Buckland/Haymarket Bypass: Just Moving a Pawn in the Bi-County Parkway Chess Game

buckPrince William County is considering constructing a new road between Route 29 and I-66, cutting through the Rural Area west of Haymarket.

The latest Buckland/Haymarket Bypass proposal is not a new idea.  It’s a vampire that just won’t die, and continues to suck planning  resources.

The latest (2016) proposal is to build a 4-lane divided highway with a 40-wide median in the center.  The road would be designed for cars to go 55-60mph between the county border and a new I-66 interchange.

There would be no intersections for any connections to local roads, not even Route 55 (John Marshall Highway).  Drivers would bypass every business in Prince William County, so the local economic development score is… zero, zip, nada.

Three lines have been drawn on the map as alternative routes for the county’s planning process.  On January 26 the county’s Department of Transportation hosted a “stakeholder’s” meeting to discuss which route might be preferred.

The answer was a clear “none of the above.”

three

The only options proposed by Prince William County were
three routes for a new road and “do nothing.”

Fauquier County supervisor Holder Trumbo made clear at the start of the meeting that his county’s officials were strongly opposed to constructing a new bypass, and he did not expect the Prince William planning process to alter that perspective.

Members of the public also did not buy what Prince William staff were selling.

During the discussion, staff suggested that there were concerns:
(1) cumulative impacts on the Buckland Historic District,
(2) a need to accommodate traffic coming up Route 29 from North Carolina, and
(3) growing commuter traffic coming from south of the Prince William-Fauquier boundary.

Stakeholders questioned how the county had already decided that a new road was the best solution to those problems.

The public challenged county staff to consider more alternatives, such as improving Route 29 sight lines and removing stoplights – particularly at the Vint Hill Road/Route 29 interchange. Speakers also noted that the recent investment of $1 billion in new highway construction, to improve the Route 29/Linton Hall interchange and widen I-66, had reduced traffic congestion significantly.

So why was the Buckland/Haymarket Bypass being discussed at all?  Ah, that’s the interesting part of the story.

Few at the meeting thought the proposal to construct a major new road will get far in the decision process. Fauquier County’s opposition was recognized as a high barrier to cross, since the southern end of the new road would be in Fauquier.

The bypass proposal is, most likely, a “shiny, look-at-me” diversion to distract the public’s attention from actions at the regional-level Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) and the state-level Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) to build the Bi-County Parkway.

nsIn 2016, the Virginia Department of Transportation listed the Bi-County Parkway as a “pipeline project” in the VTrans Multimodal Transportation Plan (VMTP 2025). Projects included that long-range multi-modal transportation plan receive priority status for funding by the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

At the same time, the regional NVTA has established ground rules that allow it to fund the Bi-County Parkway – even though Prince William County has removed that project from the Comprehensive Plan. The state CTB can trump local government land use and transportation planning, and the regional NVTA wants the same power.

A look at the map suggests the real, behind-the-scenes game plan. Advocates for the Outer Beltway now see an opportunity to widen Route 28 south to Route 17.  That could bring commuters and trucks from I-95 at Fredericksburg to Bealeton, then north on Route 28 to Linton Hall Road.
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Vint Hill is planned to be widened to a 4-lane highway, allowing more traffic to get from Route 28 to Rollins Ford Road. There is already a 4-lane Rollins Ford Road bridge across Broad Run

That bridge was funded by Prince William taxpayers with 2006 local road bonds.  The project was not an obvious priority for reducing local traffic congestion  Why was it funded by extra taxes on county residents, instead of the normal process using Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) funding.

Rollins Ford Road expansion was included in the 2006 bond issue because the Outer Beltway advocates have been playing the long game for decades, with the help of key local officials in Prince William.

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The Outer Beltway advocates have another option in the game.  They could bring traffic on Route 17 all the way to Route 29, and then north to Vint Hill Road.  Vint Hill Road is planned to be widened to a 4-lane highway from Route 29 east to Rollins Ford Road (as well as to be widened between Route 28 and Rollins Ford Road).
v5

If the end result of the proposed Buckland/Haymarket Bypass is just better sight lines on Route 29 and an “improved” intersection at Vint Hill – hey, moving that pawn forward would provide a key step in the game to create a new bypass east of Gainesville, and use that bypass as the southern leg of the Outer Beltway.
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Rollins Ford Road currently dead-ends at Linton Hall Road.  The path forward involves the Stonehaven rezoning.
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Look for a rezoning proposal that extends Rollins Ford north to Wellington Road, to be followed by a proposal to build the final link to Prince William Parkway and the extension of that road north as the Bi-County Parkway. And look for efforts by Prince William officials to extend VRE so an end-of-line station near Gainesville could justify NVTA funding for extending Rollins Ford Road.
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