Ox Road Squeezes Past Budget Cuts

Ox Road Squeezes Past Budget Cuts


Bonnie Ruetenik is living her dream in a 100-year-old house surrounded by Heatherhill Gardens, a flower market she opened 11 years ago. The rumble of Ox Road is currently 15 feet from her tomato table, but it will soon be relocated about 75 yards to the west in the latest plan from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).

"We know the road needs to be widened. They're [VDOT] doing the best they can," she said, although she's sad to see the tractors clearing land outside the home of her former neighbors, the Holly family.

"They owned all three houses. Our house is 100 years old," she said.

Ruetenik's been following the plans, which have changed several times since officials started designing the plan for the widening of Route 123, known as Ox Road is some parts. The Holly family moved when the plans were unveiled. Although the state budget shortfall left many road projects on hold, this portion of the Ox Road widening is still under way.

"When they left, the road was going right through the house. I feel bad for all the people that got displaced," she said in her botanical Mecca, surrounded by butterflies, and tomatoes.

Burke resident Chris Keller also works at the flower market, which is seasonal. He pointed at the existing road, which has heavy traffic 24 hours a day, noting VDOT's "good neighbor" efforts.

"The [existing] road is actually going to be a bike path. There's a pipe that goes under that flower bed. They dug it up and replanted it," he said.

OFFICIALS GATHERED on Aug. 23, for a groundbreaking ceremony for Phase II of the Route 123 project, which is putting additional lanes on a 2.5-mile stretch of 123 from Lee Chapel Road to Palmer Drive, just north of the Occoquan River. It is a primary road project they funded with state money as well as district bonds from the Northern Virginia Transportation Committee, the Regional Congestion Mitigation funds and federal funds on a lesser scale, according to Board of Supervisors chairman Kate Hanley (D).

"This is a prime example of what we've been doing the last few years for funding. This is a primary road," she said, so the funding is different from secondary roads.

"Primary road money is in short supply. We've had everything but bake sales. Last year when it looked like it might get delayed, Elaine and I were horrified. When they're through, it will be safer than when they started," Hanley said.

Supervisor Elaine McConnell was on hand with VDOT engineer Tom Farley and Del. James Jay O'Brien Jr. for the groundbreaking. Farley introduced McConnell as the "Mother of Route 123."

"[Route] 123 has always been in my district, even when they redistricted twice," McConnell said.

"This is marking 15 years of hard work, sweat and strain from this office to get this built," she added.

To the north, the southern end of Phase I loomed in the distance. Phase I was adding an additional lane from Burke Lake Road to Lee Chapel.

The price tag for this phase is $15 million according to Farley. The project is estimated to be done by the summer of 2004.