Virginia State Highway Route 28 serves as a major commuter route in Northern Virginia, plagued by some of the worst traffic in the nation. After years of public input and countless transportation studies, it is time the greater Prince William area take immediate action and address this vital corridor between the City of Manassas and Fairfax County. As the largest locality within the Greater Prince William Area, it is essential that Prince William County views this transportation decision on both a local and regional perspective. The recent decision on Route 28 did not do that and is worthy of reconsideration.
Over the past five years, Prince William, Fairfax, and Loudoun counties, as well as the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park, have made countless investments into road improvements to address traffic congestion and road safety concerns throughout the Route 28 regional corridor. Currently, Fairfax County is widening Route 28 up to eight lanes from the Prince William County line at Bull Run Bridge to the interchange at U.S. Route 29. The Virginia Department of Transportation is restructuring the U.S. Interstate 66 interchange at Route 28. In Loudoun County, Route 28 is the subject of multiple ongoing transportation studies and road improvement projects.
For years, the greater Prince William area section of Route 28 was overlooked due to limited transportation funds frequently allocated to address other key roadways in the region. But it has been the combined bipartisan efforts of so many on the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, as well as both state and local leaders who have directly focused their attention on Route 28, which yielded results. At a time when the average funding request submitted to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) equaled just over $41 million, the Route 28 Bypass project in the greater Prince William area was awarded $89 million for the Godwin Road extension due to the dire need for traffic congestion relief.
On Tuesday, August 4th, all prior and ongoing regional efforts, such as the City of Manassas road improvements between Godwin Drive and the southern entrance to the city, were deemed irrelevant and thrown out the window. That evening, the Prince William Board of County Supervisors voted to deny five years of preparation, disregard public support for a $200 million transportation bond referendum, and return $89 million in much-needed funding for the creation of a four-lane road.
Subsequently, the Board voted to endorse the Route 28 widening project which produces only two additional lanes without prior conversations with area residents, insight from neighboring localities, or discussions with impacted business owners. Therefore, traffic alleviation efforts are further delayed and once again at risk and leaves over 100 small businesses in limbo.
Furthermore, the endorsement of the Route 28 widening project is not as economically sound a decision during a time of economic crisis with a price tag over $100 million more expensive than the Godwin Road extension. If we proceed with the endorsement of the Route 28 widening, Prince William County will have to reapply to NVTA for funding based upon the equation of congestion reduction relative to cost and the project will also be evaluated on project readiness. 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.
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. 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.
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. For instance, Micron has invested over $3 billion into the region, showcasing that our investments in a regional road, such as the Godwin Road extension, should not simply lead to travels through our community but ensuring we remain a destination that supports local small businesses to expand and thrive.
Together, we fully support the endorsement of the Godwin Road extension and strongly encourage a review of the lasting impact of the decision made on August 4th. Our region deserves better.
Hal Parrish is mayor of the city of Manassas; Jeanette Rishell is mayor of the city of Manassas Park, and Ann Wheeler is chair of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors.