A $15.9 million project to widen Lorton Road between Richmond Highway and Silverbrook Road is nearly completed.
"Lorton Road used to be a one-lane road in each direction," said Ryan Hall, a public information office from the Virginia Department of Transportation. "We're making it three lanes in each direction between Richmond Highway and Silverbrook Road, a 1.3-mile stretch."
Drivers who had been coming off I-95 into Lorton and attempting to make a left turn onto Lorton Road have had to wait for long periods of time due to a lack of a traffic signal at the busy intersection. Part of the construction project has been to install new signals along Lorton Road, including at the I-95 Northbound on-ramp, Lorton Road and Silverbrook Road, and Lorton Road at Lorton Marketplace Boulevard.
The construction began in June 2004 and is scheduled to be finished by Aug. 1, said Dudley Howard, Fairfax Assistant Administrator with VDOT on the Lorton Road Project. For residents in Lorton, the completion of this road will be a relief from the congestion and pot holes they've had to live with in the past few years.
"This whole area was a swamp three years ago," he said, driving past where the new Lorton Marketplace shopping center now stands. "There was no high school on Silverbrook when we started. There were no townhouses. I've never seen a place build up like this corridor has in Northern Virginia."
Sanjeev Suri, a VDOT engineer, agreed, adding that the Lorton area has "exploded" in recent years, which created the need for a wider road.
"When we started, there was a small bridge over the (Pohick) river and the road was very congested," Suri said. "The inconvenience and pain people have suffered here will be worth it when the road is opened."
THAT PAIN WILL be lessened soon. VDOT plans to open both sides of Lorton Road, at least one lane in each direction, by mid-July in order to complete work on the median of Lorton Road.
In addition, the new traffic signals will be turned on soon and new traffic patterns will be set, Howard said.
"The signal at the off-ramp from I-95 will be electrified soon," Howard said. "That was supposed to happen a little earlier but the storm last week put us back. That will be on by mid-July as well."
The rain that fell across Fairfax County between June 23 and 27 "slowed us down," said Mahmud Hussein, administrator for the Lorton Road project from Construction Fairfax. "We lost about two days. We needed a day for everything to dry off before we can get our work done, there was a lot of environmental messes to clean up."
Each day, construction workers have about 13 hours of daylight in which to work, Hussein said, but unless another significant storm occurs, he's confident his team will meet the Aug. 1 deadline.
"We need to have the traffic pattern switch once we put in the asphalt and the striping and after that, we're just finishing up," Hussein said.
ONE PROJECT that still faces some uncertainty is the one-lane wooden bridge over Gunston Cove Road, which was closed to traffic shortly before this project started.
"That bridge took people off Route 1 and put them right onto the I-95 ramp," Howard said. "People had to drive through this construction project when they used to be able to cut through without having to use Lorton Road."
The Gunston Cove Road bridge is owned by CSX, the railroad company that owns the tracks underneath it, Hall said.
"Right now, it's in Supervisor [Gerry] Hyland's (D-Mount Vernon) hands," Hall said. He added that a few months ago in a meeting between VDOT and Fairfax County, it was asserted that it would be the county's responsibility make the bridge a priority in the VDOT six-year road construction plan.
"Funding is allocated to a project once it's in the plan," he said.
Hyland said $800,000 left from the Lorton Road project has been dedicated to rebuilding the bridge.
"VDOT was supposed to come back with a design and estimate" for the bridge, Hyland said. "We were working together to get this done."