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What's Going On?

Supervisor discusses current projects and answers questions at MCA meeting.

When Tom Brock took over as president of the McLean Citizens Association (MCA) last summer, he was pleased when one of the first calls he received came from Dranesville District Supervisor Joan DuBois.

"She invited me over to her office to come and talk, and I really appreciated that," said Brock.

Subsequently, Brock arranged to have DuBois attend the Oct. 26 McLean Citizens Association general membership meeting for an hour-long question and answer session. At the meeting last week, DuBois gave her own general overview of current local happenings, and then fielded numerous questions on topics ranging from the construction of Metro in Tysons, to local school improvements.

DuBois began her summary by urging everyone to visit the recently opened Clemyjontri Park off of Georgetown Pike in McLean. The long-awaited park features playground facilities that allow children with disabilities to play alongside children without disabilities.

"You may not like the colors, but please go there," said DuBois. "I've gone there twice already, and let me tell you that ... just walking around and watching the smiles on the children's face was just wonderful to see."

DUBOIS ALSO discussed the Governor's September decision to opt for an above-ground Tysons Metrorail design, rather than an underground tunnel system. Gov. Timothy Kaine made this decision based on the costs of building an underground tunnel; however, many residents of McLean are balking at the idea of an above-ground rail system in the midst of their community.

"Obviously we're all disappointed with the tunnel decision, but I'm not sure if there's anything we can do to get that reversed," said DuBois. "I'm not hopeful ... I think we've just got to wait and see what happens."

One group that does not want to wait and see what happens is the McLean Chamber of Commerce. Led by Chamber president Scott Monett, the organization has arranged to have a town meeting on Nov. 15 to discuss why and how, a Tysons Metrorail tunnel is a viable possibility. The group has created its own Web site www.TysonsTunnel.org.

"To say that building a tunnel is too expensive is a total misnomer," said Monett at last week's McLean Citizens Association meeting. "Nobody has really done the math on this."

Monett said that tunneling will actually cost less than the construction of an above-ground system, as it will be less complicated and require less design drawings. He also noted that the life of a tunnel is twice the predicted life of an above-ground structure. According to DuBois, the Tysons metrorail project is moving ahead with the aerial design, despite public sentiment.

"We expect to have final design approval in the spring of 2007," said DuBois. "The Board of Supervisors has gone on the record that we'd like to see the tunnel, but I think we have to let the process kind of play itself out ... there are things going on that even I don't know about."

DUBOIS ALSO WENT over several smaller projects that are currently going on in the McLean area. She noted that several local intersections are scheduled for signal improvements and pedestrian walk buttons, and that the expansion and renovation of the Dolley Madison Library will soon be underway.

"We'll probably be scheduling some meetings with the library's neighbors," said DuBois. "Construction plans are 99 percent done, and construction is scheduled to begin one year from now."

In addition, a new 4-bay fire station is planned for the intersection of Beulah Road and Route 7. DuBois said the structure should be completed by August of 2008.

DuBois also mentioned the stalling real estate market, noting that she has had several residents call her office to inform her that many houses in Great Falls are currently being sold for less than their market value. Due to this trend, several developers have backed out of local residential development projects, including a Winchester Homes community planned for Lewinsville Road.

"The houses are on the market a lot longer, and the market forces have changed," said DuBois. "It's definitely a buyer's market."

However, two more major commercial buildings are scheduled to go up in the Tysons Corner area in the coming year — a new Lerner building by Tysons Galleria, and a new Mitre office building off of Route 123 heading into McLean.

"We've got some serious planning issues that we've got to deal with in the next few years — we really do," said DuBois.

MCA MEMBER Frank Crandall asked DuBois if she knew what will replace the Gourmet Giant that recently shut down on Old Chain Bridge Road. Crandall suggested that the location might be ideal for a much needed, new and improved post office.

"I haven't heard anything, but I can tell you that we put the post office in touch with the leasing agent," said DuBois. "We're not sure what's going on behind the scenes, but we're checking tomorrow to make sure that they're getting in touch."

MCA member Rob Jackson complained about the poor condition of several schools in McLean, and asked DuBois why schools are not receiving more money.

"We support the rest of the state," said DuBois. "Prince William County and Loudoun County get a heck of a lot more money than we do ... but we specifically asked the schools this year what they thought we should ask for, and nobody has ever come to me and asked me for money."

Jackson was dissatisfied with the current state of affairs.

"We're getting anthills and they're getting mountains," said Jackson. "It's unacceptable."

Many residents brought up traffic concerns as well, and DuBois said that a recent police helicopter ride had convinced her that staggered work hours and telecommuting are the answers to local traffic congestion problems.

"Between 11 and 11:30 a.m., you would be surprised at how well traffic was moving," said DuBois.