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Votes

Changes Made to Battlefield Bypass

While the latest changes in the Battlefield Bypass project are still troubling to many local residents, others are glad that, at least, some of the proposals involved have changed for the better.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) still shows one route cutting through Centreville's Bull Run Estates community, but previous proposals that would have placed Fairfax National Estates and Virginia Run in jeopardy have been shifted away, somewhat.

"It's a good sign, at this intermediate stage, that — as they've refined these alternatives, they don't appear to be going through some of the communities like they were from December until now," said Virginia Run resident Jim Hart of the West Fairfax County Citizens Association (WFCCA) Land-Use Committee.

The powers that be also eliminated all proposed routes west of the Route 234 bypass in Manassas — thus sparing the historic Buckland area. Still, lots of problems remain.

In 1988, Congress issued a mandate that commuter traffic be removed from the Manassas National Battlefield Park and plans be developed for the closing of Routes 29 and 234 transecting the park.

But nothing happened because Congress didn't appropriate any money for the project until 2000 — and it was only $2.3 million for the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

Now several routes have been proposed to divert these drivers elsewhere, and an active study is underway. Initially, two of the alternatives would have split Fairfax National Estates in half and one traveled along the edge of Virginia Run.

BUT THE FORMER ALTERNATE 5 through Fairfax National now stops west of that community, and a new 2A goes well south of it. (Virginia Run is no longer threatened by 5, either). However, 2A lops off the northern portions of the Fairfax National Golf Course and the SYA's Fields of Dreams youth sports complex.

Alternate 2 formerly slicing through Fairfax National no longer exists, but the new 2D goes through the southern portion of the golf course. And the old 5 that went between Virginia Run and Bull Run Post Office Road, tying back into the Luck Stone Quarry, east of that plant, is gone. In its place, a new alternate 4 runs west of the quarry.

The old routes 2 and 5, said Hart, were "too close to homes, would have been noisy for the residents and went through globally rare forest. They've refined these alignments and, on the northern arc, they listened to residents of Fairfax National and Virginia Run. And No. 4 would be for trucks to get back to Route 29, without having to go through Centreville."

However, while pleased that 2 and 5 were moved south and west, closer in on the Battlefield, he remained wary. "Since they're still conceptual, 2D and 2A could still slip [and imperil] Fairfax National Estates and Virginia Run," said Hart. "We're still waiting for the other shoe to drop — for the EIS on both the Battlefield Bypass and the Tri-County Connector."

Jeff Flading — on the Battlefield Bypass Citizens Advisory Committee, along with Judy Heisinger of Bull Run Estates — said the FHWA altered the routes after receiving more than 75 letters from his community and from local legislators. "I'm not an advocate of the Battlefield closure overall, but these alternatives are less offensive than the former ones splitting the communities," he said. "And they reflect the concerns of the citizens."

"WE LOOK AT SOCIO-ECONOMIC and environmental conditions," said Jack Van Dop, FHWA project director. "It's a process of elimination and a modification of what's on [the plan] to accommodate the data we gather."

And although many Prince William County residents are e-mailing Van Dop because the new 2D cuts through part of the Battlefield, the original legislation says routes may do just that.

"We and others got a letter from [Rep. Frank] Wolf [R-10th] telling the FHWA that, when he drafted the legislation back in 1988, he wanted them to consider bypass alternatives within or very close to the park," explained Flading. "And he was concerned that the original alternatives were cutting through people's communities, so 2D was added to accommodate that."

However, Heisinger's community is still in jeopardy from alternate 4, which replaced 4A and 4B. And for the first time in the process, the latest incarnation of the Bypass map with the proposed alternatives now shows the Tri-County Connector drawn in and hooking up with routes 2A, 2D and 4 — which runs between Route 29 and I-66 and smack through Bull Run Estates.

"That tail that goes through our community is hateful to us," said Heisinger. "I don't know what in the world they're doing. It looks like Bull Run Drive and Bull Run Post Office Road are the two roads that would go from I-66 to Route 29. Bull Run Post Office is too small in places to stripe, and they would have to take out some homes for the Tri-County Parkway."

She said the idea needs "a lot more engineering," and she stressed that the only entrance into Bull Run Regional Park is through Bull Run Drive and Bull Run Post Office." She's also not thrilled with the Balls Ford Road alternative 4 but, if it's chosen, she said, "I wanted No. 4 to stop at I-66 and have a connection there, just before Bull Run Regional Park — and that would be the connection to Route 29 to Centreville."

As the process continues, said Van Dop, "We're collecting more data about existing development, natural resources, how traffic would respond if the roads [currently crossing the Battlefield] were closed and how well alternatives would handle the traffic. We'd pick the one handling traffic best with the least impact. A minimum number of these segments will be the bypass — we don't need them all. And [moving] toward narrow alignments."

THE CHALLENGE IS WEIGHING different types of impacts against each other. "For example, is not crossing a battlefield worth two homes, six, 20?" asked Van Dop. "How do you quantify one against the other? It's apples and oranges." Similarly, he said, "If a bypass removed miles and miles of road corridor from the [Battlefield] park, going through the park in another area might be mitigated by that."

"If a route protects the Battlefield but impacts people living around [it], is that fair?" he asked. "Those are the tradeoffs. We want people to discuss this and give us feedback to help us make these decisions." (E-mail jack.van.dop@fhwa.dot.gov or respond on www.battlefieldbypass.com).