By Dusty Smith, editor
Figuring out where politicians fall with respect to the proposed Bi-County Parkway can be tough, but the business community has made its support for the project a bit more obvious.
The road itself has become an interesting subject to tackle. Some would compartmentalize the winding mass of asphalt into separate projects that are seemingly unconnected, while others claim it to be the last link in the feared “Outer Beltway.”
In fact, if the Bi-County Parkway were constructed as a four-lane road – divided or not – it would indeed create a direct link between I-95 at Dumfries and Route 7 at Lansdowne Village Greens (also known at Lansdowne Town Center). Much of that link currently exists, with some sections planned for up to four lanes, others up to six. Route 234 through Prince William County runs from I-95 to I-66 currently. Belmont Ridge Road/NorthStar Boulevard runs from Route 7 nearly to Route 50.
However, the missing link must traverse rural land and skirt the Manassas National Battlefield Park (as now planned, along the western edge).
Supporters point to the future need for north-south routes to improve access between Prince William and Loudoun counties, while opponents say the focus should remain on east-west routes connecting existing job centers with suburban development.
“These two counties are two of the fastest growing jurisdictions in the United
States. By 2040, their combined population is expected to increase by nearly 50 percent, with job growth exceeding population growth by a nearly two to one margin,” representatives of more than 100 Northern Virginia business leaders wrote in a letter to elected officials. “As a result, inter-county travel between Loudoun and Prince William is forecast to increase by 91 percent. That 91 percent represents nearly 400,000 new trips between the two counties each workday.”
The letter was addressed to Gov. Bob McDonnell, the boards of supervisors for Prince William and Loudoun counties, Sec. of Transportation Sean Connaughton and a handful of state legislators.
Del. David Ramadan (R-87) recently called for a fresh start for on plans for the road and greater transparency.
“Precious months were spent on a flawed process that created more questions than it answered,” Ramadan said in a press release, adding that the Virginia Department of Transportation “did not present a clear vision for the road, and citizens began to have understandable concerns about its exact path and timing.”
The business leader letter agreed that the process could be improved, but asked that elected officials reserved their judgment on the road until environmental studies are complete.
“The Northern Virginia business community agrees with many of our community’s citizens, businesses and elected representatives that the Commonwealth must improve its effort to communicate the benefits and impacts associated with the Bi-County Parkway to those who will be most affected by this project,” the letter states, pointing to recent improved outreach.
Kathleen Murphy, a Democrat running against Del. Barbara Comstock (R-34), issued a press release this week opposing what she is calling the “Outer Beltway.” The road does not touch the 34th House District.
"It's a question of priorities," Murphy said in a press statement. "And this is the wrong priority for transportation improvements for Northern VA. We need to first address the billions of dollars in deferred bridge and road maintenance and the long list of new projects designed to address today's traffic congestion."
Learn more about the proposed Bi-County Parkway project on VDOT’s website.