The Alliance believes federal, state & regional officials should prepare and fund a package of security-related transportation projects to facilitate activity center evacuation & emergency response mobility in the wake of a terrorist attack or natural disaster.
September 11, 2001 attacks painfully reminded America, and to a greater degree the DC area, how vulnerable we truly are. The Pentagon attack also highlighted our regional transportation network’s inadequacy and how this area will be rendered immobile if/when a more major or dispersed incident occurs. The time seemed ripe to finally take action against our region’s most dramatic problem. Yet, nothing has been done. It has been more than a decade since 9/11. Our “official evacuation routes” are the same inadequate corridors that routinely fail on the average weekday. Today, no sense of urgency exists at any level of government to link regional security to strategic transportation chokepoint improvements exists at any level of government.
Regional transportation investments that would greatly improve public safety related to a major homeland security incident include:
- Widening I-66 inside and outside the Capital Beltway
- Constructing a new Potomac River crossing north of the American Legion Bridge.
- Constructing a new 12-lane American Legion Bridge to replace the existing 50 year-old structure.
- Providing the rail cars and the power source necessary for 8-car Metro trains.
- Completing the Bi-County Parkway
- Upgrading the US 301 corridor in Virginia and Maryland to a more limited access facility, including a new, wider Governor Nice Bridge
- Constructing a new limited access connector road between the Fredericksburg VA area and I-66/Dulles Airport.
Since September 2001 the Alliance has been at the forefront in advocating that federal, state and regional officials identify and address regional choke points that foretell disaster for the region in the event of another emergency situation.
The following passages are excerpts from Alliance statements, chronologically illustrating our ongoing advocacy.
September 19, 2001
“Our recent national tragedy also reminds us of the fact that the region’s transportation system is woefully inadequate to handle movement of large numbers of people out of a given area. This would be particularly true in the event of a situation involving nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. Last Tuesday’s tragedy is a serious wake-up call that we ignore at our peril. ”—Statement to National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board
The Alliance published an Alliance Report newsletter with its lead story, Terrorist Attack Brings New Sense of Urgency to Completing Missing Links, which was distributed to more than 5,000 individuals and organizations.
May 15, 2002
“(The region’s) new emergency response plan calls for better communication, signage and new chains of command but is silent on perhaps the most important need of all: network capacity increases of the magnitude necessary to move people out of harm’s way.”—Statement to National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board
September 26, 2002
The Alliance sent letters urging Senators Warner and Allen, Governor Warner and members of Northern Virginia state legislative delegation to support the preparation of a list/plan of key infrastructure improvements needed to facilitate emergency evacuation.
The letter stated in part:
“Earlier this year, the Alliance called attention to the fact that the region’s draft emergency response plan ignored the fundamental issue of lack of transportation network capacity and connectivity. The Commonwealth’s leadership on this issue is most important. The Alliance asks that you direct VDOT to evaluate and make recommendations as to which infrastructure improvements are most essential to ensuring Northern Virginia’s transportation system is prepared to respond to a regional emergency.”
March 14, 2003
The Washington Post front-page story on regional transportation security quotes the Alliance as expressing concern that emergency planners haven’t done more since 9/11 to address key transportation bottlenecks, including the lack of Potomac River Crossings that would prevent movement of people and emergency personnel.
