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Attracting new business and fixing traffic nightmares were the hot topics at the latest debate for the four candidates running to be chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors.

The forum Oct. 8 at the Manassas campus of the Northern Virginia Community College was hosted by the college and Prince William Chamber of Commerce.  

Running for chair are Republican John Gray, a Lake Ridge certified public accountant, and Democrat Ann Wheeler, a former energy consultant, as well as independent candidates Muneer Baig, founder and CEO of Manassas-based cyber security firm SYSUSA, and Don Scoggins, a former real estate broker and government employee

The group discussed how they would lead as chair of the board, overseeing annual budget planning, setting policies for county government and serving as a representative on local and regional boards. 

Scoggins said economic development is a priority for him as a candidate. He said the county staff needs to search for businesses to attract to Prince William and could seek out public-private partnerships. He said he’s not in favor of raising taxes. 

Gray said he would try to lower tax rates to attract businesses to the county. He said the county needs jobs, because currently it’s a bedroom community. 

Wheeler said she would make the school division a priority for the county’s budget. She said she would also focus on economic development and create a small business incubator. With different leadership, she said the county can attract more businesses. 

Baig said the county needs to market itself so people know there are technology-related businesses and other businesses here in the county. He also said the county needs high-speed internet across the county. 

Candidates also discussed the idea of extending the Metro to Prince William. 

Gray said he doesn’t support the idea and asked how the county would pay for the project. He also said the idea would export jobs to other places. He said he does support other transit options, such as Virginia Railway Express and Potomac Rappahannock Transportation Commission. 

Wheeler said while it may take years to bring Metro to the county, she would like to study the idea. She said if no one starts examining the idea, it will never happen. 

Baig said Amazon choose to locate its second headquarters in Crystal City because of its access to transit. If the Metro was extended to the county, people could ride south to be employed in the county, he said. 

Scoggins said he supports extending Metro to the county and he would study the idea to see how it could be done, because it can help improve the local economy. He said accessibility in the county is an issue. He also said he supports bus rapid transit. 

Candidates also discussed the upcoming bond questions. Voters will consider spending up to $355 million to pay for road projects in the county, including $200 million for the Va. Route 28 bypass/widening project, $50 million for Devlin Road widening, $70 million for Minnieville Road and Prince William Parkway interchange, $15 million for Old Bridge Road and Gordon Boulevard intersection and $20 million for Summit School Road extension.

Voters will also weigh a $41 million request for parks projects, including $6 million for Howison Park improvements, $6 million for new Neabsco park development, $6 million Fuller Heights Park expansion, $20 million for countywide trails and open space development and $3 million for Hellwig Park improvements.

Wheeler said she would vote for both. She said road congestion affects quality of life for residents. 

Baig said he would vote yes for both, noting traffic in the county is a nightmare and park improvements are also about quality of life. 

Scoggins said he would vote for the road bond referendum, but not the parks bond referendum. He said the county should wait to evaluate land use, such as where future schools need to be built. He said he would also like to see an economic development component to the parks bond referendum. 

Gray said he doesn’t support either of the bond questions, because he said the process wasn’t well vetted. He said the new board should have been able to decide which projects should be on the bond referendum. He said the transportation bond referendum started at $600 million and was narrowed down to $355 million. He said the process was as if “they threw it against the wall” to see if it stuck.

(6) comments

Citizen52

Route 66 cannot handle the volume of traffic it carries; plain an simple. So, anyone thinking of making improvements to Rte. 28 is only going to make a very small dent in the traffic problem. The Metro should have been extended to Prince William years ago instead o widening 66 at least twice. The more they widen it, the more traffic it attracts and the congestion to it from 28, 29, 234 continues to backup and get worse. Plus, they’re destroying many old growth trees to pave over for single driver cars. Build Metro now, increase rapid transit bus transportation, improve VRE access, and support bike lanes.

insidebugging

Everyone with half a brain (democrats included) know that Metro to Prince William county is a fairy tale. There are zero ways we could ever pay for it and it would do absolutely nothing the help traffic. It's just something the local democrats like to roll out every election for the low information crowd. It's better to invest in VRE and expanding and building new commuter lots for the slugs to use.

Citizen52

People do realize that funding for Metro doesn’t just come from one county, right? It comes from several sources of which a Prince William is only one. There is also the possibility of public-private partnerships. It’s beyond banal to think that it could not be done.

Allen Muchnick

Prince William County is already blessed with two VRE commuter rail lines as well as high-speed express bus facilities on the I-95 and (under construction) I-66 Express Lanes. The County should focus on making strategic and cost-effective improvements to these EXISTING public transportation assets.



Due to the lack of Metrorail core capacity--which will take tens of $ billions and decades to fix--Metrorail extensions to PWC are not operationally feasible for at least the next four or five decades, Beyond that period, PWC Metrorail extensions are likely to be economically infeasible due to a lack of adequate development density at the potential stations, the long/slow Metrorail trips with high fares for trips to inside-the-Beltway employment centers, and a lack of free or low-priced parking at the stations.



A $10 million study of the feasibility of extending Metrorail to PWC would likely reveal just what I've written above, but that expenditure might be worth it if the recommendations finally get the BOCS to focus on achievable VRE and Express Bus improvements

Citizen52

If we were relying on EXISTING infrastructure, we wouldn’t be expanding 66, demolishing structures, and clear-cutting old growth trees time and again. Of course, we should support express buses, park and ride lots, improve VRE schedules, and offer bike lanes wherever possible. I-66, however, was designed with a right of way median for extension of the Metro but people said years ago that it would be too expensive to extend Metro. Well, waiting all of these years later hasn’t made it any more affordable, commute times are the second worst in the Nation according to Business Insider, and more destruction of the environment continues as we yet again expand I-66. Waiting even further into the future will not reduce the cost and with the growth in population and increase in carbon footprint, all options need to be on the table even if planners need to get creative.

skeptical

I simply don't understand how people like you simply refuse to accept the cold, harsh reality of what Metro is, who controls it and the funding it requires from member jurisdictions. The $10 million spent on a Metro study might just as well be flushed down the toilet. There is no capacity to support an extension down either I66 or I95, it simply doesn't exist. Adding additional stations to those lines would simply suck up the systems capacity and make the closer in stations less viable as there would be little to no room for passengers using those existing stations. Further, Fairfax has invested heavily in the areas around those end of line stations, particularly the one in Vienna. As a result, there is no way in hell they are going to approve an extension that would diminish the value of their capital investments. One must also consider the declining level of service and reliability of the system as a whole and ever increasing maintenance costs that must be borne largely by the member jurisdictions. One must also consider that unlike the NY system, Metro does not provide a network of service that truly serves the region, or at least most of it in an efficient manner. Then there is the matter of PWC funding the extension, capital costs, maintenance costs, ROW acquisition, etc. all at a time when what State support is provided is diminishing. Metro would be a great sucking chest wound for PWC taxpayers, drawing millions in resources away from other infrastructure and school division needs. Ann knows this and knows that it is a pipe dream, she maintains support for Metro merely to secure the votes of an uninformed electorate. Thus she is disingenuous at best.

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