Although the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors was supposed to make its decision Monday, Sept. 26, about which routes it prefers for the Battlefield Bypass and Tri-County Parkway projects, it called a timeout instead and deferred its votes.
SAID SUPERVISOR Michael R. Frey (R-Sully), “We’re going to transmit letters to the project directors saying, ‘We don’t believe you have evaluated all the circumstances, situations and alternatives enough for us to make an informed judgment.’”
Regarding the Battlefield Bypass, he said, “The Board added my language saying, ‘Conceptually, we support getting Route 29 out of the middle of the [Manassas National Battlefield] Park.’ It doesn’t make any sense to have a major commuter route through the heart of a battlefield.”
Frey said one of the biggest backups is where that section of Route 29 turns into two lanes. “I’ve seen it back up all the way to I-66, during the evening rush,” he said. “The only way to alleviate the backup is to relocate the road.”
However, again at his request, said Frey, “We added language saying that late changes [the newly revised alternatives D and G] have caused quite a bit of consternation and the CAB [Citizens Advisory Board] has asked for a meeting to talk about them. That would be a good start.”
He said he realizes the FHWA was responding to citizens’ comments about the Battlefield Bypass when it recently unveiled the two revised alternatives. Still, said Frey, “You just can’t spring it, at the last minute, in a newsletter with nobody understanding what’s happening. A CAB meeting before [the newsletter announcing the altered routes] would have been better.”
But he doesn’t think Bull Run Estates homeowners whose property would be severely impacted by the revised G have much to worry about. “G isn’t going to be picked by anybody – especially Prince William,” he said. “It’s the most expensive, destroys homes and businesses and would screw up I-66. It causes huge problems; there’s not a snowball’s chance that G will be picked.”
Frey also said that those speaking against alternative G in Prince William live near D. “Nobody wants a road near them,” he said. “The [active and outspoken] Friends of the Battlefield are a bunch of homeowners next to the D alignment.”
NONETHELESS, he said, “Tens of thousands of vehicles a day use Route 29. The FHWA only got [some] 40 comments from the two counties. How can you base a decision on those 40 comments — or on who sends an e-mail, fills out a postcard or goes to a public hearing? It’s a small percentage [of people].”
As for the Tri-County Parkway, it’s a VDOT project, and the proposed road is supposed to link Loudoun, Fairfax and Prince William counties via a new, north/south connector. And the route that’s the most expensive and environmentally damaging of the three possible pathways suggested for this project is the one on Fairfax County’s Comprehensive Plan.
But even if the Supervisors removed it from the Comprehensive Plan, said Frey, it wouldn’t change where people live and work — or their commuting habits. And all this traffic still has to go somewhere.
“When Route 28 backs up, it backs up on Old Centreville Road, Stone and Pleasant Valley roads, Federation Drive, etc.,” he explained. “It goes down Poplar Tree and Stone roads, turns left on Lee Highway, right on Machen, right on Old Centreville and back on Route 28 to Compton Road.”
He said all this maneuvering constitutes motorists’ attempts to avoid the traffic lights and backups on Route 28 in Centreville. “So if we don’t build the Comprehensive Plan alignment, that traffic is only going to increase — and where is it going to go?” he asked. “If you take them off [these roads], there are 40,000 trips that county staff can’t account for.”
FREY CONTENDS that the proposed western alignments alone can’t solve Fairfax County’s north/south transportation problem. “I think we need them both — the Tri-County Parkway and one of these western alignments — to properly move traffic,” he said. “But are they ever gonna happen? I don’t know.”
He said the Supervisors chose not to vote on a Tri-County route on Monday because of “the missing trips and the fear that traffic wasn’t indeed moved by the western alignments.” And he pointed out that, according to this project’s draft environmental impact statement (DEIS), “for transportation reasons, the Comprehensive Plan [alignment] was the best.”
“But then you have emotional and environmental issues to deal with,” said Frey. “So for the moment, we’re left with a line on the map and not much else.”