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Va. lawmaker: Hit the brakes on transportation projects

Friday - 5/24/2013, 12:53pm  ET

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NVTA members discuss the merits of taking an extra month or two to consider what projects will get transportation dollars in year one, rather than approve projects on July 1.(WTOP/Ari Ashe)

FAIRFAX, Va. - Virginia state Delegate Jim LeMunyon wants the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority to slow down.

In a letter to NVTA, LeMunyon recommends against rushing to get projects approved before July 1.

"Haste makes waste, and it is appropriate to take an additional few weeks to get the initial project list right," LeMunyon writes in the letter.

"I want the NVTA to succeed in reducing congestion and improving regional mobility of the people of Northern Virginia."

At a meeting on Thursday, NVTA members debated the merits of having shovel-ready projects prepared to begin on day one versus approving the right projects. Ultimately, the group chose to wait until at least August before proceeding with projects.

"By the time money is collected and deposited into the special fund set up for transportation projects in Northern Virginia, it'll be a couple months," says LeMunyon, who attended the NVTA meeting.

"So let's use that time to sort out a list of what I hope is no more than four or five projects."

However, the current list contains 12 road and 22 transit projects. Among them, four to widen stretches of Route 28 in Prince William, Fairfax and Loudoun counties. Also, a project to add a second platform at the Lorton VRE Station, which would reduce wait times during rush hours.

Loudoun County Board Chair Scott York agrees with LeMunyon, urging his colleagues to show restraint during the meeting.

"When you rush for no reason to put something out for a public hearing, you're not really giving them enough time," he says.

"The thirty extra days allows us to get more public feedback, as well as still make sure we're ready to go in terms of construction in the fall."

NVTA Chair Martin Nohe says the issue is complicated.

"We have only one shot at getting it right the first time. That said, we don't want cautiousness to become cowardice. If the taxpayers are paying money, we need to figure out which transportation projects will give them the biggest bang for the buck and get them on the ground as quickly as possible," he says.

"But rather than focusing on what day I am going to get it done, my focus is to get people home from work faster."

LeMunyon also recommended the NVTA officials let residents know specifically how each project would ease their commutes.

"I would rather be ready to go on Aug. 1 or Sept. 1 and get it right. This is a lot of taxpayer money and we have to get it right," he says.

Nohe tells WTOP precise information on how each project will reduce congestion will be made available in the coming weeks.

The NVTA will also hold an open house and public hearing at 5:30 p.m. on June 20 at Fairfax City Hall.

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