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With ‘Buckland Bypass’ a no-go, officials consider new ways to alleviate congested U.S. 29

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Buckland Bypass

Buckland Bypass project area

Concern about the impact to historic and environmental areas has killed the idea of a “Buckland Bypass,” shifting attention to alternatives to improve today’s traffic flow on U.S. 29 and prepare for tomorrow’s.

An ongoing study considered 15 different variations of a “long-distance” bypass between U.S. 29 and I-66. That idea ran up against worries about the impact on historical and environmental resources, according to George Phillips, transportation planner for Prince William County.

Phillips briefed “stakeholders,” including private residents and public officials, July 26 at Ronald Reagan Middle School in Haymarket. This second meeting followed one in late January.

The focus is now on shorter distance, lower impact options along and in the vicinity of the Route 29/15 corridor. Those could include improvements or realignments near intersections with minimal impacts on sensitive areas, according to Phillips.

One option is to proceed with planned improvements, including making U.S. 29 six lanes east of U.S. 15 and making U.S. 15 a continuous four-lane road between U.S. 29 and Interstate 66. It’s only four lanes for a portion.

But a “no-build” option could be chosen as the best recommendation, he said.

Other possibilities are intersection improvements at Vint Hill Road and U.S. 15/29 and the U.S. 29 intersections with U.S. 15, at Old Carolina Road and at Somerset Crossing Drive.

Other alternatives are signal equipment and signal timing upgrades, additional turn lanes, increasing sight distance, alternative intersection designs and alternative interchange designs.

Phillips said he will next set up a meeting with a representative of the National Park Service to discuss the issue of protection of the Buckland battlefield and clarify what impediments exist to any road projects.

The options are part of an ongoing study by consulting firm ATCS paid with a $270,000 grant from the Regional Surface Transportation Program. The study’s purpose is to come up with ways to improve traffic flow and safety while protecting the Buckland Historic District, preserving and minimizing impacts to other historical and cultural resources, and protecting streams, other water sources and air quality.

The stakeholders who gathered in last July included residents of Prince William and Fauquier counties, representatives from the Virginia Department of Transportation, Piedmont Environmental Council, Prince William Conservation Alliance, Fauquier County Community Development, Fauquier Supervisor Holder Trumbo of the Scott District, Prince William County Supervisor Jeanine Lawson of the Brentsville District and 13th District Delegate Bob Marshall.

Charles Grymes of the Prince William Conservation Alliance suggested transportation planners should consider technological advances and how they could impact proposed solutions.

"We could build something we don't need or in the wrong way," he said.

Jenn Hoskins, a resident and a real estate agent, wondered if planners were looking at "trending" data to see where people are relocating and looking at what other areas are doing about their traffic issues. She also said she didn't think people were generally aware of the discussions about U.S. 29.

Lawson said she’s a supporter of the area’s “historic treasures” but she also wants to relieve traffic congestion.

“The Route 29 corridor is a major network,” she said. “It’s difficult to find a route that pleases everyone.”

“When it comes to roads and powerlines it’s hard to please everyone,” she added, drawing a comparison to the ongoing controversy about the route for a proposed Dominion Energy powerline extension in Haymarket.

Any thought of a “big interchange is dead on arrival for me,” Lawson said.

Marshall said want to see better traffic flow on U.S. 29 in a way that "doesn't destroy Buckland" and that "doesn't involve a massive interchange at 15 and 29. We need to accommodate the common good with the least damage."

Trumbo said he thinks there should be greater collaboration between the Culpeper District of VDOT, which covers Fauquier, and the Northern Virginia District of VDOT on a solution to the Route 29 traffic issue.

He said VDOT will host a meeting in September, on a date and at a location not yet set, on proposed intersection improvements on U.S. 29 from the Fauquier-Prince William County line to Route 605 (Dumfries Road) designed to improve traffic flow.

Trumbo and fellow Fauquier supervisors were opposed to any bypass crossing into Fauquier County.

Contact James Ivancic at jivancic@fauquier.com

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