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Proposal for north-south highway in Va. may see new life

Tuesday - 4/19/2011, 3:23pm  ET

Hank Silverberg,

WASHINGTON - A proposal to build a new highway from Interstate 95 in Prince William County to Dulles International Airport in Loudoun County is resurfacing once again.

Virginia's Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) is contemplating making the stretch from Prince William to Loudoun one of the state's "corridors of significance," which would move the highway -- an idea that's been floating around for years -- up on a long-term priority list.

State Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton says regional growth makes the planning necessary.

"We essentially have 800,000 people currently living between Prince William and Loudoun County and we have two two-lane roads connecting them," Connaughton says, referring to Route 15 and Belmont Ridge Road.

But Stewart Schwartz, founder and executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, says the highway -- which has been called the Western Bypass, the Tri-County Parkway and the Outer Beltway over the years -- is still not needed.

"Transportation revenues are so limited we've got to focus on our existing residents, our existing commuters and the very difficult traffic problems they are facing today," Schwartz says.

Numerous routes for the road have been talked about, including one that would cross an edge of Manassas National Battlefield Park.

Connaughton says right now though, there is no money for planning, design or construction for the project.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell signed a $4 billion transportation package this week, but that money is destined for more than 900 projects that have are already designed and approved.

A priority list on those projects will be proposed by the governor to the CTB Wednesday afternoon.

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