Friday, July 29, 2005

Richmond's Route 288 - Who's Brilliant Idea Was that Again?

The Richmond region committed hundreds of millions of dollars to building Route 288, part of the jagged ring road about the urban/suburban core. Not only did the project soak up every thin dime of new construction dollars for the region for several years to come (until the General Assembly paid off obligations this past session using funds from the state surplus), it's diverting toll revenue from the Powhite Parkway.

According to an article in today's Richmond Times-Dispatch, the number of vehicles going through the toll barrier at the Powhite Bridge fell 8.7 percent in June and 8.5 percent in May. But not to worry, say officials with the Richmond Metropolitan Authority, the dip is only temporary. In the long run, traffic will rise. That's encouraging!

Rt. 288 may well qualify as Virginia's most poorly conceived road project of the past 20 years, which is saying a lot, considering the competition. Let us count the ways.
  • As part of the circumferential highway around Richmond, Rt. 288 does not connect with Interstate 295 to the north. Motorists have to zig onto Interstate 64, drive a few miles, and then zag back onto I-295. Nice planning, folks.
  • The original premise for fast-forwarding Rt. 288 no longer applies. The highway was meant to serve the vast West Creek office park west of Richmond when Motorola committed to building a $3 billion microchip plant there. Microsoft reneged, but plans for Rt. 288 kept on plodding ahead. Other than Capital One's 10-building campus, there's still not much there. And given trends in the commercial real estate sector -- large-scale redevelopment in downtown Richmond and Innsbrook, plus the rise of the mobile workforce, which requires less office space -- it may take decades before West Creek fills up.
  • Rt. 288 is fulfilling its promise of accelerating suburban sprawl. A major mixed use project is planned for the intersection of Rt. 288 and U.S. 360, located on the metropolitan fringe. And that's just beginning.
  • Rt. 288 sucked up all the oxygen in the room, i.e. funds for new construction projects in the Richmond region. The General Assembly solved that problem earlier this year by spending General Fund revenues, in effect, bailing out Richmond at the expense of the rest of the state. Regardless, the alternate opportunity cost of the project is huge: The money could have been spent on creating better connectivity inside the metropolitan core, where most people live and work, rather than creating connectivity outside of the core, where people may go in the future, thanks in large part to Rt. 288 itself (talk about a self-fulfilling prophesy!)

Rt. 288 is what you get when politicians get too involved in making transportation decisions.

5 Comments:

At 9:41 AM, Anonymous SDH4VBT said...

Last 20 years? Try 40. When we were first looking at houses in SW Chesterfield in 1986 the plans were already gathering dust, and the growth at that time prevent a direct link with the rest of the loop and forced 288 and I-64 further west. As someone who enjoys the lighter traffic on the Powhite now, and who uses 288 to Short Pump and points west, I don't share your antipathy. But it was a logical toll road, as I have said before, or a good candidate for a special taxing district.

 
At 2:25 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

The state can't win. If they plan ahead they are promoting sprawl, if they don't they are promoting congestion.

Aside from changes in chip prices, one reason Motorola reneged was lack of air service. Air service requires a certain population base.

Projects like this sucked funds not only from the inner core but from throughout the state (read NOVA).

Is the reduction in tolls related to the increase in fuel costs?

It's nice to think that we could have planned better, and maybe we could have if the circumstances weren't always changing under our feet. Flux is the only constant.

 
At 9:03 PM, Anonymous Scott M. Kozel said...

<<< As part of the circumferential highway around Richmond, Rt. 288 does not connect with Interstate 295 to the north. Motorists have to zig onto Interstate 64, drive a few miles, and then zag back onto I-295. Nice planning, folks. >>>

Trafficwise, it works fine. The new flyover ramps to be built at the I-64/I-295 interchange will help more, and that project will start construction in 2006.

A 1988 Route 288 Corridor Study was conducted because of the requests of many citizens and local elected officials in both Chesterfield County and Henrico County, to re-evaluate the previously approved location for the western section of Route 288 which would have connected to the I-295/I-64 interchange, with the study of new alternates to the west of the previously approved location. There was a lot of citizen sentiment in both Chesterfield County and Henrico County, for a full "western route" to be chosen for Route 288, and the eastern route to be cancelled. The Commonwealth Transportation Board withdrew the formerly approved eastern route, and approved the Alternate 4 MOD "western route", in a resolution passed in December 1988.

VDOT made the revision that many people wanted.

<<< The original premise for fast-forwarding Rt. 288 no longer applies. The highway was meant to serve the vast West Creek office park west of Richmond when Motorola committed to building a $3 billion microchip plant there. Microsoft reneged, but plans for Rt. 288 kept on plodding ahead. Other than Capital One's 10-building campus, there's still not much there. And given trends in the commercial real estate sector -- large-scale redevelopment in downtown Richmond and Innsbrook, plus the rise of the mobile workforce, which requires less office space -- it may take decades before West Creek fills up. >>>

First you complain about "sprawl" following Route 288, and now you complain that development is too slow.

Route 288 was originally added to regional master plans in 1968, to be completed by 1985. The southern section between I-95 and VA-76 was opened to traffic 1988-1990.

Hence, your previous paragraph's premises are false.

<<< Rt. 288 is fulfilling its promise of accelerating suburban sprawl. A major mixed use project is planned for the intersection of Rt. 288 and U.S. 360, located on the metropolitan fringe. And that's just beginning. >>>

Like I-295, Route 288 is far enough from Richmond that it will be a true
outer-freeway bypass of the Richmond area, with minimal induced
development occurring close to the highway after the highway is built.

The southern section of Route 288 was completed in 1990, but development along that highway is still very modest, even after all those years.

<<< Rt. 288 sucked up all the oxygen in the room, i.e. funds for new construction projects in the Richmond region. >>>

Incorrect. The VDOT Six Year Program has over $100 million per year programmed for primary highway construction in the Richmond district.

<<< Regardless, the alternate opportunity cost of the project is huge: The money could have been spent on creating better connectivity inside the metropolitan core, where most people live and work, rather than creating connectivity outside of the core, where people may go in the future, thanks in large part to Rt. 288 itself (talk about a self-fulfilling prophesy!) >>>

“Prophesy” is a verb. The noun form is “prophecy”.

Where would you suggest building more highways “inside the metropolitan core”? The Richmond region has had extensive freeways and arterials there for decades, including I-64 I-95, I-195, Downtown Expressway, Powhite Parkway, and Chippenham Parkway, and excellent connectivity across the many modern James River bridges.

Highway money was lavished “inside the metropolitan core” long before Route 288 was completed.

 
At 7:24 AM, Blogger Bob Burke said...

Here's what people in the development business have said about Route 288's impact:

From a Sept. 2004 T-D story: 'Rick Ranson of Ranson Homes, who has been building homes for 25 years in Powhatan County, says Route 288 is not only changing the demographics of his customers but the number of people now approaching him to build a new home in Powhatan.
"Powhatan is growing fast and 288 is going to connect the two worlds," he said. "I am talking to people in Short Pump about houses here because they know they can get here in 20 minutes."

From an July 2004 essay in the T-D by Brian Glass, senior vice president and director of the retail group for Grubb & Ellis*Harrison & Bates: 'The completion of this long-awaited road will essentially complete the outer "beltway" around metropolitan Richmond and will be a major catalyst for economic development for the next 20 years or so.'

 
At 8:19 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

Scott: You're a man after my own heart.

 

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