CRITICAL REVIEWS AND ANALYSES OF

THE WESTERN TRANSPORTATION CORRIDOR

Washington Western Bypass or Western Transportation Corridor

Summary of Findings from Previous Studies/Reports

· Maryland and Virginia dropped the proposed bypass in 1989 after a draft Environmental Impact Study concluded that it would not relieve traffic on the beltway, it would in fact cause increased east-west traffic, and at $1.5 billion it would be too expensive.  Maryland steadfastly declined to participate with Virginia in a renewed study, which was initiated by Governor Allen in 1994 at the urging of Northern Virginia developers.

· VDOT’s 1997 Major Investment Study (MIS) found that traffic on I-95 would decrease a minimal amount of 4.8%.  On I-66 it would decrease about 1% west of Rt. 28.  It would cause an INCREASE on other major roads such as Rt. 50 west of Rt. 606 (22.7%), Rt. 15 north of Leesburg (21.8%) and Rt. 7 west of Rt. 659 (10.7%).  VDOT did no analysis of the highway’s effect on Rt. 28 or other roads east of Rt. 28.

 

 

· The MIS showed that only 3,000 (one way) trips per day would be made the entire length of the highway, between I-95 and Rt. 7, in the year 2020. This means that most of the trips would be short.  The maximum one-way volume on any segment would be 47,000 vehicles per day.  North-south roads (recently built at the time of the 1997 MIS) included the Fairfax County Parkway, the Prince William Parkway, the widening of Rt. 28 in Fairfax and Loudoun, and the Rt. 234 bypass.  Also on the books were completing overpasses for Rt. 28 (most since built), as well as the Tri-County Connector in Fairfax and Prince William and the Loudoun County Parkway, just west of Dulles.

· According to the MIS, the WTC would have interchanges at Rt. 7, Dulles Greenway, Rt. 50, Rt. 234 bypass, I-66, Rt. 28 (near Prince William/Fauquier border), Rt. 606 (near Stafford/Fauquier border), and I-95.  Experience tells us that development follows highways and that zoning is easily changed to accommodate such development.

· An Environmental Protection Agency analysis of the MIS concluded that a new highway “has the potential to directly impact up to ten times the wetlands area, cross ten times the flood plain area, increase the potential for threatened and endangered plant impacts by 2.5 times, and potentially threaten the Lake Manassas public water supply” when compared to other, less costly, alternatives.  The National Park Service expressed concern about the highway’s effect on the Manassas National Battlefield Park as well as on the Spotsylvania and Fredericksburg National Military Parks.

· Because the WTC ends at Rt. 7, it was projected to increase traffic on Rt. 15 north of Leesburg by 21.8%.  Even if it should cross the river, which has long been opposed by Maryland and would come at great cost, induced traffic and more development would most likely keep Rt. 15 traffic high.

· The Marine Corps’s position is: “Marine Corps Base, Quantico, opposes use of base land for the Western Transportation Corridor … MCB, Quantico cannot support the conversion of finite training resources to non-military purposes.”

Comments by other Federal and State Agencies

(text quoted directly from agency letters responding to the Major Investment Study)

US Environmental Protection Agency:

December 5, 1995 - Draft Purpose and Need (P&N) Statement for the proposed Western Washington By-Pass Major Investment Study (MIS)

· The P&N document does not clearly link the projected rates of growth in the study area with the need for a continuous north-south travel corridor through the study area. For example, no data were presented that indicates the number of trips generated in Fredericksburg that have a destination at the northern end of the study area. In addition, considering the rates of growth projected, expanded mass transit form the central hub of Washington DC may be supportable and reduce overall transportation demand in the study area.

· The MIS should evaluate this need based on forecasting that utilizes the most current economic assumptions and should evaluate multi-modal alternatives that have the potential to meet the need.

April 12, 1996 - Western Washington Bypass Major Investment Study

· EPA is concerned that VDOT has chosen to move ahead with the selection of alternatives without clarifying or resolving the issues related to purpose and need.

· EPA recommends, in interest of full disclosure of the issues and in fairness to the local jurisdictions who will likely make planning decision based on the results of the MIS, that agency concurrence be sought at the major milestone for this project beginning with purpose and need.

