The Washington Metropolitan Airports Authority and the Commonwealth Transportation Board have a plan to turn Dulles airport and Loudoun County into one of the nation¹s major freight handling hubs. This plan, which would more than triple the cargo moved through the airport over the next 20 years, is their major justification for the proposed new western highway corridor running north-southward through Loudoun County that was presented at the Open House the other evening.
The plan envisions a “corridor” of high capacity highways connecting Rt 95 in Prince William County south of Manassas to Routes 66, 50 and 7, passing just west of Dulles Airport, and then continuing on to just short to the Potomac River. It is clear that such a “corridor” could easily become the long discussed “outer beltway” with a river crossing into Maryland. It is also pretty clear that this “corridor” creates substantial opportunity for increased and denser development in Prince William County and in Loudoun County.
The supporters of this plan say it will provide economic benefit to the area, and it will offer new routes for private travel, thus relieving some congestion.
In reality this plan would be a disaster for Loudoun, would provide little if any economic benefit, and would destroy, probably forever, the wonderful and unique characteristics of this special place.
Loudoun, as many have said, has it all. Great suburban neighborhoods, top rated schools, proximity to Washington DC, an international airport and nearby rural areas that provide recreation, beauty, historic sites and healthy local food. That’s why Loudoun has had high growth, attracts skilled professionals, has low unemployment and is one of the wealthiest counties in the nation. This unique combination of great assets and great people could also make Loudoun one of the high tech centers of the country. Our people, landscape and location create a powerful and irreproducible competitive advantage in seeking new high value business investment and new high wage jobs that will be closer to where we live.
Instead we are faced with a future of endless noisy truck traffic on wide highways through our lovely neighborhoods, droning cargo flights over our heads every night, the addition of millions of square feet of featureless warehouses and distribution centers and, instead of high wage, high tech professionals, we will create hundreds of low wage non-professional jobs. The result would be a bleak and depressing landscape like that surrounding another major hub, Kennedy Airport in New York.
As a result, local home prices will be driven down, professionals will be less attracted to move here and other locations will snatch the great new businesses we could have had. Our future will be far less bright.
And further, in these times of limited resources, billions of the funds that could have been aimed at solving our very difficult traffic congestion problems will be diverted to this project that will not help us. We need solutions that help us reach our jobs, schools, shops, churches and schools and this proposal will not do that.
It is clear why some of the special interests want to exploit Loudoun for their own benefit. Dulles Airport and these new roads could generate opportunities for a few airport linked interests, and could open up huge tracts of property for further development and it could even pave the way toward the “outer beltway” another idea that has been studied and rejected numerous times as not proving any local benefit—but keeps returning.
What is less clear is why our own locally elected Board of Supervisors is embracing this dismal vision. Their plans to widen the roads leading to Dulles, and their own newsletters to their constituents, indicate that they see freight handling as the future for Loudoun. In a recent supervisor newsletter, of the five areas envisioned for Loudoun economic growth, three were based on freight handling and airport support services.
This seems to demonstrate either an appalling lack of vision, a failure to protect the values of their own constituents or too much influence being wielded by other special interests.
We need to tell our own elected officials that we do not share their vision of such an unattractive future for us, and we expect them to work to strengthen Loudoun¹s special competitive advantages, not destroy them.
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