Prince William County seeks $50M from feds for roads

Prince William County is asking for $50 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation to help fund new interchanges along U.S. 1 and at Prince William Parkway and Minnieville Road.

The first application, approved by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority on March 29, asks for $25 million to help with the construction of two new interchanges at Route 123 and U.S. 1, as well as Route 123 and Old Bridge Road. The two intersections are part of a broader Virginia Department of Transportation STARS study that’s expected to wrap up later this year and also includes the intersection at 123 and Interstate 95, though the county has already secured $69 million for that interchange.

Courtesy Inside NoVa/Aleks Dolzenko

At U.S. 1, the county is looking to build a new four-lane overpass that will carry Route 123 over U.S. 1 in Woodbridge, replacing the current at-grade traffic signal layout that planners say creates regular bottlenecks. The county already submitted a request for $61.2 million for the project from the NVTA’s 2022-2027 Six-Year Program, but the authority’s funding program typically only funds a fraction of the requests it receives.

The authority will announce selected projects later this summer, and the county expects the new interchange – which was a part of the North Woodbridge Small Area Plan that was adopted in 2019 – to cost about $68 million.

“The Route 123 Corridor Improvements project is a comprehensive approach to reducing congestion and improving safety and operations on the Route 123 corridor through coordinated planning and designing of improvements at the intersections,” county transportation staff wrote in their report on the grant request. “The project was based on the results of a STARS study to identify innovative, cost-effective improvements at the two intersections and interchange that will work holistically to improve operations in the Route 123 corridor.”

At Old Bridge Road, the county is going with a new “outside-outside flyover” design near Occoquan that would carry cars from the northbound lanes of Route 123 to the westbound lanes of Old Bridge in an attempt to eliminate congestion at another frequent bottleneck. The project was already approved for as much as $15 million from the county’s 2019 transportation bond referendum, but the expected cost is estimated to be around $54 million.

The county is also seeking another $25 million from the Department of Transportation for a “single-point urban interchange” at Prince William Parkway and Minnieville Road that would grade-separate the two roads with the parkway going underground. The interchange was included in the 2019 Dale City Small Area Plan.

“Prince William Parkway is a primary route, it carries a lot of our commuters … so our intent is to improve free-flow at Prince William Parkway, as well as improving operations generally at that location,” County Planning Manager Paolo Belita told InsideNoVa. “It’s also right in the heart of Dale City … so it’s really a very important project for the county.”

Both applications are through the transportation department’s Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity – or RAISE – grant. This year, the department has about $500 million more to give out in RAISE grants than last year thanks to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that Congress passed in 2021. In 2021, the department said, for every $10 requested in grant funding, only $1 was available.

Under Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the government has some new criteria for discretionary grants. In its guidance, the department has encouraged applicants to consider how their projects can address climate change, which lends itself to projects with a more multimodal focus on transit, pedestrian and bicycle access.

Among the other applications coming out of Northern Virginia, Arlington County is asking for funds to build a pedestrian and bike trail on the west side of Route 10, and Loudoun County is asking for money to improve a series of W&OD Trail crossings. Applications can also be judged on freight mobility.

“Projects will be evaluated on statutory criteria of safety, environmental sustainability, quality of life, economic competitiveness and opportunity, state of good repair, partnership and innovation,” the Department of Transportation said in a press release. “New this year … 2022 Raise applications will also be evaluated on the criteria of mobility and community connectivity. The Department will assess projects for universal design and accessibility for travelers, as well as consider how proposals increase mobility for freight and supply chain efficiency.”

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