January 16, 2015

Widening Route 28?

Much is debated about the preservation of our county’s “rural nature”. As I offer my opinion on this subject, I first feel compelled to state that my family and I have no financial interest whatsoever in developing, or not developing, any land in the county. My only interest is in informing people of happenings in the county that I have called home for over 42 years.

If I have any bias, it is that I prefer the view of forested property over fields. However, seeing large open areas of grass or crops or large-lot homes bordering the road does not offend my sensibilities. I do find small lot and multi-unit homes unappealing to view, so I just don’t look at them as I drive past them!

In 2012, VDOT estimated that widening the 14 miles of Route 28 from Route 29 to the Prince William County line would cost about $51 million and affect 220 parcels of land requiring approximately 96 acres of right of way. The 14 miles of two-lane road passes through the Bealeton Service District and three Village Service Districts that were established in the county’s Comprehensive Plan as some of the places to concentrate the population growth and non-agricultural industrial and commercial use.

However, I have searched the county’s online records and could find no information on local government considerations for widening Route 28. I was able to find the following in the Catlett, Calverton & Midland Village Service District Plan — “The county recognizes that an adverse impact of widening Route 28 would be that historic properties and buildings lose context and meaning, while traffic speeds through villages would naturally increase.” And “Only a proactive and coordinated local planning process will protect long term agricultural production and the rural village integrity of the Catlett, Calverton and Midland communities.”

According to the 2012 VDOT study, about 14,000 vehicles travel Route 28 every day. Not included in that number is the traffic on rural roads by drivers avoiding the busy Route 28 corridor as they travel to Manassas.

I traveled Route 28 to Manassas 5 days a week from 1976 to 1992 and still travel it occasionally. In the many thousands of trips I have made, I never once was struck by the appearance of “historic properties” or a “rural village”, nor did I see any view that should preclude lessening the stress and travel times of drivers making those 14,000 trips every day.

In December 2014, the Lee and Cedar Run Supervisors along with a Transportation Committee and Planning Committee member met with a VDOT representative and discussed the Route 28 transportation corridor.

Bealeton currently has about 2,300 households. I assume the additional 475-home development underway there and the proposed 50 acre entertainment complex near the intersection of Routes 29 and 28 were motivating factors for the VDOT meeting. It would appear that it may be time for an open debate on prioritizing the widening of Route 28 to 4 lanes.

Sooner or later, funds will be available to make this project happen. If doing so is important to you, you may want to start asking those who want your vote this November what their position is on widening Route 28. “Sooner” will require proactive support from the county; “later” is inevitable and could be a decade or more away.

Rex A. Hoover