Advancing a livable & sustainable greater Prince William, Virginia

Category: Route 28

The Route 28 Manassas Bypass Is Not the Lowest Cost Or the Least Environmentally Damaging Practicable Alternative (LEDPA) for the Route 28 Corridor

The Alignments of the Four Route 28 Corridor Expansion Alternatives Compared Below

Active Prince William board member Mark Scheufler sent the following comparison of Route 28 corridor alternatives to the Prince William Board of County Supervisors on November 30, 2020.


Dear Prince William Board of County Supervisors:

In advance of the December 7th  virtual public meeting on Route 28, it is timely to correct misinformation about the alternatives to Alignment 2B. The costs of Alternative 4 (Widening Route 28) were overstated by calculating the impacts/costs of widening Route 28 between Blooms Quarry Lane and Liberia Ave that is already six lanes.

Realistic cost estimates are needed not only by the supervisors in Prince William and Fairfax counties, but also by the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.  Those two agencies may determine that cost differences between Alignment 2B and other alternatives are not sufficient to justify the greater environmental damage.

As the Meeting Minutes at the January 16, 2020 Project Update and Alternatives Development Technical Memo Review  state (on pages 2 and 3):

“Stuart ended with a presentation of the cost summary for the alternatives, which showed that Alternative 4 would be almost $100 million more than Alternatives 2A and 2B. MacKenzie indicated that cost would not be a factor that the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) would consider in their evaluation. Rick responded that he understood, but emphasized the need to consider purpose and need in the comparison of the alternatives.

Subsequent to the meeting, Hannah Schul, DEQ, clarified that DEQ makes permitting decisions based on the Least Environmentally Damaging Practicable Alternative (LEDPA). Per the Clean Water Act, a permit cannot be issued if a practicable alternative exists that would have less adverse impacts on the aquatic ecosystem. The LEDPA does take cost into consideration, but an alternative would only be potentially eliminated if costs are clearly exorbitant compared to similar alternatives.”

The analysis summarized in the table below [the complete ROW analysis is here] shows the cost of alternatives along or near existing Route 28 are not exorbitant compared to Alternative 2B.   Alternative 4 includes $37M in ROW impacts along a 1.1-mile section of Route 28 that is already six lanes and should require minimal improvement and no ROW impacts (Blooms Quarry Lane to Liberia Ave).  An additional $54M* in Alternative 4 ROW impacts could be mitigated by increasing the Utility Relocation Costs ($10M).  These modifications would bring the Alternative 4 cost estimate below Alternative 2B.  But implementing the Route 28 STARS recommendation and the Well St Extended recommendation  is the best alternative for the Route 28 corridor to meet transit, revitalization, and climate goals and is the cheapest alternative.  The Well St Extended recommendation was not included in the original set of alternatives because transit, revitalization and climate were not considered part of the project purpose and need.

A Comparison of Four Route 28 Corridor Alternatives (click on the image above to enlarge for reading)

Alternative 2B is not the Least Environmentally Damaging Practicable Alternative (LEDPA) and may not receive permits to move forward.  Creating a regional park along this alignment is the best use of the land in the flood plan.

*8300 CENTREVILLE RD, 8130 OAK ST, 7901 CENTREVILLE RD

If you need any clarification, please let me know.

Thanks,

Mark Scheufler

PWC Resident

Building the Route 28 Bypass Should Not Be a Legislative Priority for the Manassas City Council

Active Prince William board member Allen Muchnick, a City of Manassas resident, sent the following message to the Manassas City Council on November 29, 2020.


Dear Mayor Parrish and Manassas City Council Members:

I’m writing to comment on Mr. Pate’s draft “Legislative Priorities – 2021” document, which I don’t believe has yet been available for public comment or officially adopted by City Council.

In particular, under the rubric “Transformative Mobility”, the document calls for “improvements to VA-28 corridor in the VDOT Six-Year Improvement Program including construction of the VA-28 Manassas Bypass…”   Oddly, the Route 28 Bypass is the only transportation project mentioned in this document.

Supporting the Route 28 Bypass in this document is pointless and ill advised.  The reference to this Bypass should be stricken for the following reasons:

1)  Not Transformative.  The proposed Route 28 Bypass does not represent “transformative mobility”.  Rather, this counterproductive and destructive project would merely perpetuate the decades-long, repeatedly failed practice of expanding limited-access highways in urbanized areas for toll-free travel in single-occupant vehicles.  The Bypass would induce new vehicle trips and auto-dependent sprawl development, thereby perpetuating car-dependency and traffic ongestion, while failing to effectively promote more efficient and equitable multiple-occupant travel (i.e. public transportation and/or ridesharing) or revitalize the aging communities along the Route 28 corridor, including Mathis Avenue, with transit-oriented redevelopment.

