|Trees have already been cut down to make way for the ramp.|
People who live along Interstate 95 between the Edsall Road and Duke Street exits are being asked to vote on whether they want sound walls constructed between their homes and the highway as part of a project to build a ramp along that stretch of road.
Representatives from VDOT and Fluor-Lane, the company building the express lanes and ramp, described the sound wall project at a meeting for residents of the Overlook, Edsall Gardens, the Olympus, and other communities Feb. 7 at Bren Mar Elementary School. A similar meeting was held for Landmark Mews residents last week.
Many people from those communities are also concerned about high levels of pollution caused by increased traffic congestion as cars exit the I-95 express lanes, which are restricted to high-occupancy vehicles and motorists willing to pay a toll. The express lanes end near Turkeycock Run, so motorists will use the ramp to access the regular lanes.
|Kohler of VDOT explains the proposed sound walls.|
An independent study commissioned by the Overlook community found levels of the pollutant nitrogen dioxide would be 10 to 20 times higher than the EPA standard. VDOT is contesting those findings, but a grassroots group called Concerned Residents of Landmark, says VDOT’s environmental impact study was not done properly as required by law.
“We’re trying to publicize the issue and get the other communities involved,” said Overlook resident Sumiye Okubo, one of the founders of Concerned Residents of Landmark. Members of the group are seeking meetings with and writing letters to Gov. Robert McDonnell, Virginia Transportation Commissioner Sean Connaughton, state legislators, members of Congress, and Fairfax County and City of Alexandria officials. The group wants the ramp project halted until the health risks can be fully assessed.
The Feb. 7 meeting was restricted to the sound wall, though, and the presenters declined to talk about the air pollution issue.
Site preparation for the ramp has already begun. Construction equipment has been brought to the area, and lots of trees have already been removed. The ramp is scheduled to be completed by December 2014. John Heffley, project manager for Fluor-Lane, said the sound walls should be completed before the ramp opens.
VDOT has proposed concrete sound walls on the VDOT right of way along both sides of I-395 between Edsall Road and Duke Street. The walls would be 14 to 16 feet high, depending on the terrain.
Paul Kohler, noise abatement manager at VDOT, gave a technical presentation on decibel levels. In determining whether a sound wall is warranted, VDOT uses a formula to predict traffic noise levels in the future that considers projected traffic volume, vehicle speed, traffic composition (cars vs. trucks), existing geographical barriers, terrain, and the location of homes.
People who live within a certain distance of the highway will have a chance to vote on they want the wall or not. Voting will be done in four separate sections. One section of residents might want a wall, while another area could vote against it, resulting in a wall along just part of that stretch of road.
|The section of I-95 affected by the ramp.|
Within a section, each house identified as being subject to a certain increase in noise when the ramp is completed will have one vote. People who live on the street closest to the ramp will definitely have a chance to vote. People in the third or fourth row from the wall probably won’t. Sixty-two households in the section that participated in the Feb. 7 will be asked to vote.
For the wall to be built, at least 50 percent of eligible households will need to vote for it. More weight will be given to people living closest to the wall, though, and property owners’ votes will count more than votes by renters. People who don’t vote will be counted as “yes” votes. Those eligible to vote can do so at public meetings or by mail. Ballots are due Feb. 25.
Several people at the meeting complained about the loss of trees. One resident said nearly an acre of foliage will be removed. The VDOT officials weren’t able to say how much landscaping will be done when the project is finished.
Overlook resident Debbie Filippi said, “This is about our homes. This is about our community. This is about our life. I’m disappointed we don’t have answers. You’re taking away our woods and our sense of suburbia.”
Ann Stone, who also lives in Overlook noted that houses along Winter View Drive were built closer to the highway than they should have been under the building code. “We’ve already been screwed by a developer who got a waiver he shouldn’t have gotten,” she said.