(also known as the Tri-County Parkway, Northern Extension to Rte 234, Outer Beltway)
September 20 2013 -- Before the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) can move forward of funding/building the Bi-County Highway, the Environmental Impact Statement must be finalized. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) must approve the analysis of alternatives and concur that the impacts of the new road have been considered.
Assessment of the impacts to historical resources, and mitigation to the extent feasible, will be finalized first through approval of a document called a Section 106 Programmatic Agreement. It refers to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.
Five agencies are negotiating the Programmatic Agreement for the Bi-County Highway - VDOT, FHWA, the National Park Service (NPS), the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), and the Virginia State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO).
The most-recent third draft was issued for comment on August 9, 2013. It incorporated substantial revisions in the project proposal, including VDOT's commitment to keep Pageland Road open for through traffic.
In addition to the five "signatory" agencies, "consulting parties" are also invited to participate in the negotiations to identify concerns and suggest ways to address them. In the last few months, landowners affected by the proposed Bi-County Highway (including Sudley United Methodist Church) have become actively involved in the Section 106 negotiations.
Consulting parties get to contribute ideas, but in the end only the five "signatory agencies" must agree to the language.
No agency gets a simple veto in the Section 106 process. If one or more agencies will not sign the final Programmatic Agreement, there is a dispute resolution process that could ultimately allow construction of the road.
Other parties, include Prince William and Loudoun counties, could sign the Programmatic Agreement. Signing would legally bind the counties to commitments they might make in the document, such as zoning conditions along the corridor to mitigate impacts. Prince William officials are participating in the negotiations, but the Board of County Supervisors has not indicated an interest in making any binding commitments.
After a marathon all-day discussion on September 5, the five agencies will accept comments from the consulting parties until September 17. The five agencies could conclude that the latest comments do not require any revision and sign the third draft as currently written, but the consulting parties expect to see a fourth draft with clarifications/revisions that respond to their comments.
To ensure that everyone can comment on the revised plans for the Bi-County Highway, including issues other than historic preservation, VDOT is scheduling more public meetings for late September/early October.
The Bi-County Parkway is a proposed 10-mile highway that is part of the 45-mile long corridor that would connect I-95 in Prince William County to the back of Dulles Airport in Loudoun County, traveling through a part of Manassas National Battlefield Park and the Rural Crescent.