Growth in Northern Virginia, divided along county borders

The Arlington corridor between Rosslyn and Ballston absorbed more of Northern Virginia’s population growth in the past 10 years than the Broadlands area of Loudoun County, despite the fact that all of Arlington’s growth was infill development, while in Loudoun it was mostly greenfield, The Transport Politic reports in a piece festooned with great census statistics and excellent graphics.

As is made evident in the drawing above, the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor absorbed a new population equal to the totalpopulation now living in the Broadlands area (the scale of each community is the same). In essence, this means that the the population increase that was made possible through the densification of this area of Arlington via infill development was equivalent to the construction of a greenfield exurban development almost three times its total size.

This article comes on the heel of troves of census data, which also interestingly hit just as Virginia decided to boost funding for their transportation system — though really they means roads: A search for Metro yielded one hit, VRE just two in searching through the 900-project strong document from VDOT.

This news comes at the same time the state is proposing…more highway lanes and less highway lanes at the same time. From the Post:

Arlington County, which had sued to block the project on Interstate 395, doesn’t have to worry about those lanes now. And by shrugging off the original plan, the state freed itself to pursue its other goal of creating HOT lanes on I-95 and linking them to the Beltway HOT lanes.

Certainly a muddled and confusing picture in a state and region trying to move in two different directions at once. Arlington and Alexandria have been pretty clear over the years they aren’t very interested in road expansion. Fairfax goes back and forth; a Fairfax Parkway here, a Tysons Corner Metro extension there. Further out, the focus is almost strictly on road expansion; few have high hopes for any sort of transformation in Loudoun around new Metro stations, at least not right away.

Different jurisdictions in Northern Virginia want different things, and as time passes, the difference between Arlington and Loudoun will only magnify. The choices being made now will bear fruit in 20-30 years, just as the choice of a Metrorail alignment along Wilson Boulevard many years ago paid off in Arlington by increasing the tax base while keeping traffic manageable.

If the people want new toll lanes on 95 and the Beltway, so be it. But I hope they realize what it will mean for their region’s future: More roads to maintain and probably an equal or greater amount of gridlock that adds population in a less efficient manner than Arlington did. At one point it probably made sense to add a sixth lane to I-270 in Maryland; ain’t a lot of room on those roads at rush hour these days, is there? People should get what they want; but do they know what they are really getting?

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