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March 19, 2021 · OPINION

Remove proposed highways from Warrenton 2040 plan

File Photo/Aerotog
Traffic volume on Warrenton’s Broadview Avenue dropped 11 percent between 2008 and 2019.
By Tony Tedeschi

Hey, Moe’s, welcome to Warrenton! Glad you decided to join us in the building that formerly housed Pizza Hut. BTW, did the town government tell you that they plan on reducing traffic past your business by 30 to 53 percent?

What does this do to your business model?

For almost 20 years, town government has periodically tried to sell us on the concept of destroying the green belt of open land surrounding Warrenton by proposing a high-speed parkway (Timber Fence) connecting Route 17 to Route 211. Now they’ve doubled down and proposed a second one (labeled a greenway) connecting Route 211 to Route 29 south of Warrenton.

The case for a 17/211 connector rests almost entirely on conjectures about traffic volumes on Broadview Avenue, which, in turn, are based on projections heavily influenced by one project (Clevenger’s Corner in Culpeper County) along the Route 211 corridor. Yet, traffic volume on Broadview is falling, from 2008’s 36,000 vehicles daily to the most recent report the 2019 which shows only 32,000 vehicles per day. (Source: Virginia Department of Transportation Jurisdiction Report Daily Traffic Volume Estimates).

This represents an 11-percent drop in traffic on Broadview in a decade.

Multi-lane highways, bridges, onramps, purchasing land, etc., comes at a steep financial price and an undetermined permanent impact on the environment. Will each road cost $17 million, $30 million, $50 million? No one wants to talk about that.

To sum up, we lose farmland, lose a wetland, threaten our water supply, destroy the sanctity of one of our town’s few parks and encourage the development of a lot more homes. That’s just the first mile.

In May of 2002, The VDOT 2020 Town of Warrenton Transportation Plan identified that improvements to Broadview Avenue were needed then and would become ever increasingly crucial. That plan did not include a recommendation for a western bypass. Fast forward 19 years later and little has been done to improve Broadview, even though improvements have been funded TWICE. It’s time to do the necessary work for the safety of Broadview Avenue and examine the results before jumping to any additional conclusions.

The 2005 HNTB analysis of Broadview indicated a need to off load 30 percent of traffic volume with a connector from Route 17 to Route 211 during ONE hour of the evening commute period because during this period Broadview would be at service level F and traffic would be deterred from accessing businesses on this stretch of road.

Consider the businesses on Broadview between Routes 17 and 211. Hotels, fast food, drive-through banks and gas stations would all be greatly affected. The result would be diminished tax revenues for the town, less incentive to revitalize Broadview and invest in the real estate there.

Commercial real estate values rely heavily on pass-by traffic. Their values are, in part, affected by number of vehicle trips per day. Reducing these numbers lowers real estate values, decreasing the tax amounts on those properties which, in turn, puts the burden back on residential. It will also drive away reinvestment in those properties that seriously need it.

It surprises me that the Town of Warrenton, which relies so heavily on its meals tax, would consider reducing pass through traffic by up to 53 percent. If this town council puts these highways in to be built and they are wrong and it does end up destroying the local economy, there is no turning back. You won’t be able to undo the mistake. Town residents and remaining businesses will be unduly burdened forever.

Fix Broadview. Make the improvements needed. Take these highways of destruction out of the draft Comprehensive Plan as they are distracting from other important issues. Plus, no one will take the plan seriously with those roads as part of it.
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