How Much Have We Lost?

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Weekly Column: U.S. 1 Widening Yields Many Benefits for the Community

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice, and the Potomac and Stafford Locals in the week of August 3, 2017.
U.S. 1 Widening Yields Many Benefits for the Community

On August 3, 2017, the Federal Highway Administration is hosting a ribbon cutting to commemorate the widening of U.S. 1 through Fort Belvoir.  The project’s completion  is an important milestone for our community and has broad ramifications. 

When I first ran for office in 2009, I stated that improving U.S. 1 was my number one priority.  U.S. 1 is the spine of Mount Vernon, Lorton, Woodbridge, Dumfries/Triangle and Eastern Stafford’s central nervous system and  a critical driver of not just transportation, but also access to employment, recreation, retail businesses and restaurants.  U.S. 1’s fate can mean revitalizing area schools and housing and can enhance our overall quality of life from Stafford County to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. 

When the 2005 Base Re-alignment and Closure (BRAC) transfers to Fort Belvoir were announced, many people justifiably had concerns about the impact of adding 15,000 new jobs and a billion dollar hospital to a densely-populated and congested area.  Widening U.S.1 through Fort Belvoir happened because of a decade of work by former Fairfax County Supervisor Gerry Hyland and, my old boss, Congressman Jim Moran, who has said that this was the last earmark Congress ever approved.  In some circles, earmarks are disparaged,but we would not have this improvement or an expanded Woodrow Wilson Bridge without earmarks.

The Federal Highway Administration delivered this project on time and under budget and not without difficulty.  Resolving the road alignment through Woodlawn was fraught with legal questions and community concerns because of the legal requirements of the National Historic Preservation Act and the community’s love for Woodlawn Stables.  While not everyone was happy with the final decision, a decision was made after an open, transparent and very public process.   

More Improvements AheadThis project gives Northern Virginia a taste of what's to come on U.S. 1.  This six-lane, multimodal facility, complete with bike lanes, a multi-use path and space for bus rapid transit, is a first-class infrastructure project. The only thing missing is underground utilities.  I have already ridden the bike lanes and expect thousands of other cyclists to enjoy this new much safer transit between Mount Vernon and the Lorton part of Fairfax County.
When I first ran for the House of Delegates in 2009, I noted that in my lifetime, people between Fort Belvoir, Huntley Meadows Park and the Potomac River had seen few significant infrastructure improvements while the rest of Northern Virginia had had billions in infrastructure investment. 

With the U.S. 1 widening and other projects occurring in Prince William County, people along U.S. 1 can see improved infrastructure coming.  Jeff Todd Way has transformed life for people living in Mount Vernon and Lee District of Fairfax County and this project will do the same.  As we move into  finalizing the EMBARK Route 1 process, this U.S. 1 project allows us to actually see, touch, drive, walk and cycle what is coming on U.S. 1 from Huntington to Woodlawn.  

A final imporant note:  By improving access to one of Northern Virginia’s largest job centers -- Fort Belvoir -- this project will improve the quality of life for thousands of people who commute from the Woodbridge, Dumfries/Triangle and Stafford areas.  When I visited families in 2015, I heard dozens of complaints about I-95 traffic, and from people just trying to get on base to work.  Thanks to Congressman Moran, thousands of people will have more time to spend with their families instead of spewing carbon dioxide and other pollutants on U.S. 1.  

Thank you again to everyone involved in this project.  It is an honor to serve as your State Senator.  You can reach me at scott@scottsurovell.org if you have any feedback.

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