MANASSAS, Va. – Residents living on the edge of a national battlefield are upset that plans for the Manassas Battlefield Bypass could leave their properties landlocked and dramatically change their rural lifestyle.
The proposed roadway — which has over the past two decades gone by several names, including the Battlefield Bypass, Tri-County Parkway and Outer Beltway — would cross a small corner of the Manassas battlefield and connect the Va. 234 Bypass in Prince William County to Va. 7 in Loudoun County.
“That’s how we would have to get to Route 29, which would not be emptying onto 29, but onto I-66,” says Philomena Hefter, who lives on Pageland Lane in Gainesville, Va., and worries she and her neighbors will be landlocked.
“They are taking what is now a 5-minute commute for us to get to Gainesville, to our grocery stores, to our work, to our hospitals and turning it into a 30-minute commute,” says fellow Pageland Lane resident Mary Ann Ghadban.
The residents are not alone in their opposition to the construction of the bypass.
Six Northern Virginia lawmakers oppose the plans, which have never moved forward because of funding issues.
But now that the General Assembly has passed a massive transportation package that will bring in more than $800 million a year, plans for the bypass have been dusted off. It is currently on the Commonwealth Transportation Board’s six-year road plan.
Delegate Tim Hugo, R-Fairfax, says closing Va. 29 and Va. 234 — something that’s planned even before the new highway is built — will dramatically add to the traffic on Interstate 66.
“They’re going to take a billion dollars to build this new road, and they’re going to close Route 234. It just make no sense to be closing roads when we have such need in Northern Virginia,” he says.
Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton says the highway is needed because of population growth in both Prince William and Loudoun counties and the growth in commercial activity at Dulles International Airport.
But several lawmakers say closing Va. 29 and Va. 234 through the Manassas Battlefield will increase traffic on I-66 and make traffic much worse for local commuters.
“This will actually relieve I-66 traffic in the future,” says Connaughton.
He says right now there are only two, two-lane roads — Va. 28 and Va. 15 — that connect Prince William and Loudoun counties.
Still, residents like Hefter say that’s not why they moved to Pageland Lane.
“It’s the tranquility,” Hefter says.
Delegate Bob Marshall, who represents the area around the battlefield, says improvements to Va. 28 would be more cost effective.
There also has been some discussion that the Battlefield Bypass could be a toll road.
Some residents on Pageland Lane say they may want to move, but the possible road construction and new land-use restrictions may lower their property values.
“We don’t want to move. I mean, we were all planning on living here. But they are making it impossible,” says Ghadban.