As Burke emerges as a viable community in the area, residents coped with changes and additions to the once rural landscape. The following topics covered last year in the Connection affected everyone's life around Burke.
The land that was formerly Lorton prison is officially Fairfax County's and the well-needed high school in that area is further along in the process, although no bulldozers have actually been called out to clear the sight. Although school funding is at a minimum, officials and parents put the pressure on and pushed through a proposal for a public-private partnership to get the school built. This would eliminate the need to bus students from the Fairfax Station area, across several school zones, to Hayfield Secondary School, which the school system has been doing for the past several years. The contract was advertised and the school has a 2005 projected completion date.
To combat the trend of some area homeowners who are resorting to parking their cars in the front yard, a proposal was brought before the Board of Supervisors in April to limit the portion of yard each homeowner is allowed to pave. Supervisor Dana Kauffman (D-Lee) called it a "complaint-driven proposal." Kauffman and Supervisor Penny Gross (D-Mason) pushed this effort in an attempt to preserve housing values and combat overcrowding.
Gov. Mark Warner (D) was on hand at the King Street train station as Virginia Railway Express celebrated its 10th anniversary on June 21. The failed tax referendum for transportation was hailed by Warner at the time, as a way to expand to rail facilities in the area. VRE has incorporated multi-level cars to meet the increasing demand in ridership and need to incorporate new ways to increase funding. Voters turned down the sales tax referendum in the November election.
Members of the Fairfax County Police Department bike team spent the summer preparing for a memorial bike ride from New York City to the Pentagon. They were trucked up to New York in early September where they departed from Battery Park on Sept. 8. They covered an average of 60 miles a day before arriving at the Pentagon on Sept. 11 for the one year remembrance of the terrorist strikes.
Despite VDOT budget cuts, the Ox Road widening project pushed through and on Aug. 23, officials held a groundbreaking ceremony for phase II of the project, which is a 2.5 mile stretch from Lee Chapel Road to Palmer Drive. Supervisor Elaine McConnell (R-Springfield) has been pursuing the project for years and was introduced at the ceremony as "the mother of 123."
In early October, a sniper haunted the area, wreaking havoc with several area deaths caused by a single gun shot. Scattered witness accounts pointed to a white van, so van owners were eyed by police and motorists for several weeks. Throughout the month, residents changed their schedules and routines before police uncovered more information, some back to the state of Washington, before arresting suspects John Lee Malvo and John Allen Muhammad at a highway rest stop. Their trial is still pending.
Late in the proceedings, while rushing to a suspected gunshot along Backlick Road, trooper Charles "Mark" Cosslett was killed in a vehicle accident. His funeral at the Immanuel Bible Church was attended by fellow motorcycle police, politicians and the Boozefighters, a motorcycle club where Cosslett was a member.
In November, taxpayers had a chance to make themselves heard as the decidedly voted down a proposal to increase the sales tax by a half cent for area transportation projects. In the middle of this battle were candidates Del. Jay O'Brien (R-40th) and Rosemary Lynch, both running for the seat in the Virginia Senate in the newly redrawn 39th district. O'Brien's anti-tax stance won him the seat. On Dec. 17, voters elected Tim Hugo (R) by an overwhelming margin to succeed O'Brien in the Virginia House of Delegates.
The crew team at Lake Braddock Secondary School welcomed the fire department leftovers, which came in the form of a boat house for their crew shells at Bull Run Marina. On March 16, a dedication ceremony honored the joint effort between Shirley Contracting and the Burke Fire Department. Originally, the structure housed a fire engine after the Burke Fire Department was damaged from a fire.
The multi-million dollar road project suffered a setback last year when the cost estimates escalated, traffic seemed to increase, and the line of cars going south during rush hour backed up past the Braddock Road exit on I-495.
In March, cost estimates on the project went from $589.5 million to at least $676 million and possibly more, Virginia Department of Transportation officials estimated. Reasons for the increase were dominated by the train bridge over railroad tracks along I-495 and I-95 North. VDOT officials pointed to shifting train schedules and extended Metro hours. Since then, another audit revealed further cost hikes.
On the other side of the "mixing bowl," traffic used to merge onto I-95 south with the unofficial help of a "cheater gore strip," a portion of the exit that was not really a lane but used as one, were restricted to one lane. Traffic backs up to the Braddock Road exit and beyond during rush hour and there is no sign of relief for 18 months or so.
Two workers fell to their deaths on the massive highway construction project this year as well. On May 23, Paredes J. Portillo fell off a scaffolding while unloading materials, and on June 5, Caesar Rivera Garcia fell off the 120-foot pier designed to carry traffic from I-495 to I-95 south. After the second fall, construction was temporarily halted while VDOT and Occupational Safety Hazards Administration (OSHA) reviewed their safety procedures.