“The Prince William Board of County Supervisors unanimously delayed a vote Tuesday [21 May 2013] that would have reaffirmed the county’s support for a proposed parkway through Manassas Battlefield land that connects Prince William and Loudoun.
“The delay is another in a string of setbacks for the project known as the ‘Tri-County Parkway,’ a road the administration of Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) says is vital to the future of one of the fastest-growing regions in the country.
“(Virginia Department of Transportation/Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment) – A map of a planned 45-mile highway — including the proposed Tri-County Parkway — from Route 7 in Ashburn, past the west side of Dulles International Airport, down to Dumfries and Interstate 95 in Prince William County.”The 10-mile parkway, which as proposed now runs through just two counties instead of three, would connect Interstate 66 in Prince William to Route 50 in Loudoun. Dozens of residents and a state legislator implored supervisors during its board meeting to hold off on a vote that would have established the county’s funding priorities for state projects, including the parkway.
“Board Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R), a supporter of the road, blasted state officials who oppose the road, saying that those who are against the project need to propose solutions.
” ‘Everyone who is opposed to the road and not offering an alternative is a coward,’ Stewart said.
“The comments came minutes after Del. Robert G. Marshall (R) joined dozens in voicing opposition to the project.
“In an interview, Marshall said of Stewart’s comment: ‘He should have said it to my face.’ He said he has proposed specific solutions, including widening Route 28, that would be cheaper and less damaging.
“Residents say they worry about increased traffic and the fact that the parkway would run through a bucolic region with a rich Civil War history. Last week, a state transportation board delayed a vote on the issue after U.S. Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) wrote a letter to McDonnell to say that the state’s process lacked transparency and that more public input was needed. Six Republican state legislators announced last month that they oppose the road.
“The parkway’s supporters, particularly the business communities in Prince William and Loudoun, say the parkway would create jobs and drive economic development in the area, ease congestion and provide a key connection to Dulles International Airport and between two rapidly growing counties.”
“Virginia Department of Transportation’s (VDOT) plan to build the Tri-County Parkway (TCP) through Prince William County to west of Dulles International Airport met with strong opposition May 2 from area state legislators and many of the more than 200 people who crowded into Bull Run Middle School to voice their opinions. Some 22 people spoke at the meeting.
“The planned roadway also is called the Bi-County Parkway (BCP), the outer beltway, North-South Corridor and Battlefield Bypass.
“Those speaking out against the proposal included Del. Time Hugo, (R-40), whose district includes Manassas National Battlefield Park; Del. Robert (Bob) Marshall, (R-13), who represented the Manassas National Battlefield Park area before the 2012 redistricting; Pete Candland, who represents Gainesville District on Prince William Board of County Supervisors; Alyson Satterwhite, Gainesville District member on the Prince William County School Board; and meeting organizers Philomena Hefter, Paige Snyder and Mary Ann Ghadban.
“Hugo noted ‘some of the business community is upset’ with opposition to the parkway. The chambers of commerce of both Prince William and Loudoun counties issued a joint press release April 29, calling the roadway ‘essential to the area’s future.’
“Hugo told his audience the bypass route would close VA 234 and US 29 in the area, which ‘would be a disaster for every commuter on I-66.’ He added that what VDOT and the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) are doing ‘will impact people’s lives and property values, and we’re going to stop that right now….The fight starts tonight.’
“In an April 29 press release, Hugo noted the CTB, a 17-member board, allocates the state’s funding for all transportation projects. Because of the bypass route near Manassas National Battlefield Park (MNBP), he pointed out many discussions have been held with the National Park Service (NPS).
“The citizens’ group against the parkway contends ‘VDOT is giving $3 million to the battlefield o purchase property and conservation easements along the Tri-County Parkway and the Battlefield.’
“The group said the parkway also would close off residents’ access to Pageland Lane and US 29, that VA 234 would close between Northern Virginia Community College and Featherbed Lane, that the by-pass is planned as a toll road, that Catharpin Road would become a major cut through for traffic headed to Gainesville and that area property values will plummet because no one wants to live near a major highway.
” ‘When the land gets cheap enough, the battlefield can take it at a huge reduction. Prince William Board of Supervisors voted against this route years ago. Now, they ignore their responsibility to stay informed and represent their constituents as evidenced by their lack of knowledge of road closures,’ the group asserts in literature provide to the media at the meeting.
“Hugo told the May 2 meeting the parkway is a ‘move to provide a cut through for cargo traffic to Dulles Airport.’ He added the bypass also ‘will destroy the Rural Crescent, land that Prince William Board of County Supervisors has pledge to protect, will take property away from over 100 landowners just in the Gainesville District and will siphon monies away from critical transportation needs such as I-66.’ The delegate likened opposition to the bypass to ‘the new Battle of Manassas.’
“Candland said that as one of ten children, he had to learn to fight for what he wanted, and that he does not like ‘being pushed around. I’ll continue to fight to make sure our voices are heard.’
“Marshall opined that there has to be a better way to get Dulles without condemning property, calling the project, ‘a rush to judgment.’
“He contended that a better solution would be doubling the exiting capacity of the VA 28 exits from I-66, building a grade separated interchange to relieve the backup form congestion at Walney Road/Braddock Road and VA 28 which spills onto I-66 and spending $5 million to build reversible lanes to relieve congestion on VA 28 between the Fairfax County line and Manassas Park.
