Local politicians, residents line up against Bi-County Parkway
Think of the last time you saw a framed newspaper cut-out on the wall in someone's house.
Maybe it reflected a historical event worth commemorating, like the moon landing.
Perhaps it featured an event involving either the person who framed it or someone that person knows or admires, like little Johnny or Debbie hitting a game-winning home-run.
At Page Snyder's farm house off of Pageland Lane in Gainesville, a cut out front-page copy of the Washington Post from Sept. 29, 1994, serves in the way a portrait or other artwork would hang from the wall above a table in her kitchen.
"Disney Gives Up Haymarket Theme Park, Vows to Seek Less Controversial Virginia Site" states the newspaper headline.
This is the mark of an activist and life-long resident of the area with decades of turf war victories under her belt.
Now Snyder is among those rallying local opposition to the Bi-County Parkway, a proposed limited-access road that would connect Interstate 66 at the Prince William County Parkway to Dulles International Airport in Loudoun County, ending at Route 50 before heading east.
Snyder won her first major victory on Monday as Del. Tim Hugo (R-40th) led a group of three state delegates and three state senators at a press conference urging the plan's defeat.
They were joined by Prince William School Board member Allyson Satterwhite of the Gainesville District as well as Robyn Candland, the wife of Gainesville District Supervisor Peter Candland (R), who stood in for her husband but did not address the media.
It's the first time that many elected officials have rallied together specifically to oppose the plan.
Several of them attended an overflow March town hall meeting at Bull Run Middle School during which local residents unanimously voiced their disapproval of the project for a plethora of reasons.
The political metamorphosis among the elected officials who attended the meeting, specifically Hugo, is kind of like looking at an evolutionary chart.
First, there was neutrality. Concern followed. Then questions went unanswered, which prompted anger.
Now, there is outright hostility to the plan by Hugo as well as those who joined him Monday: state Sens. Dick Black (R-13th), Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-27th) and Richard Stuart (R-28th) and state Dels. Bob Marshall (R-13th) and Michael Webert (R-18th).
Hugo and Black represent the actual area being studied. Prior to redistricting, Marshall and state Sen. Chuck Colgan (D-29th) did the same.
Colgan said during a phone interview on Monday that he would defer judgment on the plan to those who represent the area now.
A common talking point between those legislators opposing the plan is that the Bi-County Parkway would mean parts of U.S. 29 and Route 234 would be closed near the Manassas Battlefield. In their place would be a northern bypass road around the Battlefield.
What the legislators charged is that closing the two roads would result in thousands of more east-and-west commuters spilling out on Interstate 66 every day.
Hugo said the congestion problem will pour in from "Fauquier to Fairfax."
Black deemed the road as a "frivolous" waste of tax dollars and proposed that the money would be better spent improving the intersection of Route 28 and Interstate 66 in Centreville.
Marshall piggybacked on that idea and suggested that the best way to alleviate congestion and improve traffic time would be to raise Route 28 over Walney Road and Braddock Road in Centreville, just north of I-66. Those two intersections feature traffic lights, the last ones on the northbound Sully Road corridor before the road terminates at Route 7 in Loudoun County.
Instead, Marshall deemed the Bi-County Parkway a "stalking horse for outer beltway" and charged that developers who own land interests in western Prince William are due to benefit from the creation of the Bi-County Parkway instead of the residents.
Stuart called the plan "ill-conceived" and "ill-thought out" and Holtzman Vogel followed suit by saying her commuting constituents "will be devastated" by the road.
"We have so little left in our region to protect," she added.
Weber brought up young professionals living in his district who spend hours a day already commuting to and from work.
"This road would add to that commute," he said, later adding, "Let's protect our Rural Crescent. Let's protect where we go on the weekends."
Satterwhite raised concerns about school buses not being able to access U.S. 29 and Route 234 and instead relying more on back roads.
When it comes to added volume, "Catharpin Road, with its curves, is dangerous," she said.
That road already serves as home to Bull Run Middle School.
During a separate interview afterward, Stuart said he did not know whether there was enough support in the state Senate to block the road.
He also explained that, in a quirk, state conservation easements can actually make it easier for eminent domain claims to proceed since the land becomes devalued commercially. Federal easements, however, could complicate the cases for those seeking eminent domain.
What's different about the Bi-County Parkway compared to other proposals is how far along the planning already is for the project.
Advocates for the project, such as Virginia Department of Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton and Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart say the project is inevitable and it's coming.
In fact, the planning is well under way and the transportation bill that passed the General Assembly this year included $10 million for additional preliminary funding for the Bi-County Parkway.
It's objective is to serve as an alternative to U.S. 15 and Route 28 for linking Prince William and Loudoun.
Proponents of the road say it's needed to accommodate growth from hundreds of thousands of new residents that have moved into the area and are projected to do continue to move here as the local economy is Northern Virginia is among the strongest in the country.
They also say it's been on the books for years and it's all a matter of time before it happens.
Special interest groups also are weighing in on both sides of the issue.
