It's a done deal. Old Mill Road will replace Woodlawn Road as the connector between Telegraph Road and Route 1.
As predicted by Col. T.W. Williams at the Jan. 31, Town Meeting of Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerald Hyland, the Department of The Army has formally approved the Old Mill Road option as the approved solution to the deadlock which has existed since the 9/11 attacks between the military and local and federal elected officials.
According to a March 19, Fort Belvoir news release, "Army officials briefed the Virginia congressional delegation March 12, on the results of a 10-month study to identify a permanent connector road..." It will replace the blockaded Woodlawn Road as "a corridor for civilian traffic between the two major routes."
During the meeting on Capitol Hill, involving both Virginia senators, John Warner and George Allen; U.S. representatives, James P. Moran (D-8) and Thomas M. Davis III (R-11); Lee District Supervisor Dana Kauffman and Hyland, the Army reiterated their belief that "there is no practical means by which the hardened Woodlawn Road can be reopened."
In military parlance, "hardening" refers to security measures, including traffic control points, which require additional personnel and materials. "These security measures would actually slow traffic traveling through the installation and delay efforts to find a permanent solution," according to Belvoir officials.
"Building a temporary solution would cost time and money that would be better invested in a permanent solution," Donald N. Carr, director, Belvoir Public Affairs, emphasized. "We consider this the permanent solution to the closed Woodlawn Road."
FOLLOWING RELEASE of the news that the Army had approved the Old Mill Road proposal, both Hyland and Kauffman expressed dismay that their views and that of the County Board of Supervisors had not been included. It was assumed the initial release, as reported in the Washington Post and referred to only the congressional representatives, had come from the Army.
"The Army did not make that release," said Don Dees of the Belvoir Public Affairs Office. "Our first and only release on this matter is the one dated March 19." At the bottom of that release is a link to "Senator Warner's press release on the March 12 briefing."
Hyland's reaction to the March 12 news release was, "We are pleased that a solution has been reached. I wish we [himself and Kauffman] had had an opportunity for input." There are still factors unresolved such as funding and the length of time for construction.
Carr said, "The cost is estimated at approximately $30 million and will be shared by the Army and the Commonwealth of Virginia. Construction could take as little as four, or as long as six years."
The first step in the construction process calls for an evaluation with the Federal Highway Administration and completion of an Environmental Impact Study. The latter is part of Belvoir's Master Plan which was initiated last year.
"The alternative chosen by the Army directly connects U.S. Route 1 through the installation to Telegraph Road, does it at the lowest cost, takes the least amount of time, and benefits both the Army and the community," Carr said. "This alternative provides direct access through the installation and provides critical force protection for families, employees, soldiers as well as Army and DoD facilities on post."
AS ALL PARTIES to the negotiations have been informed by the military, ceratin sensitive and critical operations have been situated in the area of Woodlawn Road making its closure permanent. However, Woodlawn Road is a state road which, in effect, has been confiscated by the military. This has impacted the decision of who should bear the cost of its replacement.
The choice of Old Mill Road as the replacement artery grew out of a 10 month study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, which identified seven possible alternative routes. Old Mill Road has been the preferred choice since the study was unveiled at a Belvoir scoping session last fall.
During that session, pertaining to the post's Master Plan, Hyland and Kauffman jointly delivered a stern message from the Board of Supervisors to Col. Williams demanding "Woodlawn Road be restored without further delay." It also suggested "hardening" measures that could be taken to satisfy both military concerns for security and make Woodlawn Road accessible to the public.
In his comments that night, Hyland declared, "The Board believes it is imperative a road be developed immediately. And we will not support any intrusion to Huntley Meadows Park." The Army proposal for Old Mill Road supposedly meets the latter criteria.
Following Williams' announcement at the Town Meeting in January, Carr clarified the procedures required to make the Old Mill Road alternative a reality.
"After the Department of The Army, the proposal has to go to the Department of Defense so they can report back to Senator Warner. Then Congress has to appropriate the funds to build the new road."