“At an April 29 press conference, Marshall reported that CTB member Gary Garczynski said at a town hall meeting in March ‘that both UPS and FedEx endorsed this road. I spoke with a representative from UPS who is in charge of transportation for UPS in Northern Virginia. He knew nothing about this and resented the fact that it had been implied that UPS endorsed this road.’
” ‘Additionally, at a recent Prince William Committee of 100 meeting, Mr. Garczynski stated that the Commonwealth Transportation Board had not endorsed a plan to close Rt. 234 and Rt. 29 through the Manassas Battlefield Park prior to the Bi-County Parkway/Battlefield By-pass being completed… there are documents available which show the CTB voted for exactly that in February of this year. This lack of candor has to stop,’ Marshall asserted in his press release.
“He called the proposed parkway ‘a developers’ road,’ saying he ‘would like to know who currently owns the property that would be purchased for the right-of-way, and who has taken options to purchase property along the right-of-way. I believe that it is primarily developers and that rather than helping create a road to move traffic in a timely manner, this would be an opening for extensive development which would only create more traffic problems.’
“Marshall asked his audience at the middle school to contact their county supervisors, since they would be the ones voting for the road closures.
“In her remarks, Hefter reported the CTB adopted resolutions for the Tri-County Parkway in 2005 and for the battlefield by-pass in 2006 and then began a total of five meetings. She added a programmatic agreement is only for historic properties along the TCP, which runs between I-66 and Artemus Road along Pageland Lane.
“Hefter explained VDOT put out a first draft of its plan last July, and that Ghadban, Snyder and she got involved.
” ‘The programmatic agreement negotiated by NPS and VDOT diffuses what can be done to minimize and mitigate the impacts of this 4-6-lane cargo route to Dulles on the battlefield, but does not even consider the local residents. It has been in the works between VDOT and NPS for more than two years, hidden from the community. It dictates changes to our local transportation network that will bring havoc and bring our roads to gridlock. The Feb. 2013 (CTB) resolution changed the commitments the counties of PWC and Fairfax thought they had agreed to in Nov. 2005. Namely, the Battlefield By-pass would be built before Sudley Road was abandoned by VDOT within the park,’ according to Hefter.
“Snyder reported that, ‘unfortunately, VDOT, the National Park Service and chairman Corey Stewart declined our invitation to listen to you and answer your questions’ at the May 2 meeting. Stewart is chairman of Prince William Board of County Supervisors.
” ‘VDOT and the (CTB) and the chamber of commerce will tell you that this road is a done deal. They are trying to misdirect, mislead and fast track us into thinking this is a lost cause. I am here to tell you that that is not true,’ Snyder said.
“Ghadban asserted that ‘what’s going on here is bad business, bad government and bad planning.’ She noted she’s a lifelong county resident who has been a land developer and a commercial real estate broker in the county for more than 30 years.
” ‘The reason the battle is so intense is because VDOT and park service have gotten in bed together to put this road through the historic district and 6.5 miles of the Rural Crescent. They are bullying the residents of PWC in order to meet all of the demands of the park service without any regard to what they do to a community, transportation network or private property,’ Ghadban reported. She added the Pageland portion of the parkway ‘is the missing link for the outer beltway, plain and simple.’
“Ghadban asserted the Tri-County Parkway would affect all county residents from Montclair to Dominion Valley.
” ‘It will turn Rt. 234 from Montclair, past Purcell Road, into the outer beltway,’ she added.
“During citizen comment at the meeting, John Stirrup pointed out he was ‘a staunch supporter’ of the Rural Crescent. He previously represented Gainesville District on the county’s board of supervisors. He said he’s against closing US 29 and VA 234.
“Linda Budreika, Dominion Valley, told the meeting the by-pass ‘was done in the dark of night,’ and that ‘there’s nothing in this for Prince William County.’
“A Sanders Lane resident said his daily commute to Washington, DC, is worth it. He added he wants the names of those who are making money from the roadway.
” ‘To find a crook, follow the money,’ he remarked.
“Mac Haddow said, ‘Jim Rich got fired for fighting back’ against the bypass. Rich, who attended the meeting, said he was ‘fired’ from the CTB for opposing the bypass and another project in the Charlottesville area.
“Philip Harrover, who said he’s spent 73 years in the county, questioned how one of the meeting’s organizers, Mary Ann Ghadban, would get out of her property if roads are closed.
“A woman who said she’s the program director for Sudley United Methodist Church on VA 234 questioned how church members would get onto their property.
” ‘We’re not a museum. We’re a living, breathing congregation,’ she pointed out.
“Bob Weir, a former Haymarket council member, said he was surprised to find himself on the same side of the issue as Ghadban.
” ‘VDOT lies,’ Weir commented. ‘We need to take action now. We need to organize delaying tactics at least until November.’
“A Lawnville Road resident asked how the parkway would affect schools, noting her 15-year-old student had attended ‘three different elementary schools.’
“Satterwhite explained there are no more schools planned north of I-66, and that existing roadways would become overloaded. At the county’s eastern end, both Pattie Elementary School and Washington-Reid Elementary School would have a six-lane road in front of them.
