Friday, April 27, 2012

Will it really cost an extra $77 Million to avoid McIntire Park

 At the April 25 hearing in Federal District Court for the Western District of Virginia on the case on Coalition to Preserve McIntire Park against the Federal Highway Administration, the FHWA attorney stated that a Tee-Intersection alternative to the proposed improvement to traffic flow at US Route 250 Bypass and McIntire Road would cost an additional $77 Million above the cost of the FHWA recommended interchange design - an approximately $35 Million project. I believe that the $77 Million is not at all reasonable especially that a the recommended design can be adapted to be a Tee design by simplifying the ramps north of the intersection and eliminating the 775 foot northern stub. I believe such a design could actually be lower in cost than the current design - not an additional $77 Million more expensive. FHWA did not provide a specific design for this alternative, and I am uncertain how the cost of that alternative was estimated. No basis for the cost of the avoidance alternative was presented in court.

More troubling to me is that Neil Williamson, representing the Free Enterprise Forum, repeated the statement that the avoidance alternative would cost an additional $77 Million in an interview on WINA radio the next morning and was replayed throughout the day on WINA. Although Mr. Williamson only repeated the statement by the FHWA attorney made in federal court, I was disappointed that he didn't question the validity of the estimate, state if he agreed with this assessment, or if the statement might have been an error. Simply passing along a statement of this type appears to fall short of what is stated by the Free Enterprise Forum on their blog []. Passing along information for which there appears to be no documented basis - even if simply repeating what another has said - particularly when cost comparison is a major factor in the public debate can confuse, rather than contribute to public debate. The following is taken from the "What we believe" statement by the Free Enterprise Forum - 

"The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization, is dedicated to providing clear positive balance to the discussion of important issues of the day."

I believe Mr. Williamson's unqualified restatement of the FHWA attorney's statement without credible support fails to provide the balance to the discussion of the issues surrounding development of the Route 250 Bypass Interchange at McIntire Road to which the Free Enterprise Forum is dedicated.

I have communicated my thoughts on this matter to Neil Williamson and continue to encourage him either to support as reasonable or reject the $77 Million estimate and not simply pass along that statement for public consumption.

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