August 8, 2002
Even though City Council is away for the summer, a number of projects are still moving forward.
The CSX-owned railroad bridge over King Street is finally getting a new coat of paint. Work began on Aug. 6 and will continue until Aug. 30.
“I think that our City Council and Congressman Jim Moran are to be commended for keeping the pressure on CSX and getting them to agree to do this work,” said Richard Baier, the city’s director of Transportation and Environmental Services. “CSX has always said that they would not do any work that was strictly aesthetic.”
The city, and in particular Councilman David Speck, has been concerned about the bridge for some time. “It is an eyesore and presents a safety hazard to people who have to walk under it and for motorists who have to drive under it,” Speck said at a recent City Council meeting, referring to the falling debris. “If they aren’t willing to maintain their property, we ought to put the sign back up and encourage people to call the corporate offices.”
That sign, which was in place on either end of the bridge for some time this past spring, listed the corporate telephone number for CSX executives and encouraged people who were concerned about the lack of maintenance to call them. “Apparently they received 250 calls in just one month, all going directly to their executive suite,” Baier said.
CSX, THROUGH Virginia Railway Express, has hired a contractor to remove the lead-based paint by hand and to repaint all exposed surfaces of the bridge. “We want to do this work during the summer because there is less traffic and because people keep their windows closed, as a rule,” Baier said. “We believe that this will be the least disruptive to the people who live and work near the bridge.”
All work will be done between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., Sunday through Thursday. “Our own staff will handle the traffic around the workers because we want to make sure that it is done correctly,” Baier said.
CSX will spend $100,000 on the project, while the city has agreed to contribute $20,000. Before winter, CSX will install a drainage system to take water away from the structure. “All of the work should be done by Thanksgiving,” Baier said.
<bt>The city has signed a contract to purchase the Datatel building. The purchase price? $1.585 million, $10,000 less than the appraisal. Closing will be sometime in August, with demolition to follow shortly.
“We hope to raze the building before the children return to school at St. Rita’s, but we may not quite meet that timetable,” said Mark Jinks, assistant city manger for finance. “The school’s playground is just behind the building, and parking for staff at St. Rita’s is located next to the building. Now that we have a contract, we are moving forward with getting bids on the demolition. The building needs to come down. It has needed to come down for more than a decade.”
ONCE IT IS DOWN, the city will build a surface parking lot, at least for the short term. “This is a good short-term use for this site and will provide much-needed parking in this neighborhood,” Jinks said.
In the long term, however, the site will be redeveloped in conjunction with the Safeway site. We want to look at this as one large redevelopment, not in pieces.”
One of the uses that is being considered is a new office to house administrative staff of the Alexandria City public school system. Staff members are currently in leased space on Beauregard Street. “This certainly looks like it might be feasible,” Jinks said. “It is always good to have an anchor like a government office building on a site like this. While we could begin planning within the next couple of years, we couldn’t begin any real work on this plan for about five years. That’s how long the Safeway site is leased.”
<bt>The city has also begun removing the pilings from the Old Town Yacht Basin, now part of Windmill Hill Park. “The money was available in our budget for waterfront renovation, and the contractor was able to give us a good price because he was already in the city doing other work,” Jinks said. Cost estimates ranged from a low of $187,500 to $418,000. The city hired the low bidder.
“Now is a good time to be working in the river, and we can get this done and begin other work on the park,” Jinks said.