After 15 years of living with the current crooked alignment, City Council voted to support the straightening of Route 1 and building a new Monroe Avenue Bridge.
"This is a very exciting day for Del Ray and for the city," said Rob Krupicka, the president of the Del Ray Citizens Association. "We are pleased to stand with our neighbors from the Northeast Citizens Association in supporting the straightening of Route 1. This will do many things for our neighborhood. By connecting us with The [Potomac] Yard and by connecting all of the fields at Simpson Park we will make this park a truly special place for the center of the city..."
Bill Hendrickson echoed his words saying, "In 1998, we drafted a statement supporting a design at Potomac Yard, much of which the owners of that property incorporated. The straightening of Route 1 and the redesign of the bridge is the final piece of that design that will connect Potomac Yard with the rest of Del Ray..." he said.
Ellen Pickering was the only speaker who did not support the new design. "Fifteen years ago the Virginia Department of Transportation chose the current design as the best east-west design for Alexandria," she said. "By changing the alignment, we are developing the best north-south way for traffic to access the job centers not only in East Eisenhower but in the Four Mile Run area of Arlington. The best traffic calming measure would have been a Metro station at Potomac Yard that could have been used by everyone in this area..."
The realignment is already included in VDOT's six-year plan and will require an approximately $300,000 match from the city. Council approved the new design.
THE BOARD OF Architectural Review for the Old and Historic District recently approved a fence that will encircle the new off-leash dog park at Windmill Hill Park. City Council unanimously supported the BAR and denied an appeal that contended that the fence was not appropriate for the site.
"There has never been a fence there because a train ran through that area," said John Wilbour, one of many Old Town citizens who was asking that BAR be overruled.
The 42-inch high fence will separate the off-leash dog area from the children's play area, from S. Union Street and from pedestrians. Staff found examples of other places in which fencing had been used and Council agreed to support the BAR decision.
Other pieces of Windmill Hill Park were the subject of discussion at the public comment section of Saturday's Council public hearing as well. Terry Hallahan complained about the new sidewalk through the Wilkes Street tunnel.
"We had no idea that there would be an S curve in the sidewalk," she said. "That makes it very unsafe for those who use this tunnel to get from Union Street to the Safeway on Royal Street..." she said.
OLD TOWN RESIDENTS who live adjacent to the park have come to City Council to protest the relocation of the dog park from one side of Union Street to the other, removing it from the waterfront and the relocation of the volleyball court from the west side of Union Street to a spot on the river.
"I am deeply concerned about what this says about our priorities," said Mayor Kerry J. Donley. "We have spent far more time discussing this dog park than we did the redevelopment of The Berg, a project that provides public housing for real people. We have spent far more time talking about this dog park than we have discussing expansion at Lyles-Crouch School, which is located in this very same neighborhood. We have spent far more time talking about this dog park than we have discussing public safety. Council has made a decision and we need to move on."
Wilbour accused Council of creating a "killing fields" in the tunnel. The Alexandria Police Department has looked at the tunnel and finds no safety issues. "We need to keep the brush trimmed but we would need to do that whether we had a sidewalk or not," said Sandra Whitmore, the director of the department of parks recreation and cultural activities.
The sidewalk will be completed as soon as the temperature is above 40 degrees. Councilwoman Redella S. "Del" Pepper made a motion to hold another public hearing on the park. That motion was tabled because Councilwoman Joyce Woodson announced that she would make a motion for rescinding approval for the design of Windmill Hill Park. Council will discuss that motion at its Feb. 25 meeting. No discussion took place Jan. 28, because Vice Mayor Bill Cleveland was absent due to a work committment and Councilman David Speck will be absent on Feb. 11.