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Votes

Woodlawn Road Imperative, Say Supervisors

Just as Mount Vernon and Lee district residents were getting their first look at proposed alternatives for a connector road between Telegraph Road and Route 1, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors (BOS) issued a directive to Col. T.W. Williams, Fort Belvoir garrison commander, that Woodlawn Road "be restored without further delay."

Mount Vernon District supervisor Gerald W. Hyland read a letter, signed by BOS chairman Katherine K. Hanley, at the public scoping meeting Monday night held by Fort Belvoir, to solicit comments concerning the Environmental Impact Study pertaining to the post's update of its Real Property Master Plan.

Arriving at Mount Vernon High School, the site of the meeting, directly from the BOS meeting, Hyland and Lee District supervisor Dana Kauffman notified Williams on the spot that the BOS had taken a firm position at its just-concluded meeting at the County Government Center.

"The Board believes it is imperative a road be developed immediately," Hyland said. "And we will not support any intrusion to Huntley Meadows Park."

Kauffman said, "Typical planning addresses the what and where. It usually misses the when. It is in the best interest of both the community and Fort Belvoir to do planning in conjunction with community development in all aspects."

WHAT TRIGGERED the reaction from the supervisors was the unveiling of a Connector Road Feasibility Study at the scoping meeting. It presented seven possible scenarios for replacing Woodlawn Road, which has been closed, along with a portion of Beulah Street, since Sept. 11, 2001, based on the Army's threat-protection evaluations.

A congressional mandate directed the secretary of the Army to conduct a study to evaluate the feasibility of establishing a connector road between Richmond Highway and Telegraph Road after the closure of Woodlawn Road. The preliminary engineering and environmental feasibility analysis presented at the meeting represents the first phase in satisfying the mandate.

"Our job has been to evaluate possible scenarios that are technically and environmentally feasible, as well as to collect comments from the citizens," said Jeff Moran, Tetra Tech, contractor for the study. Tetra Tech is working under the aegis of the Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District.

"We hope the Department of the Army will make a decision by January as to whether or not to proceed with further study," Moran said. The study is a conglomerate project by Virginia Department of Transportation, Fairfax County, Fort Belvoir and the districts of Mount Vernon and Lee.

"What we don't want is more studies. What we do want is a connector road now," said Robert Heittman, representing Lee District as a member of the team working on the study. "This team could be construed as an offshoot of the original Transportation Resolution Team."

That group was created by U.S. Reps. James P. Moran (D-8th) and Thomas M. Davis III (R-11th) before 9/11 to make a North Post Road Study, according to Heittman. "This was being considered in case of an emergency when 9/11 happened," he explained.

"As far as most of us on the team are concerned, there are really only three possible proposals as presented here tonight. The others should be taken off the table," Heittman said.

THE BOS LETTER was far more specific. It stated, "After reviewing the proposed alignments shown on the feasibility study, the Board's preferred alternative is the reopening of Woodlawn Road incorporating force protection ‘hardening’ measures to meet security concerns.

"This option would save both time and money as compared to the other alternatives presented in the feasibility study since this facility already exists. However, in recognition of the Army's previous objections to the reopening ... the Board also endorsed alternatives A, B and C, or a hybrid of these."

Those three are the ones also embraced by the team on which Heittman serves. Most observers Monday night found Alternative A to be the most desirable and practical, B as second choice; and C as the third choice. However, some suggested a hybrid of A and B. They viewed C as being the longest route and, therefore, the costliest in both time and money.

Any intrusion of Huntley Meadows Park was viewed as unacceptable by both citizens and the BOS. Glenda Booth, Fairfax County Wetlands Board, said, "There should be no road through Huntley Meadows Park."

BOS emphasized, "The Board will not support any alignment which intrudes into existing Huntley Meadows Park. ... Huntley Meadows Park alignments were explored and rejected by the U.S. Department of the Interior in the late 1980s and early 1990s as part of the Lockheed Boulevard studies."

Buttressing Heittman's impatience with continued studies, the supervisors noted, "The Board is concerned that the project does not have a defined project time line. The Board requests that development ... of a project to reopen Woodlawn Road or replace this roadway connection ... begin immediately as a priority for Fort Belvoir and the Army. Continued delays will not best serve the public interest of either the citizens of Fairfax County or Fort Belvoir."

BOS CONCERNS were shared by others attending the scoping session. Frank Cohn, chairman, Transportation Committee, Mount Vernon Council of Citizens Associations, said, "We want to know what Fort Belvoir's position is on each of the proposed routes."

He was followed by Robert Brubaker, director, MetroPed Inc. "When Woodlawn Road closed, there was a 13-percent increase in traffic accidents, including pedestrian deaths," he said.

Donald N. Carr, director, Fort Belvoir Public Affairs, who served as moderator for the public input portion of the meeting, urged the audience to complete comment forms, respond on the Fort Belvoir Web site, or give their comments to a court reporter present for that purpose. Twenty-minute comment sessions were held every 40 minutes throughout the three-hour gathering.

"We want your comments," Carr emphasized. "They are very important to us." He noted that the deadline for comments on the Connector Feasibility Study was Nov. 26.

Results of the feasibility study will be summarized in a report describing the alternatives and the criteria used to evaluate them. These will be forwarded to the Department of the Army for review. The Army will determine whether the project is viable and whether a formal study will be initiated.

That determination is presently anticipated for January 2004.