Editorial: No Autobahn

In an editorial a couple of weeks ago it was suggested that a proposed widening of U.S. 211 to six lanes between Warrenton and Clevenger’s Corner was like a dagger pointed into the heart of Rappahannock County. Many readers became justly alarmed about this proposed road widening.

Since, as the editorial mentioned, the proposal was part of the long-range planning process for the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), it did not present an immediate threat. Still, the threat existed. And so a preemptive attack might be in order.

One of our readers chivalrously took up the gauntlet and met with James Utterback, VDOT district administrator, and other state transportation officials. Given a copy of the Virginia Surface Transportation Plan for 2035, our correspondent learned:

Proffers are already in place for the developer of Clevenger’s Corner to widen Route 211 from its intersection with Route 229 eastward to the Culpeper-Fauquier county line. But this “improvement” would only proceed if the developer went ahead with the construction of new homes at the site — in which case the developer would be paying for 100 percent of the roadwork.

“As long as thousands of new homes remain in foreclosure and other thousands of even newer homes go unsold,” in the words of our correspondent, “the Clevenger’s Corner development probably won’t happen any time soon . . . . That said, when the market turns, as it will inevitably, those lanes will be widened.”

So VDOT’s 2035 Transportation Plan does indeed propose a continued widening of U.S. 211 to six lanes (at taxpayer cost of $90 million) from wherever the Clevenger’s Corner developer has stopped eastward to Warrenton. VDOT currently lists this widening as “low priority,” but the pressure to build will increase if and when Clevenger’s Corner is developed and to the extent it is developed.
Our intrepid correspondent concludes: “Every cloud has its silver lining. In this case, the weakened economy, a hardship to many of us, has bought us time! Let’s use that time wisely.”

Walter Nicklin