Motorists living west or south of Manassas already have a western Manassas bypass along Route 234.   Why do those same motorists now need a second western Manassas bypass along Route 28?  Fairfax and Prince William Counties are planning to at least double the number of unmanaged travel lanes throughout the Route 28 corridor between Route 234 and I-66.   How does that doubling of motor vehicle capacity help Northern Virginia meet the greenhouse gas reduction targets (50% below the 2005 level by 2030 and 80% below the 2005 level by 2050) that the MWCOG Board and the TPB have both adopted?

2)  Missed Opportunities.  As a railroad town served by VRE and Amtrak , Manassas should instead champion funding and cooperative agreements to improve VRE, Amtrak, and OmniRide service, more state and federal funds for pedestrian retrofits, and statutory changes (e.g., automated speed cameras, local authority for sub-25 MPH speed limits) needed to make Manassas more safely walkable.

3)  This Funding Request is Unnecessary and Inappropriate.  The Route 28 Bypass, estimated to cost $300 million, is already fully funded for completion, with an $89 million NVTA allocation plus $200 million from the 2019 Prince William County Transportation Bond Referendum.   Furthermore, since Prince William County has opted to abandon the federal Environmental Assessment for this project, the Bypass has become ineligible to receive federal or VDOT funds.  Finally, a state or federal carve-out or earmark for this project would undermine recent progress by the CTB (with SMART SCALE) and NVTA in funding transportation projects competitively, based on objective evaluations that prioritize cost effectiveness at reducing traffic congestion.

4)  This Funding Request is Premature and Misplaced.   When preliminary engineering for the Route 28 Bypass project is completed, no earlier than fall 2022, Prince William County will apply for a Clean Water Act Section 404 wetlands construction permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.   Until that permit is granted and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality also signs off on this project, any further funding for the Bypass project is premature.  Meanwhile, the Centreville Road (Route 28) STARS Safety and Operational Improvements Study, championed by Delegate Roem, has recommended a modest $38 million package of intersection, raised median, and pedestrian improvements to Route 28 itself that would clearly benefit  Manassas residents, yet this package still awaits an allocation of funds, possibly from SMART SCALE.

5)  This Bypass Would Not Benefit Manassas or Manassas Motorists Significantly.  Bypass proponents claim that the Bypass would reduce traffic congestion for Route 28 auto commuters and would lower traffic volumes in downtown Manassas.  Neither claim, however, is substantiated by the May 2019 Traffic Technical Report conducted for the Route 28 Corridor Environmental Assessment.   Table 3.1.1 on page 23 of this document shows that building the Bypass would increase traffic volumes in 2040 along Centreville Road segments (#s 19-22) north of the Bypass in Fairfax County by 16% to 26%, compared to the “No-Build” Alternative in 2040.  Meanwhile, traffic volumes on Center Street in downtown Manassas (e.g., from Grant Avenue to Zebedee Street, Segment #s 8 and 9) would grow from 23,230 ADT in 2018 to 28,845 to 35,332 ADT in 2040 if the Bypass is built.   At the same time, building the Bypass would roughly double the traffic in 2040 along Godwin Drive between Nokesville Road and Sudley Road, compared to the “No-Build” Alternative in 2040 (Segment #s 3-6 at the top of page 24), and generate failing intersections (LOS F during the PM peak) along Godwin Dr at Wellington and Sudley Roads (and probably elsewhere; Table 3.3.1 on page 40, intersection #s 16 and 17).  Thus, building this Bypass would necessitate several costly intersection expansions along Godwin Drive in Manassas, as well as the widening of Godwin Drive to six travel lanes between Nokesville Road and Sudley Road.

Sadly, the call to fund and build the Route 28 Bypass in this Legislative Priorities document reflects the lack of proactive and meaningful public involvement in discussing and setting transportation improvement priorities for the City of Manassas.  I hope the City Council will address this deficiency in 2021.

