In 1988, Congress issued a mandate to get commuter traffic out of the Manassas National Battlefield Park. Now, to carry out that order, several routes have been proposed to divert these motorists elsewhere.
Trouble is, some of the alternatives would smash right through the homes and yards of Centreville residents. Two of them (2 and 5) would bisect Fairfax National Estates, one (5) goes along the edge of Virginia Run and two others (4A and 4B) would devastate the Bull Run Estates community. So far, those who've seen these proposed routes on a map have not been happy.
"These are established neighborhoods," said Carol Hawn of the West Fairfax County Citizens Association (WFCCA) Land-Use Committee. "I'm concerned about any alignments that would split a community."
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the National Park Service have identified five major alternatives, plus a few variations. Building a new road would enable them to close the portions of Routes 29 and 234 that now cut through the park.
The FHWA is currently gathering information about each of these potential routes — conceptual corridors that could go two or three miles, either way — so a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) may be developed by summer. According to the Manassas National Battlefield Park Amendments Act of 1988, construction will be 75-percent federally funded, with 25 percent state or local money.
And although the road won't be built tomorrow, the serious impacts some routes could have are already worrying residents. For example, Mark McConn lives on Bull Run Drive, and alignment 4B would take his street, across the front.
"Mine and [neighbor] Ed Glade's properties are within the Battlefield property, so they can't take my property without federal approval," he said. "But they could put the road in front of my house and landlock us."
McConn would rather the road didn't come south of Route 29 — "or anywhere, at all." As it is, another road project — the Tri-County Connector — would also go right through his community. "This part of the connector doesn't help Fairfax County — it helps Loudoun," he said. "And if that's the aim, let the 234 Bypass [that now ends at I-66] handle it. You don't have to disturb Fairfax County to solve the problem."
He and several other Centreville residents attended a public workshop of the Battlefield Bypass project, in December. And on the maps shown that night, said McConn, "It doesn't seem as if the Bypass plan is taking into account the Tri-County Connector. South of Route 29 to I-66 on the Bypass plan is totally different [from the route shown on those maps] for the Tri-County Connector."
Besides, he wondered, "If you're doing a bypass around the park, why do you need 4A and 4B, at all? Just route 29 around the Battlefield. Why does it need to go to I-66? Traffic going from the east to the west sides of the park doesn't need to go to I-66."
Jim Hart — whose Virginia Run home could be affected by alignment 5 and who is also on the WFCCA — said alternatives 3, 4, 4A and 4B could all affect McConn's house. "There's just no functional reason for 4A and 4B," he said. "You could tie back into 29 east of there, without going through Bull Run Estates."
As for Hart's own neighborhood, alternative 5 goes right along several Virginia Run streets: Trillium House Lane, Meherrin Drive, Smiths Trace, Lawnes Creek Court, Marston Cluster and Pebblebrook Drive. One of those streets even has a multi-million-dollar mansion on it.
"There's no reason to go behind backyards in Virginia Run if you could go west of the [Luck Stone] quarry," said Hart. "And it would be shorter." He believes a combination of alternatives 3 and 4 would be less disruptive to Centreville, "as long as they can avoid going through Bull Run Estates."
He said the southern arcs that are proposed would be preferable to the northern ones. He'd instead prefer a route "generally along I-66, or a combination of I-66 and Balls Ford Road [in Manassas], starting at the Gainesville I-66/Route 29 exit and ending at the Centreville I-66/Route 29 exit."
Judy Heisinger, president of the Bull Run Civic Association, called alignments 4A and 4B "horrible." She said Bull Run Post Office Road — which is 4B's path — is the only entrance into Bull Run Regional Park, "so it absolutely cannot be done. And 5 is absurd because of its impact on Fairfax National, Virginia Run, Buckland Historical Area [at Route 29 in Prince William County, west of Gainesville] and Haymarket."
