Stewart Schwartz, CSG, 703-599-6437
Chris Miller, PEC, 703-507-5790
Jenni Brewer, NTHP, 202-588-6380
Pamela Goddard, NPCA, 202-454-3365
Morgan Butler, SELC, 434-977-4090
Groups Urge Virginia to Stop Unnecessary Highway and Save Historic Battlefield
New Highway Proposed on Site of 150th Anniversary Weekend Reenactment of First Battle of Manassas
Washington, D.C. (July 21, 2011) – On July 23 and 24, 2011, thousands of Civil War reenactors will honor the 150th Anniversary of the First Battle of Manassas. Yet the Virginia Department of Transportation is pushing forward with the Tri-County Parkway, a proposal to build a segment of the Outer Beltway on the western boundary of Manassas National Battlefield, through a historic district and directly adjacent to the scene of fierce fighting in the Second Battle of Manassas. Recently, Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton convinced the Commonwealth Transportation Board to establish a new “Corridor of Statewide Significance” through this area, fueling efforts to build the new highway.
This weekend’s reenactment will take place within sight of the proposed highway corridor and on the farm of the late Annie Snyder, known for her tenacious fights to protect Manassas Battlefield from highways, malls and other inappropriate development.
“We are deeply concerned about the significant damage this Tri-County Parkway project would have on the cultural and historic landscape of Manassas National Battlefield Park, the Manassas Battlefield Historic District and nearby historic properties. This plan would mean building directly on top of Manassas Battlefield Park, one of a few Civil War battlefield parks that includes the majority of the actual battlefield areas where troops formed, fought and died,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “Why harm hallowed ground when a number of smaller scale fixes can serve the same purpose at a lower cost and still generate local jobs?”
“Manassas National Battlefield Park is an invaluable resource not only because of its history and meaning, but also because of its role in the local economy,” said Pamela Goddard of the National Parks Conservation Association.
According to the National Park Service, non-local visitors to the Park in 2009 spent $7.12 million, supporting 82 jobs and generating $2.7 million in labor income.”
“It is particularly disturbing that, on the sesquicentennial of the battles of First and Second Manassas, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the federal government would pursue construction of a major new highway along the western boundary of the Park and through the expanded Historic District, cutting across the historic approach of Stonewall Jackson’s troops to the Second Battle of Manassas,” said Chris Miller, president of the Piedmont Environmental Council.
The four to six lane highway would be part of a larger Outer Beltway proposal running from I-95 in Stafford, Virginia and/or Prince William to Route 7 and across the Potomac River.
“Proponents tie this controversial proposal to their goals to vastly expand Dulles Airport as a freight distribution center, meaning the new highway is intended to carry tens of thousands of trucks per year through the Manassas Battlefield historic district, forever destroying the quiet enjoyment of this hallowed ground,” said Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. “We’ve long argued that this development model is at odds with the historic tourism value of the Battlefield and is a poor economic development approach compared to the far more productive future of our knowledge economy.”
According to Morgan Butler of the Southern Environmental Law Center, “the groups first offered a comprehensive set of alternatives in June 2005 that combined other regional and local transportation and land use improvements that would meet the project’s needs while also protecting the Battlefield.”
The combination of transportation and land use measures includes:
- Improving I-66 to address the vast majority of traffic which is east-west, including by extension of HOV and bus lanes;
- Funding and expanding the capacity of the Gainesville Interchange in order to allow traffic to flow more smoothly to and from I-66;
- Extending Virginia Railway Express to Gainesville and Haymarket, and improving bus transit along Route 50 in Loudoun County, I-66, and Route 28;
- Targeting local road and safety improvements to cost-effectively reduce incidents in the high accident sections;
- Protecting Prince William County’s Rural Crescent and the Loudoun Transition Zone from overdevelopment that would add more traffic to major east-west commuting routes, while shifting development to locations with enhanced access to transit;
- Recognizing that local residents north of the Battlefield will have access to alternate shopping outlets, not requiring driving south through the Battlefield toManassas. Those future locations include Loudoun’s Route 50 Corridor,Gainesville, and Haymarket; and,
- Funding and completing the upgrade of Route 28 to improve access from the I-66 corridor to the major job concentrations east of Dulles Airport.
- Upgrading local roads like Sudley Road north of the Park and Pageland Road west of the Park with shoulders and roundabouts at intersections (at 659 and Sudley; Sudley and Pageland; and 29 and Pageland)
This more comprehensive approach offers the most effective option for avoiding and minimizing harm to the Park, the Historic District, and the Pageland Road corridor.
“The Park remains a national treasure, a local amenity and a contributor to local economic vitality. Elected and agency officials at all levels of government must work together with concerned citizens to protect its remaining integrity,” said Miller.
About the Coalition for Smarter Growth
The Coalition for Smarter Growth is the leading organization in the Washington D.C. region dedicated to making the case for smart growth. Our mission is to promote walkable, inclusive, and transit-oriented communities, and the land use and transportation policies needed to make those communities flourish. To learn more, visit the Coalition’s website at www.smartergrowth.net.