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.

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Nothing set in stone on Bi-County Parkway as new governor takes office. More »

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.

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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 in the early 2000s – which would have built a major portion of the Outer Beltway – 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, 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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