A parking garage and more in our future…

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 16, 2004

After seeing many new and expensive projects downtown, we are going to see more.

With all of the traffic we see downtown and the continual carping by the &uot;Downtowner’s&uot; about the lack of parking, it is apparent that a multi-million dollar city parking garage will soon be proposed by our City Manager.

The real problem is the level of traffic suffered during lunch and the work rush hour on Main Street.

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It is more like the traffic snarls we see in Chesapeake and Virginia Beach, than Suffolk.

This entire episode is guaranteed to become more painful, due to the actions of the City Council under the advice of the City Manager.

The decision to support the VDOT cancellation of the Southeast Bypass could be one of the worst decisions of the last several years.

This new bypass around downtown would have diverted some of the traffic we have piling-up on Main Street.

Due to political pressures to funnel more traffic and customers onto Main Street, the Council agreed to let VDOT remove the Southeast Bypass project from our road plan.

The consequences of this shortsighted strategy will insure that these issues become even more problematic in the near future.

It is readily apparent that the real issue concerning the downtown traffic headache has nothing to do with the benefits of building a multi-million dollar parking garage.

If something is not done to ease the traffic congestion on Main Street, the entire redevelopment of the downtown will stall.

The snarled traffic mess will hamper the millions of dollars spent by our City Council in revitalizing the downtown and we will all be parked on Main Street waiting to inch forward.

No one will want to come near the area and sit in traffic.

Many people already avoid downtown when visiting the Wal-Mart and other stores and establishments on South Main Street, by using Route 58.

Even thought it is more miles from the South-end of the City, it is less time in traffic idling next to the Courthouse and Post Office.

When you understand these issues and the many pronouncements made by our city officials concerning the decision to take over roads from VDOT, it is very apparent that the solution that is in the works boils down to the diversion of VDOT monies to downtown.

With an unbalanced bias for further spending downtown by our City Manager, it is quite obvious that if there are not some controls on the VDOT monies, we could get another downtown spending frenzy.

While it is apparent that the proposal to take over roads makes financial sense, it is difficult to see how there will be much benefit for the eighty five percent of us that do not live, work, or even visit downtown very often.

During the next month or more, the City will hold meetings to gather comments from the citizens about the 2018 Comprehensive Plan and the VDOT road transition plan.

The real question that needs to be posed include: What assurances will the City Council place to insure that there is balance in the VDOT funding for the entire City, like funding the Southeast Bypass around downtown before any other project?

It has become very evident that if left to the City Manager’s discretion alone, such a project would never happen.

What we need to do, is to insure that we know all of the facts and more importantly demand balanced policies from our City Leaders.

With so much of our capital budget already spent and programmed to downtown projects, why would anyone expect that we would not see more of the same with the VDOT Money?

With almost $18 million in VDOT money accruing each year to the City by the proposed City road takeover plan, it is not a great leap to assume that much of this money will find it’s way downtown.

The politics of this revenue diversion plan are evident, if one only looks too our recent past.

With several multi-million dollar projects already underway downtown and a new $5 million plus parking garage soon to be proposed, the VDOT funds could be diverted in bulk.

Such a raid will insure more of what we have seen in the recent past.

The only way that the road takeover plan works to everyone’s benefit, is to demand that the funds be spent in each area of the city predicated on the same method that the funds are collected.

This count is by road lane mile and it should be spent in the same manner.

To allow the same people who have brought us the spending and growth imbalances we already suffer, will only insure they do it to us again with the VDOT money.

All citizens should attend the 2018 Comprehensive Plan and VDOT Road meetings and express their views that more balance in both are a must.

The VDOT road takeover plan by the City could benefit all of Suffolk, if it is done in a fair manner.

Roger Leonard is a Suffolk businessman and writes on local government issues every Tuesday in the News-Herald. He can be reached at RogerFlys@aol.com.