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Tunnel Underscores Safety

Duke Street project for pedestrians officially opens.

It's official. Crossing Duke Street from Diagonal Road to the Carlyle complex is no longer a blood sport.

Alexandria and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officials assembled on the Carlyle complex side of Duke Street Saturday morning to dedicate the opening of the new pedestrian tunnel. It will provide safe passage to all who venture back and forth from Diagonal Road to the mixed use complex on the south side of the heavily travel thoroughfare.

"This concourse offers a safe crossing for all the people of Alexandria," Mayor William D. Euille proclaimed at the ceremonial ribbon cutting officially opening the 170 foot long tunnel. "Of the 7,100 PTO employees to be employed here, 51 percent are expected to use Metro and will also use this concourse daily."

That maximum number of PTO employees will not be reached until mid-2005, according to estimates. The primary purpose of the concourse is to connect the King Street Metro Station with the Carlyle Development complex that contains not only the PTO but a series of residential and commercial enterprises.

Euille noted the project "took nine months and 2,000 man-hours to complete." It is 20 feet wide and 12 feet high, contains 55,000 bricks on the walls and another 30,000 in the walkway. It is supported by 425 tons of concrete coupled with 25 pre-cast concrete sections totaling 250 tons and 2.1 miles of reinforcing steel.

NOT ONLY will the concourse make crossing Duke Street safer but it also will offer a series of history lessons on early Alexandria to those willing to pause in their daily rush. Lining the walls will be six murals depicting the progression of Alexandria's West End from 1795 to the present. These will be accompanied by six reproduced maps to help orient walkers as to Alexandria's development over more than three centuries.

“I wanted to show a sense of history,” said artist Ashley Spencer who created the murals. "Don West, the original owner of this area of the city had a tobacco farm on the West End. This was all his land at one time."

One of her murals will show the use of the land as a tobacco farm. Others depict various historical progressions for the city from its early settlement to the present. The actual murals will be installed later in the fall, according to Spencer.

Joining Mayor Euille, Vice Mayor Redella “Del” Pepper, members of City Council, PTO and construction officials, city officials and citizens was U.S. Rep. James P. Moran (D-8) who hailed the new concourse as “an excellent example of a successful partnership between developers and the community.

“This has taken an enormous amount of cooperation. This community doesn't work without mass transportation. And, after this [Carlyle complex and PTO] is all completed it is going to work beautifully.

“There is very little we can't solve if we put our minds to it. We thank PTO for the investment they have made in this community.”

CARLYLE DEVELOPMENT Corporation hired Corman Construction, Inc., to build the concourse, according to city officials.

Lloyd Clingenpeel of PTO presented Euille with a painting of the Alexandria skyline as seen from the viewpoint of the George Washington Masonic Memorial. He also introduced and thanked Bill Cox, of Corman Construction. “We are hopeful this will become a recognized landmark of the city,” Clingenpeel said.

Following the ceremonial ribbon cutting by Euille, Pepper, Moran, Councilmen Ludwig Gaines and Rob Krupicka, PTO and construction officials and others present for the ceremony were led on an official walk through the concourse to the North side by bagpiper Homer Babrock. The concourse unofficially opened to the public July 1.

Following the ceremony each official was presented with a plaqued, souvenir brick symbolizing the Concourse completion. This was followed by a small reception for all in attendance.

The concourse will be open weekdays from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. There is a guard kiosk on the south side that has unlimited vision through the lighted tunnel to assure safety.