Prince William County plans to reexamine its position on the Bi-County Parkway, a controversial road proposal that would connect Prince William and Loudoun counties, the Board of County Supervisors decided Tuesday.
In a 7 to 1 vote, the Prince William board agreed to conduct a $100,000 study of the project, launching a lengthy process that could last a year. Opponents of the parkway fear that the procedure means the board may not have a real opportunity to assess the road before the federal government signs off on it.
The study will cover the county’s entire road corridor and determine options for whether the Bi-County Parkway, a 10-mile route that would connect I-66 in Prince William and Route 50 in Loudoun County, should be a part of the county’s long-term plans.
Supervisor W.S. Covington III (R-Prince William), a supporter of the parkway, was the sole vote against the move.
The Bi-County Parkway has been the subject of much discussion over the past year. Supporters say the road is necessary to bolster economic development and connect two of the fastest-growing counties in the country. Opponents — particularly those who live in the path of the proposed route — say that the road would affect their property and way of life, as well as the county’s protected Rural Crescent and historic Civil War grounds near the Manassas National Battlefield Park.
Bob Chase, president of the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, which supports the road, told supervisors before the vote that nothing has changed over the years of debate on the road. Northern Virginia is growing, and new transportation infrastructure is needed for traffic and job growth, he said.
“As John Adams said, facts are stubborn things,” Chase told the board. “There are certainly a lot of wishes, inclinations, surrounding these issues. . . . The need for the Bi-County Parkway is well-documented.”
Supervisor Peter K. Candland (R-Gainesville), a vocal road opponent, said supervisors chose the easy way out, by appearing to take action without actually staking out their position.
“Certain individuals don’t want to take a straight up-or-down vote on the Bi-County Parkway,” Candland said. “Enough is enough. We’ve talked about this issue ad nauseam.”
Candland said time is of the essence since the Virginia Department of Transportation is moving forward on an agreement with federal transportation authorities, which must approve the road to move the project forward.
Once that agreement is signed, supervisors may no longer have a voice on the issue, Candland said.
Supervisor Martin E. Nohe (R-Coles) said supervisors may have more time than they think. Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe (D) said during his campaign that he would study the issue, and it’s unclear whether his administration would push the Bi-County Parkway when his term begins Jan. 11.
County staffers plan to study the parkway and other area roads in a comprehensive traffic, road and land-use analysis. That study would then go to Prince William County Planning Commission, and supervisors would have a final vote on the Bi-County Parkway and other area improvements.