Manassas museums 2/09/01



study stalls Virginia budget


Alfred M. Biddlecomb



RICHMOND – Debate over the state budget took an interesting turn Thursday

as lawmakers in the Senate shifted attention from the car tax to a small

paragraph added to the $50 billion spending plan that could delay studies

for the proposed Western Transportation Corridor.

Sen. John H. Chichester, R-Stafford, successfully preserved an item

he added to the Senate’s version of the budget that forbids the state from

spending money on an environmental impact study needed by state officials

to move forward with the bypass which would wind around the Northern Virginia

suburbs through western Stafford, Prince William and Loudoun counties.

Both the Senate and House of Delegates put the finishing touches on

their versions of the state budget Tuesday and will work together to form

a unified spending measure in the coming weeks.

Chichester said Thursday that he didn’t necessarily object to the idea

of a bypass as long as it was limited to its initial course which only brushes

the northern boarder of his home county. But a lack of cooperation between

the Virginia Department of Transportation and the localities involved, Chichester

said, forced him to add language to the budget which could stall the planning


If Chichester’s budget amendments survives, it would risk cancellation

of an $11.5 million contract between VDOT and a company hired to do the


“In its current configuration, the WTC comes around Prince William

County and around the Quantico Marine Corps Base and exits (onto I-95) at

the Stafford line,” Chichester said. “But I fear the attempt would

be to dissect the county.”

Chichester, whose district also includes eastern Prince William, said

the legislature asked transportation officials to seek input from counties

and organizations that may have a problem with the WTC, but it never happened.

“They blew the legislature off in discussing that and now we have

this environmental impact study,” said Chichester who contends VDOT

wants to go ahead with the study before gaining funding from lawmakers.

“My angst is not with the current configuration, but the philosophy

of rewarding contracts with money we don’t have.”

Sen. Warren Barry, R-Fairfax, objected to the budget language saying

it was planted in the budget to disrupt plans for the bypass which he said

will improve traffic on the Interstate 95 corridor from Arlington to Stafford.

“If there were some way to move Stafford County out of the I-95

corridor, I would certainly try some way to facilitate that,” Barry

joked. “This amendment does a disservice to the attempts to try and

solve the transportation problems of Northern Virginia.”

Barry said regardless of the situation with VDOT, the environmental

impact study should be allowed to proceed.

“The daily commute in Northern Virginia is second only to Los Angeles

with three mile backups occurring regularly,” Barry said. “I think

if we don’t have a bypass, we are going to see traffic backup into Stafford

County creating that situation [Chichester] doesn’t want to see created.”

Plans for the corridor have been in the works for decades but a final

path between I-95 and its intended crossing of the Potomac in Loudoun has

yet to be finalized, which worries those on both sides of the issue.

Business leaders and developers say the bypass is needed to relieve congestion

along I-95, but a number of area residents have lined up against the highway

saying it will invite sprawl.

With residents and local government officials divided on the idea of

a Western Transportation Corridor, Sen. Charles J. Colgan, said he understood

Chichester’s position, but noted that an environmental impact study could

help the situation.

“Since the study is already underway, we should let it proceed,”

Colgan said. “Most people in Prince William County don’t know where

this road is going to run and this could help us begin to find out.”

Colgan added that an environmental impact study could help bring local

concerns to the forefront. “It would be a mistake to reject this study

at this time,” Colgan said.

Despite the pleas from a number of Northern Virginia lawmakers to remove

the restrictive language, Chichester’s amendment was voted into the budget

during a voice vote.

The topic will most likely come up again when Senate and House budget

negotiators gather to create a final budget document toward the end of the

46-day legislative session.



our e-mail list

| Contact Us




Similar Posts