The latest spin on the Tri-County Parkway (Manassas, pay attention…)

When we finally “get real” about funding new roads and transit, the Virginian-Pilot summarized on October 24 what will happen: “There’s going to be a lot of losers and a few winners.” It was describing how the lack of money was going to affect the long-planned Southeastern Parkway connecting Chesapeake and Virginia Beach.

What’s true in Hampton Roads is true in Northern Virginia, and a good model for the proposed Tri-County Parkway.  Virginia’s transportation funding crisis, and the inability of the Federal Government to shovel money into a new Federal Highway Bill for another 6 years, will force responsible politicians across Virginia to act like adults instead kids staring at the candy behind the counter, saying “I want one of each – no, two of those.”

Manassas officials who want a bypass that extends Godwin Road to I-66, relieving Center Street of the commuter congestion and making downtown more “livable,” are about to see that route disappear – just like the Southeastern Parkway, which was also approved by state Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) in 2005.

Several years ago, Manassas officials swallowed the Kool-Aid and assumed every road on the Constrained Long Range Plan would be constructed.  Constraints are tighter now.  Because:
– Virginia will not raise taxes high enough to fund two versions of the Tri-County Parkway…
– two toll roads will never succeed…
– the Bull Run Regional Park is a major environmental block to the Godwin Road route…
– the CTB already made the 234 extension a higher priority…
the Godwin route will disappear from the “real” planning maps soon.

The Loudoun developers and their compatriots in Prince William convinced the CTB to prioritize extending Route 234.  It is supposed to connect with the Loudoun Parkway, blasting through the Rural Area of Prince William and the Transition Area of Loudoun.  Prince William developers are chanting into politicians ears “It’s a road to Dulles Airport,” but it’s really a channel for commuters from the massive suburban development in southern Loudoun to get to I-66 and compete in the daily commute.

We’ve seen what happened to traffic on Route 28 from Dulles – and landowners in Fairfax/Loudoun along that corridor already paid for interchanges.  The commuter congestion on the Tri-County/Loudoun Parkway to I-66 will quickly become just as bad.  If you think the new road will stay a “quick back road to Dulles,” so corporate headquarters and office buildings will finally spring up in Prince William… you must expect a guy in a red suit to come down the chimney on December 25.

When a Prince William politician endorses a road that will add extra Loudoun traffic to I-66 – well, that reveals a lot about the politician’s mindset, and perhaps the relationship with developers vs. residents who commute to Tyson’s/DC.

Still, there’s hope.  After the election, the General Assembly will try to raise taxes, add tolls, and find a way to finance new roads/transit.  Candidates who promised to deliver new state services without new state taxes will be forced to vote on what existing state services to cut, or to portray new taxes as “user fees,” or to be honest and just raise taxes to pay for new roads/transit.

Oxen will be gored, interest groups will howl, and responsible elected officials will finally take two responsible actions that could generate support for new taxes: prioritize new projects, and set a realistic limit to new road/transit construction – rather than claim wish lists like TransAction 2030 are a “plan.”

In Hampton Roads, that Southeastern Parkway has been on the planner’s maps for 20 years, and was intended to serve as an alternative for local traffic to avoid congested I-264 and I-64.  Virginia Beach has rejected proposed rezonings in the right of way and purchased $34 million worth of land for the road, so far.  The Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) approved the 21.4 mile route in 2005, and completed an Environmental Impact Statement.

Much of the route went through wetlands.  While environmental constraints were a factor in the road staying just a line on a map, the road was never the region’s highest priority.  Soon, dreams of building the Southeastern Parkway will die.

That’s a good model for the proposed Tri-County Parkway…

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2 comments so far

  1. […] The program was designed for Chase to support and Schwartz to oppose the proposed extension of 234 Bypass into Loudoun County, the Tri-County Parkway. […]

  2. Jay @ Multiple on

    Well, it’s not dying apparently. As of a few weeks ago, I can see the road being built on either side of the bridge on Lomond Dr. in Manassas Park, near where I live. The raw clay soil is snaking its way north and south as far as the eye can see from that point, so I guess they’re building at least part of this new road.


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