” ‘The road is not in the county’s best interest. The economic best interest of Prince William County would not be served. There’s no economic benefit to the county,’ Satterwhite asserted.
“Patricia Bradburn remarked that the battlefield is public land, that VA 234 and US 29 need to be kept open and that ‘we should not have our future destroyed by our history.’ “
by Page Snyder of Pageland Farm, Gainesville Times
13-19 February 2013, p. A5
“Gainesville residents need to be aware that the Tri-County Parkway (Outer Beltway) might start construction in as little as 2-3 years from now.
“The TCP (Outer Beltway) is slated to run the length of Pageland Lane from I-66 across U.S. 29 to Route 234, down Sanders Lane and into Loudoun County where it will connect with the North Star Boulevard.
“The TCP will be a major four-lane highway and truck route with cargo traffic headed to Dulles and speed limits designed for 65 mph.
“It will cut through the Rural Crescent, and part of the route will be placed directly in the Manassas Battlefield Park through the hallowed grounds of Brawner Farm.
“Congress passed a law in 1980 that requires the National Park Service to close the intersection at the Stone House (U.S. 29 and Route 234.) The Park Service additionally plans to close 29 to through traffic from Pageland Lane through the Stone House intesection and to the Farifax County Line.
“In order to achieve this, the National Park Service has bought into the placement of the Tri-County Parkway directly onto park property. The National Park Service states that by providing historic land to VDOT for a highway, it enables Manassas Battlefield Park to close the Stone House intersection and U.S. 29.
“As currently planned, the TCP will cut off Pageland Lane and other residents from access to U.S. 29 or access to a service road and will allow no access to residents to the new highway, other than somewhere on Route 234.
“Recently, at citizen request, VDOT held a meeting with residents whose property is directly affected by the TCP. Many residents were unable to attend the meeting because VDOT did not notify all the residents or the notices were received late or not at all.
“The meeting was held in a darkened room and maps given to the residents were difficult to read and decipher. Many residents were angered and felt that VDOT was purposely trying to limit citizen input. VDOT has repeatedly stated they are under no requirement to have citizens meetings, which is outrageous.
“At the meeting, residents voiced their anger at cutting off Pageland lane and putting a high-speed four-lane highway through our farmland and the park.
“One major concern is how the TCP will affect property values and the ability to develop privately-owned lands. Most residents, however, have lived on Pageland Lane for many years, have been good stewards of the land, and do not wish to be forced to move as the highway cuts through their property and in some cases through their homes.
“Residents of this area and people throughout the nation have fought battle after battle to preserve the integrity of one of our country’s most beloved parks. Many of us have sacrificed our blood, sweat, and tears and feel the National Park Service has betrayed us, and that the Commonwealth of Virginia is creating tremendous conflict in the community and jeopardizing the battlefield.
“Several Pageland Lane residents have initiated meetings with Gainesville Supervisor Pete Candland and State Del. Tim Hugo. Delegate Hugo plans to hold a meeting within the next month for all concerned Gainesville residents.”
“Current and future local Virginia Department of Transportation and Virginia Railway Express programs seem in tune with the recommendations in the forthcoming Super NoVa Transit/TSM Vision Plan.
“VRE is undergoing environmental analysis and preliminary engineering for a new 11-mile branch into Gainesville/Haymarket. There are also plans to build a parking garage at Broad Run with 700 spaces and a kiss and ride loop.
” ‘It is going smoothly. We are on schedule,’ said Joan Morris, spokesperson for VDOT, as it heads for its 2015 goal of widening roads and construction of bridges in Gainesville.
“Another project that should help western Prince William riders is the addition of express lanes on I-495 for 14 miles from Springfield to just north of the Dulles Toll Road. The lanes will accept Easy Passes and are free for cars with three passengers.
“Starting in 2013, I-66 will be widened from US 29 to US 15. There will be four lanes on each side, with an added HOV lane and regular lane. In 2015, the interchange at I-66 and US 15 is scheduled to be built to alleviate the ramp back up.
“Meanwhile, Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) is nearing its destination on time by finalized recommendations on its Super NoVa Transit/TDM Vision Plan. The plan, ‘envisions safe, strategic and seamless mobility options for rail, transit and TDM (Transportation Demand Management) in the greater Northern Virginia area.
” ‘The study was the result of a Governor Bob McDonnell initiative,’ said Doborah Cordell, a consultant with Cordell and Crumley, on behalf of DRPT. ‘This is the first time of a study of this magnitude. It is a challenging study for the engineers who worked closely with the VRE and the Transit Authority.’
“Identifying Northern Virginia as the most congested region in Virginia, McDonnell said, ‘To truly address congestion in Northern Virginia, we have to take a broader view of what constitutes the region and the commuting patterns of its workforce. We must develop a geographically broader vision and plan for transit and TDMs that do not stop at local or state political borders.’
“In its overview, ‘The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation defined super region for this planning effort encompasses all of the localities comprising Northern Virginia and the localities extending form Northern Virginia to Caroline County on the south, Culpeper County on the west and Frederick County to the northwest. It also includes an effort in coordination with Maryland, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.
” ‘The mission is visioning mobility beyond boundaries,’ said Mike Harris of consulting firm, Kimley-Horn and Associates. ‘This was a large effort.’ It involved getting input from the public and stakeholders, which include regional government agencies, TDM, organizations, the military and metropolitan organizations.
