Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) should slow plans for a controversial parkway that would connect Prince William and Loudoun counties, a contingent of 13 Northern Virginia elected officials told the governor in a letter this week.
The state and local officials, from the counties of Fairfax, Fauquier, Prince William and Loudoun, are all in agreement that the proposed Bi-County Parkway would worsen traffic and quality of life for the area’s residents, said Del. Timothy D. Hugo (R), who represents the area where the road would be built and part of Fairfax County. Residents worry about their home values and the integrity of Prince William’s protected rural area, which sits adjacent to the Manassas National Battlefield Park.
Area residents are “saying stop, they’re saying slow down,” Hugo said at a news conference Wednesday morning at Sudley United Methodist Church, near the site of the proposed road. “Listen to the constituents, to the people out here.”
Hugo said that he plans to deliver the letter and message to McDonnell and discuss the road with him.
The news conference came the day before the parties to the parkway’s key legal agreement are scheduled to meet at Virginia Department of Transportation headquarters in Fairfax County. Hugo said the meeting indicates that transportation officials are close to getting the necessary agreement — which would mean approval from the federal government — in place.
The estimated $440 million parkway does not yet have major funding attached to it.
Hugo said that trying to block the state and federal government from signing off on the document, called the Programmatic Agreement, is the best way to defeat the road. Otherwise, he said he would make it an issue through legislation or budget amendments in the General Assembly’s January session.
State and local officials say that VDOT and Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton are seeking the legal agreement’s approval before McDonnell’s term-limited tenure expires at the end of the year. Hugo likened the effort to a “bull in the china shop” as the state pursues a green light for the project.
McDonnell spokesman Paul Shanks said in an email that Hugo does not yet have a scheduled meeting with the governor. McDonnell does not choose specific transportation projects, he said. That is up to the Commonwealth Transportation Board, which oversees transportation projects across the state. The 17-member board is appointed by the governor on staggered terms and headed by Connaughton.
“[T]hey will determine whether or not the project goes forward,” Shanks said. The CTB has promoted the parkway proposal and helped advance it in recent months.
Connaughton told Prince William supervisors last month that the road was “imperative” for the fast-growing, congested region. State officials have also said it would provide better access to Dulles International Airport and is part of a broader north-south corridor plan to connect Loudoun with I-95, which officials say would spur job growth and be a boon for the airport.
“Transportation projects by their very nature are big, ugly and messy,” Connaughton told reporters in August. “When they’re operating, folks say … ‘Why didn’t you do this sooner?’”
Connaughton did not respond to a request for further comment Wednesday.
The 10-mile parkway would connect I-66 in Prince William with Route 50 in Loudoun. Plans for the road include another controversial caveat: Route 234 through the battlefield park would also be closed. National Park Service officials, who must sign off on the project because of its proximity to the Manassas battlefield, have said that the popular cut-through for commuters from all over the region must be shut down for the parkway to move forward.
Hugo and others believe closing Route 234 would put more traffic on already congested I-66 and unsafe rural area roads.
Prince William School Board member Alyson A. Satterwhite (Gainesville), who lives nearby, said closing Route 234 would cut off her access to the rest of the area and divert school buses to unsafe rural roads. “I don’t want to see that happen,” she said.
The press conference was held at the Sudley church because members believe that the road would block access to their church, founded in 1789. Larry Lunceford, a church leader, joined about 50 other opponents at the news conference Wednesday.
“I live in Centreville,” he said. “How am I going to get to church?”
School Board member Gil Trenum (Brentsville) said he would join Satterwhite and sign the letter to McDonnell. All of those who signed, except for non-partisan School Board members, are Republicans.
State Sens. Jill Holtzman Vogel (Winchester); Richard H. Stuart (Westmoreland) ; Richard H. “Dick” Black (Loudoun); Dels. Robert G. Marshall (Prince William); David I. Ramadan (Loudoun) ; Richard L. Anderson (Prince William) ; J. Randall Minchew (Loudoun); Michael J. Webert (Warren); Prince William Supervisors Peter K. Candland (Gainesville) and Maureen S. Caddigan (Potomac); and Loudoun County Supervisor Janet S. Clarke (Blue Ridge) all signed the letter to McDonnell in addition to Hugo and Satterwhite.