Bull Run Estates homes affected by 4A and 4B are along Bull Run Drive, Bull Run Post Office, Compton and Naylor roads and Brim Lane. Although 4A is supposed to go west of the quarry, said Heisinger, "It looks like it would go through my house, the Glades, the McConns and the Burgers. Plus all the homes north of Compton Road on Bull Run Post Office Road [are in jeopardy]." And she suggested that alignment 4 should instead hook onto I-66 somewhere near the visitors' centers in Prince William County.
Fairfax National Estates would also be directly affected by two alignments — 2 and 5, both of which would impact homes on Sudley Road and on the streets just south of it — Hallissey Court, Peaceful Meadow Lane and Bull Run Post Office. These three streets aren't even shown on the Battlefield Bypass project maps.
"I think it would be a travesty to split a community in half for a road that no one seems to be supporting," said George Sanchez, a four-year resident of Fairfax National. "I realize that traffic has gotten progressively worse going through the Battlefield, with all the sprawl of the Gainesville area. But I don't think that splitting a community that pre-dates the population explosion in Prince William County is the solution."
Some 51 families live in this neighborhood and, said Sanchez, the last house that sold there, in the fall, went for $775,000. "This community has already been negatively impacted by the threat of this road bisecting our community," he added. "Somebody considering purchasing a house here would not like the fact that a road could come right through it."
And knowing that the road would be 75-percent funded by the federal government, he believes it has a good chance of getting done if Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10th) gets behind it. "That 75 percent could be attached as a rider to any appropriations bill, if Wolf wanted to make it happen," said Sanchez. "Everybody in this neighborhood has sent a letter to [Jack] Van Dop [FHWA project director]. We're all very concerned."
While noting that any alignment would have a 300-foot right-of-way, Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully) said, "There's no way I'd support it going through Fairfax National." Heisinger believes the 1-2A route, west of the Battlefield, would be best. "This would be another way of getting people from Prince William to Loudoun," she said. "And since this alignment is one of the alternatives for the Tri-County Connector, then the Tri-County Connector wouldn't be needed."
But Frey said another north-south route is necessary. "Sending it far west wouldn't help alleviate traffic on Pleasant Valley Road or on Route 28," he said. "Then our traffic problem would be just as bad, or even worse, than it is now."
Yet there are also environmental concerns. "The woods on the east side of Bull Run Post Office and backing up to Virginia Run are part of the globally rare, oak/hickory forest," said Hart.
And Hawn said 2, 5, 4A and 4B are all within the environmentally sensitive Occoquan Watershed and cross stream valleys. The extra traffic, plus the road's impervious surface, she said, could also be detrimental. She wants planners to keep local residents "in the loop" so they may voice their opinions before final decisions are made.
Jeff Parnes of the Sully District Council of Citizens Associations said his group opposes 2, 5, 4A and 4B; it supports 4 (alone) and 3, as long as I-66 and Route 29 aren't co-located so that one's traffic affects the other. And Sully District Transportation Commissioner Dick Frank noted that Congress' legislation allows routes to go along the park's fringes.
He believes any proposal east of Bull Run Post Office would be "DOA because the county would not support it." But like Frey, he says Fairfax County needs a north-south corridor, and he believes "the Tri-County Connector alignment and the Battlefield Bypass' eastern alignment will be one and the same."
Frank says a southern bypass makes some sense because Balls Ford Road is already commercial, and he figures there's enough room between the quarry and the Battlefield to run the route's eastern side. Meanwhile, to create the EIS, Alan Teikari, an engineer with the FHWA's Eastern Federal Lands division, said planners gathered existing studies on these routes, including a "Route 29 corridor-development study completed by VDOT in 1998."
He said planners visited the area a year ago to see what was there, and he noted that the Tri-County Connector doesn't necessarily have to be part of this project. He said further study may cause some alignments to be dropped, and alternatives such as mass transit could also be used in conjunction with these routes.
"We'll still accept comments until the draft and final EIS," said Teikari. (E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, or respond on the project Web site, www.battlefieldbypass.com). "There'll be further refinements of the alternatives as we go along, and we'll go out and meet with these communities if they want us to." To arrange meetings, call Van Dop at 703-404-6282.