” ‘This is a vision plan, not a program,’ Harris said. It will evaluate current transit service and TDM programs, existing and future land use, population and employment factors, travel patterns and trends, and future anticipated travel demand to develop a vision through 2040.
“Four stakeholder meetings were held to obtain input from various localities and agencies.
” ‘About 200 people attended these meetings,’ said Cordell. ‘We received about 600 comments from them.’ Harris agreed, saying, ‘We had good participation. Everyone wants to cooperate. The public has a strong voice. Its input will go into the draft recommendations.’ The draft plan was scheduled to be available by Oct. 15; public comments can be made until Oct. 30. To send in a comment for consideration, email SuperNOVA@kimley-horn.com by Oct. 30.
” ‘We are looking for coordination and dialogue,’ said Harris. ‘Of course, we will not be making recommendations to Maryland, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.’
“The Virginia-based study will include an emphasis on transportation hubs. ‘This is the form for transit and TDM to flourish,’ he said. ‘We suggest corridors leading to these hubs, connecting from one another.’
“Current draft recommendations with a vision for enhanced regional mobility include, ‘expansive commuter bus network throughout the region; interconnected network of high-capacity transit services in the region’s urban areas; network of hubs to connect people to transportation services and programs; increased coordination of local transit services across jurisdictional boundaries; pedestrian and bicycle improvements to enhance connections to transit services and facilities; comprehensive regional TDM strategy and programs; leveraging technology to enable people to make informed decisions about travel.’
“These recommendations are aimed at improving travel in the Super NoVa area now and over time. The effect of the recommendations will be contingent on the methods of implementation within each area. Recommendations of increased rail travel and the development of hubs with connecting corridors could improve travel and reduce congestion in the area.”
” ‘The battlefield is overrun with traffic. Its historical integrity is being lost, and there’s a negative impact on the historical nature of this hallowed ground,’ Sean Connaughton, Virginia’s Secretary of Transportation, told the Bull Run Observer late Aug. 30 via telephone from his Richmond office.
“Connaughton is very familiar with Manassas National Battlefield Park. He is a former chairman of Prince William Board of County Supervisors and lives in the county.
“The state’s top transpo official explained that the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is nearing agreement with the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) to find a way to build a Manassas Battlefield Bypass.
“This would take traffic around the park and then join the proposed Tri-County Parkway north of the park.
“Both roadways have had their supporters and detractors in the area for several years. The bypass is a project of NPS and the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), while the Tri-County Parkway is on VDOT’s project list.
“The bypass ‘would be an alternative to Rte. 234 and Rt. 29 in the battlefield. Our intent is to let us close those roads in the battlefield by building alternative routes around it, and getting local and commuter traffic out of there,’ Connaughton said.
“According to Ed Clark, the bypass would start where VA 234 ends at Interstate 66, go over US 29 and along Pageland Lane, then through Catharpin and over Braddock Road, ending at US 50 west of Dulles International Airport. Clark is superintendent of Manassas Natinal Battlefield Park.
“Clark noted Aug. 30 that ‘the amount of explosive growth in south Loudoun County’ concerns the park service. He asserted that it is one of the fastest growing areas in the United States.
” ‘Gum Springs Road used to be two lands through farmland. Now the farmland is gone, and there are thousands of homes there. Loudoun County wants to have Gum Springs Road six lanes into Prince William County,’ he reported. Gum Springs Road then would send its traffic to VA 234, a two-lane thoroughfare.
“The superintendent said the battlefield park is ‘a huge economic benefit to the area, contributing annually about $10 million and 200 jobs.’
“The battlefield bypass and the Tri-County Parkiway would share the same alignment near the battlefield, according to Maria Sinner of VDOT’s Northern Virginia office.
“The Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) set aside $4 million in its recently-approved FY 2013-2018 six-year improvement plan to do the bypass design phase, and $5 million toward the parkway project.
“But not everyone is pleased with the Tri-County Parkway proposal. Joy Oakes of the National Parks Conservation Association contends VDOT recently came up with a draft agreement it wants with the NPS, and that the state needs NPS approval because the parkway ‘would use four acres of battlefield.’
“She added that an analysis by Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) shows ‘that up to 35 acres of the historic district’ around the park would be affected.
“Oakes contends her group ‘hasn’t been at the table’ in the parkway discussions ‘in a meaningful way.’ A press release from her organization says a coalition of national and local groups sent formal comments to VDOT, pointing out ‘significant shortcomings in its proposed agreement with the National Park Service.’
” ‘The coalition’s comment emphasized the need to analyze a low-build alternative, including the need to focus on improvements to east-west commuter routes like I-66 and Highway 50, and context-sensitive upgrades to local roads that would better address traffic and better protect and preserve the historic character of the park without unnecessary noise and traffic impacts on the battlefield,’ the press release explained. It asserted the parkway would be part of an outer beltway and is being promoted by VDOT ‘to increase the movement of truck cargo to and from Dulles International Airport.’
“Oakes said ‘every reasonable alternative to meeting traffic demands without damaging the battlefield’ should be explored.
” ‘Our biggest beef is not looking at alternatives,’ she reported, adding a thorough analysis of alternatives is called for. She suggested looking at bus lanes on US 50 and building roundabouts like the one at Gilbert’s Corner.
