prince william

Air Force vet takes on 18-year House vet

Source: By Jonathan Hunley

The House of Delegates’ 13th District has changed dramatically over the past few years: more people, more business, more traffic.

Democrat John Bell is banking on the notion that those changes foreshadow voters wanting another switch: that of their representative in Richmond.

Del. Robert G. “Bob” Marshall, on the other hand, is touting his 18-year record of speaking for residents in parts of Prince William and Loudoun counties. By the night of Nov. 3, it should be clear whose arguments won out.

Until then, political observers have a lot to contrast.

Bell claims that his Republican opponent’s time at the State Capitol has focused too much on social issues, such as abortion and gay marriage.

He said he would target “commutes, jobs and schools.”

“I’m a frustrated commuter,” said Bell, who’s lived in both counties in the 13th District. “I go to McLean every day.”

One way to have more money for roads would be to improve maintenance efficiency, he said, thereby saving money devoted to that task.

On jobs, he said 13th District residents could benefit if two industries were brought to Prince William and Loudoun: the fields of alternative energy and automating medical records.

And on education, he said he wants to maintain the availability of extracurricular activities for students.

To defeat such an entrenched opponent, Bell has tried to literally reach as many voters as possible.

On Oct. 12, he said his campaign had knocked on 3,500 doors the weekend before.

“I don’t know of another House campaign in Virginia that had that much canvassing,” Gov. Timothy M. Kaine told Bell workers and volunteers outside the campaign headquarters in Gainesville that day.

“Well, we think it’s an absolute key to victory,” Bell responded. “Door-to-door, face-to-face contact, make it real.”

Bell has been endorsed by stalwart Democratic groups such as unions and environmental groups, and by the Northern Virginia Technology Council.

As of Oct. 15, he had raised $395,004 in campaign funds, according to the State Board of Elections, and spent $320,471.

Marshall, conversely, had raised $105,640 this year, as of Oct. 15. He had spent $64,678.

But he points out that he’s frequently outspent by voters.

And he brushes off Bell’s talk about being overly concerned with social issues.

“Well,” he said, “he obviously is ignoring my real public record.”

He notes that he worked with other Prince William area lawmakers to get approval for widening Interstate 66 in the Manassas area.

And he pointed out in a debate before the nonpartisan Prince William Committee of 100 that Kaine, a Democrat, asked him — instead of a member of the governor’s own party — to introduce a slow-growth bill.

He also said he that he would like efficiency councils set up to always make sure Virginia is operating cost-effectively.

And he championed an unsuccessful bill this year that would have mandated insurance companies cover autism-related treatments.

So he’s not a right-wing nut, he said.

However, he’s proud of his stance of trying to protect life, and of authoring the state’s constitutional amendment saying that marriage is only between one man and one woman.

“How many people have a constitutional amendment behind their name?” he asked.

Staff writer Jonathan Hunley can be reached at 703-369-5738.

The Truth About Metro to Prince William

©2009 Bull Run ObserverAll Rights Reserved Used with Permission

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Two important things about the people of Prince William County: they want the truth, and they want the whole story. They want the good, they’ll accept the bad, and they’ll tolerate the ugly, as long as it’s all true. Elected officials have a responsibility to speak the truth--the whole truth.

Two politicians, Congressman Gerry Connolly and Delegate Paul Nichols, have told the community that they would bring Metro to Prince William. Unfortunately, Connolly and Nichols have failed to tell the whole truth about Metro, and many residents now mistakenly believe that Metro may soon be extended to our community. But the whole truth is this: even if federal and state officials decided today to bring Metro to Prince William, experts tell us it will take between 20 and 30 years, if ever.

Let me be crystal clear: I want Metro. The Board of County Supervisors wants Metro and has directed the County Department of Transportation study this issue over the years. The benefits are numerous and easy to articulate. Our county is hungry for new options to commute, and we’re eager to take advantage of the economic development and job growth opportunities that have followed Metro in the past. We will continue to work towards Metro as part of our long-term economic development plans.

So, what are the obstacles to bringing Metro to Prince William? The first is money. The approximate construction cost for an extension to Woodbridge would be $2.0-$2.1 billion in FY2007 dollars (double that if we bring it to Gainesville, as some have suggested). The County’s portion would be at least $300 million, in construction costs alone. In addition, Prince William would need to negotiate an entry into the Metro Compact. This would entail the county absorbing part of Metro’s mountain of $6 billion of debt. On top of this, the Metro system is aging and is in need of upgrades and repair, as evidenced by the tragic accident last June. Prince William would be expected to pay its portion of those massive costs.

These costs alone, which do not include the millions in annual maintenance and operational costs, would consume the County’s entire transportation construction budget. Every four years since 1988, Prince William residents have passed road bond referenda to the tune of $600 million. No other county in Virginia has done this, not even wealthier Fairfax County. Fairfax has not invested in its roads for one major reason: it’s transportation budget is gobbled up by Metro costs. Prince William residents will need to ask the question: should we sacrifice our entire County road building program so that we can bring Metro to one spot in the County in 20 to 30 years?

But why will it take between 20 and 30 years? Consider the long-planned extension of Metro to Dulles. Since the 1960s the federal government and the Commonwealth have been working on connecting the nation’s capital with the largest airport serving it. With a less clear benefit to the federal government, Metro to Woodbridge would be subject to even more false starts and cost constraints. Between the planning, environmental impact studies, the engineering, the agreements between multiple jurisdictions and the state and federal government, and the inevitable lawsuits from multiple aggrieved parties, there is no telling how long it would take before a shovel would even be in the ground.

However, the worst case scenario is not that Metro would never come, it would be the consequences of assuming that it will. When the County plans on a long-term transportation improvement, we account for it in our Comprehensive Plan. In the past, this has inevitably led to the construction of new houses years before the transportation improvements were complete. There are many examples of this in Prince William, including the Linton Hall road corridor and the Government Center Sector Plan (at Ridgefield Road and the Parkway). The homes were built, but the roads came much later. Now try to imagine the housing construction that would occur in anticipation of Metro. Thousands of new high-density units would be built all along the Minnieville Road and Route 1 corridors years before Metro arrived. The congestion would be immense and the quality of life degraded.

In short, I am not being a pessimist when I say that Metro to Prince William County is 20 to 30 years away. All great ideas take time to develop, and we will not avoid working on this goal just because it is lofty. But we must be realistic in the way we communicate with the community.

And Prince William Residents do not have 20 to 30 years to wait. The County continues to support Virginia Railway Express. Our time and energy is well spent focusing on expanding VRE to Gainesville and Haymarket. On Tuesday September 15th, the Board of County Supervisors took the next step toward high-speed rail transit from Richmond to Washington D.C. through Prince William. This line would produce fast commuter service to the District of Columbia and to the existing Metro network. The County is even studying 21st century solutions like Bus Rapid Transit, which builds dedicated lanes for buses to travel during peak commuter hours along major thoroughfares. But most importantly, as long as the federal and state governments continue to fail to build the roads necessary for Prince William commuters, the County must continue to focus on road construction.

So when a federal or state official talks about Metro: tell them you don’t want false promises. Tell them you want them to get the job done and fund realistic transit and transportation. We will continue to work hard towards all innovative solutions, but we will also be straight with the citizens that some things will have to wait.

Corey A. Stewart Chairman, At-Large Prince William Board of County Supervisors