Politicians, Residents Vow Keep Up Bi-County Parkway Fight
– September 4, 2013 1:59 pm
MANASSAS, Va. -- Opponents of the Bi-County Parkway Wednesday told lawmakers they won’t back down when it comes to stopping a proposed highway near Manassas National Battlefield Park.
More than 100 protesters holding signs that stated “follow the money” and “developer road” gathered outside the Sudley United Methodist Church in the Manassas Battlefield, and were cheered on during a press conference by a handful of like-minded Republican politicians all working to send a message to Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and Transportation Secretary Sean Connughton: Slow down the decision-making process and consider other options for the Bi-County Parkway.
As proposed, the road would link Interstate 95 with Dulles Airport via the existing Va. 234, between Prince William and Loudoun counties. A new 4-lane, limited access road would be built north of Interstate 66 through a portion of Manassas National Battlefield, and with it would come the closure of portions of Va. 234 and U.S. 29 inside the National Park.
That, opponents have long said, is a bad deal for the area.
“You’ve got a diverse group. You’ve got people who at times can’t even agree on the time of day, but they all agree that this one project is not the right project for Fairfax, it’s not right for Loudoun, it’s not right for Prince William, it’s not right for Fauquier,” said Delegate Tim Hugo, R-Fairfax, Prince William, of the politicians who signed a letter to be delivered to McDonnell on Thursday.
In all, 12 politicians signed the letter to the governor, which asks officials to slow the approval process of a “programmatic agreement” with the National Park Service which would allow for the closure of portions of the roadways within the park — which today are heavy commuter routes — and meet with the residents who live in the area.
No one from the National Park Service was invited to attend the press conference, said Hugo. Hugo added state officials are scheduled to take up the topic of the programmatic agreement again tomorrow in Richmond, and that he will hand deliver his letter to McDonnell in an effort to continue open talks over the proposed roadway.
Other politicians said voters across party lines oppose construction of this highway.
“If we don’t stop this road, we will stop the process that led to this road…I’ve had people with Obama stickers on their car thank me for my opposition and tell me they’re supporting me, so if that doesn’t send a message to Richmond I don’t know what does,” said Robert G. “Bob” Marshall, R-Prince William, Manassas Park.
If the road is built, it would span a 10 mile stretch of land and would connect Va. 234 with Va. 7 and the Dulles Corridor. Connaughton last month said the corridor would be ripe for truck traffic, and could help spur tourism at Manassas National Battlefield Park by helping ease congestion on the heavily travelled I-66.
A portion of Va. 234 has one high schools and two elementary schools that already sit alongside the highway, and will serve as the main thoroughfare to access the county’s soon-to-be built 12th high school near Hoadly Road.
“We would be sending all of this heavy traffic through the middle of a school zone, and there has been no discussion on the impact of that, or what would be done to mitigate those effects…” said Prince William Brentsville District School Board member Gilbert Trenum.
His colleague Allyson Satterwhite from Gainesville fears the road would bring more development to the region.
“We already have a situation where the classes are bumping at the state max for class size. We don’t have money in our [Capital Improvement Plan], we don’t have plans in our CIP for more schools in this area, in the Gainesville District,” she said.
Connaughton said he would like to have an environmental impact study completed for the proposed highway by the time Gov. McDonnell, and possibly Connaughton, leaves office in January.
Officials Wednesday said they plan to introduce legislation that would reform the Commonwealth Transportation Board and Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, two organizations that hold major sway over what road projects will be built.
“If they sign the programmatic agreement, we will continue to fight, and the fight will continue in the General Assembly when Sean Connaughton is gone,” said Hugo