“Oakes asserts that since VDOT would be building both the bypass and the parkway, they should be looked at together — not as separate processes.
” ‘This is an irreplaceable natural and historical resource with meadows, grasses and habitat for birds. Wed need to take all reasonable steps to avoid harming the battlefield,’ Oakes observed.
“The National Parks Conservation Association contends the Tri-County Parkway would have a 200-foot right-of-way, up to six lanes of traffic and would lead to more traffic noise, would damage the battlefield’s historic character and trigger more development and traffic.
” ‘Commuter traffic through Manassas National Battlefield jeopardizes both the park and its 650,000 annual visitors,’ Oakes noted. ‘Diverting commuter traffic out of the national park is a top priority; however, VDOT’s plan shows that the Tri-County Parkway would make traffic in the park even worse.’
“The draft agreement between NPS and VDOT on the parkway is ‘out for review,’ according to Sinner.
“Oakes said her gruop and other ‘consulting parties’ would ask for a meeting with VDOT on the project.”
Sean T. Connaughton, the Secretary of Transportation for Virginia, and former chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors. He believes building the Tri-County Parkway will improve the fate of the Manassas battlefield. (Virginia Department of Transportation)
“But under the guidance of Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton, the former Prince William board chairman, new documents show the National Park Service is on board, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources is on board, and the Loudoun and Prince William supervisors are on board. If all goes according to plan, a second highway will be built as a ‘Battlefield Bypass’ around the north side of the national park, and both Route 29 and Route 234 in Manassas will be permanently closed, 25 years from now.
“There is a coalition of preservation and smart growth groups who are completely not on board. They believe the Tri-County Parkway runs smack through hallowed Civil War ground, will spark rampant development and make traffic much worse.
“But they are going to have to fight fiercely, at this stage, to overcome the momentum that Connaughton and his group have built to construct a limited-access, 10-mile highway from I-66 in Prince William north to Route 50 in Loudoun County. Details are after the jump, as is an interactive map if you want to take a closer look at the proposed route.
Cannons arrayed on the Civil War battlefield at Manassas. Preservationists say the construction of the Tri-County Parkway on the battlefield’s western edge will destroy the park’s pastoral quality. (Chris Sullivan – AP)
“Connaughton and others portray the highway as a way to better preserve theManassas battlefield, which is now sliced into quarters by Route 29 and Route 234. They also see it as a way to improve the route between Dulles Airport and I-95, and between the two counties as their populations continue to grow.
” ‘This is about creating one of the biggest and most valuable pieces of green space in all of Northern Virginia,’ Connaughton said, by building roads around it rather than directly through it. Traffic on those existing two-lane roads is fairly miserable at rush hour, he noted.
“The Tri-County Parkway ‘is simply about sparking development in the Rural Crescent’ of Prince William, said Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, one of five groups who issued an urgent plea to stop the highway last week, on the 150th anniversary of the Second Battle of Bull Run. ‘We think this is a really bad deal for the park service here, and for the park service nationwide,’ Schwartz said. He added that building a major north-south road would only increase the east-west traffic on Route 29 coming through the battlefield.
“Both Prince William Board Chair Corey Stewart and Loudoun Board Chair Scott York told me they are happy to have the Tri-County built, and Manassas battlefield Superintendent Ed Clark says it does not damage the historic site while laying the groundwork to eliminate traffic from it. The Virginia Department of Historic Resources filed its response to the plan recently without major objection.
“An agreement in principle to build the road could be signed by the four major players — VDOT, the Federal Highway Administration, the state historic resources department and the National Park Service — by the end of this year, Connaughton said. He said $5 million is already available for part of the design costs. ‘Funding for construction has not yet been identified,’ Connaughton said, ‘but it could be financed in the future traditionally or through public-private partnership,’ which could involve proffer trade-offs with developers or private builders who collect tolls.
“Schwartz said Connaughton has been adept at finding funding for other pet projects, such as the bypass around Charlottesville, and that he may divert funds from other roads such as I-66. He noted that Loudoun has already begun to plan for the road with its recent approval of Northstar Boulevard, and that Loudoun typically allows developers to build parts of roads in exchange for better zoning.
” ‘This highway is Connaughton’s top priority,’ Schwartz said. ‘I’m sure he has a plan.’
Above is a map of roughly where the Tri-County Parkway would go. Since the actual road does not exist, the purple line is approximate.
The map [to the left] gives a high-level overview of the proposed route of the Tri-County Parkway, formerly known as the Bi-County Parkway, from I-66 in Prince William County along the Manassas Battlefield, north to Route 50 in Loudoun County. (Virginia Dept. of Transportation)
“Once upon a time in the early 1980s, when it appeared Northern Virginia’s growth would quickly expand past Dulles to the western borders of Loudoun and Prince William, plans were drawn up fortwo major north-south roads. One, to skirt the eastern side of the Manassas battlefield, was called the Tri-County Parkway. It traversed from Route 50 near what is now South Riding, down through Fairfax County and Bull Run Regional Park, then diagonally across Prince William to the intersection of the 234 bypass and Route 28.
