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November 28, 2016 · OPINION

We need a better solution for traffic through Opal

File Photo/Lawrence Emerson
Starting Tuesday, Route 17 southbound traffic won’t be able to reach Bealeton and points beyond without using the Opal interchange.
By John Green

Here we go, another fix for Opal “flyover.” This time they’re adding a U-turn and new signage.

Taxpayers have already spent $45 million, and the problem isn’t fixed. “It’s like deja vu all over again.” We should be asking why; how come the problem isn’t solved?

My view is the planners tried to please too many people:

• The Virginia Department of Transportation wants to move traffic.

• The county wants to keep the rural character.

• Businesses and developers want to protect their interests.

And what about taxpayers who pay the bill? The truth is you can’t please everyone.

We can’t forget the majority of our goods and services are delivered by highway. Our way of life is dependent upon our highway system. We have Interstate 95 to the east, I-81 west of the Blue Ridge and I-66 running east-west.

Like it or not Route 29 is our main highway east of the Blue Ridge. VDOT has recognized this for a long time. Bypasses have been built around Danville, Chatham, Gretna, Altavista, Lynchburg and Madison Heights.

North of us, in Gainesville, hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent improving Route 29 access to I-66, crossing railroad tracks, and bypassing a shopping center. Much less has happened between Fauquier County and Charlottesville. Here planning met numerous obstacles, mainly from environmental groups.

VDOT’s new Opal solution goes into effect Tuesday, Nov. 29. All southbound Route 17 traffic will have to use the single-lane flyover, negotiate a 270-degree turn at 30 mph (will this be our next chokepoint?) and rejoin Route 17 south.

Local traffic will still be able to reach businesses on Route 17 south before the U-turn, but you must return by going north. This will impact those businesses. It’s unknown what the impact will be for the recently approved children’s hospital and associated businesses that will be located on Route 17 north.

Meanwhile, Bealeton grows and traffic increases with Route 17 as its Main Street. In our Fauquier County Transportation Plan, there has existed a proposal that I believe would have solved both Opal’s and Bealeton’s traffic problems.

The solution is a Bealeton bypass, starting approximately four miles south of Opal at Routes 28 and 29. It would cut across to join Route 17 southeast of Bealeton. Why didn’t we use our own plan?

We need a broader vision in solving our problems. We need to listen to all parties, but our solutions must address the greater good.
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