By Don Del Rosso
Special to the Rappahannock News
Jim Rich, who lives near The Plains, last week returned to the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) after a 12-year absence.
Republican Gov. George Allen appointed him to his first four-year term in 1994.
On July 16, Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell announced he had chosen Rich as the CTB’s new Culpeper District representative, replacing Culpeper lawyer and Democrat John J. “Butch” Davies III. Davies, a former Virginia House of Delegates member, served two terms.
“I’m happy to come aboard,” said Rich, who was sworn into office last Wednesday. “I think a lot of” McDonnell.
Among its chief responsibilities, the CTB:
• Establishes administrative policies for the state transportation system;
• Locates routes, and;
• Provides money for road projects, airports, seaports and public transportation.
Rich, who in May retired after 20 years as the 10th Congressional District Republican Committee chairman, believes his first CTB term prepared him well for his second tour.
“The experience was very valuable,” said the 59-year-old lawyer and retired Shell Oil Co. lobbyist. “I got to know a lot of VDOT (Virginia Department of Transportation) personnel and how the system works, or doesn’t work.”
He believes VDOT must approach transportation projects in a more “context-sensitive way,” rather than engineer them simply to move traffic with little regard to what improvements might do to communities or the landscape.
Rich and Fauquier Supervisor Peter Schwartz, whose CTB term ended June 30, serve as co-chairman of the Route 50 Task Force.
A state plan to upgrade U.S 50 called for a flyover at Gilbert’s Corner and four-laning the road between Aldie and Upperville.
“There’s no way that would have been funded, with other priorities and taking of farmland,” said Rich, who grew up in Dayton, Ohio, and earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Miami (Ohio) University in 1973 and a law degree from the University of Cincinnati in 1976. “That’s the traditional way of dealing with things.”
Instead, solutions for moving cars through the U.S. 50 corridor include roundabouts at Gilbert’s Corner and Watson Road.
“I think roundabouts and traffic-calming methods are taking hold,” said Rich, who moved to Fauquier in 1976. “We have to be more smart, more intelligent” about transportation solutions.
Rich will do an effective job representing the interests of Fauquier, the region and the state, Schwartz said.
“Jim is a guy who really understands the newest, most progressive thinking on transportation planning,” he said. “We’re going to have an ear [on the board] sensitive to the things we care about.”
Last year, Rich contributed $2,000 in cash and $405 in catering to McDonnell’s gubernatorial campaign, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonprofit that compiles campaign finance data.
The CTB meets the third Wednesday of the month. Members are eligible for $50 per meeting and expense reimbursements directly related to CTB work, said Carol Mathis, assistant secretary to the board.