A plan for a $300 million bypass to relieve congestion on Va. 28 is back on track after a 5-3 decision by the Prince William Board of County Supervisors on Tuesday to move ahead with the years-long project.
The move reverses the unanimous decision last month to instead back a partially-funded $400 million alternative to widen the existing road.
“I’m voting for people who actually want congestion relief,” Chair Ann Wheeler said during the meeting Tuesday. Wheeler had co-authored an op-ed last week backing the bypass with Manassas Mayor Hal Parrish and Manassas Park Mayor Jeanette Rishell.
The three votes against the bypass Tuesday were supervisors Jeanine Lawson, R-Brentsville; Pete Candland, R-Gainesville; and Yesli Vega, R-Coles.
The board also approved a project agreement with the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority to use $89 million in NVTA funding for the bypass. Voters in the county also backed a bond referendum last November that included $200 million for the project.
When completed, the bypass will add a four-lane road extending Godwin Drive from Liberia Avenue near Manassas to a point on Va. 28 near Fairfax County.
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.
The bypass is estimated to impact 72 homes, according to county staff. Half or more of those houses would need to be purchased completely, while the other homeowners would see partial impacts. The bypass route would likely involve the removal of up to 8 mobile homes from the Bull Run Mobile Home Community.
Widening Route 28 would have displaced 79 businesses, according to county staff.
Before the board voted to reconsider its Route 28 endorsement, NVTA Chair Phyllis Randall told the board the $89 million was set to be removed from the county’s if the board didn’t reverse its vote from August. Because of the Prince William supervisors’ move, the authority will consider the $89 million Thursday with the board’s latest endorsement for the bypass project.
Regional transportation planners and Prince William area business leaders celebrated the decision by the board Tuesday.
“Infrastructure is the one of the keys to a strong economy, and ensuring that our citizens and businesses can have an effortless commute is vital to that,” said Katherine Johnson, chair of the Prince William Chamber of Commerce. “Over the past several years we have seen significant investments that address our region’s transportation needs and this project is a critical piece in completing the puzzle.”
Although the county is moving ahead with the bypass project, Va. 28 widening is not off the table.
The board also voted to begin an amendment process to include Route 28 widening project to the county’s comprehensive plan.
Rick Canizales, the county’s transportation director, told the board the county will continue to move forward with its federal environmental study.
“We can start working on the bypass and at the same time we can do a comprehensive amendment to look at widening 28 as an option in case the Army Corps of Engineers doesn’t give us our permits and we have to make a U-turn,” Canizales told the board.