New Report: Bi-County Parkway Would Increase Congestion and Damage Manassas Battlefield

Package of Practical Alternatives would Provide Greater Transportation Benefits and Better Preserve Battlefield

Today, a coalition of conservation, preservation, and smart growth organizations strongly questioned the overall benefit of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s (VDOT’s) proposed “Bi-County Parkway” in Loudoun and Prince William counties. The groups released an analysis of the controversial new highway’s impact on the amount of travel and congestion -- comparing it to a proposed package of projects that would improve transportation in the area. The analysis shows that the alternative projects would be more beneficial to the region than the Bi-County Parkway would be.

“Based on VDOT’s own traffic model, building the Bi-County Parkway would make overall traffic congestion worse than if the highway were not built,” said Morgan Butler, Senior Attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. “While it would improve traffic in some limited areas, those benefits would clearly be outweighed by the amount of new congestion it would generate.  And it would turn the western border of the Manassas National Battlefield Park into a parking lot.”

The report, Rethinking the Bi-County Parkway: Making Sound Transportation Investments in Prince William and Loudoun Counties While Preserving Manassas National Battlefield Park, was produced by the Southern Environmental Law Center, Coalition for Smarter Growth, National Parks Conservation Association, National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Piedmont Environmental Council, and is based on traffic modeling analysis by Smart Mobility, Inc.

“Remarkably, even though the project is intended to reduce congestion on north-south roadways, the Bi-County Parkway would increase north-south congestion in the region, compared to conditions if it were not built,” said Norman Marshall, president of Smart Mobility, Inc.

The groups have proposed what VDOT terms the “Substitute Vision” -- a common sense package of projects that the people who live and commute in the area will recognize as critical to addressing their worst transportation headaches. These projects would focus on improving the critical east-west commutes, but they would also improve traffic flow along existing major north-south commuter routes like Route 28, while enhancing local connectivity within Loudoun County and western Prince William County.

"In seeking to critique our approach, VDOT actually proves our point that there are numerous projects which merit investment over the Bi-County Parkway.  Certainly, the average commuter will see it this way," said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.  "This includes projects to help commuters and local travel In the I-66 and Route 50 corridors, along the Route 28 corridor between Manassas and Route 7, and in southern Loudoun and western Prince William south of I-66.  We can't afford to squander as much as $1.5 billion on the combined set of Outer Beltway projects, of which the Bi-County Parkway is an integral part, when we have so many more critical needs."

Manassas National Battlefield Park and Historic District are of concern because the proposed Bi-County Parkway would pave over parts of each, in addition to generating noise and other harmful impacts. A 1988 federal law requires the Department of the Interior to determine the timing and method of closing Routes 29 and 234 through the national park, and to provide alternative routes for the traffic that now transects the park -- endangering visitors and degrading the battlefield’s historic character. But the 1988 law does not require construction of the Bi-County Parkway nor the Battlefield Bypass to serve as the alternative routes, and the Substitute Vision provides alternative routes consistent with the Congressional directive.

“The Substitute Vision provides an appropriate alternative for the Bi-County Parkway and the Manassas Battlefield Bypass. It better addresses the key transportation needs in the study area and would better protect Manassas National Battlefield Park and the Historic District -- both irreplaceable historic treasures,” said Dan Holmes, Director of State Policy for the Piedmont Environmental Council.  “Further, the Substitute Vision would reinforce Prince William and Loudoun counties’ rural land preservation policies and represents a far more sensible investment of tax dollars. Rather than invest further time and effort into the damaging Bi-County Parkway, the public would be much better served by pursuing our recommended approach.”

Related document:
Executive summary
Full report with executive summary and appendices
VDOT report on Coalition's substitute vision
VDOT’s Revised Traffic Analysis Memo
Coalition memo summarizing components of its comprehensive alternative
                                                                                                                                                   
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