GAINESVILLE, Va. — A ceremonial ribbon cutting Thursday signaled the official opening of the Route 29 and Linton Hall Road interchange project in Gainesville — a project that many hope alleviate a traffic headache.
The interchange project has, for the first time, eliminated the angled railroad crossing in the area just off Interstate 66 that could be dangerous and lead to major traffic backups.
The $230 million project is still getting some finishing touches, but state and local leaders at the ribbon cutting say all the major pieces have now been completed.
Prince William County Supervisor Jeanine Lawson describes the opening as “manna from heaven”. She says former supervisor John Stirrup described the old Route 29 and railroad crossings as something like the Berlin Wall, and she agrees that it became something no one wanted to cross.
She has lived in the area for about 20 years.
Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne also attended the ribbon cutting, and pointed to the impact that clearing up the backups onto I-66 can have on the larger regional traffic flow.
“This eliminates the at-grade railroad crossing … safety has been improved, and in this rapidly growing area its unlocking the stop-and-go traffic on [Route 29 and Linton Hall Rd],” he says.
State Sen. Dick Black gave an anecdote about being in the car with kids before the changes — when the kids would start counting the number of freight cars going by.
“And then, about that time, the train stops and backs up and you start counting all over again,” he says. “You know what that does to traffic congestion.”
Also, the changes leave room for Norfolk Southern to add another track under the overpasses that could not only help with freight congestion, but also could provide extra track slots if VRE service is extended to Gainesville and Haymarket.