###

Route 28 Bypass Project Virtual Public Meeting, Monday, Dec. 7, @ 7 PM

Prince William County

PRESS RELEASE

November 25, 2020

Office of Communications
Communications@pwcgov.org
703.792.6606 (office)

 

Prince William County to Host Route 28 Bypass Project Virtual Meeting Focused on the Fairfax County Connection and Tie-in on Monday, Dec.7

Prince William County, in conjunction with the Fairfax County Department of Transportation, invites you to attend a virtual informational session regarding the Route 28 Bypass project on Dec. 7, 2020, at 7:00 p.m. This approximately $300 million infrastructure project, one of the largest in the history of Prince William County, will reduce traffic congestion, improve travel reliability and address other transportation challenges in the area.

The meeting will inform residents of both counties about the project background, efforts to date, and the current status, focusing on proposed concepts for the Route 28 Bypass connection and tie-in point to the existing Route 28 in Fairfax County.

The Prince William County Department of Transportation (PWCDOT) will host information sessions on the broader Route 28 Bypass project and address topics specific to Prince William County in the near future.

The public is invited to ask questions at the conclusion of the presentation and to provide feedback.

The project team will record the meeting and presentation and post them on the project webpage.

Meeting Registration Information

  • Register to attend the Route 28 Virtual Meeting.
  • Dial In: +1-415-655-0001 | Access code: 180 932 8746

Comments Due Monday, Dec. 7 at 5 p.m.

To submit comments, questions or feedback, please contact PWCDOT:

Department of Transportation
Prince William County
5 County Complex Court
Prince William, VA 22192

  • By phone: 703-792-6273

###

Environmental Coalition Protests Route 28 Bypass Agreement

Active Prince William, Prince William Conservation Alliance, Southern Environmental Law Center, Sierra Club – Virginia Chapter, Coalition for Smarter Growth, Piedmont Environmental Council, Joint Land Use Committee of the Sully District Council of Citizens Associations and West Fairfax County Citizens Association

PRESS RELEASE

For immediate release:
October 8, 2020 

Contact:
Rick Holt, Active Prince Williiam
Charlie Grymes, Prince William Conservation Alliance
Stewart Schwartz, Coalition for Smarter Growth
John (Jay) W. Johnston, for Joint Land Use Committee

Groups call on Northern Virginia Transportation Authority to defer action on Route 28 project

Calls Route 28 process extremely flawed 

The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) is scheduled to approve a project agreement that will advance Alignment 2B for a Route 28 Bypass at their meeting on October 8. “Our coalition of conservation, smart growth, and transportation reform groups is calling on the NVTA to delay action because of the negative environmental, regional travel, and community impacts of the proposed Alignment 2B and because of significant procedural failings that must be addressed,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.

Rick Holt, Chair of Active Prince William noted that “State law, Section 15.2-2232, requires that new roads be consistent with local comprehensive plans, and that local planning commissions make a finding to that effect. However, Alignment 2B of Route 28, which the Prince William Board of Supervisors approved in a controversial 5 to 3 vote, is not in the Comprehensive Plan for either Fairfax County or Prince William County and has not been reviewed and approved by their planning commissions.”

“The entire Route 28 study process has been flawed and frustrated sound alternatives analysis and community input,” said Charlie Grymes, former chair of the Prince William Conservation Alliance.

  • The 50+ families who would be displaced from a rare spot of affordable housing were not provided adequate notification and an opportunity to respond.
  • The promised federal Environmental Study and Alternatives Analysis (originally proposed as an Environmental Impact Statement) was never completed and was prematurely abandoned, so the pros and cons of the alternatives were never adequately documented, much less presented for public review and comment.
  • The critical Purpose and Need Statement for the Route 28 Environmental Study was never disclosed to the public prior to a October 9, 2019 public meeting. Not only was the Purpose and Need Statement never released for public comment, it was evidently never released for review and comment by relevant local, state, or federal agencies.
  • No public hearings were ever held for this project prior to the July 14, 2020 public hearing before the Prince William Board of County Supervisors to proceed with the preliminary engineering for Alignment 2B.
  • None of the written reports for the Route 28 Environmental Study, including the Traffic Technical Report, were posted for public review prior to July 7, 2020, only one week prior to the July 14, 2020 public hearing. These reports and their findings were never discussed at any prior public meetings for this project.
  • Despite the Fairfax County location of “Option 2B,” the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has held no public hearing on either amending the adopted Comprehensive Plan, or approving the proposed route for the new Route 28 bypass “Option 2B” through Fairfax County.
  • The May 2019 Traffic Technical Report from the Environmental Study shows Alignment 2B would produce the most failing intersections of the four alternatives studied. Furthermore, compared to the No Build Alternative in 2040, building the Bypass would increase traffic volumes on Route 28 in Fairfax County on the north side of the Bypass by as much as 26%.
  • Study findings showed that the “least environmentally damaging practicable alternative” that meets the purpose and need is Alignment 4 along the existing Route 28 north of Manassas, and the Prince William Board of County Supervisors voted 8 to 0 on August 4 to adopt this alternative
  • In an unusual in-person presentation by the Chair and Executive Director of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority on September 8, the Prince William supervisors were warned that NVTA would revoke the planned $89 million for the Route 28 project unless Alignment 2B was chosen, and funding might be allocated instead to projects in Loudoun County or other jurisdictions
  • The Prince William Board then held a second vote, switching to Alternative 2B on a 5 to 3 vote, without allowing additional public t
  • Informed advocates repeatedly offered an improved version of Alternative 4, along an extension of Well Street through Yorkshire, that would minimize impacts on Route 28 businesses, greatly lower project costs, and could create dedicated bus/HOV lanes and a network of street connections to support economic revitalization. This concept would also create the potential for Route 28 bus rapid transit, but county staff refused to consider this alternative, while pressing their preference for Alternative 2B

