Purcell Road – Are We There Yet?
The recent Planning Commission work session on Purcell Road brought out some important points that could prove to be instructive as we move forward in this process and in future planning in general.
The main driver for this project is not local community traffic. The total new housing possible from undeveloped land in the area under current county recommendations is approximately 300 homes.
This is certainly not enough to require a new four lane highway when the Parkway already serves most of the undeveloped parcels. The driver is projected long term regional traffic increases.
There is already cut-through traffic on Purcell Road between Route 234 and Hoadly Road. Common sense dictates that four-laning Purcell and connecting it directly to the Parkway will only increase this cut-through situation, since faster speeds and a more direct path between Route 234 and the Parkway will be the result. Basically, build this road and they will come.
With the above in mind, there has to be some consideration in the Comprehensive Plan for the quality of life of the existing neighborhoods that surround highway corridors. If a four-lane highway was built through an area such as the Purcell corridor between Route 234 and the Parkway, it might ease movement of traffic through Prince William from outlying counties, but at what cost to the local community that already exists? Should the “coming thru” trump the “we live here?”
Some examples of planned roads that thankfully weren’t built:
- An expressway along Rock Creek in Northwest DC. This road, which was well along in the planning stages at the time, was halted due to citizen involvement. The road, if built, would have no doubt provided faster north-south travel times. However, few would argue today that the expressway would be more desirable than the alternative that evolved: Rock Creek Park, which is a jewel of a swath of vital green space in the nation’s capital.
- Whitehurst Freeway/Interstate 395 in DC. This planned extension of I-395 through DC, which was also stopped by local residents, would undoubtedly have improved flow through and around the District. The fact that it would have come at the cost of destroying older neighborhoods that today are some of the most vibrant in the city eventually caused wiser heads to prevail.
These are just a couple of local examples, there are many more across the country. The point is that we need a balance. We need to move vehicles, but we also need to protect our land assets and take advantage of alternatives to building ever more lane miles of asphalt.
We need to concentrate on public transportation, telecommuting, working from home, classified buildings, and land use patterns that utilize existing transportation capacity. In this way, our county can prosper by relying on all our strengths: our rural crescent; our large-lot, higher end housing; our bucolic, mid county area; and our more dense, transportation oriented east and west hubs. Only by maximizing and protecting all of these will we get where we need to be.