Land left in limbo

All the private land and property needed to be bought by the state for new interchanges at Interstate 66/U.S. 29 in Gainesville and U.S. 1/Va. 123 in Woodbridge will be paid for in a revised state six-year road building plan due out in late June instead of partial funding promised in the draft plan released in May, according to a top VDOT official.

“I do think the full funding will be part of the updated six-year plan,” said Pierce Homer, deputy secretary for the Virginia Department of Transportation, at a Friday work session for the Prince William Board of County Supervisors.

The complete allocation for right-of-way acquisition would clear up for planners the question of what they can buy and when; stringent rules govern whether land can be purchased if the funding is not all in place, said Homer, a former employee of Prince William County.

When property can be bought is important to private owners who are in limbo now that the two major interchanges face delays because of a funding shortfall at the state level. One businessman relocated his business to make way for the U.S. 1/Va. 123 interchange, but now he faces bankruptcy if the state does not come through, said Supervisor Hilda M. Barg.

The right-of-way costs for both of the interchanges is considerable private property for the U.S. 1/Va. 123 project is half of the $83 million its total price tag, which most likely will increase from inflation since the project’s construction was knocked out of the state’s plan that goes to 2008.

Already, the estimate for the I-66/U.S. 29 interchange has jumped from $97 million to $122 million by a hike in right-of-way cost alone, according to county staff reports.

In the draft plan, allocated for right-of-way is $49 million for I-66/U.S. 29 interchange and $37.8 million for the U.S. 1/Va. 123 interchange, not enough for full acquisition, officials said.

Enough money is in the draft plan to purchase private property that will be displaced by a new U.S. 1/Va. 234 interchange, about $13.5 million, according to a county report. Construction dollars for that interchange are not in the six-year plan.

Other major hits from the six-year plan don’t look to be reinserted into the plan, like the $40 million Va. 28 widening, the $82.2 million I-66 HOV extension to Gainesville, or a new U.S. 1 bridge over Neabsco Creek, that county transportation director Tom Blaser said was ready to go to construction before state funds evaporated.

Staff writer Chris Newman can be reached at (703) 878-8062.

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