“A second north-south road was called the Bi-County Parkway. It is the current alignment: Starting at Route 50 in what is now the Stone Ridge neighborhood, and heading straight south into Prince William and tracking the western edge of the battlefield to I-66 at the 234 bypass exit. That alignment, though it only goes through two counties, is now called the Tri-County Parkway. Confusing enough for ya?”
“Connaughton said they would change the name to ‘the 234 extension’ at some point.
” ‘It’s a critical north-south link for a number of reasons, including connecting Dulles Airport with I-95,’ said Bob Chase of the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, a group of business leaders which supports development and growth in the region.
” ‘It also connects a number of Northern Virginia activity centers,’ Chase said, ‘including those at Dulles and in Prince William and Loudoun, which are going to be where a lot of jobs in this region will be produced.’
“These groups have suggested alternative, low-impact ways to improve traffic and reduce flow through the battlefield. Last month they filed detailed objections to the proposed agreement. But VDOT appears to be going a different way.
“In July, VDOT Commissioner Gregory A. Whirley sent a letter to the state Department of Historic Resources, asking for their input on a ‘draft programmatic agreement…regarding the Tri-County Parkway.’ Whirley’s letter notes that public hearings on the highway were held in May 2005, which seems like a while ago.
“In assessing the effects of a four-lane highway on the very boundary of the battlefield park, Whirley’s letter writes that the Tri County-Parkway will ‘convert a portion of relatively intact rural landscape’ into a highway, ‘introducing into this setting an increase in traffic-generated noise and visual elements that will alter and potentially obscure significant battlefield viewsheds. These direct and indirect effects will result in a diminishment of the integrity of setting, feeling and association of MNBP [the park] and MBHD [the adjacent land not formally in the park].’
“In addition, VDOT estimated how much land near the parkway would be developed in the coming years. By 2030, Whirley wrote, ‘30,660 acres [are] projected to be converted from undeveloped to developed land.’
“To obtain the National Park Service’s approval, VDOT devised ‘stipulations’ that it will use streetscape design, noise minimization and visual minimization techniques to reduce the impact on the battlefield. It would also use ‘traffic calming’ devices to discourage use of Route 29 across the park, and severely restrict the use of Route 234 through the park, with an eye toward closing both eventually.
“But VDOT acknowledges that until a bypass is built around the park, ‘construction of the Tri-County Parkway may result in an increase in through traffic on Route 29’ in the park. And ‘land development in areas served by the Tri-County Parkway may also be induced by the new highway.’
“Chris Miller, president of the Piedmont Environmental Council, said, ‘Not since the threat of the Disney theme park in 1994 has Manassas National Battlefield been at such risk.’ He said the 200-foot-wide proposed alignment would run through ground where actual battles were fought.
“Ed Clark, the superintendent of the park, said the opponents are ‘not really historically accurate. That’s not where the fighting took place. The fighting took place to the east.’
Corey A. Stewart, Chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors (L), touring construction at Stonebridge At Potomac Town Center in Woodbridge. Stewart hopes to break out his hard-hat again for the Tri-County Parkway from Manassas to Loudoun County. (Tracy A. Woodward – THE WASHINGTON POST)
“Clark said the two Civil War battles, particularly the second in 1862, took place over a wide area, and ‘It’s beyond our ability to preserve all that. We’ve preserved what really is that core battlefield where the fighting took place.’
“Clark and the park service are most interested in eliminating the heavy-duty traffic through the battlefield, and the Tri-County Parkway would form the western end of a battlefield bypass. He said if VDOT stands by its stipulations to reduce the visual and aural impact of the parkway, ‘and we do it in a way to manage sprawl, I think it can be done and be a real benefit to the park.’
“Schwartz said there haven’t been adequate studies or commitments made to construct this major road. ‘VDOT has forced the National Park Service into an untenable negotiating position,’ he said. ‘The public and decision makers lack all of the necessary information to make a sound decision.’
“Joy Oakes of the National Parks Conservation Association said that ‘diverting commuter traffic out of the national park is a top priority, however VDOT’s plan shows that the Tri-County Parkway would make traffic in the park even worse.’
“Local officials want this road.
Charging the battlefield at Bull Run during the 2011 reenactment of First Manassas. Preservationists believe land outside the park’s boundaries, where actual battles were fought, would be paved over by the Tri-County Parkway. (Amanda Voisard – The Washington Post)
“Corey Stewart [R], the Prince William board chair, said in an e-mail that ‘because of the importance of the road to future economic growth, Prince William County considers [the Tri-County Parkway] a top priority. Although some issues remain to be worked through before the project is finalized, there is increasing consensus and momentum favoring its construction, and I believe that it will be built.’
“Loudoun Chair Scott York [R] told me the same thing. ‘There’s a lot of growth, from an economic standpoint, that will happen around the airport and down in Prince William. We need the connection back and forth,’ and he said it will help both freight and commuters needing to get from the two counties to I-95.
“Peter Candland [R-Gainesville], the Prince William supervisor whose district the road would run through, said that ’employers are bypassing Prince William County due to our over-burdened infrastructure’ as well as overreliance on taxes on residents and lack of an efficient corridor to Dulles.
” ‘If done properly,’ Candland said, ‘the Tri-County Parkway will open the door for new corporate relocation and business start-ups…It truly is an economic development game changer for our county.’
