VDOT Tries Sneak Attack – Again – for New Roads West of Haymarket
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is engaged in another hide-and-seek exercise to facilitate sprawl west of Haymarket. They’re back, trying to build new roads west of Haymarket that are not in the county’s Comprehensive Plan.
The game plan is to use the massive “Transform I-66” project as an excuse to extend Heathcote Boulevard west, and build a bridge over I-66 connecting Heathcote to Route 55 near the Amazon data center.
As they say on TV – but wait, there’s more. Prince William County has already restarted a study of another road, the developers’ dream known as the Buckland Bypass. It would run from Fauquier County north along the edge of the Bull Run Mountains.
If a 4-lane divided highway replaced Thoroughfare Road south of I-66, how long before there’s a proposal to widen Antioch Road and build a 4-lane road parallel to Route 15 at the base of Bull Run Mountain north to Loudoun County? It’s another flavor of the Bi-County Parkway nightmare.
Once again, VDOT is not being transparent or straight-up in its Transform I-66 planning. The next round of I-66 public discussion, the Concept Plan meetings scheduled in June, has no discussion of any new construction west of Route 29.
The VDOT public involvement process is “Hey folks, look this way, to the east… no no no, don’t look at what we’re planning west of Route 29 until it’s too late to change anything.”
VDOT’s Concept Plan public meetings in June resemble the way magicians do something flashy to draw the audience’s attention to one side of the stage, while stuffing a rabbit into the hat.
This is not VDOT’s first magician show on expanding roads west of Route 15. In 2015, after finishing all the public events to discuss how to improve I-66, the state transportation agency tried to sneak into the plan a new parking lot on Antioch Road, replacing an operating local farm with pavement.
The public response, including a resolution by the Board of County Supervisors to save the Heflin Farm, was quick and loud. The parking lot was dropped before the I-66 project was approved by the Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB).
Now it’s back, though hidden quite well. You have until midnight, April 8 to submit your comments on this latest attempt. Yup, the deadline is that tight.
When VDOT completed the Tier 2 Revised Environmental Assessment after public involvement, it stated (p.3-26):
No concept for direct access ramps to the express lanes was selected to be advanced to the Preferred Alternative. Potential locations for direct access ramps in conjunction with a potential park-and-ride lot in the Haymarket area will be evaluated in the vicinity of the I-66 and Route 15 interchange as part of a separate effort in collaboration with Prince William County, VRE, and other stakeholders.
No such consultation with the public – a key stakeholder, right? – has occurred since that document as adopted in 2016, but VDOT has now revealed its latest under-the-radar plan when it proposed an amendment to the 2016 Constrained Long-Range Transportation Plan (CLRP). The regional Transportation Planning Board (TPB) coordinates transportation projects in the DC area, and the list of funded (“constrained”) projects is used to calculate vehicle emissions and ensure the region will continue to meet air quality standards.
The Transportation Planning Board public involvement process has published the proposed amendment to change the “preferred alternative” which was included in the 2016 Constrained Long-Range Transportation Plan. It describes on page 10 two proposals – Access Update Option A and Access Update Option B – for direct access ramps to and from the Express Lanes, to extend Heathcote Road, and inevitably to “improve” Antioch and Thoroughfare roads.
The proposed infrastructure west of Haymarket is inconsistent with the Prince William County Comprehensive Plan. It will help to bust the urban growth boundary defined in the Comprehensive Plan by encouraging sprawl development adjacent to/within the Rural Area currently defined for low-density development.
The inappropriately-named Rural Preservation Study Report, completed in 2014, is part of the set-up. Land now zoned for low-density development would be reclassified as a “Transitional Ribbon” or “Rural Gateway Corridor” allowing higher-density housing – and the usual windfall profits for those who are behind the scheme.
Say goodbye, Rural Area. Say hello, subdivisions west of Thoroughfare Road.
Approval of the amendment to the 2016 Constrained Long-Range Transportation Plan, as proposed, would facilitate a bait-and-switch process where VDOT tells the public “these are the impacts associated with the projects” but tells the regional planning agency another story.
If you want to encourage the Transportation Planning Board to require honest public involvement and not to serve as co-conspirators in VDOT’s bait-and-switch process, submit your comments by midnight on Saturday, April 8.