Bridge Lawsuit Settlement Reached

Bridge Lawsuit Settlement Reached

City Council approved new terms in the Woodrow Wilson replacement bridge lawsuit that will significantly change mitigations that are owed to the city.

The city manager and members of City Council have been working on this resettlement for nearly a year. New negotiations began when all parties realized that the large urban deck, which was originally designed to contain soccer fields, was not practical or even desirable. Also, security concerns after Sept. 11, are going to force some redesign at Jones Point Park.

The Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project will construct a reduced urban deck at Washington Street that will cost $26.6 million instead of the planned $62 million. Construction is scheduled to begin in December 2002, with completion planned for December 2007. The reduced deck is intended primarily to provide visual screening of the Beltway from Washington Street, and serve to connect and improve the pedestrian-oriented environment on Washington Street north and south of the highway.

THE CITY WILL acquire approximately 14.5 acres of land just west of Telegraph Road and south of Duke Street, and construct a recreational facility on that site. This is budgeted at $19.8 million plus a $3.3 million reserve fund for acquisition and remediation. The city will be responsible for any excess cost. Acquisition of the land is scheduled for the summer of 2003 and completion of the project is anticipated in December 2005. The facility will provide the recreational fields originally located on the large urban deck. Currently, this would include three athletic fields, restrooms and a parking area.

The city will acquire and enhance the Freedmen’s Cemetery site at S. Washington and Church Street. The Mobile Gas Station site and the adjacent office-building site will be acquired and the buildings demolished. This item is budgeted at $5.5 million plus $1 million reserve fund for acquisition and remediation. The city will be responsible for excess cost. Acquisition of the site is scheduled for the summer of 2003 with project completion planned for December 2005. The requirement to provide a fitting memorial for Freedmen’s Cemetery was contained in the original agreement and this amendment expands and clarifies the scope of that memorial. Currently, this project includes suitable landscaping, a memorial walk and wall, decorative fencing if it can be installed without impacting historical resources.

THE CITY WILL construct streetscape improvements along S. Washington Street from the deck to Gibbon Street and install traffic calming measures east of Royal Street. The budget for this is $4.9 million. The city will be responsible for excess costs. Installation will take place in January 2007, with completion scheduled for December of that year.

The city will implement a local neighborhood community enhancement program. The budget for this is $500,000. The program will consist of window upgrades and soundproofing of private residences in the area of S. St. Assaph Street, Green Street (Southside only), S. Lee Street and the Beltway. This element will be deleted in the event that a noise wall, agreed to by the city, VDOT and FHWA is constructed on the bridge. The deadline for deciding whether to implement this program or construct a noise wall is June 30, 2003.

The city will also acquire equipment necessary to maintain the new facilities constructed with project funding. The budget for this is $300,000. Acquisition will coincide with completion of the new facility.

“We are very hopeful about the noise wall because we believe that it would provide far more protection than anything that we could do on the ground,” said Mayor Kerry J. Donley at the June 25, City Council meeting.

Councilwoman Redella S. “Del” Pepper asked about rubber cement. “I don’t see anything in here about rubberized cement and I believe that this is a very important noise mitigation measure,” she said.

Richard Baier, the director of the Department of Transportation and Environmental Services explained. “This is being looked at as part of the bridge deck and would not be part of this particular package,” he said. “However, it is still under discussion.”

PARKING AT JONES POINT PARK was also discussed. Current plans will reduce the number of parking spaces under the bridge from around 140 to 80. “The Yates Garden Civic Association has asked us not to make any permanent decisions about parking until we have received the threat assessment from the Department of Defense,” said Councilman Bill Euille.

Donley discussed the threat assessment. “I need to make sure that everyone understands that the threat assessment will not be a public document,” he said. “There will be parking at Jones Point but that may mean we need to reduce the number of fields there. No one wanted parking at Windmill Hill because there was going to be a lot of parking at Jones Point and that came from the immediate neighbors. This may fall into the category of be careful what you wish for. We will look for alternate parking for city employees at the Lee Center or elsewhere but we will just have to wait and see what the security requirements are.”

City Council passed the resettlement agreement unanimously and instructed the city manager to execute the letter of agreement.