Taking on Political and Literal Gridlock
Northern Virginia is known for its rolling hills, its rich history, and its ridiculous traffic.
For decades, CFFC has been fighting to keep the gridlock and congestion out of Fauquier County. The archives are brimming with commissioned transportation studies and detailed letters to state legislators about smart, responsible growth.
One of the earliest and fiercest battles was over a mere mile-long stretch of road — US 29 between Warrenton and State Route 605.
In 1995, VDOT proposed easing existing commuter traffic by widening that portion of US 29 from four lanes to six. The hasty and ill-advised plan called for demolishing landmark trees, constructing an eyesore sound barrier, and laying so much concrete as to not leave room for a trace of landscaping.
Nearby residents were concerned about their safety and the appearance of their neighborhood. CFFC wasted no time in bombarding Richmond with objections.
Kay Hayes, in a letter, said “more pavement for more vehicles will not solve congestion.”
In the Fauquier Citizen, CFFC board member David Norden likened the widened highway to the New Jersey Turnpike, barreling into town.
Soon the war was waging on two fronts, as another VDOT project came down the pike for a proposed spur from US 17 to US 29, meant to ease traffic along Broadview Avenue. If approved, the spur would mean lost revenue for local businesses as well as harmful run-off into the Warrenton Reservoir.
Board member Les Cheek urged CFFC to continue loudly voicing its opposition to these projects, blowing the whistle on the initiatives meant to enhance the lives of commuters and not community members.
“If we are not citizens ‘for Fauquier County,’” he wrote, “then who are we for?”
Although the push of development was overwhelming in some instances, CFFC scored some important victories. At the culmination of the US 29/US 17 debate, then Secretary of Transportation Robert E. Martinez mitigated some of CFFC’s concerns by shortening highway ramps, protecting as many old-growth trees as possible, and fighting an ugly sound barrier at all costs.
Not many years later, State Route 28 from Remington to Manassas was chosen for widening, to replicate in Fauquier the road’s 6-lane design in Loudon and Fairfax Counties.
At stake in the clash over SR 28 were the preservation of Southern Fauquier County’s agricultural character, as well as historic spots like Supreme Court Justice John Marshall’s birthplace and the site of Mosby’s raid on Catlett’s Station.
CFFC encouraged residents to protest the project and today, SR 28 is still a peaceful, two-way country road.
During the early part of this century, CFFC hosted transportation forums which were, in Hope Porter’s estimation, one of the group’s most successful initiatives. These forums, often filled to capacity, encouraged residents to be actively involved in stopping the ever-increasing efforts to pave over Fauquier County.
Most recently, CFFC had its hands full defending the western neighborhoods of Warrenton from the Timber Fence Connector, a proposed bypass that would connect US 17 with State Route 211. The connector had been considered multiple times in the past but in 2011, the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors was weighing it once more.
At an emotionally-charged public hearing, residents of the area most affected by the connector worried about their safety, and the additional threats of development and sprawl that new roads bring.
Les Cheek, once again leading the charge, spoke at the meeting to offer the BOS alternatives that CFFC had carefully assembled. These ideas considered Warrenton residents’ needs, not those of people zooming through town. If growth was inevitable, Cheek and CFFC reasoned, then it should be careful, considerate, and Fauquier-centered.
In the end, the Timber Fence Connector was voted down for hopefully the last time.
Over many years and amidst many battles, CFFC has defended our country lanes, our neighborhood drives, our downtown avenues, and our undeveloped landscape. It’s been a long road, so to speak.