A long-planned bypass around the Manassas National Battlefield should be constructed before a controversial proposed parkway is built and two major arteries through the battlefield are shut down, the Prince William Board of County Supervisors affirmed Tuesday.
Although it is only one of the controversial issues surrounding the proposed Bi-County Parkway, a 10-mile road that would connect Interstate 66 in Prince William to Route 50 in Loudoun County, the potential closure of roads through the Manassas battlefield has served as a rallying point against the parkway for those in the surrounding community and the thousands who use them every day.
The 10-mile parkway, the two roads that cut through the park and a long-planned bypass around the Manassas battlefield are technically all separate issues. But the National Park Service partially controls the fate of the Bi-County Parkway because of its proximity to parkland and has said that if the parkway is built, Route 234 through the park would be shut down and officials would take measures to ensure fewer motorists use U.S. 29.
On Tuesday, the board passed another resolution, 6-2, clarifying its position on the closure of the roads through the battlefield park. Board Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large) and Supervisor John D. Jenkins (D-Neabsco) voted against the measure.
Supervisor Peter K. Candland (R-Gainesville) offered the clarifying statement on the bypass and the potential closure of Route 234 and U.S. 29 through the park because he said that’s what he thought he voted for when the board passed a resolution on the matter in August. He and Stewart have disputed who tricked whom on previous votes involving the road closures and parkway.
It was the latest in a series of confusing and sometimes conflicting actions the board has taken. In July, the board unanimously passed a resolution essentially similar to the one it passed Tuesday. Then, in August, Stewart brought up the matter again and passed another resolution, changing some language in a way that caused a disagreement over what the board’s position was.
It is unclear what the county board’s action could mean for the fate of the parkway. State officials say the parkway is designed to improve traffic flow, spur economic development and provide better access to Dulles International Airport, and the road is being planned by the Virginia Department of Transportation.
Stewart, who supports the construction of the parkway, said Tuesday that the board’s position would help ensure the closure of U.S. 29 through the park — a bad situation for county residents who rely on the artery. “It’s my view [U.S.] 29 should never be shut down,” he said. “The battlefield bypass is a disaster of a road. That’s not a real alternative.”
“It’s obvious you’re trying to clear all the hurdles for the construction of the Bi-County Parkway,” said Candland, who opposes the parkway. Because the battlefield bypass has never been funded since it was called for in 1988, tying that issue to the parkway is seen as a win for opponents of the parkway if the issue delays its construction.
Candland said his goal was only to reaffirm the county’s standing policy, not get into a debate over the merits of the parkway.
“He’s making it simple so that we all understand. . . . I don’t know why were making such a big deal out of it,” said Supervisor Maureen S. Caddigan (R-Potomac).
If anything, the county board might have hurt its influence with the state, said Supervisor W.S. Covington III (R-Brentsville), who supports the parkway.
“We either look like we don’t know what we’re doing . . . or we’re accusing the state of hiding things,” he said. “I hope we can make this thing work out.”