The Prince William area's top three elected officials are calling for the Board of County Supervisors to reconsider its decision to abandon plans for a Route 28 bypass northwest of Manassas.
In an op/ed published Friday on InsideNoVa, Prince William Board Chair Ann Wheeler, Manassas Mayor Hal Parrish, and Manassas Park Mayor Jeanette Rishell said the Aug. 4 decision disregarded five years of preparation, public support for a bond referendum to build the road and an $89 million financial contribution from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority. The bypass would extend northeastward from the intersection of Godwin Drive and Sudley Road to Route 28 just south of the Fairfax County line.
Wheeler was among the board members who voted unanimously at the August meeting to instead ask county staff to begin planning for a widening of existing Route 28, a project that could cost $100 million more and also dislocate a number of businesses along the road.
The widening plan, as well as an appearance by Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall in her role as chairman of the transportation authority, is on the agenda for the Prince William board's meeting Tuesday.
Wheeler told InsideNoVa she expects a motion to reconsider the Aug. 4 vote to be made during the meeting Tuesday. "What will come from that is unknown," she added.
In their op/ed, Wheeler, Parrish and Rishell wrote that moving forward with widening existing Route 28 would be more expensive, add only two new lanes instead of four and require the county to reapply to the transportation authority for funding. "Or in other words, with a price tag 25% higher for 50% less road, this does not display the best fiscal management, nor does it depict the best stewardship of taxpayer funds," they said.
Construction of the bypass would affect 72 homes, according to Prince William county transportation staff. Half or more of those houses would need to be purchased completely, while the other homeowners would see partial impacts. Up to eight mobile homes would also have to be removed from the Bull Run Mobile Home Community.
Many of those residents spoke out against the bypass proposal at public hearings before the August vote.
"Making the decision to potentially displace an area resident, let alone multiple ones, is never an easy decision as it disrupts lives and eliminates norms such as a sense of community," the leaders wrote in the op/ed. "But in chaos, there is opportunity. Potentially impacted residents of the Godwin Road extension will have the chance to relocate away from a wetland area that regularly floods, resulting in unsafe living conditions and public health concerns."
The leaders also cited Manassas' work to improve its road network between Godwin Drive and the southern entrance to the city, as well as the expansion of the Micron plant along Godwin.
"At a time when we are working to rebuild our local economy and remain attractive to business, we cannot stand in the way of opportunities that improve quality of life, such as spending less time on the road and more time with our families and steady well-paying jobs which mitigate travel outside the area," they wrote.
They also noted that moving forward with plans to widening existing Route 28 would leave scores of small businesses in limbo. Prince William Transportation Director Rick Canizales told the board in August that a widening would affect 185 parcels and displace 79 businesses.
Finally, the leaders noted that improvements to the Route 28 corridor have moved forward in both Fairfax and Loudoun counties.
"It is essential that Prince William County views this transportation decision on both a local and regional perspective," they wrote. "The recent decision on Route 28 did not do that and is worthy of reconsideration."