March 19, 2003
“While the world becomes more dangerous, officials in the National Capital Region – home to America’s third worst congestion, much of its federal work force and a prime target for international terrorists – have apparently made a conscious decision to neither provide additional security related transportation improvements, capacity or alternatives. Content, it appears, to bet the lives of lots of people on the belief that our adversaries lack the resources to cause any widespread harm and willing to gamble that additional infrastructure capacity is neither necessary or worth the investment.”—Statement to National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board
April 17, 2003
“Prior to 9/11 the region’s transportation decision-making malaise meant lots of folks getting up earlier in the morning and getting home later at night. Today, in a region at the top of every international terrorist’s list, failing to do more to address fundamental transportation capacity deficiencies may well result in thousands of people not getting home at all. Thousands of lives are at risk, not because we have tried and failed to address security-related bottlenecks, but because we haven’t tried at all.”—Remarks to Commonwealth Transportation Board and Virginia Department of Transportation
August 6, 2003
“Given that the National Capital Region is home to all three branches of the federal government, our national defense and intelligence agencies and nearly 5 million residents, the federal government, and the Department of Homeland Security in particular, has a strong vested interest and obligation to provide leadership in making certain that this area’s transportation infrastructure is capable of meeting its emergency response and evacuation needs. The Alliance urges your office to put an assessment of transportation-related security needs high on its lists of immediate priorities.”—Letter to Mr. Michael F. Byrne, Homeland Security Coordinator, National Capital Region
March 17, 2004
“Thirty months after 9/11 federal and regional policies still remain oblivious to the transportation network’s inadequacies. The audience at last month’s George Mason University conference shook its head as officials tried to explain that sheltering in place was the best strategy. Ten bombs just went off at three Madrid locations. To assume that only one part of our region would be attacked is folly. Trying to reduce some demand on the transportation network may be part of the solution, but is no substitute for added capacity.”—Statement to National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board
September 2, 2005
Participated in September 2nd AAA-Potomac regional security press conference at the National Press Club. The Alliance statement emphasized that regional transportation woes are a direct result of a lack of federal, state, regional and local leadership. The same type of governmental cooperation directed at the Hurricane Katrina disaster is needed to address the region’s transportation disaster.
“The five million residents of this area have been in the midst of a transportation crisis that for years has cost them and our economy billions of dollars annually; a crisis that continues to be largely ignored by federal, state, regional and local officials.
Not even 9/11 and the emergence of the Washington area as a top terrorist target has produced any urgency on the part of the public officials to address existing bottlenecks and build missing transportation links essential to the region’s survival.
An analogy to New Orleans’ levees where officials have known for years that a major disaster was only a matter of time might not be far off the mark. Serious as today’s traffic congestion is, what’s even worse is that no serious plan exists to address it.
We will never have a transportation system that works until the general public demands more of those it elects and more resources are invested in performance-based solutions.”
February 15, 2006
“The regional reality check continues. The threat of terrorists persists, yet in nearly five years since 9-11, this body still is unable to find the will to identify and petition for federal support to address major bottlenecks.”—Statement to National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board
October 13, 2006
In response to the National Study on Evacuation Capability, the Alliance issued aNational Study Gives Region’s Road Network “F” for Evacuation Capability report noting that efforts to improve capacity are virtually non-existent while Iran, North Korea and others develop nuclear and other terrorist capacities.
“While Iran, North Korea and other rouge nations develop nuclear and other terrorist capabilities, the fourth lane on I-95 near Ft. Belvoir is still not built, work on I-66 inside the Beltway remains relegated to “spot improvement studies,” elected officials won’t even talk about new bridges and bypasses, and the “official” regional evacuation motto is “shelter in place.” What is it about the international terrorism threat to the residents of our region that our elected officials still don’t understand?”
February 22, 2007
The Alliance issued the – Pets First II – alert noting that Arlington County is using federal Homeland Security funds to aid pets in the event of major disaster, while continuing to oppose improving I-66 inside the Beltway which is essential to saving pet owners in those same disasters.
October 17, 2007
“Until governmental bodies at the federal, state and regional levels muster the courage to face up to the absolute need to better connect this region with multi-modal bridges and parkways, to achieve consensus on and implement regional funding and to open transportation bottlenecks to enhance regional emergency response and evacuation capability, the general public – both the informed and uninformed – has little hope of having a transportation system that works.”—Statement to National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board
September 21, 2011
“Given that we are a logical international terrorist target, a logical 9/11 reaction would have focused considerable resources on providing the capacity to move more people out of harm’s way by extending the I-95 HOV network to Fredericksburg and beyond, widening I-66 inside and outside the Beltway, widening existing and building new Potomac River bridges, and addressing other bottlenecks.
“Instead, local governments opposed some of the aforementioned improvements and the TPB’s restrictions on I-66 westbound improvements still stand. This region’s transportation body settled for improved communications and adopted a “shelter in place” motto.
“There might be fewer names on the World Trade Center 9/11 memorial had more individuals not heeded the “shelter in place” communiqués and chosen to get out sooner.
“The inability of this body to deal with big picture regional homeland security evacuation transportation realities is emblematic of its inability to deal with other core transportation realities including the need for new funding, interstate and cross-Potomac connections and other major improvements that would improve the daily lives of millions.”—Statement to National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board