Residents along Alexandria's South Patrick Street may not have hit a brick wall but they sure will be looking at one in the years ahead. But, that's far better than the alternative.
Last Saturday morning some 30 plus residents of the area bounded by Church, South Patrick, South Alfred, and Jefferson streets were given a briefing and asked for their input pertaining to the noise wall being erected along Route 1 from the off ramp of the Capital Beltway Inner Loop to the Exxon Station at Franklin Street as part of Route 1 Interchange portion of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project.
VDOT officials got what they were seeking.
"We'll be talking about noise walls, traffic, trees to be removed and other issues. There are matters we need to get settled," Ronaldo "Nick" Nicholson, VDOT project manager, WWB Project, told the crowd assembled at the corner of Church and South Patrick streets.
Scheduled in response to a request by the neighborhood for a walk around the site of the coming noise wall construction, Nicholson and other WWB construction officials described the coming work schedule and responded to questions about noise, night work, landscaping, parking questions, realignment of the sidewalk, and removal of an property existing privacy wall. Overall the meeting proved beneficial to both factions.
When informed that VDOT intended to create an equipment staging area on the south side of Church Street, residents pointed out that "contractors are now leaving cones in the street impeding their parking. The staging area would only increase neighborhood congestion," they told Nicholson.
THAT STAGING AREA is planned along the existing noise wall on Church Street. "Vegetation in that area has to be removed to make way for a gravel parking lot," explained Matt Baumann, project environmental inspector.
"But, this area is going to look a lot better when the work is complete," he assured the residents. However, that statement alone did not satisfy Alexandria Vice Mayor Andrew Macdonald. "We need to take this (landscaping) plan and look at it a lot more closely," he said.
"Our intention is to create a place that people will not congregate behind the wall. Development of this parking lot is scheduled to start before Thanksgiving," Nicholson said, assuring the residents that he would correct the congestion being caused by construction contractors in that area.
Nicholson did alert the resident to be prepared for night work when it comes to paving on Route 1 and building the new Route 1 flyover. "Both of these need to be done at night due to traffic flow on Route 1," he said.
ONE OF THE PRIME AREAS of disagreement was the moving of the existing sidewalk several feet to the east making it necessary to remove a series of existing trees and other vegetation along South Patrick Street. That also raised the question of undergrounding all utilities along South Patrick Street.
"We were under the impression right from the beginning that all utilities would be undergrounded. There is something wrong since we were assured from the beginning by VDOT that that would happen," said Clifford Wilkening, owner of several apartment buildings along South Patrick Street.
"They (VDOT) have been working with us (the neighborhood) for six years and they have made every effort to accommodate us on all points. I'd hate to see that relationship break down because of this undergrounding issue," Wilkening said.
Reed Winslow, WWB Project liaison, Alexandria Department of Transportation and Environmental Services, stated that he would contact the various utility companies concerning the undergrounding issue. It was not clear just what utilities were utilizing the poles along South Patrick Street.
One pole in particular near the corner of South Patrick and Green streets appeared relatively new. It also appeared to be supporting only a cable television line, according to a consensus of those doing the walk.
Nicholson acknowledged that work would be switching back and forth across Route 1 depending on traffic and other considerations. "But, the East side is definitely our priority," he assured the residents.
Noise walls are planned for both sides of Route 1 from the Beltway/Route I Interchange to just short of Franklin Street. They will range in height from 18 feet at the Beltway to 14 feet at their north end, according to Nicholson.
Consisting of large brick panels, each will be secured to a tall steel post, many of which are already in place. Once the panels are installed, ivy will be planted along the foot of the panels which will eventually cover them, according to Baumann.
No work is scheduled to be performed over either Thanksgiving or Scottish Walk weekends, Nicholson said. "We are trying to get as much done as possible before the real cold weather sets in," he said.