Prince William County’s plans to widen Va. 28 from Manassas to Fairfax County — a $400 million project that is expected to force dozens of businesses to relocate. But the owners and operators of storefronts and restaurants on the busy commuter route were still in the dark about the project when reached earlier this week.
Several noted they’re fighting to keep the doors open and spirits up during the pandemic. There aren’t as many commuters through the area, and that means fewer customers. Concerns about road construction, likely years away, will have to wait.
Business owner Gloria M. Velasquez opened La Princesa Bridal Shop in 2004, she said. Before the pandemic, business was good for her along Va. 28, she said. The shop sells dresses and accessories for all occasions, including weddings, baptism or other religious ceremonies and for special birthday celebrations known as quinceañeras.
The business’s location has been a good one. “We haven’t had any problems here,” Velasquez said.
It’s not clear what path the widening would take and how it would impact specific businesses, but the bridal shop sits precariously just a few feet from the existing road.
“I guess we’d go to another location,” Velasquez said.
A timeline for the project and answers about the impacts on businesses will have to wait until funding is identified.
On Aug. 4, the Board of County Supervisors rejected a recommended Va. 28 bypass that would have extended Godwin Drive from Liberia Avenue to a point on Va. 28 near Fairfax County.
Instead of the four-lane bypass estimated to cost $300 million, the board endorsed a $400 million plan to widen Va. 28 to add a single lane in each direction.
County voters have approved $200 million for the project. If the county moves ahead with widening, they’ll have to reapply for $89 million in regional funding that had been secured for the bypass.
When the board approved the widening project Aug. 4, they did not include funding for the project’s design.
Without a design, Transportation Director Rick Canizales said he does not know exactly which properties will be impacted by eminent domain to widen the road. He had previously noted widening Va. 28 was expected to affect 185 parcels and displace 79 businesses. The bypass would have impacted 72 homes and up to 8 mobile homes.
Canizales said in an email he doesn’t know a timeline of next steps for the widening project.
“At this time, we don’t know until we discuss it with our funding and jurisdictional partners,” Canizales said in an email on Aug. 6.
Angelo Khalil, manager at Furniture & Mattress Outlet, said Monday he wasn’t aware of the county’s decision to widen Va. 28.
The business at 8279 Shoppers Square, along Va. 28, has been at its current location for two years, he said.
Va. 28 always has traffic, although there’s been less traffic due to the pandemic — meaning fewer sales, Khalil said.
When construction starts, the business may see fewer customers, but he knows it would be temporary, Khalil said.
The end result could help business, with improved sidewalks. “After that, it will be more convenient, more people driving and more people walking,” he said. “People can’t walk right now. I think when it’s done, it will help us.”
Elmer Rodriguez, general manager at Guapo’s Restaurant along Va. 28, told InsideNoVa Tuesday he didn’t know about the widening project.
The front door to the Manassas Park restaurant, opened in 1999, sits a few feet from the road on Va. 28.
Guapo’s rents the property in Manassas Park, so although they don’t want to move, the decision would be between the landlord and the county, Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said the pandemic has impacted business at the restaurant.
“We tried to survive,” he said. “We had to let go half of our employees.”
The restaurant along Va. 28 has been closed for about two weeks as they renovate the interior with new seating, walls, paint and more, Rodriguez said, adding the restaurant is scheduled to re-open in a few weeks.
Perzez Humayun, owner of Halal Salt and Pepper, said he’s been at 8535 Centreville Road, along Va. 28, for seven years. He told InsideNoVa on Monday he hadn’t heard about the county’s endorsement of widening the road.
“That will take a couple of years, not today, I’m not worried about years [from now],” he said. “People need jobs and food… People are struggling.”
Humayun has seen a decrease in customers due to the pandemic, he said.
“I try my best,” he said, but some days he’s seen one to five customers, which has meant at times having to pay his business’s rent with money not generated by the restaurant.
“Everyone’s hurting,” Humayun said.
Right now, business owners are struggling due to drastic impacts of the pandemic, he said.