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A Concept For Industry and Fairfax

February 27, 2012
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The Waste and Energy Company (AEB) is part of the City of Amsterdam. AEB is a world leader in the sustainable conversion of waste into energy and valuable, reusable raw materials. AEB’s mission: to extract the maximum possible benefit from waste.

We have already shown how Fairfax currently contains some capacity for infrastructure, most notably heavy rail and the possibility of shipping ports in our previous discussions Part 1. We have also discussed the variance in design and feasibility for industrial uses in a region which has been less than friendly to manufacturing partnerships in the past within Part 2.

To help constitute these capacities the region must be open to the concept of private cooperatives in expanding these job creating opportunities in order to focus the infrastructure and remove the impact to residential districts. No one is proposing sending freight mega ships up the Chesapeake. However by coordinating efforts with existing shipping regions such as Newport News and Norfolk, which will require funding assistance by Fairfax, the state, and of course the county itself, can ensure a connected network to the heavy rail system that already exists.

Utilizing the region around Mason Neck allows for a short circulator route for freight rail which will now be able to offload cargo to a region which could spur new investment in manufacturing. The region will boast close connection to the 4th largest consumer base in the country and a reduction in cost to the factory through the shipping points of Southern Virginia and a reduction in cost to freight from the factory to distribution and consumer points within Fairfax, Prince William, DC, and Maryland.

The initial cost of the new rail parallel system could be provided as a private partnership with Norfolk Southern off of the existing system. The new system would constitute 20 to 30 rail miles which would need to be anchored by a manufacturer who is looking for direct access to freight rail and is willing to carry the cost of the new depot. Additional depots could be provided by further interested parties at which time an appropriate partnership is found. The largest deterrent to industrial investors has been the jurisdiction itself which has made it clear in policy that Fairfax is not interested in spurring new factories. The cost of the new 20 to 30 miles split between Fairfax and Norfolk Southern would carry a nominal cost of 10 to 20 million dollars (Based on an average rate of $1.2 – 1.5 million a mile).

The hidden benefit of an improved rail system for Fairfax is a significant reduction capability in freight trucking along the Route 1, I-95, I-66, and other road systems. This is important for controlling maintenance costs on roads through the county as 1 18-Wheeler load on pavement is equivalent to the damage created from 9600 vehicle trips on the same road. Reducing the number of freight trucks, or atleast the distance the trucks must travel, has immediate and measurable impacts to improving the system maintenance costs which reaches well into the billions for Virginia as a whole.

Freight Rail is also far less susceptible to rising oil prices, as a typical freight run can move an average of 1 ton of goods 436 miles on a single gallon of gas, a system which is 2-fold more efficient than truck freight for long hauls. This reduction in transport has significant impacts on goods pricing, and improvement on the system will help keep these prices lower for the consumer.

Fairfax is renowned around the country, and even globally, as a high tech hub for biotechnology, IT, engineering, and commerce. The county continuously provides not just top 100 high schools annually but top 5 with Thomas Jefferson. The area also is a congruence point for the several highly rated Universities including Virginia Tech, UVA, William and Mary, GMU, etc. many of these graduates find themselves joining firms which have a set federal concept due to the ease and geography of this client.

While this has proven to be a model which has created the 4th most robust economy in the country it wastes this vital component and limits the possibilities that exist. As Seattle and Portland have shown, when garnered by a management structure that is open to new avenues of commerce this efficient employment base can create new ideas and concepts. To relegated the region as capable of only providing consulting and service industry products limits the potential available from this educated worker base.

Lastly, and to many the most impenetrable obstacle to a 21st century industrial model is our preconceived opinions and antagonism of new manufacturing. The biggest step of many jurisdictions is the first step of simply saying “we are open to business”. While Fairfax has shown they believe the county should be more than a suburban sprawl, it has yet to recognize that mixed use commercial and residential sprawl can still be another form of sprawl.

To truly be mixed use means a healthy industrial backbone, segregated from residents, but networked along a freight infrastructure. We as residents and politicians need to recognize that by diversifying and utilizing our capabilities to include not just consulting but creating we can assure an economy which can better defend itself from a restricted federal budget and future recessions. Through opening our minds to a new concept of industry which has its place in the new Green reality, we as a region can begin to stand on our own as an independent but connected economy.

Association of American Railroads Report

Association of American Railroads Investment Study

Lower Fairfax Planning Study

Freight Transport Weight Study

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7 Responses to A Concept For Industry and Fairfax

  1. Dan in Burke on February 27, 2012 at 9:50 am

    I think this article doesn’t anticipate the full impact of waste materials that industrial companies make and the impact it will have on fisheries and the environment of the Chesapeake which is already at the breaking point.

  2. question on February 27, 2012 at 11:09 pm

    Tysons Engineer, what is it that you do?

    • Tysons Engineer on February 28, 2012 at 7:58 am

      Hmmm broad question. I could go with the sarcastic Descartes response here, but I’ll take it at face value. I’m a licensed professional engineer who has worked in the Northern Virginia land development field for 10 years as well as on international projects.

      • question on February 29, 2012 at 2:11 pm

        gotcha, that being said, am curious as to whos concept this is- is this something you were hired to do, or is it the counties manufacturing concept?

        • Tysons Engineer on February 29, 2012 at 9:30 pm

          This is a concept, created for the sole purpose of starting a conversation and at a feasibility study level, as to what could work in helping to diversify this regions economy away from consulting and accounting services for the federal government. My hope would be to communicate the existing infrastructure and land available for these uses to people who may not be aware that industrial and manufacturing uses could be possible in Fairfax County without any impact to residents and the watershed. One of the largest trends in Manufacturing has been the return of factories closer towards distribution and demand centers due to the inherent cost reductions in freighting. With fuel costs rising it is likely that many industries could view Fairfax/PWC/Loudoun as a prime location to distribute to the 4th largest economy in the US.

          Fairfax County currently does not have a cohesive direction on how to diversify the economy, beyond drawing existing corporate office/commercial entities to the county. While this brings tax revenue that likely would exceed that brought from manufacturing, it leaves the employment base dangerously connected to federal budgeting and the Financial/IT sector. Our roots as a region began as a hub of industry with the founding of colonial Alexandria, and while manufacturing remains in the state in Tidewater regions, it is clearly missing from the economy of Fairfax.

  3. EnvironmentalEdward on April 6, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    Did you consider the environmental impact of manufacturing on Mason Neck? Try looking at the history of the area. They attempted to build a highway in the 60s and it fell through because of the environmental impacts, such as on wildlife, land, and water degradation.

    • Tysons Engineer on April 7, 2012 at 8:52 am

      Absolutely agree that this region is an important asset to the environment of the Chesapeake. I have worked in design of Low Impact Development as well as stormwater management for many years and of course the Chesapeake Bay must be protected at all cost. This doesn’t preclude the ability to bring industry however. Since the 1960s huge strides have been made in manufacturing and industrial practices which can remove the impacts of these forms. The key is the private industrial partner will need to recognize their part in keeping the Chesapeake clean. Through use of extended RPAs, preservation of Wetlands, use of cisterns, green roofing, solar power/geothermal heating the natural environment itself can become the best filter against former pollutant sources. These elements cost millions of dollars in addition to typical sprawl form manufacturing design, but the ability for a manufacturer to be directly accessible to heavy freight rail and a prime location next to a top 5 consumer base in the Washington Metro area will supersede these costs and still attract high quality manufacturers.

      Better design can help preserve natural regions which are very important as well as diversify our economy away from pure federal services.

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