“Connaughton says it’s the best way to get traffic out of the park, improve the congestion at rush hour and preserve the battlefield. He says the battlefield has lower visitor numbers than it should because the current parking and walking situations are poor, but the parkway and bypass will fix that.
“The preservation groups are stunned. They say VDOT’s stipulations to limit the impact of the proposed parkway are ‘inadequate to protect the Manassas National Battlefield Park, one of the Commonwealth’s most sacred Civil War landscapes,’ and that a 200-foot wide highway is ‘grossly excessive.’ Schwartz reiterated the belief that this is another key step in an Outer Beltway that would reach to Maryland, spreading more sprawl and traffic.
“The next key moment could come this fall, when all the relevant government agencies sign on to the program agreement. Battles over money and design will come next. But signing the agreement to build the Tri-County Parkway would be a historic step, one way or another, for fans of the Civil War, and Northern Virginia.”
The proposed route of the “Battlefield Bypass,” from Route 29 on the east, connecting with the Tri-County Parkway north of the park. This would enable the state to close Route 29 and Route 234 through the park, though not until 2035. (Virginia Department of Transportation)
“One of the biggest overhauls by the Virginia Department of Transportation is moving ahead in 2012. Construction began on June 15 last year on the US29/Linton Hall Road/I-66 interchange project. VDOT expects work to be completed by June 2015.
“One overpass will carry US 29 over the Norfolk Southern Railroad; another will carry Linton Hall and Gallerher roads over the railroad and US 29, which will be widened to six lanes from I-66 to Virginia Oaks Drive.
“Aerial animation of the final project can be found here: www.virginiadot.org/gainesville_improvements. asp (halfway down the page, click on ‘video rendering’).
“Mehrdad Naderi has served as the area construction engineer for about eight months. Currently, he lives in Maryland but is planning to move to the Gainesville area. He splits his time between the VDOT District Office in Fairfax and the Gainesville Project Field Office. Naderi says so far 17 percent of the interchange project is completed, and it’s on time and on budget.
“The traffic on US 29 and VA 55, also known as John Marshall Highway, was moved to a new detour recently so that crews could start building the overpasses. Naderi said the detour will stay in place about two to three years.
“Also, temporary one-way traffic on Old Linton Hall Road was in place between Whitney Road and Lakeview Drive from mid-October last year, through the end of January this year, as crews installed a 24-inch water main. Naderi said base asphalt is now in place, the road is back to two-way traffic, and surface asphalt will be milled to cover the road this spring.
“Also, in January, after two recent crashes involving trucks and Norfolk Southern trains on southbound US 29 in Gainesville, VDOT set up a portable message sign reminding drivers not to block the railroad crossing while waiting at a red light or when traffic is backed up. The at-grade railroad crossings in Gainesville will be eliminated as part of the ongoing overhaul. ‘Our design consultant and VDOT traffic engineers proposed to add new and bigger warning signs ahead of the railroad crossing, place new pavement markings around the railroad track to make it more visible and are also requesting Prince William County Police presence at the site to enforce the law,’ said Naderi.
“The overhaul should offer overdue congestion relief. According to the latest statistic available, in 2008, I-66 carried 82,000 vehicles a day between US 29 and the VA 234 Bypass. It’s expected to carry more than 175,000 vehicles a day by 2028. About 57,000 vehicles a day used US 29 through Gainesville; that’s expected to jump to 87,000 a day by 2035. About 42,000 vehicles a day are expected to use Linton Hall Road by 2035.
“Naderi said his team is keeping locals informed about what’s going on. ‘We have a community outreach program, especially for the businesses in the area, to inform them of major upcoming events and how it affects them. We also receive inquiries from citizens living in the area about the project.’
“Meanwhile, Virginia hopes to pump more money into transportation improvements across the commonwealth. ‘Collectively, we put the most new funding into transportation in a generation,’ Gov. Robert ‘Bob’ McDonnell announced recently. ‘Virginia simply cannot remain a leader in economic development and job creation if we do not continue to address our transportation challenges.’ He said this year’s transportation package will help spur the commonwealth’s economic recovery.
“Among other proposals, McDonnell is asking for an additional dedication of 25 percent of the sales tax to transportation in the next eight years; the creation of the Virginia Toll Road Authority to construct, maintain and operate toll road facilities across Virginia; permission for private entities to place their name on highways, interchanges, bridges and other infrastructure for an annual fee that would go to the state’s highway maintenance and operating fund.”
by John T. Stirrup, Jr., Gainesville Supervisor from Prince William County Reports, Vol.2
“Transportation has been a major concern for the Gainesville District. The completion of Heathcote Boulevard and the widening of Route 15 have helped with the traffic flow in our District. The Virginia Department of Transportation will begin Phase 4 of the Gainesville Interchange project, which will build an overpass for the railroad tracks on Route 29 and build an interchange at Route 29 and Linton Hall Road. The progress of this project can be checked at http://www.gainesvilleimprovements.org.
“Below is a list of other projects that will affect Gainesville residents:
“1. I-66 Widening from Route 29 to Route 15 – Widening to eight lanes including an HOV lane. The interchange at Route 15 and I-66 may be included. Project funding is being considered as part of the Governor’s Transportation funding package approved by the General Assembly. The project is currently at the scoping level and a survey is underway.
