|Pylons for the ramp are under construction.|
After months of trying to get government officials to halt construction of a ramp on Interstate 95 between the Edsall Road and Route 236 exits, members of the citizen advocacy group Concerned Residents of Landmark are disappointed that the ramp is being built, but “we haven’t given up,” said Landmark Mews resident Mary Hasty.
“We realized the ramp will be built,” Hasty said. “We get that. In the face of that reality, we’re just changing tactics. We never tried to stop it; the goal was to delay it until an environmental study could be done.”
|The view of the ramp construction from a car heading north on I-95.|
Concerned Residents had spent about $70,000 on a study that showed traffic congestion on the ramp would cause toxic levels of air pollution, including nitrogen dioxide (NO2) 20 times higher than the Environmental Protection Agency standard. The group wrote met with and wrote letters to federal, state, and local officials; organized a petition drive; held a rally; and brought government officials, including Virginia Transportation Commissioner Sean Connaughton to a meeting at the ramp site.
Concerned Residents’ goal now is to get funding for a baseline study to determine current air quality and conduct air quality monitoring when the ramp opens. “If the ramp doesn’t result in a spike in pollution, we’ll be happy as clams,” Hasty said. If there is an increase in pollution, the group will urge the Virginia Department of Transportation to undertake mitigation efforts.
According to Hasty, there are high-tech materials that can be embedded in roads, soundwalls, and buildings that can neutralize pollutants. She also suggested VDOT could limit the number of cars on the ramp or even move it. She said VDOT had indicated it would try to push the high-occupancy toll lanes to Seminary Road or even farther north. The ramp is needed for drivers to transition from those lanes to the regular lanes.
Concerned Residents is working with Del. Charnelle Herring’s office to get the state legislature to fund the monitoring study and hopes to get other lawmakers on board.
After the meeting with April 26 meeting with Connaughton, Hasty sent a letter to Gov. Robert McDonnell on behalf of Concerned Residents stating, “we were disappointed that our legitimate concerns regarding the toxic corridor this project will create were not given proper consideration” and requesting a meeting.
Connaughton responded two months later, stating the height of the sound walls will be increased. “He totally blew off our concerns,” Hasty said. “Our concerns are with public health, not noise.”
Despite the group’s failure to get the project delayed, “we have no regrets whatsoever,” Hasty said. “It was money well spent. We haven’t quit. We’re just shifting gears,” although she wishes the was informed about the ramp earlier. “One good thing did come out of this: A lot of us are more engaged in local issues.”