Bi-County Parkway Update on Section 106 Programmatic Agreement

bi-countysprawlwayUPDATED (November 26): based on the minutes of the November 7 meeting of the 5 agencies signing the Programmatic Agreement, it appears VDOT has been pressured into providing more $$$ for land acquisition to mitigate impacts of Bi-County Parkway.  If you’re looking for mitigation of the excessive noise and traffic impacts on Manassas Battlefield Historic District… don’t hold your breath.

There’s movement on the Bi-County Parkway.  On November 7, some – but not all – of the potential signers of the Section 106 Programmatic Agreement met.

The standard VDOT response to public opposition is modeled on Muhammed Ali’s strategy in the ring, playing rope-a-dope and extending the decision process until the opposition is too tired to continue.   However, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and the National Park Service (NPS) are anxious to get the Bi-County Parkway Programmatic Agreement signed before the current governor and his Secretary of Transportation leave office in January.

Three Federal agencies (NPS, Federal Highway Administration, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation) and two state agencies (VDOT, Virginia State Historic Preservation Officer) plan to sign the Programmatic Agreement, which is required before the environmental reports can be completed and Federal funding can be used for the road.

Back on September 5, the five agencies heard many comments on the August draft of the Programmatic Agreement from the “consulting parties,” which include national/regional conservation groups and pesky neighbors who live in the designated Historic District around the national park.  At least some of the consulting parties were not invited to the November 7 meeting, which presumably will lead to a final draft.

It is unclear if there will be any public review of the next version, or if the five agencies will just sign whatever they negotiated on November 7, declare success, and repeat over and over that everything else will be addressed in the design phase.

On November 18, at a community meeting to discuss the project with the neighbors from Featherbed Lane and Groveton Road, VDOT would only reveal that the revised Programmatic Agreement will include a more-robust public involvement mechanism for the “design” stage.

VDOT did reveal one other tidbit at that community meeting – new traffic counts for the future.  However, VDOT maintained consistently that it was not responsible for fixing any of the problems on local roads that might be caused by VDOT’s own big road project, the Bi-County Parkway.

Prince William County (not VDOT) would have to fund any new road signs, traffic calming techniques, etc. to deal with the extra traffic diverted to local roads after Route 234 is closed.  The county would have to use its secondary road funds – which were down to zero recently, until the General Assembly increased taxes in 2013.

According to VDOT, there was absolutely no way to get Prince William to commit to mitigating the impact.  When asked why the county could not sign the Programmatic Agreement and commit through that mechanism, ensuring a solution to a future problem, the response was a shrug of shoulders.  VDOT creates problems; it is not in the business of solving them.

The rest of the local story:

Back on September 5, consulting parties objected to the omission of any mitigation for the tsunami of traffic that will overwhelm Groveton and Featherbed roads, once current Route 234 is closed.

The August draft kicked that can down the road, saying impacts would be studied for a year.  The county transportation official even claimed traffic models could not quantify the impacts on local roads, and no one could predict what would happen.  On November 18, VDOT said modelling had bee done and identified that current traffic on local roads would double for 2040.

A Powerpoint slide noted that congestion would be relieved if both the Manassas Battlefield Bypass and the Bi-County Parkway were built.  However, VDOT was unable to state how congested local roads would be during the many years when Route 234 was closed but there was no Manassas Battlefield Bypass.  The pattern of cherry-picking the numbers was also revealed when VDOT highlighted on a slide that I-66 congestion would decrease 10% if Bi-County Parkway was opened, but upon questioning had to acknowledge that it’s rosy scenario for I-66 east of the parkway suggested at most a 1% reduction.

Oh, it also said “VDOT shall explore obtaining additional, third-party funding (e.g., grant funding) to cover the cost of implementing these additional measures” – in other words, “VDOT created a problem by building a new road and closing the old road, but VDOT won’t pay to fix whatever damage we cause.  Go find a sugar daddy somewhere…”



No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: