As the population of Fairfax County continues to grow, the county communications center remains shoehorned into an old elementary school on Sideburn Road in Annandale. In November, voters showed enthusiasm for a public safety referendum by approving a $60 million bond that included a new communications facility.
Supervisor Elaine McConnell (R-Springfield) believes now is the time to get the wheels rolling on this.
"We need an updated communications center to serve our people," she said. "If you had a really big strike on the nation's capital, you'd need it."
The proposed center combines several county facilities under one roof. The issue will go before the Springfield Land Use Committee on Feb. 3 and then onto the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.
"It's a regional communications center," said Norm Byers, chief of staff in McConnell's office.
Construction on the final steps, Phases VI and VII, has begun on the Interchange Project, which is still scheduled to be completed in 2007. For motorists, the biggest addition in 2004 is the opening of the overpass from the inner loop to I-95 south. It is tentatively scheduled to open in the summer of 2004, barring any weather delays. For motorists coming from the inner loop, the overpass will enable them to avoid the traffic merging in from I-495. Also this year, a ramp going from I-395 south to Old Keene Mill Road is scheduled to open.
"It's the exciting time of the project," said Interchange information specialist Steve Titunik.
Changes to the Lee High School cafeteria will cap off Phase III of the school's renovation. Although the cafeteria will not be expanded, the renovation includes a new floor, refinished walls, all mechanical and electrical work, and a new sprinkler system.
According to Kevin Sneed, capital improvements project coordinator, the kitchen is one of the most expensive renovation projects the school system does.
"All new equipment," he said. "The kitchen is extremely expensive. A lot of the equipment is highly specialized."
The work will be done in the summer of 2004. Work is presently being done on the gym, locker rooms, auditorium and music classrooms, which are part of Phase III, as well.
The Central Springfield Area Revitalization Committee (CSPARC) is gearing up for Phase I of its streetscape project in Central Springfield. The project will add trees, shrubs, brick walkways and granite planters to make the area around Amherst Avenue, Backlick Road and Bland Street more pedestrian friendly.
In addition to the streetscape plan, Supervisor Dana Kauffman (D-Lee) plans to work with Economic Development Authority and Redevelopment staff to redevelop vacant parcels along Old Keene Mill Road. These vacant properties include the former Chi Chi's restaurant, Circuit City and Long John Silver’s restaurant.
Van Dorn Extension
The Van Dorn extension, a road that goes from Kingstowne Parkway to Telegraph Road, has been hit hard by the wet weather. It is at the bottom of the hill from Franconia Road and alongside a wetland area. The mix of rain and snow has turned the road project into a marshy mess. Although the completion date has already been pushed back to mid-summer 2004 from its original January 2003 target date, rain delays may push it back even further. Supervisor Kauffman said the absolute last day under a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contract is Dec. 31, 2004.
"That will happen next year," Kauffman said, before the year ended. "Now that they have a roadbed down, I don't foresee any problems with completing it."
The widening of Beulah Street is scheduled to be completed as well.
In previous years, an express bus ran from Springfield Mall to the Pentagon. With the opening of the Franconia-Springfield Metro station, the bus service was discontinued because it was duplicating a route that Metrorail covered. In 2003, a proposal to bring back the bus route was looked at by Supervisor Kauffman. On Jan. 26, a series of bus changes are being considered by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
"I think it's something we need to bring back," Kauffman said.
Also being looked at as part of revamping the bus routes is the possibility of restructuring the TAGS (Transportation Association of Greater Springfield) bus route, which circles central Springfield. Joan Clark, the TAGS administrator in Kauffman's office, monitors the service.
"They're looking at the whole region." Clark said.
Kingstowne Town Center
Kingstowne is making strides toward becoming a vast community east of Springfield. One new development that is under construction now is a movie theater complex in a space between the Kingstowne Center and another shopping center. It will be a multi-theater complex offering stadium seating. A similar theater opened in 2003 near the Hoffman Center in Alexandria.