Washington, D.C. Outer Beltway Projects

These projects would spur development of open space and rural lands in the Northern Virginia Piedmont including the integrity of historic resources such as the Manassas National Battlefield Park.


Destructive Highway Proposals Threaten Rural Piedmont

Business interests and real estate developers have long been promoting an “Outer Beltway” around Washington D.C. The idea has been rejected, renamed, and repackaged numerous times, but the Virginia portion would generally start at I-95 in Stafford County, cut north to Route 7 in Loudoun County, cross the Potomac River, and ultimately connect to I-270 in Maryland. 

VDOT’s own studies of the Western Transportation Corridor – the project iteration that was pushed in the early 2000s – showed that it could cost as much as $2 billion and would not relieve congestion on the Capital Beltway. In fact, it would generate more traffic by opening thousands of acres to sprawling development. In addition, the new highway would cut a 50-mile swath through the Piedmont, harming invaluable environmental, cultural, and historic resources. Among other things, it would:

  • Damage up to 450 acres of wetlands;
  • Compound pollution problems in the Chesapeake Bay via stormwater runoff;
  • Increase vehicle exhaust in an area that already violates federal air quality standards;
  • Imperil 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.

In recent years, project proponents have shifted their strategy and now seek to build the Outer Beltway piece by piece along a path the Commonwealth Transportation Board designated the “Northern Virginia North-South Corridor of Statewide Significance” in 2011. These costly and destructive projects, which include the proposed Bi-County Parkway, Manassas Battlefield Bypass, and a cargo highway connecting to the west side of Dulles Airport, would open rural lands in the Northern Virginia Piedmont to development, increase pollution, and harm historic resources—all while doing little to relieve congestion.

Click here for a map (pdf)

Better Solutions

The state should focus on solving the region's traffic problems where they exist, rather than generate additional traffic with new highways that would increase driving and exacerbate sprawl.  SELC and our partners are working to convince VDOT and other Virginia officials to focus on maintaining and improving existing roadways and intersections, enhancing transit and other transportation options, and promoting smarter growth while protecting the Commonwealth's natural resources.

Learn more about the projects making up the Outer Beltway, and the better alternatives to them.  

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