Prince William County officials and a project consultant got what they said they wanted in asking for comments about a proposed Buckland/Gainesville Bypass at a “kickoff” meeting Jan. 26 at Haymarket Elementary School. They were peppered with questions, suggestions and some statements of opposition.
Holder Trumbo, Scott District supervisor in Fauquier County, said he didn’t want to be “the skunk invited to the party” but noted that “We’ve been on record as opposed to a Buckland Bypass. There are three new members of the [Fauquier] board and we are still opposed. I’m here to protect my constituents,” he said. His district includes the Vint Hill, New Baltimore and Broad Run areas that would be directly impacted.
Project area maps displayed at the session showed a swath of eastern Fauquier County included.
The bypass is an old idea getting a fresh look, initiated by Prince William using federal funds to finance a study by the Herndon consulting firm of ATCS. Three possible bypass route alternatives plus a “no build” option will be considered during the preliminary study that’s expected to be completed at the end of June.
In 2006, Prince William sponsored a study to create a bypass connecting a realigned U.S. 29 near Vint Hill Road in Fauquier County and Interstate 66 in Prince William. The aim then and now is to relieve traffic on 29 and U.S. 15, and provide another connection to I-66.
Three bypass alternatives considered at that time were opposed because of impact on farmland and conservation districts.
Trumbo said that concern still exists.
“You know, in Fauquier County we’re picky about our conservation easements,” he told the Times. “It would be hard to thread that needle” to build a bypass in pointing to a project map.
Trumbo said he’s rather see improvements to existing infrastructure than something new. Making U.S. 15 four lanes all the way from U.S. 29 to Va. 55 would help traffic flow there, he suggested. It’s now four lanes for a portion of that distance where a housing development was built, but otherwise is two lanes.
“Fixing what’s broke rather than building something new” was also suggested by Bob Weir of Haymarket.
Rowland Bowers of Lake Manassas said planners should look at the “level of service” gained by making improvements to routes 29 and 15.
“It may be that we don’t need a bypass,” he said.
“It’s important to look at other alternative improvements – maybe a regrading at Vint Hill Road and the traffic lights,” said Thomas Griffin of Broad Run. Doing without the traffic light at U.S. 29 and Beverleys Mill Road, eliminating some of the crossovers and creating an underpass or overpass should be considered, he suggested.
He told the Times that he felt encouraged that the planners seemed open to alternatives. He said he hoped the process would be more “transparent” going forward. Griffin said he learned about the meeting from a friend of his brother.
Brentsville District Supervisor Jeanine Lawson said she is “tough on roads and I’m a fan of Supervisor Trumbo.” She said Fauquier County has done a “fantastic job” of managing growth. She said she also appreciates the area’s history.
Buckland has a preservation society that studies the history of the town of Buckland and its earlier Indian inhabitants. Buckland was the scene of a Civil War battle. Several 18th and 19th century buildings of the town remain standing and in use.
“I want to be sensitive to Prince William and Fauquier,” she said.
“The best solution may be not to build it,” she said of the current study.
But she also noted the congestion on U.S. 29, some of which is coming from the west and south – Fauquier, Culpeper and beyond – and the need for a solution of some kind.
She turned over the program to George Phillips of the Prince William transportation planning division and Warren E. Hughes, vice president of traffic engineering and transportation planning for ATCS.
Phillips said a bypass would provide another connection to I-66 from U.S. 29. Traffic would move continuously along its length without signals or a ramp to enter or exit.
He noted that Fauquier wants to keep State Route 600 (Beverleys Mill Road) and Va. 55 as two-lane roads.
A bypass would be four lanes and 128-feet wide. It would be built with the expectation that it would meet traffic needs through the year 2040.
There isn’t a project website and creating one was suggested at the meeting. Phillips was listed on the four-page handout available at the meeting as the person to contact about the project. He can be reached at GPhillips@pwcgov.org, phone 703-792-8094.
“We’ll have a continuous set of meetings,” said Phillips. “We’ll meet with Fauquier and Prince William, VDOT and elected officials.”
The initial review of three bypass and the no-build option is expected to be completed in June.
“We don’t have a preconceived notion of where these [bypass route] alignments should be,” Phillips said.
Land would have to be acquired if any of them are chosen, Hughes said. The project scope, effects and alternatives will be evaluated during the current study. Funding sources will also have to be identified.
Julie Bolthouse, land use officer for the Piedmont Environmental Council, suggested there may be a need for a broader discussion by members of the staff of Prince William and Fauquier governments on land use planning “before we start talking about a bypass.”
Charlie Grymes, chairman of the board of the Prince William Conservation Alliance, said that planners need to be clear on just what problem they’re trying to address before deciding a solution.
Contact James Ivancic at firstname.lastname@example.org