Changes on Rt. 28 and Rt. 29 could ease commuter congestion

Two of the most notoriously congested commuter routes in Northern Virginia are taking steps toward enabling drivers to spend more time moving than stopping.

On Va. Route 28 in Manassas Park, a plan spearheaded by state Del. Danica Roem has received $24 million to begin construction of the first phase of a plan that will replace five current signalized intersections with Restricted Crossing U-Turns, or RCUTs, which reduce the number of conflict points where serious crashes can occur.

Fairfax County and the Virginia Department of Transportation have been widening its portion of Route 28, including the area where it intersects with Va. Route 29, near the continuing improvements on Interstate 66.

On Wednesday, ground will be broken to widen a one-and-a-half-mile stretch of Route 29 from four lanes to six, between Union Mill Road and Buckleys Gate Drive. The Route 29 widening construction aims to alleviate the twice-a-day backups at the intersection, which carries approximately 30,000 vehicles a day, according to VDOT.

Roem said the $24 million approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board will cover the cost of design, engineering and construction of the first RCUT, which will be located at a still-to-finalized location between Manassas Drive and Spruce Street. It will also pay for raised medians and a contiguous sidewalk.

For decades, traffic has crept along Route 28, north of the historic section of Manassas.

“When you’re driving on Route 28 in Yorkshire and Manassas Park, you’ve got a ton of businesses, and even a couple of residential spots that are right along the road,” Roem said. “I mean, the mailboxes are right there,” next to traffic.

Unlike road projects in more remote locations, Roem said the traffic flow and safety improvements will not require much land acquisition and displacement of current owners: “Most of this project, we’re able to do within the existing right of way.”

Roem, who grew up in Prince William County, near Manassas Park, and campaigned on fixing Route 28 said securing full funding for the first portion of the RCUT project will help as she and local officials apply for construction money.

“The part of me that wanted this done six years ago is still, ‘God, I wish this was already done by now,'” said Roem.

Still, with ongoing construction on 28 in Fairfax and Prince William counties, Roem said there would be a downside to doing all of the improvements in a five-mile stretch of Route 28 in one swoop: “I can imagine my constituents would be really frustrated if construction went from New Braddock (in Fairfax County) all the way to Manassas Park.”

Roem expects to hold meetings by early fall with residents about the upcoming project after VDOT takes its next steps to implement the construction.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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