by Dan Roem, Gainesville Times
24-30 July 2013, pp. A1, A3
“Score another one for opponents of the Bi-County Parkway.
“On July 16, the Board of County Supervisors unanimously approved a citizens’ resolution stating that Prince William County will not support the closure of U.S. 29 and Route 234 inside the Manassas National Battlefield Park without the completion of a bypass road around the battlefield.
“The Bi-County Parkway would link Manassas to Dulles. While exact plans are not solidified, officials have said they might close U.S. 29 and Route 234 inside the battlefield as part of the overall parkway plan.
“A related proposal would close U.S. 29 and Route 234 inside the battlefield and would intead create the Battlefield Bypass to reroute traffic around the park.
“With enough money and public support, officials could do both — close the roads and build both the bypass and the parkway. They could also do just one or the other — create the bypass or the parkway.
“Last week’s vote means that the county doesn’t want the roads closed for the parkway unless the bypass is also being built. That amounts to a victory for opponents of the Bi-County Parkway because forcing the construction of the Battlefield Bypass first would add considerably to the cost of the overall plan, making it less likely that the parkway would ever happen.
“But while that resolution is the latest in a string of victories for opponents of the Bi-County Parkway, it’s debatable whether the board’s declaration has teeth behind it or is merely symbolic.
” ‘It actually does have teeth to it because the assistant attorney general made a ruling that they could not take a secondary road without the Board of County Supervisors agreeing to it,’ said Mary Ann Ghadban, a Pageland Lane resident who helped draft the resolution.
“As proof, she pointed to a Dec. 18 email to several Virginia Department of Transportation staffers. Virginia’s senior assistant attorney general Ellen Porter stated that ‘it would be difficult to successfully argue that (the) public is being served by VDOT abandoning a road that is in demand by drivers.’
“While Porter’s statement is not an official ruling, it is an indication that the state would be unlikely to move against the county’s wishes.
“Gainesville District Supervisor Pete Candland (R) said on Thursday that the ‘teeth’ is whether VDOT or Manassas National Battlefield Park superintendent Ed Clark ‘want to consider the feelings of the Board of County Supervisors.’
“Candland said there is a ‘a lot of uncertainty’ about where Clark will stand on the transportation issues but as the battlefield superintendent, his opinion will carry weight.
“With VDOT Secretary Sean Connaughton, who is a former Prince William Board of County Supervisors chairman himself, due to speak to the board on Aug. 6, it appears county residents and elected official alike may receive at least some hint about whether the July 16 resolution will have any sort of impact on the debate.
“Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart (R), who supports the Bi-County Parkway and is Connaughton’s successor, asked for a change in the wording of the reolution to make it clear [that] it would ‘reaffirm’ rather than ‘confirm’ county policy.
” ‘This is not a change to county policy,’ said Stewart at the board meeting.
“The board voted 8-0 in favor of that wording and two minor technical changes.
“The resolution means that even advocates of the Bi-County Parkway do not like the idea of either road being shut down until there is a completed new road around the battlefield in place.
“However, opponents of the parkway, such as Candland, say they’re against that road under any circumstance, so the resolution should not be seen as a tactical endorsement of the parkway even if the Battlefield Bypass is built first.
” ‘Let me be clear: I’m against this road, the Bi-County Parkway, regardless,’ said Candland. ‘It’s not a good use of taxpayer money.’
“He later added that the opposition to closing Route 234 inside the battlefield ‘could be one of those avenues to stop this from happening.’
“One alternative to the Bi-County Parkway is an eastern route, generally known as the Tri-County Parkway, that would run parallel to Route 28.
“The extension of Godwin Drive through Manassas and Yorkshire and out in to Fairfax County, eventually leading to Dulles in Loudoun County, is being pushed by state House Majority Whip Jackson Miller (R-50th), who represents Manassas.[Note: House Majority Whip Jackson Miller, a realtor by profession, is generally considered a residential developer ally and receives more campaign funding from developers than any other group — about 25% of all funding — per the official Virginia campaign finance website Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP): http://www.vpap.org/candidates/profile/home/60848 .]
“So far, opponents of the Bi-County Parkway seem to be considering it as potentially viable.
” ‘That would be a good solution in light of the fact that you have the right-of-way’ already provided, said Ghadban, who backs a rural road around the battlefield too.
“To Candland, the Tri-County Parkway ‘is definitely a better alternative’ than the Bi-County Parkway because the Bi-County Parkway ‘does not solve any sort of traffic issue for the citizens in Prince William County’ while the Tri-County Parkway would alleviate some north-south congestion.
“However, he said, ‘I don’t know enough about the Tri-County Parkway’ to deem whether it is a completely acceptable alternative.”