Bi-County Parkway faces summer slowdown
Since then, talk about the proposed four-lane, limited-access roadway that would connect western Prince William County to Loudoun County as an alternative route to Dulles International Airport is much more muted.
That doesn't mean it's dead; it's just that the primary cast of characters making decisions about the road flipped and the project is now in a holding pattern of sorts.
"I don't know that there's a conversation," said state Del. Bob Marshall (R-13th), one of the parkway's leading opponents.
He mentioned that Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) had "expressed support for it," which is true conceptually, though the governor's support carries some caveats.
McAuliffe is on record in local media of supporting the idea of the road as a way to increase cargo traffic at Dulles but he hasn't taken a stand on the exact proposal itself, claiming instead that it's out of his hands.
"This is still kind of under the radar," said Marshall.
Opponents of the parkway aren't ready to declare victory yet but members of the local "Say No! to the Tri County Parkway" group are counting their gains.
"You don't have the programmatic agreement signed. You no longer have the momentum for this project you had," said Mary Anne Ghadban, a Gainesville resident and leader of the group.
Last year, the group sent out almost daily email blasts about the roadway, often linking to media stories or blogs opposing the road.
This year, it's been much more muted.
"We haven't seen anything changed but it's been stalled," said Ghadban.
"We think it's stalled or it could be a lack of transparency again," added Page Snyder, another Gainesville resident and group member whose rural property would be affected by the road.
The General Assembly did not deal a death blow to the road during its session earlier this year although it had the opportunity to strip funding.
"If we don't put the money in there, then they can't proceed fully," said Marshall.
Instead, talks about expanding Medicaid became the main talk in Richmond and even issues like what to call the "Sea of Japan" in textbooks drew out-sized coverage compared to the Bi-County Parkway.
A bill sponsored by state Sen. Dick Black (R-13th) that was signed into law dealt with eminent domain issues that would result if the project is ultimately approved.
Black's bill, SB 194, amended a statute about “inverse condemnation” regarding what happens when the government takes private property for a road.
Part of the new language states that courts may decide property value on "the date the property was taken or damaged."
The “inverse condemnation law needs to be strengthened so that when you have a route put on a community that devalues and makes a property more difficult to market, inverse condemnation takes effect," said Ghadban.
Asked what, exactly, about the law needs added teeth, Ghadban replied, "We'll get back to you on that."
So what happened to stall out the Bi-County Parkway?
First, the 2013 election replaced former Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) with McAuliffe. Perhaps more importantly, it also meant that former VDOT Secretary Sean Connaughton, a McDonnell appointee, left office too.
Connaughton, a Triangle resident and former two-term chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, served as the Bi-County Parkway's chief advocate before being replaced by Aubrey Layne Jr., who is also the Commonwealth Transportation Board chairman.
Layne, who like Connaughton identifies as a Republican, hails from Hampton Roads instead of Northern Virginia and prioritized a different road, U.S. 460 in the southeast, as his main focus.
Meanwhile, another key figure in the parkway talks, former Manassas National Battlefield Superintendent Ed Clark, transferred away from Manassas to Gettysburg as part of a new assignment with the National Park Services.
Clark had favored the road as a way to keep traffic from cutting through the middle of Manassas National Battlefield Park.
Without Clark to sign the programmatic agreement, or Connaughton to champion it, the conversation shifted away from the parkway, at least until the Commonwealth Transportation Bill acts on it as part of its priority list.
"I hope they [the current administration] learned from the previous administration that the citizens do not take these kind of end runs ... well," said Snyder.
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