The headline is “Bi-County Parkway project is dead.” Maybe, but it’s only in stasis right now. There was a press conference held today at Sudley United Methodist Church to announce that the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is no longer pursuing completion of the project – but hey, it was April 1…
Public opposition to the road became clear quickly. State officials took the lead in stopping the road, overcoming support from local supervisors, Loudoun County developers, the National Park Service, and officials at Dulles Airport who speculated that the highway would increase the value of airport land on Route 50 before that property is developed.
VDOT went so far as to run an advertising campaign to build support for the road with messages placed on top of local gas pumps, but that use of public funds backfired. Del. Bob Marshall noted at the press conference that the best way to ensure the project was not restarted was for local officials to remove the Bi-County Parkway from the county’s Comprehensive Plan. Otherwise, like vampires and zombies, the road could be revived later and the approval/funding process re-started.
Pete Candland is expected to propose a Comprehensive Plan Amendment next Tuesday to remove the Bi-County Parkway from the County’s Plan. (You won’t find Bi-County Parkway in The Transportation Chapter of the county’s comprehensive plan refers to the Bi-County Parkway as the Route 234 Bypass – North, PA-13 on page 25.) If a majority of the Board of County Supervisors act to delete the road, then re-starting the project becomes much much harder and the “Bi-County Parkway project is dead” claim is more realistic.
One other stake could be driven through the vampire’s heart. If Prince William County started a Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program like Fauquier County, then properties along the route of the proposed Bi-County Parkway could be protected in perpetuity as farmland through conservation easements.
Thanks to hard working volunteers, we’re looking forward to a spring that is bursting with blooms at Merrimac Farm! Join us on 3/14 and more to help keep up the good work … the schedule is online at http://www.pwconserve.org/events/
VDOT held a public meeting last night in Manassas Park to discuss Phase 1 of the Route 28 Corridor Safety and Operations Study, with 100 or so projects that could be implemented without buying land or relocating utilities. These are the quick “band aids” that could be built within 18 months after funding is available. Longer-term fixes, such as widening the 4-lane bridge over Bull Run, won’t be considered until 2016.
Why so long? In 2013, the General Assembly raised taxes and provided substantial new funding for transportation in HB2013 – but in 2014, a new law (HB2) required adoption of new state rules to prioritize large transportation projects. That law was triggered in part by plans to build the Bi-County Parkway, rather than fix Route 28 or I-66.
Two take-aways from last night’s discussion:
1) VDOT will not start to plan for possible transit solutions to reduce congestion on Route 28 until 2016
2) If the Prince William Board of County Supervisors chooses to rezone Cayden Ridge to add 188 more houses, the voters are paying attention to the traffic impacts
Reconstituting the County’s Agricultural and Forestral District Advisory Committee is the talk of the town in the Brentsville District and east Prince William residents should be interested too. The Prince William Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) is set to unveil a slate of nominees that would revive this currently dormant committee, withith little or no debate.
Right now the committee’s sole purpose is to determine whether a property should enter or leave Prince William County Agricultural and Forestral District. The County Agricultural and Forestral Disrict covers 2,200 acres or 0.01% of the County. Properties included within the district are given special tax breaks as an incentive for agricultural production.
This all sounds pretty hohum, but don’t fall asleep yet: the current discussion focuses on expanding the role of this committee to advise the Board of County Supervisors on an un-named new set of issues. Read more…
The sponsor of the effort, Marc Aveni, was quoted in an InsideNOVA article:
This issue will come back. Maybe not this year, maybe not next year but there’s no way that a resource like that in an area like this with the sense that it makes to open it up to public use will be denied for too long.
At some point, savvy politicians will identify how public use could provide benefits (or lower costs) for Manassas, and the issue will be re-opened. Recreational opportunities in still-suburbanizing Northern Virginia are valued, and locking up the lake will be recognized as excessively restrictive.
Members of the city council in Manassas will change over time. The last vote blocked a study that would have identified the risks and analyzed potential impacts of public use. The FUD campaign (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) to keep the lake closed may continue without any additional facts, but at some point the risks will be put into perspective and different city officials will reconsider the decision.
The Comprehensive Plan of Prince William County and the current long-range plan for the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) both propose extending VRE, but the extension would go west to Gainesville-Haymarket. There are no plans by Prince William or VRE to provide commuter service south of the Broad Run station at the Manassas Airport.1
Prince William did leave a tiny crack in the door. The map of Future Transit Alternatives (after 2030…) includes a Transitway (Transit Mode – TBD) south of Broad Run, along with a light rail system north on Manassas on Route 28, plus extension of Metrorail Orange Line to Gainesville and Blue Line to Potomac Mills. Any source of funding for such pipe dreams was conveniently ignored…2
Back in 2003, VRE’s long-range plan did propose extending commuter rail service past Broad Run to Nokesville and Bealeton/Remington. The Fauquier County Comprehensive Plan still reflects that dream. However, the VRE System Plan 2040 (issued in 2014) abandoned previous plans to extend the commuter rail system south into Fauquier County. Instead of listing grandiose visions as if money might appear miraculously during the next 25 years, the 2014 plan chose to be realistic about priorties and to “focus on markets within the existing service area.”3
VRE made a smart decision.
VRE’s Operations Board decision to build its capacity within its existing service area increases the potential of converting the commuter rail system into a transit system.
Tonight (November 12), the City of Manassas Finance Committee considered a proposal to study the risks involved in opening Lake Manassas to public use. The vote was 2-1 to reject funding a $45,000 study, but the entire City Council will consider it on November 24.
The lake remains closed to public use, with $80,000 or so spent annually for the city police to patrol the lake and issue trespass citations. Even adjacent property owners are banned from putting a canoe on the lake.
Members of City Council have expressed fear, uncertainty and doubt about the safety of the water supply if public use was allowed. Fairfax Water long ago decided that public use was OK; it permits boats and fishing on Occoquan Reservoir. Even motorboats zip across Lake Jackson, located between Lake Manassas and Occoquan Reservoir (and part of the water supply for Fairfax/eastern Prince William).
A scientific study could answer the questions regarding the risk of public use, and put those risks into context. The City Council should also consider the benefits of advertising Manassas through the lake.
In 2011, the city spent over $625,000 to support the 150th anniversary of the Battle of First Manassas. Manassas collected less than $50,000 in increased taxes from that event – less than 10% of its investment – but also calculated $240,800 in “publicity value” from the broadcast coverage (and additional value from print, radio and internet reports).
The city claimed the subsidy was a smart investment because “the Sesquicentennial had the potential to garner significant media coverage for the City of Manassas.”
Anglers and boaters spend money too – and regular media coverage associating Manassas with outdoor recreation might have a similar impact…