(NOTE: from the November, 2003 Prince William Community Report)
If you thought the Western Transportation Corridor (WTC) was cancelled… look again. In 1988, the U.S. Congress authorized a study to identify alternate routes that would permit the closure of Routes 29 and 234 within the Manassas National Battlefield Park in order to protect the battlefield and promote visitation. Now it appears that study may have been co-opted to build a new highway on the borders on the Park - a trucking route that would form a leg of the supposedly cancelled Western Transportation Corridor (WTC), and eventually could evolve into the outer beltway.
One of the Bypass Study alternatives (Concept 1) proposes building a new four-lane highway between I-66 and Sudley Road east of Catharpin. This new four-lane highway would be in addition to the would be in addition to the existing two-lane Pageland Lane, and would create a total of six traffic lanes. All 6 lanes of traffic would supposedly terminate at Route 234/Sudley Road, a two-lane country road that the Study does not propose to widen.
Concept 1 intersects Sudley Road east of Catharpin at precisely the location of a 250-foot wide dedicated highway right-of-way that extends north of Route 234 toward Loudoun County and the [temporary] terminus of the Loudoun County Parkway. Concept 1 could easily be extended to the Loudoun County Parkway, creating a major trucking corridor between Dulles International Airport and I-66 and I-95. This was the original purpose of the WTC. Completion of the proposed "Techway" connecting Dulles to I-270 in Maryland would convert this new trucking corridor into one leg of an outer beltway (I-595?).
It is now unlikely that the alternative routes that would allow closure of Routes 29 and 234 within the Park will be built because of current federal budget constraints (there was a federal surplus when the Bypass Study was initiated). However, the Study's EISs become public property, and may be adopted by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and Prince William County (PWC) for their own road projects. Virginia could use the Concept 1 EIS to expedite the construction of that leg of the Prince William / Loudoun Parkway (the WTC by any other name) with minimal opportunity for citizen input.
Present circumstances seem to support this scenario. There appears to be no Congressional enthusiasm or support for federally funding any of the Bypass Study Build Options. On the other hand, both VDOT and PWC have worked for years to complete the WTC. PWC has recently funded the "234 North Extension Study/EIS" with the express intent of incorporating the Bypass Study's Concept 1 EIS.
Neither Virginia nor PWC would be obligated to relocate 29 or 234 if they used the Bypass Study's Concept 1 EIS to construct the next leg of the WTC. VDOT and PWC could use the Bypass Study Concept 1 (EIS) to construct this major trucking route to Dulles on the border of the Battlefield, and leave Routes 29 and 234 with commuter traffic in the Park. In addition, constructing this major new highway through the low density countryside north of the Battlefield will invite commercial and residential development that will devastate the local communities and compromise the integrity of the Park and create more traffic.
A Bypass Study build concept that has won the support of both local communities and Battlefield preservationists would colocate US 29 onto I-66 between Gainesville and Centreville. The southern border of the Park is already corrupted, so relocating 29 on I-66 will not further degrade the Battlefield or invite new development. Widening I-66 to accommodate 29 traffic and upgrading key I-66 interchanges would facilitate local commutes to Fairfax and Washington, DC. At least Route 29 could be closed within the Park, allowing visitors to fully appreciate the Battlefield without competing with local through traffic.