Needed: Legislation to Prevent NVTA from Encroaching on Parkland

Comments At League of Women Voters of Arlington and Alexandria City Virtual Meeting, January 4, 2022.

Under current law the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) uses measures of congestion relief relative to cost (CRRC) to rate transportation projects for NVTA funding. There is no requirement to assess the environmental impact of proposed projects. This has resulted in destruction of natural areas adjacent to new construction. A prime example is an NVTA funded project that doubled the width of the W&OD Trail in Falls Church resulting in the uprooting of acres of vegetation including trees, shrubs, and garden plots. No study was required to assess the impact of the disturbance on nearby Trammels Run, and none was produced.

This situation must change or what little publicly owned green space remaining in the County will be paved over. NVTA plans to double the width of a two mile stretch of the W&OD Trail between Sycamore Street and Carline Springs Road, threatening the Four Mile Run watershed with major impacts.

Bernie Berne has proposed legislation that would add to Virginia Code a new section applicable to NVTA similar to the section of U.S. Code (23 U.S. Code § 138) applicable to the U.S. Secretary of Transportation.  The new section would prohibit the NVTA from funding projects that would use public lands within parks, recreation areas, and wildlife and waterfowl refuges unless there is no feasible and prudent alternative, including the no-build alternative.

This is an excellent bill. Unfortunately Delegate Hope and Senators Howell and Favola report that they have exceeded their limit for sponsored legislation in the upcoming session of the General Assembly. Therefore I hope that the that the County’s lobbyist and other interested parties will endeavor to locate a member who is willing to sponsor it.