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Beltway Traffic Changes Ahead This Summer

Freedmen's Cemetery Memorial process outlined.

Three major traffic shifts are scheduled to take place this summer associated with the Woodrow Wilson Bridge construction project. Each will require motorists not to operate on "mental auto pilot" if they don't want to add extra miles and time to their commute.

That was the word from Ronaldo T. "Nick" Nicholson, VDOT project manager, WWB Project, and Alexander E. Lee, community relations manager, WWB Project, during a meeting of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Neighborhood Task Force Tuesday night at Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy.

The first change calls for the relocation of the South I-95 ramp on the Inner Loop to Telegraph Road. Motorists will be required to approach that exit approximately one half mile earlier than present, according to Lee. That change is scheduled for June 7.

Early this summer all Inner Loop lanes will be shifted to Inner Loop local lanes. By late summer the permanent ramp from the Outer Loop to North Route 1 will officially open, according to Lee.

Task Force members were also informed of two other long-awaited events associated with the project. Dedication of the so-called "Urban Deck" is scheduled to take place June 12 at 1 p.m., according to Nicholson.

"Because of the limited space at the site, attendance will be limited to invitation only," he said. That new deck is located where South Washington Street crosses over the Capital Beltway. The final touches and plantings are now underway.

Finally, the National Park Service's Environmental Assessment Report pertaining to the design of Jones Point Park may be rolled out sometime in June, according to Aimee Vosper, landscape architect supervisor, Alexandria Department of Recreation, Parks & Cultural Activities. "We have been told to expect a news release from the Park Service sometime in May to announce the roll out date," she said.

Nicholson also reviewed a series of project initiatives involving both the bridge itself and the commencement of the Telegraph Road portion of the total project. "The next major element for us is the Telegraph Road project," he said.

"That contract was advertised last August and we expect work to commence next March. It will take about four years to complete," Nicholson said.

Part of this project calls for widening the Beltway from Telegraph Road west. This will involve removal of some trees and shrubs, particularly along Cameron Run. "However, the project will replace them upon completion with vegetation that is better suited to thrive in a heavy traffic volume area," he assured Task Force members.

ANOTHER PRIME topic was the creation of the Freedmen's Cemetery Memorial Park at the intersection of South Washington and Church streets. Following the rededication ceremony last Saturday night, the site is now cleared and ready for City archaeologists to continue their location/identification process.

This process will involve excavation of the soil to determine areas where graves exist, according to an explanatory memorandum from City Manager James K. Hartmann, giving the history of and future plans for the site.

"Care will be taken so no grave shaft or burial is disturbed. A consultant historian will conduct research and write a history" during this phase of the project, Hartmann said. "Funds have been provided by a Save America's Treasures Grant from the National Park Service to include publication of the history and preparation of web materials," he said.

When it comes to designing the actual memorial, a design competition will be held to select the concept. "This process will begin after the archeological investigation has been completed, and will occur approximately from Winter 2007 to Spring 2008," according to Hartmann.

The design competition "will be widely advertised to target national, as well as local, and minority participation," he wrote. To further stimulate design interest, it has been suggested that the three top designs be awarded a cash prize ranging from $2,500 to $10,000, Hartmann said.

Present plans call for the formation of a Project Design Steering Committee to assist with finalizing materials and in implementing and recommending the three top submissions. That committee is to be composed of individuals from community groups ranging from the Friends of Freedmen's Cemetery to the Society for the Preservation of Black Heritage. It will also have representation from the WWB Project, VDOT and the Federal Highway Administration.

Preliminary plans for the memorial park will be presented to City Council in early 2009. Construction is expected to commence in 2010.

Comments about the proposal should be submitted to the City Manager's Office by May 30. The suggested design process will be submitted to Council prior to June 30, Hartmann said.

Those who have questions about the status of the project may contact Emily Baker, city engineer, Department of Transportation and Environmental Resources, at 703-838-4327 or Pamela Cressey, city archeologist, Office of Historic Alexandria, at 703-838-4399.