The Prince William County Board of Supervisors informally agreed yesterday to accept $300,000 from a group of landowners and developers to pay for the design of the long-awaited Rte. 234 bypass around Manassas.

County officials said this was the first time in Prince William history that private citizens offered their own money for any phase of a road-building project. The county will spend $300,000 of its money for the project, which will determine what land the county must acquire to build the bypass, officials said.

The newly formed, 40-member group, dubbed The 234-Bypass Forum, was born out of a desire by landowners, developers and lawyers -- not all Prince William County residents -- to get the bypass project moving. According to county Deputy Planner John Schofield, the project, which would bring increased economic development to the mostly rural western end of the county, is not included in the state's six-year road plan.

According to group spokesman Don McIlvaine, a principal of a Falls Church commercial industrial real estate agency, the members will not only give the funds out of their own pockets and donate land where needed, but also will work with other sectors of the county to convince the legislature that the bypass is necessary for the county's economic growth.

"Our plan is unique in that the private sector is getting involved so early in the process," McIlvaine said.

The bypass would begin at the southern end of Manassas just north of Brentsville Road and extend about 12 miles around the city to Rte. I-66 between the Manassas and Gainesville exits, where a new exit would be built. It would extend past the Prince William industrial complex in Gainesville and serve the dual role of encouraging economic development and helping to eliminate the chronic traffic jams in Manassas during rush hour.

The group was formed in December. According to Schofield, "Landowners were coming to us saying they wanted to finalize their plans for development and needed to know where the bypass was going. They said they would give land for the right of way just to get things started. Then they got the idea for the money."