By the time most people read this story, vehicles will be crossing Route 28 in Chantilly from a bridge above it, and the traffic signal at Westfields Boulevard will be gone! As of this Friday, Oct. 14, the highly anticipated, full-cloverleaf interchange at Westfields and Route 28 will finally be a reality.
AND LAST Thursday, Oct. 6 — before any cars were allowed up there — a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on the bridge. It came some 18 months after ground was broken for the interchange in April 2004.
"I've been amazed at the speed, the work and the quality of this project," said VDOT Northern Virginia District Administrator Dennis Morrison. Then, when he said that after the next morning's peak rush-hour traffic had passed, "We'll no longer have a traffic light there," those attending the ceremony cheered.
The $26.7 million project is one of several interchanges being constructed along Route 28 courtesy of a public/private partnership agreement between Shirley Contracting Corp. and The Clark Construction Group and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).
It includes a four-lane bridge of Westfields Boulevard traffic crossing Route 28, plus two auxiliary lanes, with a trail on one side and a sidewalk on the other. The bridge flies over Route 28, and drivers on both Westfields and Route 28 are now able to flow freely through that intersection without having to stop for a traffic light.
This improvement comes as a big relief for people heading toward their jobs in the Westfields Corporate Center during the morning rush, as well as for residents of nearby Sully Station, who had trouble both entering and exiting their community because of all the traffic. It also means one less stop light for motorists traveling on Route 28.
Dignitaries attending last week's ribbon-cutting included Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully), Sen. Ken Cuccinelli (R-37th), Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerry Connolly (D) and former Supervisors Chairman Kate Hanley, now representing the Northern Virginia District on the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB).
"This is a great celebration," said Connolly. "It just shows what a public/private partnership and determined leadership can do."
After Virginia passed a law in 1987 allowing localities to create special tax districts to finance transportation improvements, Fairfax and Loudoun counties took advantage of it, a year later. Together, they teamed with landowners along the Route 28 Corridor to establish the Route 28 Tax District.
But the groundwork for it was laid in 1983 when business partners Bill Keech and Henry Long bought 1,100 acres on both sides of Westfields Boulevard to create the successful and respected Westfields Corporate Center.
With an eye toward future growth on Route 28, they created a transportation plan making Route 28 a limited-access road and allowing for interchanges at Westfields, Willard Road and Route 50. Furthermore, said Keech, "We were interested in alternative ways of funding the road improvements."
SO HE AND LONG got all the land zoned industrial or commercial, between I-66 and Route 7, to become the Route 28 Tax District. It meant that 20 cents per $100 of assessed value would be added to the property taxes of the landowners there.
This money was then used for debt service for the Virginia revenue bonds for widening Route 28 to six lanes and for building the interchanges. As a result, said Keech, members of the Route 28 Tax District "paid 75 percent of the original widening and the interchange."
In 1986, Keech and Long dedicated the land to Fairfax County for the at-grade intersection for Westfields Boulevard — completed in 1988 — and an eventual full-cloverleaf interchange at Westfields.
They did so, said Keech, president of the Westfields Business Owners Association, because they recognized that an interchange was needed in order for this area to develop. And, he said, "There's been tremendous growth out here."
Last week, finally seeing the Westfields Interchange come to fruition, he said, "It's been a long time coming." And he praised the Route 28 business owners, VDOT and Shirley/Clark for helping make it possible.
Supervisor Frey thanked Keech and Long for locating the Westfields Corporate Center here and "those along the Route 28 Corridor who had a vision for this area. Route 28 is Northern Virginia's 'Main Street,' and it's the road that links the three counties that drive the businesses [in the vicinity of Dulles Airport]."
He said it's just one step in a continuing evolution, and he recalled the days "when we didn't have a traffic light here and were working with VDOT to get one. So this has really come full circle to take this out."
HANLEY CALLED the whole thing a "textbook PPTA [Public/Private Transportation Act]" project. She, too, thanked Shirley/Clark and Fairfax County employees for their efforts, adding, "It's amazing what we can accomplish when we work together."
Also acknowledging the tax district, she thanked "the landowners who created the funding stream. They were here first. They got the road done and, now, the interchanges."
Sen. Cuccinelli tipped his hat to them, as well. "Your leadership, participation and commitment make this a unique project — and a model for other areas with high transportation needs," he said. "I think that'll be a contribution that long outlasts this project."
Laurey Millspaugh, chairman of the Route 28 Tax District Advisory Board, spoke on behalf of all the commercial-property owners paying that additional tax — which, he said, the business community will be paying for a long time to come.
"Our job was to make sure the project was carried out as planned, and it's exceeded our expectations," he said. "This glorious road is opening, and it's wonderful."
Jon Harmon, vice president of Shirley Contracting, said many people made the Westfields Interchange a "team effort," and he recognized Susan Shaw — "my counterpart at VDOT" — plus other VDOT and Shirley employees present for all their hard work.
"This is truly a wonderful day, and it's a great job by VDOT and the Clark/Shirley folks," agreed Frey. "Congratulations, and thank you, on behalf of the community."