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Prince William denied first attempt at funding parking garage at proposed baseball stadium

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Prince William County is denied one of two grant applications sought to fund a new commuter parking garage slated to be built next to a new Potomac Nationals baseball stadium in Woodbridge.

The county sought $5 million from Virginia’s Transportation Opportunity Fund to build a garage that would be used on weekdays by commuters, and on nights and weekends by baseball fans, and those attending other events at a proposed $35 million, 6,000-seat baseball stadium at Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center next to Wegmans.

The location for the new parking garage, just off Opitz Boulevard near Interstate 95 is ideal. But the project, according to a letter from Virginia Department of Transportation Chief Financial Officer John Larson, will not generate enough new jobs for the state to approve this grant.

“On…the application submitted to the department, the county stated that the project would create 23 new jobs with an average salary of $42,000. The county recognized that this does not meet the minimum job creation of 25 new net jobs and the average annual salary requirements of $44,955,” stated Larson in his letter to Prince William County officials.

County leaders remain hopeful the new parking garage and stadium will spur more economic development if built in Woodbridge as both would be located in a bustling business district. Leaders sought a waiver for not meeting the grant criteria, but it too was denied.

“…Prince William is not classified as an unemployment or poverty distressed community and does not qualify…” the letter states.

Though it didn’t work out, leaders say it was worth a try.

“We knew that this grant would be a long shot because the stadium proposal’s projected new jobs and the estimated average salaries for employees did not come close to meeting the criteria for the grant. However, since a majority of the [Board of County Supervisors] approved the plan to initiate the process, I do applaud every effort to obtain grants to pay for the commuter garage associated with the stadium,” said Prince William County Occoquan District Supervisor Ruth Anderson.

Prince William County Transportation Director Rick Canizales said he’s more hopeful that the project will be funded instead by the state program Smart Scale , as the project ranks high on a list of criteria that evaluates which transportation projects will help get more commuters off the highway and into public transit or carpooling.

As much as $38 million could come to the county from Smart Scale funds to build the parking garage and to widen nearby Neabsco Mills Road from two to four lanes between the north entrance of Northern Virginia Community College Woodbridge Campus to Route 1.

Officials in Richmond will decide by June what is funded in the state’s six-year-transportation improvement plan. That’s also when county transportation officials will know for sure if it won the Smart Scale grant.

“The stadium project is dependent upon the garage… the garage isn’t dependent on the stadium. I can build the garage outside the stadium and still have people from Prince William, and other jurisdictions use that for their purposes,” said Canizales.

If the garage is built without the stadium, it will most likely be located along the Neabsco Mills Road corridor on land either owned or purchased by the local government.

The results of a study that will outline what new improvements will be needed to roads around the proposed stadium, to include Opitz and Potomac Center boulevards, and Gideon Drive are expected next week. Since there is no direct access to Potomac Town Center from Interstate 95, these feeder roads will be the only way to access the parking garage and stadium and will need to be improved before any stadium is built.

JBG Companies, the owner of Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center, has offered up to $250,000 to help fund the road improvements. Officials on the Board of Supervisors admit that could be only a drop in the bucket when the full scope and cost of the road improvement work is realized.

The final cost estimates for the parking garage and roadway improvements are expected by the end of April, said Canizales.

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