Prince William leaders vote to widen Route 28, kill bypass

It’s going to cost more — a lot more — but leaders in Prince William County say it’s worth it.

The Prince William Board of County Supervisors today voted unanimously to widen a nearly four-mile stretch of Route 28 between Liberia Avenue in Manassas and the Fairfax County line. It’s expected to cost at least $400 million — about $100 million more than a bypass that had been considered until today.

That bypass would have extended Godwin Drive four miles, from Sudley Road to the Route 28 at the Fairfax County line. The four-lane extension would have created a bypass around Manassas City. It would have provided more opportunities for commuters who live in the Linton Hall Road corridor, as well as those coming into Prince William County from neighboring jurisdictions like Fauquier and Stafford counties, a more direct path to Interstate 66 via Route 28.

“This is a situation where we can start talking about injecting real revitalization in this corridor,” said Occoquan District Supervisor Kenny Boddye.

Widening Route 28 in its current alignment, means adding two new lanes in each direction. It was one of four options considered in 2017 before officials opted on the bypass plan.

Fairfax County is in the process of widening Route 28 from four to six lanes between the Prince William County line and I-66.

Bypass falls out of favor 

In recent weeks, however, the bypass lost vital support from Manassas City leaders who failed to endorse the plan. In Prince William County, Supervisor Yesli Vega, who has constituents that would have lost their homes due to the bypass construction, opposed the project.

“We have to look at the realities we are facing, and that reality is COVID,” said Vega. “What is transportation going to look like in a year? Two years? right now, it’s teleworking.”

The project had its hurdles. In addition to plowing through 54 homes, the road would have needed to be built through a flood plain, and over federally-protected wetlands. The Army Corps of Engineers would have to have signed off on the project in order for its to have been built.

At-large Board Chair Ann Wheeler scolded Vega, as well as Supervisors Jeanine Lawson and Peter Candland, for opposing the bypass in the “11th and a half” hours, and said they should not have let the project to advance this far.

“I will go with widening Route 28,” said Wheeler. “I feel like the taxpayers would like us to spend $100 million less.”

Instead of homes, now commercial properties lie in the crosshairs of the local government as it shifts its focus from building a new stretch of road to widening an existing facility.

“It’s the most unfavorable part of the job I have to do — taking people’s homes and businesses,” said county transportation director Rick Canizales. “This is a double-edged sword. No matter what we do, where we go, we will be impacting someone, somewhere.”

Manassas in the middle

The decision to abandon the bypass will lock up nearly $90 million in state funding earmarked for the bypass by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority until at least next summer. Canizales had until August 10 to work up an agreement between the county and the authority to secure the funding, which he would have used to design the four-lane bypass.

Now, with time on their side, Caniazles said the county’s transportation department would look at the Route 28 widening project and come up with a design that will lessen the effects of the commercial property owners now in the path of the road widening.

A portion of Route 28, south of Manassas City, has already has been or is in the process of being widened from two to six lanes, between Pennsylvania Avenue at near the Manassas Regional Airport and Fitzwater Drive in Nokesville.

The portion of the road that runs through Downtown Manassas will still be just four lanes. The city regularly closes Route 28 in its downtown for festivals and other community events.

Similar to Route 1

A $165 million project to widen Route 1 in Woodbridge from four to six lanes between Marys Way and the Occoquan River is set to wrap up this fall.

Five years ago, before construction began, the Board of County Supervisors voted to spend $12 million to bury utility lines along on the one-and-a-half-mile stretch of road. Supervisors said the buried lines would lead to more desirable development in the corridor, still known for its a high number of mostly vacant shopping centers and car lots.

On the now-to-be widened portion of Route 28 north of Manassas, many of the same businesses exist.

“We’ve been talking about this for a generation on what to do there,” said Candland. “The problems on Route 28 are significant.”

Widening Route 28 is not currently in the county’s comprehensive development plan. Canizales said supervisors may have to amend the policy for the project to proceed.

4 thoughts on “Prince William leaders vote to widen Route 28, kill bypass

  1. “It’s going to cost more — a lot more —”

    That remains to be seen. Now that the Bypass is no longer being pursued, County staff may start considering innovative ways to widen Centreville Rd through Yorkshire, such as building a new four-lane (or wider) roadway–preferably with two dedicated bus/HOV lanes–about 400 feet to the west of the existing road.

    That approach should greatly decrease the need to take commercial properties and relocate businesses, could significantly reduce utility relocation costs, and would reduce construction costs associated with the maintenance of traffic along Centreville Rd.

  2. I’m concerned this vote was rushed and short-sighted regarding technical specifics. One example…I listened to most of the meeting and several supervisors took a last-minute walk yesterday evening along the Flat Branch near where the bypass would have been built. Concerns were raised, in part because there are poor drainage conditions observed along the creek, particularly during yesterday’s storms. Those neighborhoods were built in the 50s and 60s when there when site impact studies/hydro-engineering was almost nil – the lots/streets were constructed right up against the floodways. Several board members sited this as a reason not to construct the road, and changed their votes just recently. On the surface, this argument sounds good, but a significant part of the cost estimate for the bypass road included funds for dredging, flood mitigation etc… in a strange way, the bypass road could have served two purposes – a way for folks to get to work and flood mitigation. The flood mitigation, which is not cheap (you know, tens of millions, not thousands), will eventually need to be done anyway, just now it will have to be done independently. To me a better solution would have been to recognize the challenges of bypass solution, and instead of cancelling it altogether, work hard to make sure the challenges were addressed in the most ecological, fair, and efficient ways. The 28 bypass really could have been the catalyst for Smart Growth around all of Manassas – the hospital, Innovation/GMU, and especially existing 28/Centreville Road in Manassas City (Mathis Ave)/Manassas Park (because it would no longer be as stressed a thruway, things like traffic calming, bike lanes, and sidewalks along the area would now be more feasible). Instead, 28 from the city line to Fairfax County is envisioned to be reconstructed – at great expense – like the recently reconstructed Route 1 in Woodbridge (which several of the board members mentioned as a model)… 6-lane a 45 MPH high-stressed thruway non conducive to pedestrians. If Smart Growth is the goal, this was not the best decision in my opinion, and a huge missed opportunity for PWC and greater Manassas.

  3. The bypass was a stupid idea without the Fairfax County portion of 28 being widened to handle the funnel effect. The 28 widening with bus lanes, bike paths, speed bumps, turtle crossings, etc. is a stupid idea for the same reason, not to mention wiping out the commercially zoned businesses since the properties are only a couple of hundred feet deep off the current right-of-way anyhow. “Smart Growth” is an oxymoronic expression created in some planners toilet bowl after a hard night out drinking.

    Widen the damn road!

  4. So they are still gonna have a choke point in old town Manassas that will back up traffic on the expanded section anyways if the project every actually gets put in the plans. So glad the voters of PWC gave them the money for the project before knowign what the project was actually going to be!!

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