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Road Edging Wetlands Races With Rain

"April showers brings May flowers" makes a good poem, but to the Van Dorn connection road project, April showers just delay the project further. The project was originally scheduled to be complete by January 2003, but with record rainfalls throughout the year, the work stops and starts with the weather.

The road connects the Kingstowne Parkway with Telegraph Road, just south of the South Kings Highway intersection and across from Huntley Meadows Park. It skirts a wetlands area near Dogue Creek, which exacerbates the problem further. The Kingstowne road is being built by Halle Corporation as a proffer associated with the Kingstowne development.

Jeff McKay, chief of staff in Supervisor Dana Kauffman's (D-Lee) office, is monitoring the progress. Since the construction affects a wetlands area, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is involved. The permit which the Corps of Engineers issued for the project expires on Dec. 31, 2004.

"He (the developer) has every intention of finishing it by then," McKay said. "It's being heavily monitored by the Corps of Engineers and the county."

Jim Pounds lives in the Eastbourne community which faces the road project. He welcomes the rain, so that the project won't be built as he was originally told it would be.

"We were told this was all zoned wetlands," Pounds said.

Jerry Harper, also a resident of Eastbourne, said it's appropriate for the area, even though there will be more traffic.

"It's part of progress," Harper said. "It will make the traffic worse, but that's not necessarily a negative thing."

The work continues when possible though. The land is clear and several heavy pieces of construction equipment are in place.

Rich Rounds, the vice president for design and construction at Halle, said the project is about 50 percent complete. He predicted that it could be completed by the end of the summer "if we have a regular summer."

Kauffman has received a lot of questions about the project from residents in the area and formulated a letter responding to those questions. It explains the proffer agreement, but at the same time explains the Fairfax County's limited power over a private road project.

"The road is not a VDOT or County project (even though there is a county sign at the site). As a result, we have limited control over the construction schedule, but we also don't have to use taxpayers monies to finance it," the letter stated.

FOR COMMUTERS in Lee District, the road is an improvement to the east-west travel in that part of the county. Since 9/11, Woodlawn Road was closed through Fort Belvoir. This road into Kingstowne provides cars on Telegraph Road another access, as well as relieves Rose Hill Drive and Hayfield Road from overcrowding. Pounds said all the traffic coming from alternate ways around Fort Belvoir will come through the new road.

"Once they open it up, it will pop the cork for all the roads closed on Fort Belvoir," Pounds said.

McKay was reluctant to put a solid completion date on the project because it's so dependent on weather. For each rain day, the project is delayed two or three more days while the ground dries.

"It's a wetland area so there's large chunks of time after it rains. There are several people calling here every week," McKay said.

The construction crew does truck in more dirt to raise the roadway several feet because of the wetlands conditions. Rounds noted the builder's use of irrigation pipes for the rainfall and a construction fabric to prevent dirt from being washed away.

Halle Construction has plans for a parcel of land along the existing portion of the road. The plans call for the addition of a gas station and hotel on the land next to the Kohls.

"Until the road gets done, we are not pushing either of these projects," Rounds said.