Parkway = Development?

Parkway = Development?

While some applaud VDOT's proposed Tri-County Parkway, which could come through South Riding, others say it will encourage development and hurt natural resources.

An estimated 700 people passed through three nights of public discussion last week on the proposed Tri-County Parkway, which would link Loudoun, Fairfax and Prince William counties.

Many residents were concerned that the proposed highway would destroy precious natural and historic resources — most notably where one proposed route would split Bull Run Regional Park in Centreville — as well as encourage growth along Loudoun's rapidly-changing southern border.

Others applauded Virginia Department of Transportation's effort to alleviate congestion along the region's over stressed highways.

The proposed highway would offer another north-south corridor from Interstate 66 to Route 50 between the clogged routes 15 and 28. VDOT has identified three alternative routes ranging in length from ten to 16 miles and in cost from $177 million to $548 million.

One of the proposed routes would make the Loudoun County Parkway in South Riding part of the parkway.

No money has been earmarked for the project, said VDOT project director Ken Wilkinson. He could not say when the road might be built.

"The money's not there, and it's not up to me to speculate," he said.

He did say that the "best case scenario" would be full funding after a final VDOT environmental impact statement, allowing construction to begin in 2012.

THE SIERRA CLUB, the Piedmont Environmental Council, the Coalition for Smarter Growth and Campaign for Loudoun's Future were on hand to warn VDOT against promoting development and destroying natural resources with the parkway.

"These options are sprawl roads," said Roger Deitrich, chair of the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club. "It will merely open up big areas for development."

"The western alignment goes straight to the area where developers are proposing 22,000 homes," said Ashburn resident Andrea McGimsey, who is with Campaign for Loudoun's Future. She wore a "No Outer Beltway" sticker.

DAVID COAKLEY has lived on Gum Spring Road for 16 years. He called the connection between roads and development "a myth."

When he moved to Gum Spring Road, it saw 500 car trips a day. Now it sees 10,000 a day.

"I just don't believe that not building is going to slow development," Coakley said. "It's coming, period."

Coakley supported any of VDOT's proposed routes.

"This road should have been built today, not having this meeting today," he said. "It's absurd."

John B. Townsend, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said that the Tri-County Parkway would help travelers.

"We believe it will improve mobility and decrease congestion," Townsend said.

He noted that Loudoun County is quickly becoming home to the 100,000 new employees the Washington, D.C. area creates each year.

The public hearings came on the heels of a new report from Texas Transportation Institute that Washington, D.C. now has the country's third-worst traffic. According to the report, commuters here spend nearly 70 hours in gridlock a year.

"That 70 hours we're wasting could be spent with our families," Townsend said.

The Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce has announced it support for the parkway in a resolution.

Wilkinson said he would like to get a final environmental impact statement to the Commonwealth Transportation Board this fall. For more information about the Tri-County Parkway, visit or view the draft environmental impact statement at any public library.

Get Involved

To weigh in on the Tri-County Parkway, e-mail or send comments to Ken Wilkinson, Environmental Division, Virginia Department of Transportation, 1401 E. Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23219. Comments must be postmarked by May 21.