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Fairfax County residents fight I-95 ramp, sound walls

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Photo - noise barrier
noise barrier
Local,Virginia,Transportation,Taylor Holland,Fairfax County

Fairfax residents already infuriated by Virginia's proposal to build a highway ramp in their neighborhood are now angered by the state's plan to accompany it with sound walls.

The problem stems from a Virginia Department of Transportation project that calls for the construction of a new highway ramp to connect express lanes on Interstate 95 to an area between Edsall Road and Duke Street on Interstate 395.

The new ramp was initially planned to go in Arlington, but the county successfully filed a suit to block it -- and express lanes in general -- in 2009.

Officials say the new ramp will give drivers a congestion-free morning commute, but residents fear it will bring more traffic to their local streets and harm air quality and nearby streams and wetlands.

And now, as residents try to delay construction of the ramp, they're charging that VDOT's plans to construct 14 to 16 foot concrete sound barriers are irrelevant to the project and too short to be effective at blocking out noises from drivers' rush hour commutes.

"There are many three-level homes in our area that will still be able to hear and see the traffic," resident Debbie Filippi said. "I think we'd all rather just stop construction of the ramp."

VDOT officials last week mailed out ballots to residents living closest to the new ramp -- some as close as 75 feet away -- asking them to vote on whether they wanted the barriers constructed near their homes.

The requested vote was upsetting to Filippi and others, however, who noted that this was one of the first times public feedback had been sought by state transportation officials since announcing the new ramp, scheduled for completion next year. Construction began last year.

"Isn't it funny that they'd ask us to vote on this and not the ramp?" she said.

Many of the residents have banded together to form a group called Concerned Residents of Landmark. The group was created because many felt VDOT didn't complete a proper study of the ramp's effect on the environment. The group even funded its own $60,000 study, which member Mary Hasty said yielded "scandalous" results that VDOT should investigate.

But Michelle Holland, with VDOT Megaprojects, said the agency's study met all federal requirements and will continue. VDOT is even offering to divide the 29-mile express lane stretch into different sections so sound barriers can be built and funded through a public-private partnership, she said.

Still, residents in the area say the walls won't serve as a compromise for building the ramp. Instead, they're working on letters to Gov. Bob McDonnell and Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton urging them to delay the ramp's construction.

"When you consider the public health impact, then I think the sound wall is just irrelevant," Hasty said. "It's not going to stop them from building this ramp."

tholland@washingtonexaminer.com

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