Opponents of Bi-County Parkway cheer Prince William board vote

June 6, 2013

Opponents of a controversial parkway that would connect Prince William and Loudoun counties are buoyed by the Prince William Board of County Supervisors’ decision Tuesday to take the parkway off its list of state priorities.

Supervisor Peter K. Candland (R-Gainesville) said it did not make sense to hold up the rest of the county’s primary road priorities because of controversy surrounding the parkway. Most of those priorities — including widening sections Interstate 66 and Route 1 — are not controversial, Candland said. Supervisor Frank J. Principi (D-Woodbridge) was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

The board had delayed adopting the priorities it sends to the state in May after opponents of the parkway protested by the dozen at a board meeting. It was one of several recent meetings that saw loud opposition to the 10.4-mile parkway, which would run through historic Civil War land and, residents fear, exacerbate congestion on already-packed nearby county roads.

State Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William), who represents the area and opposes the road, said that in 22 years in the legislature, he has never heard of a road being funded by the state that was not on a locality’s wish list. He said he plans to ask the attorney general’s office for an opinion on whether the state can legally fund such a road.

“If you go into a restaurant and order steak, the waiter would have to be an idiot to give you salmon,” he said. “If it’s not on the wish list, they don’t put it on the to-do list. For a year, at least, this thing is in limbo.”

He added: “It’s about time those in authority . . . started to listen to the ones they’re affecting.”

The supervisors’ vote, however, does not necessarily derail the state’s plans for the parkway. State transportation officials argue that it is vital to connecting two of the country’s fastest-growing jurisdictions.

Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Joan Morris has said that the parkway is “not out of [Prince William’s] long-range plan — it’s out of their wish list for this year. ” She said the Commonwealth Transportation Board will decide whether to allocate money for the project.

Transportation Secretary Sean T. Connaughton, chairman of that board, was not available to comment, she said.

Board Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large), who has advocated for the parkway, said the board’s vote doesn’t kill the road. But, he said, “it’s not good” for the road’s prospects. He voted to take it off the priority list in order to ensure that the county’s other priorities were funded, he said.

Mac Haddow, who represents the Western Prince William County Homeowners Alliance, which has opposed the parkway, said the board’s vote was significant. “This was a vote for the citizens of Prince William County,” he said. He said he hopes that supervisors, particularly Martin E. Nohe (R-Coles) and Stewart, who have backed the parkway, do not continue to push for the road privately.

“We need to hold their feet to the fire,” Haddow said.

Nohe said that the free-wheeling discussion of the complicated transportation issue, which was not on the board’s agenda ahead of the meeting, should have been more carefully considered before a vote. Like Stewart, he ultimately supported the proposal so that the other county priorities received funding.

“If I were sitting at home watching this [on public access television], I would have no idea what this board is doing or not doing,” Nohe said.

Candland said in an earlier interview that he is unsure what power he, as a supervisor, or the county has to stop the road, which would be funded by state and federal dollars. But he said that voicing opposition is be crucial to slowing the road.

“I cannot remember a road [being constructed] in my lifetime where it has gone against so much opposition across the board from the people who actually live within the affected county,” Candland said in an interview.

Residents say they worry about increased traffic and the fact that the parkway would run through a bucolic region with a rich Civil War history. Recently, the CTB, the board that governs VDOT, delayed a vote on the issue after protests and U.S. Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) wrote a letter to Gov. Robert McDonnell (R) to say that the state’s process lacked transparency and that more public input was needed.

Six Republican state legislators, including Marshall, have announced that they oppose the road.

The parkway’s supporters, particularly the business communities in Prince William and Loudoun, say the parkway would create jobs and drive economic development in the area, ease congestion and provide a key connection to Dulles International Airport and between two rapidly growing counties.

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