November 27, 1996 - Major Investment Study (MIS) for the Western Transportation Corridor Study (WTCS)

· EPA has previously provided (December 18 1995 and April 12 1996) comment on the Purpose and Need for this proposal. We expressed concern regarding the level of need for north-south travel for the entire corridor, particularly the western build corridors. The final Purpose and Need statement reinforced our conclusions that there is only limited need for north-south travel along the western build corridors. The strongest need for transportation improvement is the already developed northern and eastern portions of the study area.

· EPA recognizes that the data presented in this MIS is broad in scope. However, considering that the scope and accuracy of the data is consistent throughout the study area, some comparisons and general conclusions can be made from the information provided. For example, a New Facility Alternative (NFA) has the potential to directly impact up to ten time the wetlands area, cross ten times the flood plain area, increase the potential for Threatened and Endangered Plant (T&E) impacts by 2.5 times, and potential threaten the Lake Manassas public water supply when compared to the Upgrade/Link Existing and/or Planned Roadway Alternative (ULA). Secondary impacts, such as increased development pressure on farmland, rural communities and the over taxed wetland filtering system of the Chesapeake Bay were not evaluated in this MIS. The cost of a New Facility Alternative could be as much as $1.5 billion.

· Considering the land use component of this study, it seems the benefit of a NFA will be largely focused in eastern Loudoun County and it may stimulate growth patterns that are not consistent with the other counties land use plans. The NFA will increase dependence on the automobile, vehicle miles traveled (VMT), air emissions and may encourage expensive and potentially unsustainable growth patterns.

· None of the alternatives studied in this MIS include a mass transit component. EPA views this as a serious shortcoming of this MIS. This is particularly relevant when the conclusion is that a Major Investment appears warranted in the densely populated northern and eastern portion of the study area. It is this portion of the study area that would most likely support a major investment in mass transit.

· This Washington Regional Network (WRN) type of Major Investment would continue to foster economic growth but do so in a more environmental sustainable manner. EPA urges VDOT to investigate the feasibility of these concepts in the WTCS MIS.

Department of the Interior-National Park Service

Dec 13, 1996

· Our fundamental concern is with the Purpose and Need of the Study. The data does not support the need for a regional north-south transportation facility stretching from Loudoun County to Stafford County.

· Because a new facility will have significant impacts on several National Parks in the area, the need for such a facility must clearly be demonstrated.

· We have been especially concerned with the impacts that the selection of a regional transportation corridor would have on Manassas National Battlefield Park and the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Parks.

· The construction of a new regional transportation corridor within the same corridor presently proposed for the Route 234 Bypass and located between the battlefield and Conway Robinson State Forest will visually encroach on the park, substantially increase noise within the park and project future adverse uses adjacent to the park. Thus, this option is unacceptable to the National Park Service.

· We believe that any extension of the Western Corridor north of Route 7 will be detrimental to our interest due to the increased pressure to cross the Potomac River and the impacts on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park and the Potomac Heritage Trail. In addition while the recent suggestion to shift the alignment of Fauquier County into the Quantico Marine Base avoids Fauquier County, the alignment shift into Quantico does of alter the potential impacts to the Fredericksburg battlefields. Further, we remain unalterably opposed to any alternative which would use the Route 619 corridor through Prince William Forest Park from Independent Hill to I-95.

Department of the Army-Army Corps of Engineers

(original on file)
DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
Norfolk District Corps of Engineers
Fort Norfolk
803 Front Street
Norfolk, Virginia 33510-1096

January 13, 1997

Reply to: Eastern Virginia Regulatory Section 9504575-15

Mr. Earl . Robb, Environmental Engineer
Virginia Department of Transportation
1401 E. Broad Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219

Dear Mr. Robb

This letter is in reference to the Western Washington Transportation Corridor Study being conducted by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). It is our understanding that the current sturdy is a Major Investment Study (MIS), and that Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has not initiated the preparation of an environmental document under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

At the interagency meeting conducted by VDOT on December 4, 1996, a presentation was made of the current status of the Western Transportation Corridor Study. In a letter to VDOT dated December 13 1996, we indicated that we would not be able to provide comments in response to the information provided before January 15, 1997. This letter provides our comments.

The MIS alternatives analysis considered the No Build, Transportation Systems Management/Travel Demand Management (TSM/TDM), expanded transit systems, upgrade/link of existing and/or planned roadways (U/LEPR), and numerous alignments for a new roadway facility (NF). It was stated at the December meeting that it is anticipated that the Advisory Committee for the study will soon make a recommendation to the Commonwealth Transportation Board concerning the preferred alternative(s). At the time of the meeting, it was not known whether the Committee would recommend one or several alternatives.

