For the past 30 years, the controversial Bi-County Parkway has existed only as a line on local and regional transportation planning maps.
Last week, the Prince William Planning Commission voted unanimously to remove it from the county’s long-range blueprint, formally called the “comprehensive plan.”
The proposed 10-mile roadway would extend Va. 234 north about 10 miles to U.S. 50 in Loudoun County, skirting the western edge of the protected Manassas National Battlefield Park.
The road has been the subject of hot debate in recent years, as opponents have argued it would spoil the protected battlefield without providing enough relief to Prince William County commuters, who would be better served, they say, by improvements to Interstate 66 and Va. 28.
Supporters, meanwhile, say the future four-lane road is critical to accommodate population growth and facilitate economic development in both Loudoun and Prince William counties.
The matter was before the planning commission Wednesday because of concerns among some members of the Prince William Board of Supervisors that the Bi-County Parkway could amount to an “outer beltway,” that would direct heavy truck traffic from Dulles International Airport to Interstate 95 along Va. 234 through Manassas and Dumfries.
Supervisors voted last year to begin the process of removing the road from the comprehensive plan and undoing plans to widen Va. 234 from the current four lanes to six lanes from Country Club Drive to Bristow Road. The move is considered another means of discouraging the construction of the new parkway.
On Feb. 17, the eight-member planning commission took the first step toward removing the parkway from the comprehensive plan, but declined to reverse course on Va. 234, citing the need for more study.
In the same vein, the commission called on supervisors to initiate a study of county’s overall transportation grid to identify alternatives to the Bi-County Parkway.
“The Bi-County Parkway is hypothetical and has been hypothetical for a very long time,” said Planning Commissioner At Large Don Taylor.
“My feeling is, let’s wipe the slate clean and quit arguing about this abstract thing and take a look at what we really need here to solve our transportation challenges.”
The planning commission vote moves the matter to the board of supervisors, which has the final say on removing the road from the comprehensive plan. The board is expected to take it up in March or April, Taylor said.
At this point, removing the parkway from the county’s comprehensive plan is largely symbolic. The road remains on the regional long-term planning map as well as state transportation plans for the Northern Virginia corridor.
Still, opponents of the road consider the step an important acknowledgement that the road was never a good deal for Prince William County, said Page Snyder, an outspoken critic who lives beside the battlefield.
“It’s gratifying to see our planning commission unanimously recognize the negligible benefits and the great cost of the Bi-County Parkway to our county as opposed to the huge benefits to Loudoun County,” Snyder said.