"The need and demand for improved north-south connectivity and capacity has been well-documented for more than half a century," said Bob Chase during a Prince William County Committee of 100 forum on April 25 in Manassas.
Chase is president of the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance.
He later added that "connecting Manassas and I-66 and the Dulles Greenway are vital to the region's transportation network and the economy," mentioning that the Bi-County Parkway would improve safety by taking vehicles off winding smaller roads.
Gary Garcynski of the Commonwealth Transportation Board agreed with Chase at the forum while Prince William Conservation Alliance member Charlie Grymes and former CTB member Jim Rich opposed him.
"Bob's wrong," said Grymes to laughs, calling the road a "particularly bad investment."
Grymes argued that the $1.2 billion marked for this project would be better spent developing the economy around Quantico on the eastern end of the county.
"These are dumb roads and if we invest in dumb roads we're going to get the short end of the stick," said Grymes.
As for the residents, the miles of yard signs along Pageland Lane shows where the sentiment of the community lies.
"This road is going to be closed" states one common sign. "Your commute is going to get worse" is another.
Then there is the good ol' fashioned circle with a line going across it over the words "toll road."
Snyder and seven other Pageland residents offered a brief history of proposals that have come and gone in the area over the years.
A national cemetery in the 1950s. An auto speedway in the 1960s. Marriott's theme park in the 1970s. Various road proposals in the 1970s and 1980s. Disney's America theme park in the mid-1990s. All defeated.
Pageland residents have won every major development dispute over the last 60 years but lost battles over power lines and paving (Pageland Lane used to be a gravel, dirt road.).
Among their common arguments: there are Civil War sites and cemeteries throughout their properties; the road would force some of them to abandon their livelihoods since it would cut through their farms; they've lived along Pageland for most or all of their lives and want to die there; their property value is hurt because of uncertainty over the road; and the view shed would take a hit.
Politically, while there are Democratic stakeholders involved in the affected localities, Republican office holders are more vocal supporters and opponents of the Bi-County Parkway than their Democratic colleagues.
Likewise, the battle lines are drawn within the GOP's own political apparatus while Democrats essentially stay out of the way.
The alliance of proponents Connaughton and Stewart is particular unusual: during's Connaughton second term as county chairman, Stewart as an Occoquan District supervisor clashed with him from the right specifically over growth issues.
Now, the two are on the same messaging point: the parkway is coming and area residents need to embrace it rather than fight it.
One Republican elected official noticeably absent from Monday's press conference was Del. Jackson Miller (R-50th). The Manassas Republican on Monday did not return a phone call to his office placed before the press conference.
In 2008, Miller advocated during an interview for the creation of the Tri-County Parkway, which would have run along the eastern part of northern Prince William County.
However, he voted against the final version of the transportation bill that passed the General Assembly this year. It provides $10 million in funding for preliminary work on the Bi-County Parkway, according to figures released by McDonnell's office.
In fact, every Republican representing Prince William in Richmond except for state Del. Mark Dudenhefer (R-02) voted against the transportation bill while the Democratic delegation from Prince William supported it.
Hugo said he expected the Bi-County Parkway would be a "fall issue" in the gubernatorial election too.
In the race for lieutenant governor, it already is an issue prior to May 17-18 Republican nominating convention.
State Del. Scott Lingamfelter (R-31st) opposes the project. He brought up the name of Stewart, who is also seeking the GOP nomination, unprompted during a phone interview Monday.
He accused Stewart of being "tied to the waist of the developers" and called the closing of U.S. 29 and Route 234 "dumb as dirt" because of the spillover effect for commuters on I-66.
"This is the very thing that sets my hair on fire," said Lingamfelter, vowing that he would oppose the plan in "whatever capacity I'm in Richmond" next year.
He insisted he would be there as lieutenant governor.
Stewart didn't even mention Lingamfelter's name during a follow-up interview. He leads Lingamfelter in fundraising and earlier Monday landed the endorsement of the Virginia Tea Party Federation, a big "get" in state GOP politics.
"Well, look, this road has been on the county's plan for 20-plus years," said Stewart.
He argued that there is a lack of good roads connecting Prince William and Loudoun counties and asked, "For those opposing it, what is your alternative?"
When told about Marshall's call for raising Route 28, he said he supports that too but it is not enough to handle future growth, likening the current network of roads to a "19th century" system.
As for closing down U.S. 29 and Route 234, Stewart claimed he would oppose if there was not an alternative for commuters but added that the Battlefield bypass would serve as one.
Hugo at the press conference questioned whether commuters would actually use that road.
Tolling either the federally run Battlefield bypass or the state run Bi-County Parkway is a non-starter for Stewart and he also mentioned that he is "concerned" about the property owners along Pageland Lane.
"We are trying to address that," he said.
Yet he lamented the tone of the entire press conference, arguing that the politicians there offered false hope to residents concerned about the parkway.
"The road's going to go through someone's property," he said. "That's unavoidable."