Mark Center HOV Ramp Assessment Raises Controversy
Local residents disagree over impact of proposed ramp connecting I-395 to Seminary Road.
The Virginia Department of Transportation held a public hearing in Alexandria Wednesday night to gather input from local residents regarding a proposed HOV ramp to connect I-395 to Seminary Road near Mark Center.
VDOT employees were ready to answer questions on the draft of an Environmental Assessment (EA) of the HOV ramp project the department conducted and released to the public in December 2011.
Tom Fahrney, VDOT’s BRAC project manager, said he and his colleagues had not found any surprises during their assessment. “We found impacts in terms of noise, and we’re proposing sound walls to mitigate the noise,” he said. “In terms of traffic [congestion], the models that we ran stated the obvious: Without the ramp, the northbound, all-purpose off-ramp would operate at a level of service 'F.' With the ramp, the level of service goes up to a 'C.'
“It’s an improvement that provides relief and provides transit access to folks bound for the Mark Center and other employment areas,” Fahrney said.
Some of the Mark Center’s neighbors agree with him. “I’m for it,” said one resident. “I think it’s a good idea and something commuters need.”
Other local residents were not as enthusiastic, and upset about a perceived lack of attention from VDOT to their concerns.
The environmental assessment states that trees will be removed to make way for sound walls, and that's a problem for residents, including Shirley Downs, who worries it will hurt her property's value.
"I have never read a study out there that indicates that a road project that relieves congestion actually hurts property values," Fahrney said.
A petition to reject the environmental assessment has been posted online and signed by 103 people as of Wednesday, including Don Huch of the BRAC-133 Advisory Board. The petition argues that the environmental assessment is insufficient on a number of levels, including that it "takes no account of existing I-395 traffic which will be drawn to the Seminary Road exit when it becomes the first and only available HOV exit from I-395 between Franconia/Springfield Parkway and the Pentagon."
According to the petition, "Should the numerous deficiencies of the Environmental Assessment not be thoroughly addressed and satisfactorily resolved, then the Federal Highway Administration should NOT issue any Finding of No Significant Impact but rather insist that either:
- (A) An Environmental Impact Statement be prepared for this project or,
- (B) the 'no build' option be the one chosen."
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