When a business plans they must consider their bottom line. When the government plans they have taxpayers. You might say that’s unfair, but if a business makes a bad decision it could fail. With government they have taxpayers to bail them out. Planning among government entities is quite different from the business world.
Fauquier County is known for its dedication to maintaining the rural nature of our beautiful county. Our county government is dedicated to that idea. It’s fair to say our county citizens also endorse this goal.
When government agencies have to work together to solve a problem they may come to the table with different goals. Planning can become difficult.
Here is an example: We have a long standing traffic problem at Opal. US highways 29/15/17 divide into US17 S and US29/15 S. Some 40,000 vehicles transit this intersection each day and traffic is growing. Fauquier County and VDOT had to work together to craft a solution. VDOT is charged with moving traffic, Fauquier wants to slow growth. Planning a solution with goals far apart can lead to a poor solution.
I believe that’s what happened at Opal and we ended up with the single lane “Opal Flyover”. It doesn’t really solve the problem. It focuses only on Opal and continues to send traffic directly thru Bealeton. We are left with an incomplete solution after spending $44.0 million.
You might say I’m using 20/20 hindsight. Not so. The problems at Opal and Bealeton have existed for years. Our Comprehensive Plan, which is supposed to guide our future growth, has existed for years. It calls for a Bealeton Bypass that would run from the intersection of route 28/US29 (by Moo-Thru) across to US17 south of Bealeton. This would make present day US17 between Opal and south of Bealeton into US17 Business. It would have solved the Opal and Bealeton problems for little more than $44 million.
I believe the Opal solution was the result of the parties being too far apart. They were so far apart they couldn’t reach a solution that solved the problem. The PEC also played an important role with their known opposition to growth and increased traffic thru the county.
Now consider the pending question of what to do with the Waterloo Bridge. The PEC position is to repair the bridge as a single lane, cars only, wooden deck bridge costing about $2.0 million. VDOT closed the bridge to all traffic January 2014 and proposed building a new two lane bridge at an estimated cost of $9 million.
What transportation purpose would the PEC plan serve? Do we still build single lane, cars only, wooden deck bridges? Is there a need for this bridge in today’s transportation system? The usefulness of the Waterloo Bridge was superseded by the construction of Hwy 211, a four lane divided highway.
The PEC is a private land trust. Why should they be urging government to spend our tax dollars to repair an obsolete bridge?
I support many of the PEC objectives but their policies’ have become disruptive to the financial health of Fauquier County. We must move into the 21st century.
We need a change in attitude toward preserving our county. Our present pathway is becoming unsustainable.
We need prudent planning.