but I WOULD pay a smaller toll not to get tangled up in regional NoVa traffic.

    Okay – so here’s my point. Where we live and use the roads does not make them “belong” to ur region … the more we think that way – the more we are going to destroy our Interstate Highway system – as each urban area decides to do the same – treat the section of interstate in their region – as ‘theirs”.

    It’s sort of corrupts the entire concept of the original interstates… we just revert back to mega-regions that people cannot get “through” any longer.. just urban clots.

  19. >>are you actually saying that govt has failed massively and maybe this is not a legitimate core function since nowhere does it succeed?<<

    No-o-o. Now you're putting words in my mouth. We're stuck with government running the roads for the most part, though Mitch Daniels was successful selling the Indiana Thruway and having it run by a private entity. At least with a private entity, the private entity, not the taxpayers, pay when the road fails. See Rt 895 running from I95 to Richmond Airport

  20. well once again we have a dichotomy because most folks consider it a betrayal for the govt to “give” for-profit private entities “our” roads. Such roads also require the use of govt-imposed eminent domain… something else I’ve heard Conservatives rail about!

    And YES – there actually have been a few “failures” of toll roads… in part because figuring out the ROI is still not a mature discipline because it involves people’s behaviors.. and whether there are other “free” routes available – something toll road companies usually wat restricted in exchange for them building and operating a toll road. That was part of the issue with 895.

    If Walmart or Blockbuster video or Kodak screw up they just bail and the buildings get re-used but you can’t really do that with roads! Someone is going to take the hit. In the case of 895, if not mistaken, a toll road company accepted that road from VDOT in return for some other considerations and then they wrote it off as a loss to offset their taxable profits on other roads.

    Now all of this DOES have some relation to congestion and whether the govt – or a private entity can “fix” it …

    Turns out , with dynamic tolling – they can. It’s not turned into “no” congestion.. it’s MANAGED congestion using the fundamental tenets of supply and demand – much like the Airline industry and Uber use.

    So.. I’m in favor of it. I think that’ the only real solution. When you give something away that feels like it’s “free” or “all you can drive for one low price”.. the entity offering that deal ..typically does fail.. and in the case of roads – a “free” road fails when the demand for it exceeds it’s capacity.

    In urban areas with a lot of exurban commuting.. the more “free” roads you build the more you encourage people to move to the exurbs and commute to the urban region jobs.. and the most favored way is by solo driving.

    That’s a FAIL! is it a FAIL of govt ? is there a way that govt can reduce congestion without tolls ? If the govt increases taxes to pay for more roads is that a violation of Conservative principles?

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