WASHINGTON – The proposed Battlefield Bypass near Manassas has been promoted on and off again for decades as a way to alleviate traffic in the suburbs, but the debate over the roadway is far from over.
The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments will consider putting the highway on the long term list of projects to alleviate local congestion and protect Manassas National Battlefield Park.
Building the highway could allow the National Park Service to close portions of Route 234 and Route 29 through the Battlefield.
But there is substantial opposition.
Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, says the Bypass is a Trojan horse.
“Under the guise of creating a bypass for the battlefield, what they are doing is removing the battlefield or the park service as an obstacle to the outer Beltway,” he said.
The Outer Beltway is a much bigger project that would link Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun counties to a possible new bridge taking Route 28 across the Potomac River to Maryland, stretching 50 miles from Loudoun County to Stafford County where it would connect to Interstate 95.
Ironically, a proposal to study a new Potomac River Crossing between Virginia and Maryland died in a committee in Virginia General Assembly on Tuesday because there was little money to fund it.
Environmental groups want to shut down the highways through the battlefield. But Chris Miller, president of the Piedmont Environmental Council, says the effort needs to be put on East-West traffic not North-South traffic.
“We view it as an effort to build at least one, and potentially two, new corridors in an area where the development community has always wanted to open up new development,” Miller said.
Miller said improvements to Interstate 66 and the extension of Virginia Railway Express to Gainesville and Haymarket would work better to alleviate local traffic.
The coalition is planning to ask COG to keep the Manassas Battlefield Bypass out of the long-range plan.