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BLUE RIDGE ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE LEAGUE
PO Box 88 ~ Glendale Springs, North Carolina 28629 ~ Phone (336) 982-2691 ~ Fax (336) 982-2954 ~ Email: BREDL@skybest.com


Taxpayers for Common Sense
Friends of the Earth
Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League
Virginians for Appropriate Roads
Citizens Concerned About I-73


PRESS RELEASE



For Immediate Release
June 2, 2004
Contacts:
Ann Rogers, Virginians for Appropriate Roads, 540/725-8222
Mark Barker, Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, 540/342-5580
Jerryanne Bier, Citizens Concerned about I-73,
540/365-2230
Keith Ashdown, Taxpayers for Common Sense, 202/546-8500 ext 110
Erich Pica, Friends of the Earth,
202/222-0739

I-73 NAMED ONE OF THE NATION'S
MOST WASTEFUL ROAD PROJECTS

Roanoke, VA - Interstate 73 is one of the most wasteful highway projects in the nation, according to a new report released today by Virginians for Appropriate Roads (VAR), Citizens Concerned about I-73, Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL), Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS), and Friends of the Earth (FoE). The report, Road to Ruin, identifies the 27 most wasteful highway projects in the country.

"I-73 would bisect an Old Order German Baptist agricultural settlement in Franklin County, bulldoze prime farmland and pristine landscapes, further degrade our air quality and open up more of rural southwestern Virginia to sprawl development ," said Mark Barker of Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League. Added Barker, "With so many needs for funding, it is hard to believe that building I-73 is still being considered."

I-73, which originated as a way to obtain federal funds to upgrade U.S. 52 in West Virginia, was named a National Highway System High Priority Corridor in 1995. In May, 2001, Virginia's Commonwealth Transportation Board selected an Interstate-style freeway cutting a destructive swath through historic areas, forests, and farmland as the way to build I-73 through Virginia. West Virginia and Ohio, the two states who engaged in extensive highway construction on I-73, built four-lane arterial highways with at-grade intersections. Neither built the type of limited access highway associated with the Interstate Highway System.

"This project is a white elephant that would blow hundreds of millions of hard-earned taxpayer dollars without considering less expensive alternatives," said Erich W. Zimmermann, Research Analyst at Taxpayers for Common Sense, "I-73 won't solve traffic problems and will waste $1.12 billion.

"VAR supports building I-73 as a high-quality upgrade of U.S. 220," said Ann Rogers of VAR. "220 is a classic example of an older arterial connector that is rapidly being made obsolete by the installation of too many traffic signals, driveways and business entrances. In Virginia, our county governments are responsible for writing ordinances for managing access along their transportation corridors. U.S. 220 needs responsible access management to survive as southwestern Virginia's arterial connector between I-40 and I-81."

"The I-73 project is emblematic of a national struggle that local communities are having against new highway construction," stated Erich Pica, economic campaign director at Friends of the Earth. "These highways are impacting air quality, destroying habitat, and are failing to make communities more livable."

The 2004 Road to Ruin highlights projects from every part of the country, which together would cost federal taxpayers more than $24 billion. The 27 projects named in the report are located in 21 states. Virginia leads the list with four wasteful road projects; Indiana has three; and Florida, Kentucky, Minnesota and Pennsylvania each have two. The report recommends that the $189 million earmarked in this year's transportation bill for the 27 roads listed in the report be eliminated, and the brakes applied to all of these projects before another dollar is wasted.

"Congress is over-stepping the bounds it set for itself and is effectively taking control of local transportation decisions by earmarking millions of dollars for projects that face significant local opposition," said Zimmermann. "It's time for the proponents of these projects to pull over and get directions."

The 27 highways in the report were all nominated by local citizen organizations and individuals, and were researched by Taxpayers for Common Sense and Friends of the Earth. This list represents the most wasteful and environmentally harmful highways in the U.S. The Top 10 was determined by ranking each road according to its cost to taxpayers and impact on the environment and surrounding community.

In May, 2004 VDOT announced that $602 million in highway projects would be cut from the state's Six-Year Plan that takes effect July 1. These cuts are part of a total $1.3 billion in planned state funding cuts for highway construction projects for the next six years. With no construction funding for I-73 anywhere, any time in the foreseeable future, Virginia should follow a path of conscience and desist from all further planning to build I-73. Virginia should focus transportation funds - which are becoming scarcer and scarcer -- on a state-of-the-art upgrade of U.S. 220.

The Road to Ruin report is available on the Taxpayers for Common Sense website at http://www.taxpayer.net/user_uploads/file/Transportation/RoadtoRuin2004/COMPLETEREPORT.pdf .

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Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS) is an independent taxpayer organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. that works to cut government waste by reaching out to taxpayers from all political perspectives.

Friends of the Earth (FOE) is the U.S. voice of an influential, international network of grassroots environmental groups in 70 countries.

Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL) is a is a regional, community-based, non-profit environmental organization. Our founding principles are earth stewardship, environmental democracy, social justice, and community empowerment. BREDL has chapters and members throughout the southeastern United States, including Virginia.

Virginians for Appropriate Roads (VAR) and Citizens Concerned about I-73 are grassroots citizen organizations working politically and legally to prevent construction of I-73 as an Interstate-style freeway through the natural and built environment of southwestern Virginia.