Half-way through 2006, residents of Springfield have one more bridge to use at the Mixing Bowl, no solid plans about what will happen at the Engineer Proving Ground as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure changes at Fort Belvoir and ever-evolving plans for the revitalization of the downtown area.
In January, motorists driving northbound on I-95 through the Springfield Interchange found welcome relief in the opening of a new overpass. The bridge, which connects drivers who wish to continue from I-95 onto I-395 heading into Washington and on to Baltimore, helped to further divide the Mixing Bowl, which is set for completion in 2007. Another bridge, connecting drivers on I-95 with the Inner Loop of I-495, is slated to open this summer. With the completion of these two bridges, all new bridges in the eight year, $676 million road construction project will have been completed, leaving only repairs and redirection of local streets.
EPG and BRAC
As the Newcomers Edition went to press, it was still uncertain how many jobs, both civilian and military, were expected at the Engineer Proving Ground, a northern extension of Fort Belvoir located near the southern end of Springfield. Early estimates indicate that up to 20,000 people may be relocated to Fort Belvoir as a result of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission. As the BRAC changes included closing the Walter Reed Medical Center, building a new military hospital at the EPG is among one of a handful of possibilities that has been discussed.
However, it will be difficult to attract any new facilities or jobs to the EPG unless the Fairfax County Parkway is completed. A two-mile stretch of the parkway, which was otherwise completed in the mid-1990s, remains to be built. Environmental concerns on one acre of the site, raised by the Environmental Protection Agency, have caused the project to come to a standstill, as the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Army are deadlocked on the best way to build the road and who should construct it.
New Sporting Opportunities
Football, lacrosse and soccer players will have one more field at their disposal beginning this fall, when a new artificial turf field is completed at West Springfield High School. The field, the result of a partnership between Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors, Fairfax County Public Schools and Prosperity Bank, is currently being installed where the West Springfield High School Spartans play football and is expected to be completed in time for the first home football game of the season in mid-September. Athletes from West Springfield, along with teams from Springfield Youth Athletics and some adult leagues will be able to use the filed once it is finished, adding another field that can be utilized year-round to the county’s athletic programs, which are suffering from a shortage of playing ground.
In addition, a finalized plan for the redevelopment of Lee District Park is expected by the end of 2006. While some neighbors and parents of little league baseball teams have lobbied the Fairfax County Park Authority for the inclusion of outdoor lighting at the park as part of its redevelopment, some neighbors have expressed concern over the additional traffic in residential streets and the disturbance of bright lighting in their homes.
Lake Accotink Dredging Underway
In June, a year-long endeavor to dredge several thousand cubic feet of silt from the bottom of Lake Accotink began, as a large boat that had been floating in the marina began the process of vacuuming a decade’s worth of dirt out of the lake to be deposited in a rock quarry three miles away.
The lake, originally built by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1918 as a water supply for Fort Belvoir, covered over 110 acres in the beginning. Now the lake spreads across 55 acres and features a small island, created by the silt that feeds into the lake as a result of the silt carried by Accotink Creek.
Chester, Pa.-based Mobile Dredging has been contracted to completed the $7.25 million project, which is expected to be completed by next summer. By using a hydraulic dredging system, visitors to Lake Accotink are still able to utilize the park’s paddle boats and enjoy the guided boat tours of the lake during the dredging, said Tawny Hammond, park manager.
MidTown Springfield and ULI Study
The Urban Land Institute was hired to conduct a five-day study of central Springfield, taking into consideration all the planned development in the area and the completion of the Mixing Bowl, to determine the best possible way to make each individual project successful. The result of the study, conducted by nine land-use experts from around the country, was a mixed bag of cautious optimism and encouragement for the creation of a specific identity for Springfield.
Springfield is “well positioned” to take advantage of the plentiful small and major roads which have resulted from the development of the Interchange, said panelist Ross Tilghman, who encouraged businesses and developers working in Springfield to focus on what’s best for that community, after “taking one for the regional team” for decades during the Mixing Bowl construction.
However, creating a specific identity or brand for Springfield may be more difficult than in other municipalities as it has no specific government or centralized commercial district.
To that end, KSI, Inc., is continuing to modify and display the master plan for the MidTown Springfield plan, which would combine residential, commercial and pedestrian space in the heart of Springfield, between Commerce and Bland Streets. Possible amenities to be located within the MidTown project could include a library, public meeting space, theater and pedestrian parks and pathways.