“Alignment 2B would displace over 50 families from their homes. It would add noise and pollution to “equity emphasis” neighborhoods and plow through the floodplain/wetlands of Flat Branch, which feeds into Bull Run and the Occoquan Reservoir, a critical drinking water supply,” said Grymes. “Alignment 2B would fuel more sprawling development and traffic coming from as far away as Fauquier and Culpeper, rather than address existing traffic coming from central Prince William via Liberia Avenue.”

“Just this one project, which is opposed by the local elected supervisor, would consume over 56% of the 2019 Prince William County road bond funding, limiting the ability to build other high-priority projects which are desired by local supervisors in other parts of the county,” said Holt.

“We developed and offered a carefully thought out alternative, but the Prince William staff have repeatedly declined to consider it,” said Mark Scheufler, a local resident and transportation engineer who developed the modified Alternative 4 dubbed “Well Street Extended”.

“We are deeply concerned about the rush by Fairfax County and the NVTAuthority to push through Alternative 2B, which is not on the county’s comprehensive plan, and to do so without public hearings in Fairfax or analysis of the severe harm it could cause to Bull Run and the Occoquan watershed,” said Joseph Johnston, speaking for the Joint Land Use Committee of the Sully District Council of Citizens Associations (“SDC”) and West Fairfax County Citizens Association (“WFCCA”) joint land use committee (the “Joint Committee”). “We are calling on the county to delay approval of Alternative 2B until after such time as any associated Comprehensive Plan amendments can be investigated and evaluated, including the transportation and environmental impacts of the “Option 2B” proposal with its new bridge, new bypass and new interchange located in the downzoned R-C district, upstream from the Occoquan Reservoir, and until after full opportunity for participation by Fairfax County citizens and advocacy groups in open public hearings, and a vote by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, on those amendments.

“We remain deeply frustrated and concerned that massive expenditures of tax dollars are being based on such flawed processes without full, fair, and transparent consideration of alternatives,” said Schwartz. “With our nation in a long-term funding crisis, we cannot afford the failure to consider more cost-effective alternatives, and to husband our resources for the most important priorities.”

###

BOCS Flip-Flop on Route 28 Bypass: It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over

By Charlie Grymes, Active Prince William Board Member

 

On September 8, the Prince William Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) reversed an 8-0 decision made just a month earlier and reinstated the Route 28 Bypass (Alignment 2B) in a 5-3 vote. 

The BOCS voted before listening to any of the citizens who were waiting to address the Board during the scheduled 2:00 pm Public Comment Time, which was delayed for more than three hours, and they declined an opportunity to wait until the next Board meeting before finalizing their decision.

The decision split along partisan lines; all five Democrats switched.

One quote from the discussion is relevant – “we have not made a decision on construction.”  A new road up Flat Branch is not yet guaranteed, though it came a lot closer to reality on September 8.

Over 50 homeowners are now at risk of having their homes “taken” for a commuter road.  The equity lens associated with this issue bent under pressure and developed a cataract over the last 34 days.

$89 million was previously set aside by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) for construction of Route 28 improvements, but the Board will need to sell $200 million in County bonds to fund Alignment 2B.  

The County’s finance staff made clear in early 2019 that selling the $200 million in bonds will require raising local taxes.  The issue remains alive… 

###