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Interchange Site: Progress or Politics

Residents rally to fight flyovers, stub street openings, graffiti and crime.

Location, location, location. That’s the Realtors’ mantra when it comes to making decisions about purchasing a home. It would appear that people moving into Huntington have the ideal location — they’re close to Metro, close to the Beltway and close to Route One.

Yet, many are finding that they’re a little too close. If the Telegraph Road interchange is built as proposed, there will be two flyovers dumping directly into neighborhoods on Huntington Avenue and North Kings Highway. In addition, Fairfax County staff is recommending the opening of stub streets and developers are consuming existing neighborhoods for new projects. Last month, there was a series of robberies and a stabbing and the community is still trying to identify the person or persons responsible for last week’s wave of graffiti and vandalism.

HUNTINGTON RESIDENTS aren’t taking this lying down. Polly Parks, who has lived in Huntington since the end of December, 2003, said, “As soon as I found out about the flyover, I went to talk to Fairfax County and VDOT.”

This was back in September, 2004, and at the time they told her that there was a push to build ramps, but there was no money. Since then, money has been freed up and now a design plan for the Telegraph Road Interchange includes the two flyovers.

“It doesn’t make sense — North Kings Highway is too steep,” she said.

Parks, who resides at the condominium complex, Huntington Club, isn’t sure how they will even get out of their complex after the roads are built.

“I don’t see how we can turn left, and I don’t see how people on Kathryn Street will get out,” she said.

Kathryn Street is the only street that runs between North Kings Highway and Huntington Avenue. Flyovers will intersect near Kathryn Street on both thoroughfares.

Parks also feels that there has not been enough discussion with the residents, and said, “I’m appalled at the lack of public input. This whole process — the county and the Board of Supervisors has gone ahead without reading public input. They’re doing this without talking to people and about how it will affect side roads. If you’re going to have development, then plan it.”

While Parks is not a NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) advocate, she does believe that much more planning is needed for the community.

“Transportation is planning like there is no community there,” she said.

OTHER HUNTINGTON RESIDENTS are also taking action. Mack B. Rhoades, Jr., president of the Huntington Community Association, Inc., worked with members of the Mount Vernon Council of Citizens’ Associations (MVCCA) to pass an emergency resolution last week. The resolution objects to the new design for the intersection and is in response to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors' approving that design. The only supervisor to object to the design was Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerry Hyland.

The resolution maintains the following points:

* “The added flyover will increase the noise level in the area, will be visually offensive, will only marginally increase the level of service and will aggravate the perpetual speeding and pedestrian safety problem endemic on Huntington Avenue;

* “The interstate exit ramp flyover for Huntington Avenue is proposed to land close to the Huntington Metro Station, a major transportation and pedestrian hub, without any regard for the 30 mph speed limit on Huntington Avenue.”

* “The council urges the BOS to reconsider its decision and eliminate the flyover connection between the Beltway and Huntington Avenue.”

“That ramp is going to land on a 30 mph street right near Metro,” said Rhoades at the council meeting.

“It just isn’t right,” said Frank Cohn, Council Transportation chair. “They [the supervisors] can reconsider; we’re trying to get political turmoil going.”

Earl Flanagan spoke optimistically when he said that other council recommendations about the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project have been heeded, and he’s hoping that this one will be as well.

In addition to the resolution, letters were sent to Hyland by the Huntington Community Association and by Richard S. Hartman; these letters were sent on July 25 and 22, respectively. The supervisors voted on the matter on Monday, July 25.

ASKED WHY they didn’t react sooner, Rhoades said, “After the meeting [at Cameron School in June], what we assumed was that they were going to come back with something different. Next thing we know it’s at the Board of Supervisors. We didn’t think it was a done deal.”

“I don’t know who Dana [Kauffman] thinks supports this,” said Ray Novitske, architect, long-time member of the Board as Head of the Huntington Design/Land Use Committee and Huntington’s representative to the MV Council P&Z Committee. “Even the people who live in Jefferson Manor, which is Lee District, don’t want it. It’s a high-speed interchange.”

What Novitske and Rhoades want is to keep the exit ramps as they are, but redone to be more efficient. They don’t support either flyover, but had been willing to compromise on the N. Kings Highway flyover. Neither of them believes that this new interchange will help with gridlock since much of the traffic comes from Alexandria and not just from the Beltway.

“It won’t save me any more time,” said Novitske, who lives off of Huntington Avenue. “They [the supervisors] need to step back before they endorse it,” Rhoades said.

Novitske was optimistic as he said, “They haven’t built it yet.”

THE SAME NIGHT that the emergency resolution on the Telegraph Road/Huntington Avenue Flyover was passed, Council unanimously passed another resolution titled "Pedestrian Safety in Huntington Community." This has to do with the proposed opening of "stub streets." Stub streets were built in Huntington between subdivisions and the county staff report is recommending that some of them be opened, in particular, the one between Farrington Avenue and Foley Street. The resolution states:

“Whereas, the Huntington Community was designed in 1947 with stub streets to create a walkable community; and

“Whereas, the Huntington Community infrastructure is designed to protect the health, safety, welfare and general well being of its residents; and

“Whereas, the Huntington Community desires to protect and preserve the aesthetic qualities of the community by approving the design of subdivision features and improvements; placement, installation and maintenance of public and private roads in order to preserve the value or property and to encourage the most appropriate use of land within the community,’

“Whereas, the Fairfax County of Transportation (FCDOT) has suggested that the opening of one or more stub streets in the Huntington Community to serve as interparcel connection for vehicular traffic would be beneficial to the community; and

“Whereas there is overwhelming opposition to the opening of stub streets within the Huntington Community in view of pedestrian safety concerns.

“Be It Therefore Resolved That, the Mount Vernon District Supervisor intercedes with FCDOT to prevent the opening of stub streets for vehicular interparcel connection within the Huntington Community.”

“I’m not really sure why they would want to do that,” Rhoades said. “The streets are so narrow and if you add more cars, it’s not going to work. We’re just trying to keep the quality of life.”

Rhoades lives at the end of Farrington Avenue, near the proposed opening, and said that one of his neighbors recently almost $400,000 for a home on that street — a street that he believes will be a quiet sanctuary, not an urban raceway.

“It [opening the streets] would change the character of the community,” Rhoades said.

To which Novitske added, “There’s no reason for it.”