We have reviewed the numerous Technical Memoranda prepared for this study which were submitted to our office. The study area is very large, and since the MIS is a planning study, numerous assumptions have been made, and most of the impact analyses have been conducted in very broad terms. We understand that the corridors analyzed for the various alternatives were assumed to be one mile wide, and that ultimate impacts are anticipated to be considerably less that the current estimates. However, even if the impact estimates are considered to be inflated, we have considerable concerns about the wetland impact estimates for the NF options, which range form 319 to 448 acres for the various NF alignments. The potential for these kinds of impacts indicate that very careful consideration must be given to alternatives which avoid these potentially significant impacts.

Also of concern are the estimates of stream crossing for the NF options, which range from 12 to 16. In addition, several of the segments evaluated of the new facility options have the potential to impact a public water supply. The NF options all will be close to rare, endangered or threatened species. Existing residential structures near the NF options range from 1,312 to 2,080. The estimated cost is $1.2 billion to $1.3 billion.

Compared to the NF options, the U/LEPR options have the potential for significantly less impact. Wetland impacts are estimated to range from one to 30 acres, depending on the U/LEPR option. None of these options are expected to impact public water supplies, and stream crossings range from note to eight. Existing residential structures near the U/LEPR options are also considerably fewer than for the new facility options, ranging from 69 to 253. The estimated cost is $57 million to $477 million.

For a project with the potential for these kind of significant impacts to the human environment, it is critical that the need for the project and the benefits to result from the project be clearly demonstrated and documented. The primary needs identified in the study area are to (1) address a lack of adequate transportation facilities to meet projected demand, particularly north-south suburban to suburban travel demand and (2) to provide additional access from the west, northwest and southwest to the Washington Dulles International Airport. These stated needs have served as the framework for our review of the transportation analysis provided.

A review of the Traffic and Transportation Technical Memorandum raises several questions concerning the purpose and need and the potential benefits of a project in the study window. Tables such as S-2 and S-3 show traffic will use all of the U/LEPR and NF options. Table S-4 shows that this diversion of traffic from other roadways will to some extent reduce Vehicle Hours of Travel (VHT) and Vehicles Hours of Delay (VHD). However, it is stated on page S-vi that "Although these appear to be a large number of hours, they represent less that one percent of the approximately nine million daily vehicle hours "expended" in the Metropolitan Washington region as a whole in 2020." It is stated on page 32 that "While these appear to be a large number of hours they are relatively a small percent of the regional vehicle hours for the urban area." These statements suggest that the improvements to VHD and VHT man not be significant and may not contribute much in the way of justification for the anticipated significant impacts to homes and natural resources.

It is stated on page 34 that the "build alternatives do relieve traffic on other north-south roads." It is also stated (page 37) that "some roadways would have an increasing traffic if a build alternative is selected." It would appear that the best way to assess the relationship of all of the data and measures of effectiveness and understand the real effects of the roadway is to scrutinize the levels of service (LOS) projected for h regional roadways in 2020, with and without the various options. That information is provided for at least some regional roadways in Table 14 on page 41.

The information in Table 4-14 suggests several conclusions. First of all, for many of the regional roadways, it appears that the LOS are not significantly affected by any of the options. The LOS for Rt. 7 west of Rt. 659 and Rt. 15 north of Leesburg is projected to be LOS F with or without any improvements. The LOS for I-95 north of Prince William is expected to be LOS E with or without the introduction of U/LEPR or NF options. The following roadways are projected to exhibit the same acceptable LOS under the baseline scenario and with the introduction of any of the U/LEPR or NF options; for I-66 west of Rt. 28 (LOS D for all), Rt. 15 south of Rt. 50 (LOS A to C), I-95 south of Rt. 234 (LOS C for all), and Rt. 234 west of I-95 (LOS C for all).

