|Bypass/Beltway/Connector/Western Transportation Corridor: A Brief History
by Betty Rankin;
August 12, 1996 and revised on March 1,1997
Proposed roads to our area impact each of us. Every time a line is drawn on a map, the quality of life our area offers is jeopardized. Although many of these lines have little merit or justification, they are perpetuated over the years. Unfortunately there remains a consistent tendency for vague old corridor schemes to legitimize themselves simply by way of longevity.
The history of this developers’ “dream road,” whatever its current name, began in the 1950’s with the Interstate Highway concept. In the 1960’s the current beltway was built with two additional outer beltways discussed, but dropped because of emphasis on metrorail. Fairfax County included the outer beltway on maps until the early 1970’s. Chantilly High School is now on one of its sections. Other sections were incorporated into the Springfield Bypass/Fairfax Parkway.
The second outer beltway would have been somewhere 5 to 10 miles further out. No route was ever presented. A 1974 Washington Post article quoted VDH&T (now the Virginia Department of Highways -VDOT) official Donald Keith, “to the best of my knowledge and the knowledge of this department there is no out beltway project….It’s a figure of the planners imagination.” He also stated that there has never been a study or any talk of funding and that, “It’s just an idea that flits through local government without really being there.”
That same year, 1974, Prince William County approved a transportation plan that would tie into a road that “flitted” as an idea without a where, when or why. This coincided with the Great American Theme Park development idea by Marriott on what is now the Stewart Hill part of the Manassas National Battlefield (MNBP). As a result of the Marriott rezoning request, the Route 234 Bypass/connector was formally proposed in 1977, as a way to divert traffic around the city of Manassas. At public hearings in the late 1970’s there was vehement opposition. Unfortunately, citizen input from our area was put through a paper shredder by mistake. The route proposed by the county was approved by VDOT in 1980 and the Environmental Impact Statement executed in 1981. That 16 year old information is woefully out dated and totally inadequate.
Citizens petitioned to have the bypass north of I-66 removed from the Comprehensive Plan in 1984 and again in early 1986. This did not happen. In 1986 Til Hazel had purchased the Marriott land (now part of the MNBP) and proposed a giant shopping mall which depended on the Route 234 Bypass.
In 1986 as the Hazel rezoning was progressing, an unofficial map was hanging in our county planning office. This Dewberry & Davis Centreville Area Road Study Map was commissioned by Til Hazel in 1985 and represented builder “dream roads” which included a western Washington bypass. Even though it was not an official map and the majority of road lines did not officially exist, our county planners looked at it daily.
During this same time frame, a resolution by Delegate Brickley was passed by the Virginia General Assembly which instructed that VDOT would study all possible routes and means for financing an outer beltway and report by December 1986. One of the routes studied was along the Route 234 Bypass corridor. There were also other bypasses being studied. The Route 28 Bypass which has a Functional Plan dating from December 23, 1965 and for which the county still owns right of way, was the pivot point. Many of the proposed routes for an outer beltway/western bypass tied into it. Since the outer beltway was to tie into this 28 Bypass it was to extend to Dulles. Dewberry and Davis were contracted to examine extending the 28 Bypass north and west of Centreville (now called the Tri-County Connector).
The VDOT study for the widening of I-66 indicated that without an extension of the 28 Bypass, a fourteen lane section of I-66 would be necessary. In 1986, the majority of proposed routes for an outer beltway/western bypass tied into the Route 28 Bypass. It has not been built.
The Route 234 Bypass design hearings were held in 1987 and 1988 for that portion south of I-66. No funds were scheduled for a road north of I-66. The 1990 Comprehensive Plan update, driven by developers, extended the Route 234 Bypass north of I-66 into Loudoun County paralleling Route 705. The reason given was “…to service traffic between Prince William County and the Dulles Airport corridor.” No longer was it to be a bypass around Manassas.
In 1987 Maryland and Virginia agreed to fund a million dollar study of options for an Eastern/Western Bypass. After five years and a multi-million dollar First Tier Environmental Impact Study, Maryland told Virginia that it could not support an Eastern Bypass crossing of the Potomac and that it could not support a western route that breached the agricultural reserve area of Montgomery County. The bypass appeared to have died in 1992.
A Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Route 234 Bypass was conducted in 1993. The Route 234 Bypass was put on a fast track. People on the mailing lists did not receive meeting notices and in one case over 2,000 names of people identified as residing in the corridor did not receive information. The Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement included a section, Appendix H, which specifically addressed the Disney’s America development. It did not support building the 234 Bypass north of I-66 even to accommodate Disney.
In 1993, Virginia also revived the old 1980’s version of the outer beltway without the state of Maryland. At the first information meetings held in June 1995, there was no information to evaluate a road of such magnitude and none of the materials produced from the 1987 multimillion dollar study were available. The public was asked to draw lines within an area on a map which did not show the Manassas National Battlefield Park or other landmarks except Dulles Airport and Quantico. As if the road history isn’t confusing enough, the name for this current study was changed in mid-study to the Western Transportation Corridor Study.
In addition to this renamed Western Transportation Corridor study, a number of separate transportation studies have been conducted concurrently. They have lacked cohesiveness and have had poor scheduling for public involvement. One way or another the developers are pushing their “dream roads.” For more than thirty years our area has been held hostage by “dream roads.” These recurring “dream roads” negatively impact our area as a place to live. Even without justification, the political climate may allow them to be approved. Ultimately our property may well be caught in a transition time, losing value as homes but not gaining value as anything else.