October 6, 2013

Business and political leaders from around the region have asked me how the proposed Bi-County Parkway connecting Prince William and Loudoun counties will affect George Mason University. The straightforward answer is that the road will be good for your university. This is why.

George Mason University is committed to being an economic and cultural engine for our region through world-class education, research and public service. Thanks to hundreds of millions of dollars in investments from the commonwealth of Virginia, Prince William County, the city of Manassas and a long list of private businesses, foundations and individuals, GMU’s Prince William Campus has been operating and growing since 1997.

Our 134-acre [Prince William] campus today serves more than 4,000 students, mostly in [science, technology, engineering, math and health care] disciplines that are critical for the future of our region, and conducts cutting-edge research in areas such as proteomics and molecular medicine, infectious diseases and sports medicine. Several new businesses have been incubated at the Mason Enterprise Center. The Hylton Performing Arts Center has become the heart of the region’s cultural life, and the Freedom Aquatic and Fitness Center offers to the public one of the largest sports facilities in the region. Together, they attract several hundred thousand visits every year.

The vast majority of our students commute to our Prince William campus from around the region. As do our world-class scientists. With only one residence hall available at the moment, our ability to serve the region will be determined, to a great extent, by the facility to access our campus from other areas in the region, especially those experiencing demographic and economic growth.

Our campus anchors Prince William County’s Innovation Technology Park, a 1,600-acre public-private cooperative that is attracting innovative high-tech businesses and creating high-paying jobs. The success of this corporate park is based on George Mason University’s emergence as a world-class research and educational institution as well as easy access to Washington Dulles Airport and other key resources in the region.

As we continue to invest in this campus, create new programs in high-demand areas and attract millions of dollars in research funding, it is critical that the transportation infrastructure around our campus continues to improve. Both east-west connectivity — which facilitates access to and from our campuses in Fairfax and Arlington and the resources in the National Capital Region — as well as north-south connectivity — which facilitates access to the growing residential and business centers in Loudoun County and our future Loudoun County campus — are critical to our future and our ability to deliver on our mission.

As public officials and community leaders continue to debate the merits of this project, I encourage them to include, among the many important factors they will need to consider, the impact that the new road will have on the future of your public university and its ability to serve this region.

Occasionally, we publish blog posts, speech transcripts and other commentaries of interest to the Washington business community. Here is an excerpt from a Sept. 28 blog post by the president of George Mason University.

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