Route 50 east of Rt. 15 improves from LOS F to LOS D or E with the introduction of the NF options, and remains as LOS F with the U/LEPR options. However, Rt. 50 west of Rt. 606 declines from LOS C under the Baseline to LOS D or E with the NF options, and remains as LOS C or D with the U/LEPR options. Rt. 606 north of Rt. 50 declines from LOS D to LOS F under several of the NF and U/LEPR options. It should also be noted that although the LOS F occurs under the baseline and all of the build options for Rt. 7 west of Rt. 659 and Rt. 15 north of Rt. 5, the volume to capacity rations (V/C) which serve as the basis for determining the LOS, decline with the introduction of most of the build options.

The above summary of the LOS information does not appear to support a position that the build alternatives which have been considered are justified by the significant impacts. The information also appears to demonstrate that the U/LEPR options, which are projected to have significantly less impact to the human environment that the NF options, provide effects on the regional traffic network similar to the effects of the NF options.

Our review of the documents prepared as part of the MIS concludes that the less damaging U/LEPR options warrant selection as the investment strategy when considering the stated purpose and need, the results of the traffic analysis, costs, and potential impacts to socioeconomic and natural resources. Since these options connect existing roadways, it would also be expected that they would minimize the potential for secondary impacts in the form of induced development when compared to the construction for a new facility. However, as stated above, it is not at this time clear from the traffic analysis that the impacts of even the U/LEPR alternatives have been justified.

We concur with the statements made by the Environmental Protection Agency in their letter dated November 27, 1997, that mass transit options should have been given full consideration as part of the MIS, They should not be eliminated if they cannot fully address the concerns alone, but rather, mass transit should be considered as a potential component of all the other options

Thank you for your cooperation in this matter. Should you have any questions, you may contact Ms. Alice Allen-Grimes at (757) 441-7219.

Sincerely

William H. Poore, Jr.
Chief, Regulatory Branch

Copies Furnished:

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, White Marsh
Environmental Protection Agency, Philadelphia
National Marine Fisheries Service, Oxford
Virginia Department of Environmental Quality/Water Division, Richmond
Virginia Marine Resources Commission, Newport News
Federal Highway Administration, Richmond
County Administrator, Prince William County
Director of Planning, Prince William County
County Administrator, Loudoun County
Director of Planning, Loudoun County
County Administrator, Fauquier County
Director of the Department of Community Development, Fauquier County
County Administrator, Stafford County
Director of Planning, Stafford County
Rappahannock Area Development Commission, Fredericksburg
Fredericksburg Area Municipal Planning Organization, Fredericksburg CF: Permits, File Allen-Grimes
Konchuba
Poore

Prince William County Department of Public Works:

November 21, 1996

· Prince William Parkway west of I-95 - There is no significant difference between any of the alternatives. The volumes range from a low of 56,350 vehicles per day to a high of 57,100 vpd.

· Dale Boulevard west of I-95 - There is no significant difference between any of the alternatives. The volumes range from 52,720 vpd to 53,900 vpd.

· Route 234 west of I-95 - There is no significant difference between any of the alternatives. The volumes range from 22,000 to 26,270 vpd.

· Route 234 Bypass south of I-66 - The volumes change significantly if Alternative s E, F, K, or L are chosen. These alternatives assume the use of this link as part of the new facility. This would put a range of between 52,980 vpd and 55,100 vdp on this link. There are not significant differences between the remaining alternatives.

· Route 15 north of Route 29 - The volumes change significantly if alternative A, B, G, or H are chosen. These alternatives assume the use of this link as part of a new facility. This would put a range of between 54,590 vpd and 59,800 vpd on this link. There are no significant difference in the remaining scenarios with volumes ranging from 11,060 to 11,180 vpd.


Maryland Department of Transportation

November 14 1996

· The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) continues to remain opposed to any new crossing of the Potomac River east of the immediate vicinity of Point of Rocks. MDOT Secretary David Winstead reaffirmed that in a letter to Virginia DOT Secretary Robert Martinez in a letter last year (copy enclosed). Both Montgomery and Frederick counties in Maryland also remain unalterably opposed to a new Potomac River crossing east of the immediate vicinity of Point of Rocks. A new highway crossing east of the Point of Rocks area would be inconsistent with the general plans of both counties which call for low density agricultural and open space land use. The State of Maryland and both counties are unwilling to accept the direct and secondary environmental impacts of such a facility. We have received the assurances of Virginia DOT officials that a new highway crossing between eastern Loudoun County and Montgomery County and/or Frederick County is not planned and will not be considered in the context of the Western Transportation Corridor Study.