Loudoun Co. questions Amazon impact on traffic-fix funding

Heavy traffic travels westbound on Interstate 66 in Fairfax County, Virginia, between the Capital Beltway and Nutley Street. (WTOP/Dave Dildine)(WTOP/Dave Dildine)
In a letter sent to state officials ahead, Loudoun County is questioning why Amazon’s arrival may have skewed traffic fix funding across Northern Virginia this year ahead of public hearings over the next few days.

“We didn’t fare very well in this round,” Penny Newquist, with the county’s Transportation and Capital Infrastructure department told supervisors Tuesday night.

Prince William County had similar concerns when the funding recommendations came out in January without money for another round of Route 28 improvements between Manassas and the Fairfax County Line. Transportation experts from Loudoun and Prince William met together with the state official most directly responsible for the rankings in Richmond Jan. 30 seeking ways to get more funding.

The recommendations are frustrating, Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chairman Phyllis Randall said.

“SmartScale was supposed to be completely non-political, and it feels political every year,” Randall said.

There is less funding available in this third round of the state’s scoring-based funding system than last round.

Several projects tied to the Amazon HQ2 planned in Arlington to fill office space were left vacant after the Pentagon’s Base Realignment and Closure did get funding.

“Staff cannot discern why or how the model promotes projects that are centered on the future Amazon site development in the NOVA District as compared to the other congestion mitigation projects,” briefing documents for supervisors said.

Loudoun County submitted ten projects for potential state funding of $152.8 million over the next six years, but only part of one scored high enough in state formulas to be recommended for funding — two intersection improvements along Route 50 with an expected state contribution of $1.29 million.

The county is now asking that the money they were awarded arrive sooner to match other funding sources that could otherwise expire soon, and that already awarded funding for an interchange improvement at Route 7 and Route 287 be provided sooner so construction could begin in three years rather than four.

Loudoun County is also concerned about a lack of preference for key statewide corridors; diminished scores this year for congestion relief due to the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel project; how many years out the funding is awarded; and a lack of standardized scores for year-to-year comparison since the scoring system aims to prioritize projects in a given year.

A letter from the board also complains that possible applications for regional money were not considered as a way that would reduce state costs for widening of Route 7 from Route 9 to the Dulles Greenway and widening of Route 15 from Montresor Rd. to the Potomac River.
The Commonwealth Transportation Board can adjust the recommended funding plan over the next month.

Public hearings on the plan began in other parts of the state last month, and conclude with meetings Thursday at James Monroe High School in Fredericksburg and Monday at the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Northern Virginia District Office in Fairfax. Both meetings start at 6 p.m., with open houses beginning at 5 p.m.

In addition to the six-year plans, the Fredericksburg meeting will include information on the new Interstate 95 Corridor Study and the Fairfax meeting will include representatives from various regional road and transportation agencies accepting comments on other programs like the projects being funded with a share of toll money from Interstate 66, Interstate 95, Beltway and soon Interstate 395 toll lanes.

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