“2. Route 234 Commuter Lot off Cushing Road – Construct approximately 400 new spaces on Cushing Road near I-66. The lot will have direct exit access to I-66 for HOV and transit carriers. Right-of-way acquisition and advertisement for a construction contract is expected in 2011.
“3. Logmill Road at Parnell Court – Federal funds have been secured to improve the safety hazards that exist at this intersection. Completion of the project is expected in late 2012.
“4. Mountain Road – This project will pave 0.28 miles of the gravel portion of Mountain Road. The project will include a new crossing of Catharpin Creek. Construction is expected to be completed in 2012.
“5. Balls Ford Road at Groveton Road – Construction of turn lanes at the intersection. Right-of-way acquisition conducted in 2011. Construction advertisement in 2012.
“My office will continue to work with federal, state and county agencies to help alleviate the road congestion we have all experienced. If you have any questions, concerns or would like to sign up for my monthly newsletter, please contact my office at 703-792-6195, Gainesville@pwcgov.org.”
“Construction at the Gainesville interchange at U.S. 29 and Linton Hall Road could begin in 2011 — three years sonner than expected.
” ‘There are two huge hurdles that have to be jumped before we start any construction,’ said Joan Morris, Virginia Department of Transportation spokesman. The Federal Highway Administration will allow VDOT to clear one of those hurdles much sooner, Morris said.
“Gov. Timothy M. Kaine announced Tuesday that the administration relaxed some requirements that VDOT must follow when buying land for road projects. VDOT won’t have to have all of the interchange plans complete before they start negotiating with landowners around the construction site.
” ‘Fifty-three parcels and 39 businesses have to be acquired, and if that was done using the standard engineering process, then we’d be advertising for construction in 2013,’ Morris said.
Now the administration will allow VDOT to buy land before the plans are finished, she said.
” ‘We are also working with utility companies to co-locate utilities in a bank or a corridor to streamline the relocations,’ Morris said. Utility poles must be moved out of the way of construction vehicles and the future roadway before construction begins. More than 15 utility companies have utilities in the area of the Gainesville interchange, Morris said.
“The Gainesville interchange is a $181.4 million project that will raise U.S. 29 over the railroad tracks in Gainesville and widen that highway from four to six lanes from Interstate 66 to Virginia Oaks Drive.
“Gallerher Road also will be raised above the tracks.
“Of the entire project’s cost, $77 million will be used to purchase property.”
“Millions of dollars are paving county roads. Anyone who lives or works in the area knows roadwork is a part of life in an effort to smooth daily travels in the future.
“Rick Canizales, transportation planning manager for Prince William County’s Department of Transportation, said many road upgrade projects are on the county’s books for the upcoming year; many more are mapped out for the years to come.
“Canizales discussed some area road projects in a recent telephone interview and provided funding estimates in a follow-up e-mail.
“Although the county did not create the connection of Heathcote Boulevard between Catharpin Road and U.S. 29, Canizales has stayed apprised of its schedule. The road was originally scheduled to open in 2006 but contained a design flaw not caught until fmal inspections. During a recent redesign, VDOT sent the redesign back in record time. He said it was the ‘fastest I’ve ever seen a design come back from Richmond.’
“Linton Hall Road’s widening has been going on for quite some time now. Canizales expects the Virginia Department of Transportation work to be complete by the end of 2007.
“However, complete work on the road, from U.S. 29 to VA 28, which will be a four-lane section of road extending from Sudley Manor Drive to VA 28, will not be complete until August 2009, he said. The county has about $44.5 million budgeted for the entire project.
“The Sudley Manor Drive extension, which opened in October, connects drivers from Linton Hall Road in Bristow to VA 234 in Manassas. The Public-Private Transportation Act (PPTA) road, which means private and public funds were poured into the road, cost an estimated $37.4 million.
“Different sections of U.S. 15 are on the county’s schedule for upgrades. Canizales said the upgrades are set for phases under this PPTA. From Interstate 66 to VA 234, road workers will widen the road and improve the intersection at Waterfall Road. By summer of next year, Canizales expects the road to be widened and for the Waterfall intersection to be safer with a ‘more even flow’ to allow drivers to enter and exit U.S. 15 more easily. Waterfall’s smoother flow is expected to cost $3.5 million.
“Drivers who head out on VA 28 between Vint Hill Road and VA 234 will see some improvements in the years to come as well. For an estimated $54.3 million, drivers will have a six-lane bridge to cross and will have four lanes of pavement between Hornbaker and Linton Hall Roads.
“In addition, Canizales said the county has plans to realign Vint Hill Road where it meets VA 28.
“Old Carolina Road will be made new in some aspects by summer 2009. Canizales expects the road to offer drivers four lanes near the entrance to the Piedmont community. In addition, he said, pedestrians will have a path so that they can more safely walk parallel to the road, especially where the road crosses the creek. Canizales said under a revenue-sharing plan, some money has been set aside for these improvement[s]. His e-mail did not include cost estimates for these im-provements.
“Canizales said the county’s transportation department, which was formed in 2006, is working well. The separate entity was previously part of the county’s public works department. The autonomy, Canizales said, makes road projects easier to streamline.
“Area residents who have questions about road plans can refer to the county’s Web site, www.pwcgov.org. under the transportation link, or can contact their local supervisor’s office to voice concerns.”