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May 8, 2017 · OPINION

PEC ignoring alternatives for Waterloo Bridge

On Wednesday, May 17, in Warrenton, VDOT will solicit comments on a $4-million proposal to restore the Waterloo Bridge.
By Phoebe Tufts

As a citizen of Fauquier County and as a special education teacher, previously at Culpeper Middle School, Southeastern Alternative School and currently at Kettle Run High School, I have been following with interest taxpayers’ expenditures in the county and the state. My family has been involved in this community for years always in an effort to support common sense and those who need a hand up. I am so often heartened by our local citizens whether hired or elected when they make wise and prudent decisions that do not ignore the fact that we are all taxpayers.

It is with regret and sadness that I call out a local entity, the Piedmont Environmental Council. I thought, as many Virginia citizens think, that the name says it all and that we could be so glad that such an entity funded by donations is focused on keeping our water, air and soil clean. 

I have taken off my rose-colored glasses.

When the Waterloo Bridge was closed due to deterioration from years of vehicular traffic, a paid Piedmont Environmental Council staff member called a meeting at one of the homes near the bridge to gain support to reopen the bridge to vehicular traffic. When I shared with this PEC staff member that the bridge prior to closure was used as a shortcut by some who not only abused the weight limit, sped onto it, over it and off of it, decreasing air quality, threw trash off of either side of the bridge, decreasing water and soil quality, her response was that the “community wants a vehicular bridge.”

When I suggested to her what our neighbor directly over the bridge, on the Culpeper side, suggested — to preserve the structure as a pedestrian and bicycle bridge — she made it clear that vehicular traffic was what PEC wanted.

In a follow-up conversation, when I shared with her that my husband had expressed interest in donating land on the Fauquier side of the bridge so that there could be a small parking area for people to park and enjoy the historic nature of the bridge, I was rebuffed by the comment that vehicular traffic was the goal. I then contacted a person I knew who then worked for PEC to register my concern that this staff member had possibly wasted an opportunity, I received no response. This, then and now, defies common sense.

So far the price tag is estimated at $4 million for restoring the bridge alone and allows nothing in that budget for the roads on either side, nothing for future maintenance and repair, nothing for discouraging speeders or trash dumpers.

Please know that an open house meeting (It is not a public speaking forum.)
will be held on Wednesday, May 17, at the Warrenton Community Center from 5 to 7 pm.
Anyone can drop in between those hours to simply ask questions of the VDOT personnel who will be available to talk one-on-one, and fill out a form that asks
“Do You support this project yes/no.” Interestingly, there is no request for name and address.

Also under the heading “Get Involved” on the VDOT brochure it reads, “Comments can be submitted orally or in writing at the public hearing; by mail to Howard Tomlinson, Project Manager, 1601 Orange Road, Culpeper, Va. 22701; or by e-mail to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) Comments must be postmarked, e-mailed or delivered by May 27, 2017 in order to be included in the public record.”

As a previous PEC supporter in spirit, I am embarrassed.

As a taxpayer, I am mystified.
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