Is New Route a Road to Ruin?

Is New Route a Road to Ruin?

Latest Battlefield Bypass Alternative smashes through Bull Run Estates.

In July, a possible Battlefield Bypass route endangering homes in Centreville's Bull Run Estates community was discarded. For awhile, residents there breathed a sigh of relief.

But that's all over now, and homes and property there are again in jeopardy. A new Alternative G, unveiled last week by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), is the latest threat — and residents are both upset and alarmed.

"This simply can't happen," said Judy Heisinger, president of the Bull Run Civic Association and a member of the project's Citizens Advisory Board. "It's awful — six or seven homes would be impacted."

And Del. Tim Hugo (R-40th) has vowed to do all he can to help. A member of the House Transportation Committee, he recently wrote letters about the Bypass project to Gov. Mark Warner, Secretary of Transportation Whitt Clement and former House Transportation Chairman Jack Rollison.

"I told them I strongly oppose any routes that will disrupt the quality of life in these neighborhoods," he said Monday by phone from Richmond. "We will fight this in the Transportation Committee, on the House floor and at the FHWA. We will put on a full-court press to protect the citizens of western Fairfax County."

IT ALL came about because Congress issued a mandate in 1988 that commuter traffic be removed from Manassas National Battlefield Park and plans be made to close Routes 29 and 234 transecting the park. Funds weren't appropriated for the project until 2000; however, an active study is now underway and five alternative routes have been proposed to divert drivers elsewhere.

But, said Heisinger, there's got to be a better way than Alternative G. "The way it is now, it simply doesn't fly," she said. "Saving the park to destroy people's residences is not an equal tradeoff. I understand what they're doing, but not at the expense of my neighbors."

Two of the pathways, C and D, skim the south side of Fairfax National Golf Course, running between Bull Run Stream and the golf course. Two others, A and B, do likewise on the north side. (On Monday, manager Mike Wyeth said he wasn't prepared to comment on them).

These four routes haven't changed much since July. The one troublesome to Bull Run Estates residents is the newly added G, which travels south of the Battlefield Park and runs north of and parallel to I-66.

"We have to get from the existing Route 29 to I-66," explained project director Jack Van Dop with the FHWA. "This goes through Bull Run Estates, and the rest of Alternate G runs between the park and I-66."

He admitted that this route also travels potentially near "some other environmental resources." But, he added, "We're trying to analyze and categorize the impacts now. We're moving toward delineating them further."

THE LEG of Alternative G paralleling I-66 would accommodate east-west traffic, and the planned extension of the Route 234 Bypass would provide for vehicles traveling north and south. And, according to the FHWA, there's been "substantial support" for an alternative in the I-66 corridor.

A previous alternative would have co-located Route 29 onto I-66, but it's been revised so that, instead, Route 29 runs parallel to I-66. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) was concerned that co-locating traffic onto I-66 would cause backups at the locations where the new lanes would merge with I-66 traffic. And there were other considerations.

"VDOT said that, if there was an accident elsewhere on I-66, people could have used Route 29 as an alternate," said Van Dop. "But co-locating them would take away that option." Furthermore, he added, "The right-of-way of I-66 is already spoken for, for future widening, mass transit, HOV lanes, etc."

However, said Heisinger, Alternative G would go east of where the Tri-County Connector is someday planned. From Bull Run Post Office Road's intersection with Route 29, the route travels east of the Luck Stone Quarry (off Route 29 in Centreville), goes down Bull Run Post Office and then crosses the Continental Gas pipelines after Naylor Road and the Naylor family house.

"It then veers off to the east — going through four homes and part of a fifth," she said. Two of these homes face Bull Run Post Office, another two are along Compton Road and another is on Bull Run Drive. In addition, said Heisinger, the road would also plow through a corner of the historic, Cub Run Primitive Baptist Church on Compton before crossing Bull Run Drive, just north of I-66.

Resident Mark McConn's home on Bull Run Drive would also be affected, with the route swiping a corner of his property. And he wonders if Alternative G is even feasible on his land. "I'm 60 feet above Bull Run," he explained. "They'd have to elevate all that land because my property is in a flood plain."

IF THE federal government is serious about this route, he said, it would have to buy all his property. But he's also concerned that "if they put the line here and never find the money [to build] it, I pay the penalty in the [decreased] assessed valuation of my land."

Most of all, said McConn, this new alternative came as a shock to everyone in this area. "It caught everybody by surprise," he said. "This wasn't one of the alternatives they were looking at."

"I understand that they had to have an alternative south of the park so they can say they considered it," added Heisinger. "But it'll have to be redrawn, or the community will take a no-build stance. I'm counting on support from the WFCCA [West Fairfax County Citizens Association Land-Use Committee] and the Sully District Council of Citizens Associations."

Whatever alternative is chosen will be a 100-foot wide, four-lane road. Preliminary traffic studies revealed that two lanes wouldn't provide enough capacity. However, the number of lanes actually built will depend on funding.

Heisinger said the Bull Run Civic Association will meet, later this month, to alert the residents about Alternative G. She'll show them the map, and then they'll decide as a group what to do. She also noted another problem with that route.

"IF ALL this traffic goes back onto Route 29, it'll impact communities like Pleasant Valley and Gate Post Estates that are built along Route 29," she said. "It's just going to bring more traffic onto this [alternative] and onto Route 29 through Centreville — and we don't need any more."

Van Dop said the FHWA will now look at all five alternatives in more detail and then do a preliminary cost estimate for each, as well as consider a design and human, natural and environmental impacts. The findings will then be presented in an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and at a public meeting and workshop, probably in February or March.

"But we won't make a decision until we have another public meeting," he said. "Then we'll choose a preferred alternative and present it to the public, approximately in April or May."

Meanwhile, said Del. Hugo, "I'll do everything I can to oppose [Alternative G]. People, over the years, have invested in these communities, and it's wrong to deprive them of [what] they've spent years creating. We will work with Congressman [Frank] Wolf [R-10th] and the congressional delegation. Whatever it takes, we will fight this."

Actually, said Hugo, the Battlefield Bypass may have seemed like a good idea, many years ago, but its time has passed. "It is wrong to destroy homes because of it, now," he said. "We will call in every favor we can to protect our friends in western Fairfax County."

Residents may comment on the latest alternative proposals by writing to: Jack Van Dop, project director, Federal Highway Administration, 21400 Ridgetop Road, Sterling, VA 20166. E-mail, or post comments on the project Web site,