Prince William County residents who may lose their homes say they are “crushed” by the Board of County Supervisors’ about-turn to approve the Route 28 bypass.
The board approved the bypass plan Sept. 8 - following a vote a month earlier to reject it - but homeowners along the route will have to wait at least two years before learning whether their homes will be taken or otherwise affected by the project.
The $300 million bypass will extend northeastward from the intersection of Godwin Drive and Sudley Road and cross into Fairfax County and Bull Run Park before connecting with Route 28. It will likely affect about 70 homes, according to county transportation planners, but until the project design is about 60% complete, which homes will be affected is not clear.
Half or more of those houses would need to be bought completely using eminent domain, while the other homeowners would see partial impacts, according to staff.
In an email to the board, one of the homeowners along the route, Carol Blaser, said it’s an understatement to say she is disappointed and shocked in the board’s vote to endorse the bypass. She owns a house with her two brothers.
Blaser said that after the board voted in August to endorse widening the existing Route 28 instead of building the bypass, she was relieved. When the board reversed that vote, Blaser felt like the process had been painful.
“It crushed us all,” she told InsideNoVa. “It’s crushing to see that your life can be changed a month later.”
It’s been two years since Blaser first learned that the bypass project could mean she will lose her home. For her and other property owners, waiting for the design will be difficult.
“I don’t think Prince William did a good job notifying businesses and homeowners” that their property may be purchased, Blaser said.
County voters approved a road bond referendum in November that included $200 million for either a bypass or widening of Route 28.
The board’s September vote authorized the county to enter an $89 million standard project agreement to design the bypass. The agreement still needs to be finalized by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, which awarded the funding.
The Prince William board reversed its endorsement of the widening project over the bypass after Phyllis Randall, chair of the transportation authority and also of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, told the board that the $89 million was directly tied to the bypass – and not the widening.
County spokeswoman Sherrie Johnson told InsideNoVa that staff plan to issue a request for proposals later this year or early in 2021 to find a company to complete the design for the bypass. The design contract could be awarded soon thereafter.
The county won’t know exactly which homes and trailers will be purchased until 2023, after design work is completed. Construction is estimated to take another two to three years, meaning the bypass likely won’t open until at least 2027
All permits will need to be approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which can’t evaluate them until the design is about 60% complete, likely in late 2022 or early 2023
The county can’t negotiate with owners until the board of supervisors approves the design and right-of-way impacts have been identified, Johnson said. “The county intends to hold numerous public information meetings with a robust public engagement campaign and thorough outreach.
Once staff knows which properties will be affected, under the eminent domain process, the county will conduct independent appraisals of each property. The appraiser’s estimated value of each home will be sent to the homeowners. Homeowners who disagree with the county’s proposed fair-market value can challenge the value in court
More than 57,000 vehicles travel daily on Va. 28, and if no bypass is built that is expected to increase to 75,000 vehicles a day by 2040, according to county staff.
The board also authorized the county staff to proceed with plans for widening Route 28, even though that project has no dedicated funds at present.