Without Funds, Road & Infrastructure Projects Idle Across Northern Virginia

Construction of long-awaited improvements at the Gallows Road-Lee Highway juncture and the Arlington Boulevard (Rt. 50) pedestrian bridge remained on hold this week as county and state officials work to resolve critical issues impeding the projects’ completion.dean.jpg

Due to fiscal slashing to the state infrastructure budget in Richmond that cut $38 million to enlarge the Gallows Road-Lee Highway intersection, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has stalled the project indefinitely.

Despite a lack of funding for road construction, site workers have continued to move utility lines – gas, electric and water – in anticipation of the road improvement. “The tech team is making great strides,” said Bud Siegel, a Northern Virginia VDOT manager, and are on track for scheduled completion by 2011.

So far, VDOT has invested more than $82 million in designing and clearing the proposed expansion area, removing a dozen restaurants and retail stores that had lined one of Northern Virginia’s busiest traffic corridors. Siegel said that the state is still looking to award a $12 million contract to move a major water main, as well.

Siegel added that VDOT was juggling Gallows Road concerns with nearby hot lanes on Interstate 495 to reduce stress on the traffic pattern along the Gallows Road-Lee Highway intersection.

Gallows Road’s project manager, Arif Rahman, also remained “optimistic” that “most likely, the funding will eventually come” to complete the road,” but could not offer any new projections as to when that funding may arrive.

For county officials, the outlook for the Gallows Road project looks grim, said Providence Supervisor Linda Smyth, who oversees the Merrifield area surrounding the project.

Smyth described the fiscal and infrastructure situations as “really chaotic.”

“VDOT took away funding for 2010 and 2011 thinking it’d be eligible for stimulus funding,” Smyth said. “The last word we’ve received from [Virginia Secretary of Transportation] Pierce Homer is: no, it’s not,” because it is not sufficiently “shovel ready.”

Smyth added that the Fairfax County Board had “raised the issue that it’d be great if the project does get stimulus funding,” noting that the state had already slated to cut infrastructure spending. “But there was no contingency,” said Smyth.

Of the project’s proposed completion date by 2013, Smyth said she was “afraid that it’s not going to have a happy landing.”

About five miles east, near the juncture of Arlington Boulevard (Rt. 50) and Leesburg Pike (Rt. 7), the widely anticipated pedestrian bridge over Rt. 50, which was slated for completion in July 2008, effectively idled while 93 percent complete, according to VDOT’s latest project update.

The remaining work is a steel truss that will undergird the concrete walkway across the busy Arlington Boulevard, said Siegel, calling the issue of the steel truss “unanticipated.”

“Typically we don’t have these problems,” Siegel said, adding that VDOT has been working with the contractor to repair the stress cracks caused by differential expansion in the steel truss. “We spent some time on how do we repair the steel truss, do we work with the contractor. These sorts of issues take time.”

Siegel estimated that the pedestrian bridge should be completed by sometime this spring.