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.

(5) comments

Antonio Marisol

Wait, hold my beer. Ann Wheeler literally just voted against the same bypass option last month that she’s not writing an op-Ed in support of? Is she the Chair of Prince William County or is Phyllis Randall?

Allen Muchnick

It seems that Chair Wheeler's August 4 vote was just a tactic to get the BOCS to reconsider its decision on September 8.

Allen Muchnick

As someone else wisely and succinctly posted under the accompanying news story:

"The 'countless transportation studies' never engaged the community that would be affected; they were just sales pitches for a pre-determined solution. The Environmental Assessment to evaluate alternatives was never completed. Our region does deserve better - start with better transparency and public involvement."

If the past five years of studying Rte 28 have been "wasted", it's because the public was never adequately involved in scoping and evaluating effective and sustainable mobility solutions.


Mayor Parrish: the two of us are Manassas residents; you do not speak for us. Mayor Rishell: one of us is an MPC employee; you do not speak for us. Supervisor Wheeler; one of us commutes to work in Fairfax along 28; you do not speak for us. You speak only for developers who want easy access to more land they can exploit. Your claim that this has anything to do with Micron is specious; your "opportunity" to forcibly relocate homeowners is racist and illegal; your crocodile tears over those poor Route 28 "business" owners reveal decades of cowardice in not standing up to them and forcing them to create real employment opportunities or abandon their broken down car lots and junk shops. This is the time when true leaders would push back against the land developers and home builders. You are not those leaders.

Rick Holt

Route 28 Op/Ed – A Rebuttal

The September 4 op/ed by three local elected leaders ( got one thing right – traffic sucks on Route 28.

However, their proposed solution is a simplistic, discredited approach – build a new road through our last undeveloped green space ignores the social, environmental, and sprawl-generating impacts, and hides the traffic analysis that shows worsened how congestion at all key intersections if the road is built.

Prince William has built many new roads since 1950. Has that approach solved the problem? It's seems delusional to repeat the same action and expect different results.

The op/ed cites "years of public input and countless transportation studies,” but these were all one-side presentations without a community input process that affected planning. The public meetings held by county transportation staff to date seem more like an attempt to have the appearance of listening, but with the intent of moving ahead with the approach that they already decided upon.

There is a dramatic difference between a sales job and a conversation. Missing elements of public engagement include:

- Many impacted residents were not effectively notified that the route listed in the Comprehensive Plan had been altered and that over 50 houses would be “taken”

- County staff never proposed the Comprehensive Plan Amendment required to match the Bypass Alignment, allowing for public input

- The alternatives were never actually analyzed with public engagement, because staff were always focused on justifying the Bypass and prematurely stopped working on the federal Environmental Assessment

--Multiple completed Route 28 study reports were hidden from the public for a year or more until just eight days before a critical BOCS public hearing to approve and advance the Bypass.

When recently elected supervisors visited the area and talked with residents, both they and the community discovered the significance of the Alignment 2B impacts. Surprising this group of affected residents, when viewed through an equity lens, is even more unacceptable.

The op/ed tries to create fear, uncertainty and doubt – but claiming Prince William will “lose” $89 million in funding from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) is extremely misleading.

Alternative 4 (Well Street Extended) is a better solution, and will justify the funding banked by NVTA to reduce Route 28 congestion. To quickly access the NVTA funding, divide the project into phases, and request funding first to widen the bridge over Bull Run.

The op/ed claims that Alternative 4 is more expensive. However, the Route 28 Feasibility Study over-stated Alternative 4 costs by including the already completed widening of Route 28 in Manassas and Manassas Park and understated Alignment 2B costs, by ignoring flooding issues, the need to also widen Godwin Drive in Manassas, and the risks of the US Army Corps of Engineers rejecting the essential wetlands disturbance permit.

Prince William can get a higher return on investment in high-cost road infrastructure, by leveraging transportation funding to stimulate economic revitalization and create local jobs. Let's start integrating economic development, land use, and transportation planning, rather than repeat the mistakes of the past.

Albert Einstein is credited as saying “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” We need 21st Century land use and transportation planning to solve problems that were created in the 20th Century. Now is the time to be innovative in using smart growth and place-making approaches to creating a more livable community with sustainable transportation options.

-Active Prince William

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