Although one area of Centreville is still in jeopardy, another one dodged a major bullet in the latest revisions of the Battlefield Bypass project. One route still passes close by homes in Fairfax National Estates, but the one endangering residents of Bull Run Estates has now been deleted.
The changes were unveiled last Wednesday, July 16, at a public meeting held by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in Manassas. Project director Jack Van Dop with the FHWA discussed five new alternative routes and answered questions from the nearly 250 people attending.
But even though the changes were largely beneficial to Fairfax County residents, Jim Hart of the West Fairfax County Citizens Association (WFCCA) Land-Use Committee said those overseeing the project aren't out of the woods, yet. Said Hart: "They still have a lot of controversy ahead of them, regarding the whole project."
IN 1988, Congress issued a mandate that commuter traffic be removed from Manassas National Battlefield Park and plans be made for the closing of Routes 29 and 234 transecting the park. No funds were appropriated for the project until 2000, but an active study is well underway and several routes have been proposed to divert drivers elsewhere.
The latest incarnations have been narrowed to 250-foot-wide corridors and have been moved farther away from Fairfax National and Virginia Run. (See page 23 for details of the proposed alternatives). And Bull Run Estates' Judy Heisinger — a member of the project's Citizens Advisory Committee — was especially glad for the removal of one route in particular.
"They took off the southern route coming up Bull Run Drive to Bull Run Post Office Road," she said. "There were 51 known hazardous-materials sites along that route — most along Balls Ford Road [in Manassas]. The homeowners here in Bull Run Estates were delighted to hear that it wouldn't go through our community."
Now, said Heisinger, just two possible alternatives could affect local residents. Both are northern routes ending at Route 29 west of Luck Stone Quarry. These are alternatives A and B which travel north of the SYA's planned youth-sports complex, "Fields of Dreams," and which could affect homes in Fairfax National Estates, south of that community's Sudley Drive.
Both alternatives C and D go south of the Fields of Dreams and, for the sake of Fairfax National, those are the routes Heisinger would prefer. But, she warned, "All four alternatives would add more traffic on Route 29 — there's no doubt about it. Anything that goes all the way around the Battlefield [has to]."
COMMUTER TRAFFIC is already on Route 29, as it is, and it worsens if there's a problem on I-66 that forces people to exit onto Route 29. So, said Heisinger, "If they had to go all the way north of the Battlefield on Route 29, people might stay on I-66 longer, even on a bad-traffic day."
Alternative E seems to be the most popular with Prince William residents, but it could also mean commuter gridlock for Route 29 motorists in Centreville. "By closing the Route 29/234 access to the Battlefield, it precludes any access to Luck Stone Quarry from the west," explained Hart. "All trucks going in and out of the quarry can only get there through Route 29 in Centreville."
Trucks would have to exit I-66 at Route 29 and double back through Centreville to the quarry. As a result, said Hart, "Truck volume on Route 29 would be substantially increased, and that would be a concern for [Centreville] residents. The trucks would go uphill slowly, going both east and west on Route 29, clogging the stoplights at Stone Road, Paddington Lane, Pleasant Valley Road and the [intersection] at Bull Run Post Office Road."
THE FHWA estimates preliminary costs for Alternatives A, B, C and D to be $5-$10 million each; Alternate E is estimated to have a more than $20 million price tag. Next step is the creation of a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) by this fall, with a public hearing on it, this winter.
But before then, residents may comment on the latest alternative proposals, by Aug. 15, by writing to: Jack Van Dop, project director, Federal Highway Administration, 21400 Ridgetop Road, Sterling, VA 20166. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or post comments on the project Web site, www.battlefieldbypass.com. Heisinger also urges homeowners associations to speak as a whole, so their votes won't be scattered.