Thursday, September 5, 2013

Tim Hugo Holds a North South Corridor Press Conference

On Wednesday, September 4th 2013 Delegate Tim Hugo (Virginia House of Delegates R-40th) along with Delegate Michael Webert (R-18th), Delegate Randy Minchew (R-10th), Delegate Bob Marshall ( R-13th) and Prince William County School Board Members Alyson Satterwhite and Gil Trenum held a news conference in front of Sudley Methodist Church on Sudley Road within the Manassas Battlefield. The news conference attended by about 75 community members and media was to announce that Tim Hugo along with Bob Marshall, Randy Minchew, Michael Webert and the other elected officials listed below have sent a letter to Governor McDonnell regarding the North/South Corridor Project also known as the Bi-County Parkway and asking for a meeting with the Governor. Delegate Hugo will personally deliver a copy of the letter today in Richmond.

The news conference was held ahead of today’s Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CBT) scheduled meeting. At the VDOT meeting they will discuss and potentially sign the National Historic Preservation Act, Section 106 Programmatic Agreement for the Bi-County Parkway which would provide $7 million to acquire the private land and design the Battlefield Park Bypass. In addition, once the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is finalized in the near future the Federal Highway Administration will sign the Record of Decision and VDOT will be free to begin the design phase of the Prince William County portion of the project with the $12 million already allocated to the project.

Though in public meetings it was emphasized that the roadway is 25 years away, as Delegates Hugo and Marshall pointed out the VDOT and CBT have made several misleading and conflicting claims and statements about this roadway. Meanwhile as Delegate Hugo pointed out opposition to the roadway grows, from a small group of activist residents lead by Mary Ann Ghadban, Philomena Hefter, and Page Snyder opposition to the Bi-County Parkway has grown. According to Delegate Hugo 700 attended the last Town hall meeting and group of supporters attended the news conference. A coalition has seemingly grown from a “diverse group who could not agree on the time of day but can agree that this is not the right project.”

In the news conference Delegate Hugo besieged the CBT, VDOT and the Governor to “Stop. Think. Slow down. Listen. This (Bi-County Parkway) is not the right project.” Delegate Randy Minchew followed Delegate Hugo and though Delegate Minchew (whose district covers sections of Loudoun, Clark and Fredrick counties) supported the Transportation Budget he wanted the take the time to make sure that the money is well spent. He, too, felt the process needed to slow down to get more input from the citizens of the Commonwealth.

Delegate Bob Marshall pointed out the false and misleading statements that have been made by VDOT and CBT about the Bi-County Parkway.  In addition, Delegate Marshall felt false claims have been made about the desirability and usefulness of the road to Dulles.

The Delegates felt that Governor McDonnell and Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton were rushing the Bi-County Project through to assure their legacy before they left office. According to the Delegates this would be the wrong legacy to leave. The constituents need to have a voice. The concerns raised need time to be addressed in a fiscally responsible manner. Though according to Delegate Marshall Secretary Connaughton said "most will go along with the road after they use this issue for campaigning,” the fight against the road can continue even if the National Historic Preservation Act, Section 106 Programmatic Agreement is signed today. Delegate Hugo does not think this is a partican issue (though the list below is all Republican); he called the opposition to the Bi-County Parkway a citizen issue. “If the Programmatic Agreement is signed we will continue the fight in January when the House of Delegates is in session.” The legislature can fight with budget amendments, legislation and by changing the composition of the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

In case you are new to the issue the North South Corridor or Bi-County Parkway will be a limited access highway approximately 45 miles in length running through what is now the Rural Crescent, predominantly agricultural and rural lands, and is essentially a more direct route for cargo and truck traffic connecting I-95 to Dulles Airport and Route 7. The only access points in Prince William County will be I-66, Route 29, and existing Route 234 west of the Battlefield. The new road will also be called 234 and be 2.5 miles west of Sudley Road and expanded to carry 4 lanes of traffic.
In addition to the $19 million mentioned above, funds have been allocated for “traffic calming” on route 29 through the park ahead of the development of any other roadway. VDOT has not explained what kinds of traffic calming measures would be used. In addition, though Sudley Methodist Church will maintain an access route and be eligible for signage, though their road will be closed to the public. Prince William County community objections to this planned parkway have focused on several issues that are still of concern to the community:

  1. The Bi-County Parkway will drive all the east-west traffic from route 29 which will be effectively closed to through traffic by "traffic calming measures" to I-66 increasing traffic on that road.
  2. The Bi-County Parkway is intended to be a 4 lane and 6 lane highway that will provide direct access to Dulles Airport, but have limited access to the Prince William community, yet will utilize a section of the Rural Crescent for the road essentially destroying the intent of the Rural Crescent.
  3. The planned road will require that Virginia invoke eminent domain to take land from more than a dozen homeowners. The Programmatic Agreement allocates $3 million to acquire the desired land.
  4. Route 234 through the Battlefield, providing road access to several businesses and Sudley Methodist Church (that predates the Civil War) will be eliminated. According to Reverend Mitchell, closing the road to through traffic will remove the Church from everyday lives of its members and potential members in the community, and effectively land lock and isolate the Church within the park to a slow death. This has happened to other churches.
  5. Closing route 234 through the park and route 29 through the park to through traffic essentially isolates northwestern Prince William County from the rest of the county and Manassas. There is no route from Heathcote Health Center to Prince William Hospital without going on I-66. The only route from Dominion Valley, Regency and all the development on route 15 to Manassas or anywhere will be I-66 which will be the only way to cross from western Prince William County to Eastern Prince William County.
  6. The Bi-County Parkway does nothing to improve east-west traffic, instead it provides connectivity to the airport that Prince William residents do not want, divides the county and eliminates connections within Prince William county and only benefits the Loudoun County developments.
  7. Delegate Hugo stated “If this road through groundwater in the Rural Crescent is severely threatened.” The route through Prince William County’s Rural Crescent potentially damages our watershed and water resources. The Rural Crescent provides a significant portion of our green infrastructure to our community. Maintaining intact, connected natural landscapes is essential for basic ecosystem and watershed preservation to ensure that there will always be clean air and water in Northern Virginia. The Northern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC) has called the corridor one of three priority conservation area for the region.

Other signatories to the letter to the Governor are:
State Senator Dick Black (R-13th)
State Senator Richard Stuart (R-28th)
State Senator Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-27th)
Delegate Rich Anderson (R-51st)
Delegate Tim Hugo (R-40th)
Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R-31st)
Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13th)
Delegate Randy Minchew (R-10th)
Delegate David Ramadan (R-87th)
Delegate Michael Webert (R-18th)
Prince William County Board Supervisor Maureen Caddigan (R-Potomac)
Prince William County Board Supervisor Pete Candland (R-Gainesville)
Loudoun County Board Supervisor Janet Clarke (R-Blue Ridge)

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