The Best Bypass to “Fix Route 28” Does Not Require Building A New Highway Through Bull Run Parkland

The traffic congestion on Route 28 is unacceptable, and the Route 28 Corridor Feasibility Study  is underway.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) and Commonwealth Transportation Board are poised to fund widening Route 28 in Fairfax, creating new interchanges to eliminate stoplights – and potentially a brand new highway extending Godwin Road over Bull Run.

The new four-lane highway is the obvious preference of the Department of Transportation in Prince William County.  The county’s transportation officials see more-bigger roads as the solution to every mobility problem, and endorse every highway that can be sketched on a map.

Their choice is Option 2B, extending Godwin Drive from Route 234 (Sudley Road) across Bull Run:

Option 2B

Option 2B, extending Godwin Road across Bull Run

County officials are not born with infinite wisdom and do not always have the right answer.  In this case, they do not even have the right question.  This is not a play written by Shakespeare, where “2B or not 2B, that is the question.”

Fortunately, the process to get Federal funding requires public involvement and the consideration of alternatives beyond the preferences of county staff.  More lanes and fewer traffic lights are obviously part of the solution, but building a new road across Bull Run is not.

Best place to start before spending hundreds of millions on a new road: define the problem.

Two streams of traffic get clogged on Route 28:
1) vehicles going north from Manassas to I-66
2) vehicles coming up Route 28 from Fauquier County line that go through Manassas, and then join the congestion from Manassas to I-66

There are two separate solutions to those two problems.

Manassas to I-66

Widening Route 28 north of Bull Run in Fairfax where the corridor has been planned for more lanes, and eliminating stoplights with revised interchanges and overpasses, will speed traffic between Manassas and I-66 significantly.

South of Bull Run, the potential to widen Route 28 between Manassas-Yorkshire is limited by the number of commercial operations on either side of the road.  Destroying businesses in Manassas/Manassas Park/Prince William, so commuters can drive to jobs in other jurisdictions, will not help the local tax base or local employment opportunities.

It may be feasible to re-engineer some of the frustrating interchanges in Manassas, Manassas Park, and Prince William to minimize the delay from stoplights.

From Fauquier County Headed North

The best way to get the traffic to bypass Manassas is… (drum roll, please) use the existing Route 234 Bypass to bypass Manassas.

Traffic coming north from Fauquier County can go 5 miles to reach I-66 via the Route 234 Bypass.  That road is planned to be a 6-lane highway with overpasses between Route 28 and I-66.

purple squares show planned overpasses from Route 28/234 Bypass (black circle) to I-66

purple squares show planned overpasses from Route 28/234 Bypass (black circle) to I-66

Even if Option 2B was built to German autobahn standards, the 5-mile drive via Route 234 Bypass will always be quicker than the 9-mile drive via Route 28 at Centreville.

The goal is to get vehicles to I-66, right?  Express Mobility Partners is spending $3 billion or so to upgrade that interstate to move traffic.  Route 234 Bypass is a straight shot from Route 28 to I-66.  In contrast, Option 2B would be a long, winding road.  It would be slower for drivers, and waaaay more expensive for taxpayers.

traffic from south of Manassas can get to I-66 (blue dots) without clogging Route 28 in Fairfax County (yellow dots)

traffic from south of Manassas can get to I-66 (blue dots) without clogging Route 28 in Fairfax County (yellow dots)

And why would we want to stick even more cars on Route 28 north of Bull Run?

With Option 2B, 8 lanes of traffic would have to squeeze into the 6-lane Route 28 corridor in Fairfax County.  That would just create a new bottleneck and create more congestion on the route to Centreville.

Eliminating stoplights on the Route 234 Bypass will help make Innovation more attractive for development.  The Innovation site is intended to be a place for businesses to bring jobs to Prince William, and to evolve into a live-work-play center – so let’s invest there.

We can divert traffic away from the chokepoint of downtown Manassas without building a new road across Bull Run.  No houses, no wetlands, and no historic Civil War battlefields need to be destroyed by constructing Option 2B.

Bull Run, upstream of Mitchell's Ford

Bull Run, upstream of Mitchell’s Ford

When the environmental analysis of the “Fix Route 28” proposals gets serious, transportation planners will be confronted with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and Section 4f of the Department of Transportation Act of 1966.

Both require close examination of feasible alternatives before blasting new roads through parks.  The Civil War Trust and NOVAParks have already made clear their objections.

The question is “how do we minimize future – as well as current – congestion.”
Option 2B is not the answer.

There is a clear alternative: improve the existing Route 234 bypass to bypass Manassas, rather than build a new highway cutting through neighborhoods, sensitive riparian areas, and the 1861 battlefield.

(Yes, more Virginia Railway Express service from Broad Run station could reduce future congestion as population grows, but that’s another blog post.)  

Option 2B crosses through Bull Run Regional Park

Option 2B cuts through Bull Run Regional Park

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1 comment so far

  1. Mark on

    The main issue is there is not enough roadway AND bicycle capacity across the Bull Run. The only other roads in the CLRP that are planned to cross the Bull Run are the Bi-County Parkway and Manassas Battlefield Bypass.

    Just widening Route 28 in Fairfax County will help the Northbound traffic in the morning, but it will make Southbound traffic coming back in the evening significantly worse. Route 28 in Fairfax County South of I-66 is going to be 8 lanes. (This matches the FFX County Comprehensive Plan)

    I-66 between Sudley Rd/VA234 Business does not currently and will not have the capacity to handle additional capacity from 234. This is why the Commonwealth received such a good deal on the I-66 toll lane project. VDOT is predicting almost 7000 cars per hour on three GP lanes of I-66 over the Bull Run which results in gridlock.

    The feasible alternatives to Option 2B are the Bi-County Parkway and Manassas Battlefield Bypass. I would think most people would prefer Option 2B since it does not open up additional land for development when compared to the Bi-County Parkway.

    Expanding VA234 Bypass will reignite calls for the Bi-County Parkway since I-66 will not be able handle the demand and the tolls will be too high for most people. The traffic from Fauquier County is already using VA234 Bypass to get to I-66 because Route 28 is so congested. There is much more traffic coming from Woodbridge/Prince William Parkway than Fauquier County. Option 2B is the best option to prevent discussion of the Bi-County Parkway in the future. Option 2B will eliminate the Tri-County Parkway Alignment (Much worse impact then Option 2B on Bull Run Regional Park).

    I do not recommend a connection between Route 28 Northbound and Godwin Dr Extended Southbound which would reduce the amount of park land required. Even less parkland would need to be taken if they eliminated the Deepwood Veterinary Clinic. VDOT could acquire endangered park land elsewhere to mitigate the parkland lost at the Bull Run.


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