Washington, D.C. Outer Beltway Projects
Destructive Highway Proposals Threaten Rural Piedmont
Nothing set in stone on Bi-County Parkway as new governor takes office.
During his campaign, Governor McAuliffe said he would take a hard look at the controversial $440 million Bi-County Parkway, reevaluating this project and others proposed by VDOT. In his campaign platform, under the section titled "Pick the right projects; build the best ones," he stated:
"We need to strategically prioritize what we’re building and where. We should look at our current and proposed transportation expenditures from top to bottom and support those which should move forward and pull the plug when they don’t make sense."
In deference to the change in administration, state and federal historic preservation agencies elected not to sign the Section 106 Programmatic Agreement -- a proposed set of measures to mitigate the harm to Manassas National Battlefield Park and the Manassas Battlefield Historic District, and one of the key steps required for the highway to advance. This delay is appropriate and creates the opportunity to take a second look at the merits of the Bi-County Parkway proposal relative to the damage it would cause, and to evaluate alternatives that will better address the interests of residents, commuters, state taxpayers, and the historic Manassas Battlefield.
During the past two years, as state and federal agencies, local residents, and historic preservation and conservation groups sought to come up with a set of measures to minimize the harmful impacts of the proposed new highway, one thing has become clear: it is impossible to adequately mitigate the tremendous damage that would be inflicted on the Battlefield and the community from the additional traffic, noise, and destruction of rural and historic landscape.
What's needed is an alternative approach that will reduce traffic near and through the Battlefield, using the tools of zoning, conservation, and upgrades to existing roads. Meanwhile, we should focus our scarce transportation resources on enhancing the capacity of major commuter routes like I-66, Route 50 and Route 28, using a combination of HOV, rail and bus transit, and alleviating key bottlenecks at interchanges and other locations.
SELC and our partners look forward to working with the new Governor, General Assembly members, local elected officials and residents to take a second look at the transportation issues in the area and to design a solution that will better serve residents, commuters, and state taxpayers, while protecting one of our most hallowed and irreplaceable historic places.
The Virginia Department of Transportation has long been working to advance an “Outer Beltway” around Washington D.C. The idea has been rejected, renamed, and repackaged numerous times; its latest alias is the “Northern Virginia North-South Corridor of Statewide Significance.” In recent years, VDOT has shifted its strategy and is now seeking to build the Outer Beltway piece by piece. These costly and destructive projects, which include the proposed Western Transportation Corridor, the Tri-County Parkway, and the Manassas Battlefield Bypass, would spur far-flung, inefficient development of open space and rural lands in the Northern Virginia Piedmont, increase pollution, and harm historic resources—all while doing little to relieve congestion. Click here for a map (pdf)
VDOT’s own studies have shown that the Western Transportation Corridor, for example, could cost as much as $2 billion and would not relieve congestion on the Capital Beltway. In fact, it would generate more traffic in the region by opening thousands of acres to sprawling development. In addition, the new highway would cut a swath over 50 miles through the Piedmont, harming important environmental, cultural, and historic resources. Among other things, it would:
- Degrade or destroy up to 450 acres of wetlands;
- Compound pollution problems in the Chesapeake Bay via runoff and air pollution;
- Increase vehicle exhaust in an area that already violates federal health standards for air pollution;
- Imperil the integrity of historic resources such as the Manassas National Battlefield Park and the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Parks; and
- Threaten a major drinking water supply for Northern Virginia.
This project has consistently been ranked among the most wasteful and destructive proposals in the United States.
VDOT should focus on solving the region's traffic problems where they exist, rather than generate additional traffic with new highways that would lead to more scattered development. SELC and our partners are working to compel VDOT and other Virginia officials to shift the state's scarce funding and resources away from boondoggle projects like the Outer Beltway. Instead, the state should focus on maintaining and improving existing roadways, enhancing transit and other transportation options, and promote smarter growth while restoring and protecting the Commonwealth's natural resources.
Take Action: Please write or email Virginia's Governor and Transportation Secretary to let them know you object to spending taxpayer dollars on the Manassas Battlefield Bypass and Tri-County Parkway, and that you favor better solutions like the ones outlined above.
Governor Bob McDonnell
Online contact form
Richmond office: 804-786-2211
Sean T. Connaughton, Secretary of Transportation
Patrick Henry Building, 3rd Floor
1111 East Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23219
More background on this case:
Washington D.C. Outer Beltway Projects: Background >>