A pair of homicides, stalled discussions about the completion of the Fairfax County Parkway and possible changes to the Springfield Mall were among the top stories of 2006 in Springfield.
In August, Marion Marshall, 72, was found dead in her North Springfield home, the cause determined to be a blunt force trauma to the upper body. In November, Marion Newman, 74, was found murdered in her Crestwood home, a three-stone diamond ring missing from her hand. Fairfax County Police believe the two deaths to be linked because of a long list of similarities, including the women’s age, the cause of death, and no sign of forced entry at either home.
While no suspect description has been released, police have asked residents in both neighborhoods to be vigilant about reporting any unusual activity or suspicious-looking people and notify police at once. A $26,000 reward is currently being offered to anyone who has any information about the deaths of Marshall or Newman.
After nearly a decade, the Mixing Bowl in Springfield is approaching completion, with the opening of the last two major ramps in 2006.
In January, a bridge opened that allows drivers on Northbound I-95 to continue their commute toward the Woodrow Wilson Bridge or toward the Pentagon, signifying a move toward the final days of the multi-billion dollar project.
Steve Titunik, project manager of the Mixing Bowl for the Virginia Department of Transportation, said the bridge would eliminate congestion during the afternoon rush hour by taking away one more set of merging drivers from the center of the knot of roads.
Completion of the $25 million bridge was one of a handful of overpasses completed this year, which also included a bridge for drivers heading north to the Outer Loop of I-495 and one connecting drivers on the Inner Loop of I-495 with Southbound I-95. With those two ramps completed, Titunik said the project, slated for completion in 2007, is “80 to 90 percent finished.”
Unfortunately, not all road construction projects in Springfield are progressing as smoothly. Despite the Army’s plans to place some 18,000 employees on the Engineer Proving Ground as part of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) changes to Fort Belvoir, no completion date is in sight for a 2-mile segment of the Fairfax County Parkway.
Last fall, U.S. Rep. Tom Davis (R-11) and VDOT Secretary of Transportation Pierce Homer met in U.S. Sen. John Warner’s (R-Va.) office to talk with Army representatives about the completion of the road, a vital piece of infrastructure for the mainly vacant EPG.
The ground, owned by the Army, cannot be turned over to VDOT for a road to be built until it passes standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency. The impasse concerns whether the Army would be willing to agree to build the road itself.
“If the Army would agree to build the road, VDOT would turn over the $86 million set aside for it to be used so long as the Army paid in any additional costs,” said Gerry Connolly (D-At large), chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. Once the road was completed, VDOT would assume control of the road and maintain it like all other roadways in the state, he said.
All sides agree that the road is necessary for any successful development at the EPG. No agreement is in place, however, as to who will build the road or when work might begin.
An added wrench in the plan is the original design of the road was not meant to accommodate the 18,000 new employees that would use the road.
The initial plans for the road were designed for 3,000 to 4,000 jobs at the EPG, Homer said.
In fact, the change is so dramatic, a traffic study is currently underway to determine if the parkway has to be redesigned, which would further delay the project, Homer
In a written statement released a few months ago, Army spokesman David Foster said the Army is working with state agencies to "complete a Memorandum of Agreement and other supporting documents that will facilitate the transfer and provide written assurances that the Army will provide remediation for any additional contamination that might be detected once the Commonwealth begins construction."
In other words, the Army is not able or is unwilling to build
the road, but would rather transfer the EPG to VDOT and let
them complete the parkway.
WITH CHANGES at the EPG imminent and plans underway to revitalize and redevelop central Springfield , the topic of transportation has become a focal point over the last year.
Urban Land Institute (ULI), a non-profit organization consisting of urban planners who travel to cities to study their transportation systems, was hired in May to conduct a five-day study of roadways around Springfield. Their task was to look at existing and planned roadways, along with proposed developments, and find ways to ease traffic congestion and make sure new projects don’t add to existing problems.
Their study focused on the area surrounding the proposed Midtown Springfield area, to be developed by KSI, Inc. along with planned changes to the Springfield Mall proposed by its new owner, Vornado Realty Trust, in addition to changes at the EPG.
With a lack of a centralized, Springfield-based government, the area doesn’t have a sense of identity, which make planning a cohesive design for future development more difficult, said panelist Daniel Brents.
Springfield had “lacked things other cities have capitalized on, but there’s a lot of potential here,” said panelist Phillip Hughes, who compared Springfield with its “flashier, more upscale twin sister, Tysons Corner.”
If the government, public sector and developers can work together to create a solid image and plan for the future of Springfield and devise a sense of identity, it will foster a sense of ownership which will allow Springfield to become a destination, Hughes said.
Of the handful of redevelopment projects currently in the works, only one made significant advances in the last year.
Work is set to begin in early 2007 on a Residence Inn — a long-term stay hotel being built by Marriott. Under the plan, 1.2 acres of empty pavement at the corner of Backlick and Old Keene Mill roads will become a 163 unit, six-story hotel.
The Waterford at Springfield, a former mattress and toy store at the intersection of Commerce Street and Franconia Road, has been renovated into a banquet facility and conference hall, which opened in May 2006, just in time for prom season.
One of the more popular parks in Springfield is in the middle of an $8 million upgrade, as work will continue in the spring to dredge 160,000 cubic yards of silt from the bottom of Lake Accotink.
The lake was built in 1918 to provide water for the newly-developed Fort Belvoir and has been dredged twice before, said park manager Tawny Hammond. Originally, the lake covered 110 acres and was up to 16 feet deep in some places. The lake is now only 45 acres in size and has a depth of up to 6 feet. The large island at the western end of the lake was created by the deposit of silt dropped there by Accotink Creek over several years.
In 1960, the Park Authority purchased the lake from the Army and began using it for recreational purposes, Hammond said.
During the dredging process, a large boat vacuums a water and silt mixture, called slurry, up from the bottom of the lake and pumps it to a deposit area off site. In this case, the slurry is being pumped to a rock quarry to fill in an unused mine.
"We had to negotiate with private property owners and the railroad company to bring in the pipeline that carries the slurry out of the lake to the quarry, which is 3 miles
away," Hammond said.
The increase in impervious surface from development is "exacerbating what would happen naturally over a few hundred years," she said, adding that the lake receives about 5,000 cubic yards of sediment every month.
During the year-long dredging project, which began on Monday, June 19, an estimated 161,000 cubic yards of silt will be removed, increasing the depth of the lake from between 3 and 6 feet to nearly 7 feet in most places.
Mobile Dredging and Pumping Company, a Chester, Pa.-based company that operates along the East Coast, received the contract for the project.