The Prince William Board of County Supervisors’ decision to move forward with the Va. 28 bypass has sparked a backlash from residents in neighboring Fairfax County who say their supervisors have not allowed residents to voice concerns about the road’s impact to Bull Run Regional Park.
The $300 million bypass would extend Godwin Drive to create a new four-lane road along Flat Branch Creek in Manassas that would cross Bull Run Creek and cut across Fairfax County’s Bull Run Regional Park to connect with the existing Va. 28 near Compton Road in Fairfax’s Sully District.
The bypass route was endorsed by the Prince William supervisors and the Manassas and Manassas Park city councils in September. The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority reaffirmed its $89 million pledge to the project earlier this month by approving an agreement allowing Prince William County to oversee the project.
But Fairfax residents said they have not been given an opportunity to provide public input on the segment of the road that crosses into Fairfax because no public hearing was scheduled in Fairfax County.
Two Fairfax citizen associations – the Sully District Council of Citizens Associations and the Western Fairfax County Citizen Association – approved a resolution in September requesting that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors “block any further project development activities” of the Fairfax County portion of the bypass until public hearings are held.
Jay Johnston, president of the board of trustees for Virginia Run Homeowners Association, one of 14 HOAs represented by the Sully District Council of Citizens Associations, said the Fairfax supervisors stifled citizen input by forgoing a public hearing.
“They’re not listening to the citizens in voicing the concerns we have about the environment, about tearing up the regional park,” Johnston said.
Jim Hart, former at-large Fairfax County Planning Commissioner and a Sully District resident, said the Fairfax supervisors should have given residents an opportunity to weigh in on the bypass.
“I just don’t understand how the Prince William board of supervisors picks the route through Fairfax County,” Hart said. “The citizens of Fairfax have been entirely subtracted from the equation.”
Hart said that during his 15 years as a Fairfax planning commissioner he “never heard of a situation where a new bypass or a new highway route was selected by an adjacent board of supervisors, rather than the Fairfax board.”
Hart served on the Fairfax Planning Commission from 2004 until 2019.
Fairfax County Chair Jeff McKay: Fairfax board will have 'robust discussions' about bypass
Fairfax Supervisors Kathy Smith, D-Sully, and Board Chair Jeff McKay, D-At Large, pushed back on the claims, saying the Fairfax board will hear from residents when Prince William County’s transportation department has completed about 60% of the bypass design.
“[Prince William County] has more detailed design work to do. We’re not at that point yet in Fairfax County,” Smith said.
Smith added that two public information meetings had been held in Fairfax County over the last three years in which county officials presented potential improvements to the Va. 28 corridor, including the bypass option “Alternative 2B” selected by Prince William County, the only option that requires the road to enter Fairfax.
“We’ve worked hard in Fairfax County to inform people of the process,” Smith said. “I’m absolutely going to make sure that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and the constituents are aware and that they have a say going through this process.”
In an email, McKay said while Fairfax County does not have authority outside its jurisdiction, the county will “certainly have control with regards to any new realignment or change to Route 28 within Fairfax County limits.”
“Absolutely no decisions will be made about Route 28 without Fairfax County sponsored public meetings and of course, robust discussion with my colleagues on the Fairfax County Board,” McKay said.
McKay serves on the NVTA board. He voted to approve the project agreement with Prince William County earlier this month.
But some residents say the Fairfax board acted too slowly. Hart said public hearings should have happened in Fairfax around the same time they happened in Prince William County.
“It’s no substitute for the same kind of public hearing that the Prince William folks had,” Hart said. “There is a big difference between commenting on design details after the route is selected and having input into whether this road should be going through the floodplain in a regional park.”
Prince William County Transportation Director Ric Canizales said in an interview last week that Prince William County is currently discussing the route in Fairfax County. Canizales said the two locales are “talking about splitting the plan up.”
“The plan in Prince William is one, and the plan in Fairfax is another. And we’ll get that plan approved through Fairfax like we were [the Virginia Department of Transportation] or a developer coming in to do a road project in Fairfax,” Canizales said. “We don’t see a need for Fairfax to do anything but go through their approval process of approving the transition process.”
Asked what would happen if one jurisdiction approves the bypass while the other denies it, Canizales said he doesn’t see that happening.
“I think we have the support of it over there. And we have the support of their staff,” Canizales said.
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