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New Entrance Proposed for Woodlawn Plantation

Environmental Assessment report expected early in '06.

A progress report on the Woodlawn Road replacement project includes a proposal for a new entrance to Woodlawn Plantation.

Federal Highway Administration representatives reviewed the report Monday during a public information session at the South County Government Center.

Until the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Woodlawn Road provided a connection between Telegraph Road and Route 1 across Fort Belvoir property. Due to security reasons, it was closed after the attacks to all but base traffic, causing commuters to use the Fairfax County Parkway to access Telegraph Road and Beulah Street.

Monday's meeting was designed to explain what actions have been taken by FHWA pertaining to the environmental assessment since the previous public session in February 2005, according to Jack Van Dop, project manager, Eastern Federal Lands Highway Division, FHWA.

Among those attending were Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerald Hyland, Lee District Supervisor Dana Kauffman, and Donald Carr, public information officer, Fort Belvoir. In addition to a Powerpoint presentation, attendees had an opportunity to view a variety of plot plans showing projected alignments for the replacement road.

The primary alternative being explored is the widening and realignment of Old Mill Road to serve as the new connector. As noted by FHWA personnel, Old Mill Road would be brought in line with Route 235, Mount Vernon Highway, where it intersects with Route 1. It would also be widened to four lanes.

An addition since the February meeting calls for a new entrance to Woodlawn Plantation south of the present entrance. "Nothing is finalized with Woodlawn Plantation. But, we are in discussions with them to change the intersection," Van Dop said.

"Woodlawn Plantation has indicated they are willing to move their entrance further south. I am personally optimistic this will happen," said Hyland.

IN ADDITION to that change, Hyland told the 40-plus attendees, that the Army and Fort Belvoir have indicated they are willing to move their present Woodlawn Gate further south. This would provide additional acreage for Woodlawn Plantation and the establishment of a Marriott Residence Inn across from the site of the proposed U.S. Army National Museum.

"The change at this intersection (Route 1, Old Mill Road and Mount Vernon Highway) has been coming for a long time," Kauffman added. The widening of Old Mill Road to four lanes will bring it in alignment with the present intersection of Route 1 and Mount Vernon Highway.

In addition to Woodlawn Plantation, FHWA has determined that a number of known historic properties may be affected by the proposed project, according to Van Dop. There are also known and "potentially significant archeological sites" that may be impacted. FHWA is "taking steps to identify historic properties in areas not previously inventoried for cultural resources," according to the meeting literature.

HYLAND ALSO QUESTIONED the impact of the recent Base Realignment and Closure Report on any future plans dealing with vehicular traffic in the area of Fort Belvoir. "To what extent are we going to have to coordinate among all the parties to make sure what we are doing here will support the additional 21,000 people scheduled for Belvoir as a result of BRAC," Hyland asked.

"Where Belvoir locates this additional personnel will affect the entire infrastructure of the area," he told Van Dop.

"We are not ignoring BRAC. Part of this entire plan is to work with County planning and transportation," Van Dop said.

"However, this project was designed to address vehicles displaced due to the events of 9/11 and nothing else. We will be the first to call a meeting to let you know if things have changed substantially," Van Dop said.

At the commencement of the project, a citizen task force was formed by Hyland and Kauffman to guarantee local input. That task force is one of the eight agency and group stakeholders.

Frank Cohn, a citizen task force member, told Van Dop, "We need to do a lot more planning so that the BRAC impact doesn't come in on us too fast."

The next public information meeting will be scheduled when a final decision on the exact alignment is closer, according to Van Dop. He gave no indication when that would occur.