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Connors gains state Transportation Board seat

Hap Connors, a former Spotsylvania County supervisor, is the Fredericksburg District’s new Commonwealth Transportation Board member.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe appointed Connors and five other new members on Thursday to the powerful state board that sets transportation policy and funding priorities.

“I’ve got a lot of homework to do,” Connors said in an interview after the governor released the names of his choices.

He and the other appointees immediately replace the incumbents, including Cord Sterling, the Stafford County supervisor who served two terms on the transportation board. Members cannot serve more than two consecutive terms.

Sterling’s term was supposed to run through June, but the governor wanted his appointees to vote on the state’s Six-Year Improvement Program. That will be done in June.

Connors, vice president for government and public affairs at the Herndon-based Center for Innovative Technology, has intimate knowledge of the region’s transportation issues.

While he was a supervisor, Connors served on the Fredericksburg Area Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Committee.

Sterling said Connors has a “strong background” in transportation.

Spotsylvania Supervisor Gary Skinner echoed that sentiment. “I don’t know if there’s anybody else that knows more about transportation in this area,” he said.

Connors, an independent, served on the board with Skinner, but lost his seat to Republican-endorsed Tim McLaughlin in 2011.

As a supervisor, Connors supported efforts to build the Rappahannock Parkway, which would parallel congested State Route 3 before tying into Route 3 near Gordon Road.

That road, however, fell out of favor after McLaughlin and other conservative Republicans won seats on the Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors in 2011.

The parkway is part of the proposed Rappahannock River Crossing project, which includes plans for collector–distributor roads and bridges along Interstate 95 between the U.S. 17 exit in Stafford and the Route 3 exit. Both of those interchanges would be revamped as part of the project to improve congestion on I–95.

Connors was on FAMPO when talk of the parkway started. It was then expected to be a toll road, but that’s not part of the discussion now following the General Assembly’s passage last year of a state transportation funding package.

The parkway remains in the plans as part of the crossing project, but Spotsylvania’s FAMPO members still oppose it. Some funding for the crossing project was included in a recent draft of the six-year plan, but not for the parkway.

Skinner doesn’t think Connors will let his past stances get in the way of focusing on transportation solutions.

“Hap is the kind of guy that does the right thing,” he said. “He’s too much of a professional.”

Connors said it’s up to local officials to come up with solutions in their regions.

“It’s not my job to vote” on FAMPO decisions, he said, adding that he will work with local and regional officials to learn what their priorities are.

Connors said it’s time to improve the transportation network.

“The governor and secretary of transportation have very aggressive plans to get things done and I’m proud to help out,” Connors said. “We can’t keep debating and studying these things. We’ve got to move things forward.”

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436