Prince William News
Tue., Mar. 5 - The standing-room only crowd that filled the lunchroom auditorium at the school voiced unanimous opposition to any host of plans being considered by the Virginia Department of Transportation and other agencies regarding the route for the road designed to connect Gainesville to Dulles International Airport in Sterling as an alternate to Route 28.
Residents sound off against Bi-County Parkway
© Gainesville TimesBefore a town hall meeting began on Monday night at Bull Run Middle School, Gainesville District Supervisor Peter Candland (R) appeared stunned by the turnout of local residents.
After shaking a few hands by the podium to the front-left side of the room when viewed from the back entrance, Candland made a quick joke about how happy he was to see so many people "interested" in the topic of the Bi-County Parkway.
"Interested" is one way of putting it.
Distrusting, angered, fearful and puzzled is another way.
The standing-room only crowd that filled the lunchroom auditorium at the school voiced unanimous opposition to any host of plans being considered by the Virginia Department of Transportation and other agencies regarding the route for the road designed to connect Gainesville to Dulles International Airport in Sterling as an alternate to Route 28.
No Democratic politicians from either the county or state governments attended the meeting, leaving Republicans as the sole speakers.
Candland joined fellow host Del. Tim Hugo (R-40th) along with Dels. Bob Marshall (R-13th) and Rich Anderson (R-51st) and state Sen. Dick Black (R-13th) up front while representatives from county Chairman Corey Stewart (R) and U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10th) also appeared in attendance.
The VDOT deputy secretary David Tyeryar also joined VDOT's project manager Nick Nies, Manassas National Battlefield Park superintendent Ed Clark, F. Gary Garczynski, a Northern Virginia representative on Commonwealth Transportation Board, Prince William Department of Transportation representative Rick Canizales, and local VDOT representative Maria Sinner all fielded questions from residents at various points.
Among relevant new information disclosed was that officials are hoping to have a preliminary master plan finalized by April so it can be presented in the spring.
Also, those planning the road are still in the developmental phase, such as conducting an environmental study; the state has not allocated money yet for the actual implementation of the road, so no offers for land acquisition are on the table yet.
Nies mentioned that he hopes the environmental study should be wrapped up in the next five months.
Once the parkway enters the design phase, it'll still be at least another four years before it's built, according to Tyeryar.
That said, no one could offer a definitive timeline about anything regarding long-range construction plans since alternatives are still being considered.
"No, it's not a truck route," said Tyeryar at one point, insisting that traffic using the road, which would be at least partially tolled, would be for airline freight instead of regular shipping freight.
As for what the road itself, the Bi-County Parkway is the western off-shoot of the previously proposed Tri-County Parkway, which has been on the books in Prince William for years under the county's comprehensive plan.
A common problem cited with developing a parkway that would also run through parts of Fairfax County as well as Loudoun and Prince William is that existing wetlands would require a bridge and run a price tag of several hundred million more dollars than the western Bi-County Route, which would include a bypass around the Manassas National Battlefield.
Instead, the Bi-County Parkway would start north of the Prince William County Parkway, run into Loudoun County and then hit a connector road that has not been built yet to the east linking to Dulles.
However, residents took particular issue with that route, especially those who live off of Pageland Lane.
A 600-foot-wide corridor is being studied in the local area to determine where a four-lane road with a width of 160 to 200 feet could run.
Residents say that road would require them to forfeit some of their property and that the uncertainty about it means it's harder for them to sell their homes.
That, they argued, causes their property values to plummet.
Others mentioned that they have farms and simply don't want to give up their land because they moved to the country side for the quiet.
The crowd jeered Tyeryar out of apparent disbelief when he told them there weren't any plans to claim anyone's front yards.
His presentation style did not always sit well with audience members, who occasionally booed him when he went to take the microphone.
He had laughed when one woman asked whether what she said she read online was true about the Bi-County Parkway really being a ploy for an outer-beltway that would include a bridge over the Potomac River north of Route 7.
Also, Haymarket Planning Commission shouted down Garczynski at one point about whether his the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority should even have authority to make spending decisions in the first place since it consists of officials who are not directly elected to their posts.
The argument made by Weir echoed the winning presentation Marshall made when he sued the Kaine administration in 2007 over the transportation plan "HB3202", which would have set up a regional body of officials that could raise and levy taxes for the purpose of funding transportation projects.
Marshall won his case as the Supreme Court agreed with him that even though elected officials from different localities would serve on the regional body, the fact that they would not have been elected directly to that particular board meant they did not have the constitutional authority to implement taxes.
As he sat near the podium next to his friend and ideologically conservative ally Black, Marshall said during a brief interview that while the heart of Weir's argument is identical to the one he made six years ago, the difference in this case is that none of the boards in question can raises and levy taxes; they are simply charged with spending taxpayer money.
That is a significant constitutional distinction as government-appointed agencies routinely spend taxpayer money they themselves do not raise but are instead granted to them by various governments.
Still, one particularly poignant moment from the meeting came when a woman in the crowd asked the presenters who among them was actually in a leadership role and would be accountable for making decisions.
Only Garczynski raised his hand.
Her point was that residents were not getting a chance to talk to the decision-makers themselves.
Concerns by residents ranged from the practical to the peculiar but most settled around access points for traffic, congestion on Interstate 66 if part of Route 234 or U.S. 29 is shut down to through traffic, property values and conservation.
One woman held us a cell phone to point to a picture of a bird she identified as a bald eagle that she said she saw in the area that is under consideration for the road.
More than one resident used the phrase "B.S." to describe their thoughts about the message coming from VDOT and other transportation representatives.
Hugo, however, said he planned to meet with VDOT Secretary Sean Connaughton, the former chairman of the Board of County Supervisors, Tuesday.
"I think it's fair to say that there's overwhelming opposition to the current alignment," said Hugo during an interview.
As for what happens next, "I think we contact the governor" and his lieutenants, Hugo replied.
"We let them know there are severe problems with this routing."