The Bi-County Parkway – Baaaaack Again

Update: The Planning Commission voted unanimously to remove the Bi-County Parkway from the Comprehensive Plan – with the stipulation that the Transportation Dept. be directed to include transportation options to provide objective measures and options as part of the Thoroughfare Plan Update.

Before the stipulation was added to the resolution, it appeared to be a 4-4 tie. suggesting the preferences of the Board of County Supervisors.

nsThe “Bi-County Parkway” project has morphed over the years, as Virginia officials have proposed several Outer Beltway plans.

In the 1990’s, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) pushed for a “Western Transportation Corridor” linking I-95 to I-66, then extending north through Loudoun County to connect to I-70.

Maryland has never supported this major highway cutting through an area zoned for agriculture and large-parcel estates, and has consistently blocked Virginia’s dreams of funneling traffic across the Potomac River.

Ten years ago, VDOT proposed a “Tri-County Parkway” to connect I-66 in Prince William with Route 50 in Loudoun. In 2011, the Virginia Secretary of Transportation maneuvered to have the Tri-County Parkway added to the list of projects to be funded if Governor McDonnell convinced the General Assembly to finance his transportation plan.

The Secretary was Sean Connaughton, who in his previous job had been chair of the Board of County Supervisors in Prince William County. In a famous comment made after the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) delayed approval because it was not on the published agenda, Connaughton said “You guys would never make it on the Prince William County Board of Supervisors; we live for bushwhacking people.

The CTB acted soon afterwards. It designated a new North-South Corridor of Statewide Significance, establishing the Tri-County Parkway route as a statewide priority for new construction.

ns2In its latest incarnation, VDOT advertised the Bi-County Parkway as the “Road to Dulles.” The National Park Service cut a deal with VDOT. The Federal agency agreed to pave over the western edge of Manassas National Battlefield Park for the Bi-County Parkway.

In exchange, traffic now using Route 234 would be diverted from the core of the battlefield to the new Bi-County Parkway on the western edge, traffic on Route 29 past the Stone House would be diverted to a new Manassas Battlefield Bypass, and the visitor experience would be enhanced by closing the existing portions of those roads within the park.

The public reaction was to question VDOT’s justifications for the road, and then erupt when the state agency failed to support its arguments.  The process for Federal approval stalled, despite National Park Service support, when it became clear that there were better alternatives to the proposed new road.

The new Bi-County Parkway:
– would not reduce commuter congestion on I-66 or Route 50, because commuters travel east-west and the road ran north-south
– would not provide better access to the airport, because it ran to the western side and all the roads enter on the eastern edge of Route 28
– would not enhance economic development at Innovation or elsewhere in Prince William, but instead would encourage commercial developers to locate new jobs in Loudoun County
– was not consistent with the county’s Comprehensive Plan to maintain a Rural Area and build new public infrastructure in the Development Area, where it would be more cost-effective

Opposition from residents on the western end of the county was matched by opposition on the eastern end. The proposal to widen Route 234 to six lanes near Montclair was recognized as an incentive for trucks to use Route 234 as a short-cut from I-95, creating a truckway instead of a parkway.

In 2013, the Board of County Supervisors in Prince William County intiated a Comprehensive Plan Amendment (CPA) to kill the Bi-County Parkway, by modifying the county’s transportation plan and keeping the eastern end of Route 234 as a four-lane highway. No action was taken, but the Board initiated another CPA in April, 2015 to remove what was then called the “Route 234 Bypass-North” from the Comprehensive Plan.

Staff slow-walked that CPA, delaying it by claiming the project could not be considered separately from all the other components in the Transportation Chapter. Delay allowed VDOT to continue to include the Bi-County Parkway in preparation of the next budget for construction, the Six Year Improvement Plan (SYIP).

However, the Prince William County Planning Commission will vote on Wednesday, February 17 on Comprehensive Plan Amendment #PLN2014-00201, Route 234 (Dumfries Road) and Comprehensive Plan Amendment #CPA2016-00003, Route 234 Bypass-North (Bi-County Parkway). The Planning Department has recommended further delay, opposing any change in existing planned prjects until the entire Transportation Chapter can be updated.

This is a new approach, not consistent with past policy. For example, in 2012 the staff supported altering the Transportation Chapter to keep Purcell Road at two lanes (see Comprehensive Plan Amendment #PLN2013-00089).

The Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, a coalition of road builders and developers, supports building the Bi-County Parkway.  Local residents still oppose it.

The full set of the Prince William Conservation Alliance’s comments, and previous background material, highlight how investment in transportation infrastructure could enhance the county’s economic development, maintain the Rural Area, and limit the costs of government. The Bi-County Parkway proposal does none of those, and delaying action simply invites the state to build a road that the residents clearly oppose.


3 comments so far

  1. Rob Delach on

    Any news on what happened at the Planning Committee meeting Wednesday?

  2. […] closely – can you see how the Bi-County Parkway will spur economic development in Prince William […]

  3. […] 2016, the Virginia Department of Transportation listed the Bi-County Parkway as a “pipeline project” in the VTrans Multimodal Transportation Plan (VMTP 2025). Projects […]

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