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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Transurban needs to do more to restore environmental damage

The Little River Turnpike/Beltway intersection. This photo was taken in February from the roof of the Heritage Center.
By Liz Kirchner

Since 2010, Transurban, the private partner with VDOT on the I-495 express lanes, awarded grants ranging from $250 to $5,000 to county agencies, non-profit organizations, Brownie troops, and neighborhoods affected by the beltway construction for environmental and community projects.

These grants funded rain-barrel workshops, organic gardens at George Mason University, bike racks at Dunn Loring Park, the Fairfax County Park Authority’s 2011 Summer Concert Series, and other programs.

As the $2 billion dollar, 14-mile “megaproject” nears completion, there is concern that Transurban, having addressed immediate community discontent with token appeasement during the project, is now abdicating its responsibility for fixing long-term water hydrology problems and replacing vegetation along the highway—and dumping the costs for those issues in the laps of the county government and communities for years to come.

As a result, supervisors Lynda Smyth (Providence) and John Foust (Dranesville) are asking Transurban to extend its grant program for at least another year, since the loss of trees is a significant issue for community associations adjacent to the beltway sound walls and the newly denuded highway footprint.

VDOT recently released a draft beltway landscaping plan for public comment, but  it won’t be implemented until 2013.

Michelle Holland of Transurban suggests that grant proposals be submitted by the end of the year even if the funds aren’t available until later. The application form is online.

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