Monday, February 22, 2010

Route 1 Redux

Though neighbors were in an uproar last month when Del. David Englin introduced his housing authority barment bill in the Virginia House, they could at least take some consolation in the fact that the measure was not supported by Alexandria officials, who were quick to publicly state their opposition.

Fortunately, Del. Englin's bill was voted down in subcommittee and is now DOA.

However, on the sly another bill with major implications for our community has been introduced by Del. Englin, this time in partnership with Sen. Patsy Ticer.

In contrast to the barment bill, Alexandria officials support this proposed legislation, despite the fact that it, too, was introduced without any community notice or consultation on the part of the state legislators or City leaders.

The bill in question is HJ 119 and its purpose is to create a joint legislative subcommittee to study a proposal to create a U.S. Route 1 corridor.

Sound ho-hum? Not if you live on N. Patrick and N. Henry Streets. The lengthy preamble in the bill text includes the declarative statement that "portions of U.S. Route 1 would substantially benefit by further investment in mass transit facilities such as heavy and light rail and dedicated bus lanes in addition to the highway itself."

Parker-Gray residents can kiss more than 200 parking spaces goodbye if this happens. Homeowners on Patrick and Henry can expect to see bus shelters four feet from their windows and feel heavy vehicles shaking their historic foundations.

But the potential effects of the bill don't end there. The legislative committee would also be empowered to "study the desirability and feasibility of creating a special transportation district for the U.S. Route 1 Corridor to fund multi-modal transportation improvements in the corridor including road, rail, transit, pedestrian, and bicycle improvements, to be funded by state highway and/or nonhighway revenues, in order to improve transportation infrastructure."

We're talking taxes here folks.

This bill fortunately died in committee, but what is the likelihood that it may be resurrected in another form next year or if the General Assembly holds a special session later this year to deal with transportation?

Readers may remember that the City's Master Transportation Plan called for several transportation corridors in Alexandria including Route 1, but community uproar about BRT on N. Patrick and N. Henry Streets led them to cosmetically fudge the location of the eastern corridor in the final draft.

But it's clear that the hidden agenda is to protect Washington Street, though as a commercial avenue it would make more sense as a transit corridor than Patrick and Henry, which are mostly lined with single family homes in our community.

The sponsorship of the bill gives us a key about what is going on. The Growler sees an alliance between Del Ray (Mr. Englin) and Old Town (former Alexandria Mayor Ticer) to once again shove everything into this neighborhood and to keep it out of theirs.

With the recent grant awards to the City to begin constructing a Potomac Yard transitway on Jefferson Davis Highway from Glebe Road to Monroe Avenue, it's clear the Route 1 issue is heating up again.

So is it time to reactive the BRT pack to look after the interests of our neighborhood?