State’s Transportation Board delays vote on North-South plan

Virginia’s Commonwealth Transportation Board on May 15 delayed a vote to accept the state’s North-South Corridor master plan that includes a proposal to more directly link Loudoun and Prince William’s roadways.

The North-South plan includes several regional projects, including the so-called Bi-County Parkway, which extends Route 234 from I-66 in Prince William to Route 50 and Northstar Boulevard in Loudoun. The project is meant as a north-south alternative to U.S. 15 and Route 28 that would provide greater connectivity between the two counties.

Pro-business officials from both Loudoun and Prince Williams have been adamantly in favor of the plan, while environmentalists and more conservative-growth groups are doing their best to thwart the project.

Tony Howard and Rob Clapper, presidents of the Loudoun and Prince William chambers of commerce, receptively, favor the Bi-County proposal. They issued a statement in late April after the study was released expressing their support for the project and dismissing the vocal opponents, whom they claim are misleading the public.

“The need for improved north-south connectivity between Loudoun and Prince William Counties has been well-documented by transportation and regional planning experts for decades,” the chamber presidents said in a prepared statement. “ … improvements to Route 234 and construction of a new Bi-County Parkway (Route 234 Extended from I-66 to Route 50 and Northstar Blvd.) will not require closure of Route 29 through the Battlefield. In fact, the closing of Route 29 through the Battlefield could only be triggered by construction of the Manassas Battlefield Bypass, a project for which there is currently no funding and, in our belief, is a project that is unlikely to occur.”

U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10th), however, is urging thoroughness in the review and advancement of the project. Before last week’s vote Wolf sent a letter to Gov. Bob McDonnell pushing for the delay.

“Thousands of people have moved to Prince William and Loudoun counties since the project’s master plan was approved in 2005,” Wolf said. “More public hearings must be held and more citizen input must be received before any final decision is made about the North-South Corridor.”

Opposition has been firm from environmental groups, notably the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) and the Coalition for Smarter Growth. PEC officials have gone far enough to call the proposed project an “outer beltway,” something project advocates have quickly dismissed.

“Rather than solve traffic problems, a billion dollar Outer Beltway will spark higher levels of residential development within the Prince William Rural Crescent and the Loudoun Rural Transition Area, adding more traffic to already congested east-west commuter routes. It will bring noise and pollution, split properties and neighborhoods, and reduce community access to local roads and services,” states a section on PEC’s website.

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