Prince William County officials won’t know which plan they’ll pursue to fix Va. 28 before voters head to the polls Nov. 5 to cast ballots on a $355 million road bond for which the majority of the money -- $200 million – would be dedicated to either widening or building a new bypass for the traffic-clogged roadway.
A final decision on the plan can’t be made until a Federal Highway Administration environmental assessment is completed to evaluate the potential social, economic and environmental effects associated with the proposed bypass.
The bypass project would extend Godwin Drive beyond its current terminus at Va. 234 Business, or Sudley Road, to create a new road cutting through about four miles of mostly undeveloped land between the West Gate of Lomond and Yorkshire Park neighborhoods and alongside Flat Branch creek, a tributary of Bull Run.
The bypass would then cross over Bull Run on a widened and rebuilt bridge and rejoin the existing Va. 28 at the other side of the Fairfax County line.
The other alternative would widen Va. 28 from four lanes to six along a 2.2 mile stretch between Liberia Avenue and the Fairfax County line.
Although officials had hoped the environmental study of the bypass would be finished before the election, it’s now not expected to be complete until spring 2020.
The timing is complicating the decision for voters and raising concerns among Manassas and Manassas Park residents whose homes and businesses could be affected by either plan.
Even state Del. Danica Roem, one of the most vocal proponents in recent years for improving Va. 28, concedes the timing poses a challenge for voters.
During an Oct. 9 community meeting about the road projects held at Yorkshire Elementary School, Roem said she too is concerned her constituents are “being asked to vote on a referendum when we don’t know what the money is going to be allocated for.”
“Why would we be having this vote in 2019 before we know what we’re voting on? That is the outstanding issue,” Roem said.
Virginia transportation officials have been studying Va. 28 for the last three years, first to recommend minor fixes for the roadway and then to decide which major fix would work best to alleviate traffic on the stretch between Liberia Avenue and the Fairfax County line. An study finished in late 2017 narrowed the choices down to the bypass or the widening projects, which then led to the federal environmental assessment on the bypass.
Projects could affect 70 homes, 90 businesses
The bypass would largely affect homeowners in the Manassas and Manassas Park area between Godwin Drive and Yorkshire north of Va. 28, while the road widening would primarily impact businesses along the Va. 28 in Manassas.
Both projects are estimated to cost around $300 million, $95 million of which has already been pledged by the Northern Virginia Transport Authority. County staff said the bypass would require the purchase of up to 70 homes in the right of way for the bypass, while the Va. 28 road-widening project could impact 90 businesses.
Prince William Supervisor Marty Nohe, R-Coles, who also serves as NVTA chairman, said if the referendum is approved, the board of supervisors will have the legal authority to use local tax dollars to build the road.
“At this point, Route 28 is now the most congested highway corridor in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Nohe said. “We cannot not fix Route 28.”
Nohe said the county is focused on minimizing the impacts on landowners, but said the plans aren’t far enough along yet to know which specific homes and businesses would be affected by either project.
“There is very little doubt that they will give us permission to widen 28. It’s almost guaranteed,” Nohe said. “The question that they’re looking at is, is the bypass a viable option? It’s possible that they’ll say they’re both viable options,” Nohe said of the ongoing assessment.
Nohe said the board of supervisors will ultimately have the final say on whether either project moves forward.
More than 100 community members attended the Oct. 9 meeting at Yorkshire Elementary. Several residents and one business owner expressed concerns about the potential impacts of the projects.
Carolynn Griffey, who lives in Manassas in the vicinity of the proposed bypass, said she is concerned that homeowners in the way of the bypass wouldn’t be provided with a new home of equal value.
“Do you realize the majority of the people on Alleghany [Road] are retired people who have been there for many years? They’re not going to find another home at that price and you’re not going to give them the money that it’s worth,” Griffey said.
If the bypass plan is approved and homes need to be demolished to make way for the project, Prince William County will pay affected homeowners for their homes and relocation costs as well as the difference for a comparable home, according to County Transportation Director Ricardo Canizales.
“That is the way I’ve done business with the residents of Prince William County as I’ve gone through dealing with homes and having to take homes for roads,” Canizales said.
Another resident who said she lives in the way of the proposed bypass said the plan could take her home if the plan moves forward.
“Why would anybody vote for this bond referendum? Homeowners aren’t going to vote for it if it’s going to take their home,” she said. “Why would businesses vote for it if it’s going to take their business? Why is it on the ballot this year?”
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