As changes in Springfield come to fruition, the downfall in the economy and the falling state budget took a chunk out of optimism and progress in the area. Some projects that were already funded continued forward while others were shelved, awaiting a brighter economic forecast. The following topics covered last year in the Connection affected everyone's life around Springfield.
East of the majority of the project, this railroad overpass is one reason for the increased price in the highway interchange project.
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.
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 district has been doing for the past several years. The contract was advertised and the school is further along in the process, with 2005 the projected completion date.
To combat the trend some area homeowners are resorting to by 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 this proposal in November.
A plan was formulated to aid in the dredging of Lake Accotink which includes piping the dredged silt away to an existing gravel pit on Edsall Road. Since 1986, the lake has taken in 17,500 cubic yards of silt a year, according to park assistant manager Jim McGlone. The pit will hold an estimated 225,000 cubic yards of silt.
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."
Touted as the key transportation project in the Lee District, the first trees were cleared for the Van Dorn to Telegraph Road connector in early September. It was originally part of the proffer with the Kingstowne developers but was held up due to the protection of wetlands in that area. The project was scheduled to be done in January. Although it has progressed since September, the project was still in its early stages as of Dec. 1, so completing it by January is not likely.
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 they decidedly voted down a proposal to increase the sales tax by a half-cent for area transportation projects. In the middle of this 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. In December, voters picked Tim Hugo (R) by a wide margin to fill O'Brien's vacated seat in the Virginia House of Delegates.