Fairfax County supervisor Jeff McKay celebrated long-awaited news that Uncle Sam would give Northern Virginia millions of dollars that could help clean up the looming traffic mess in his district because of the realignment of U.S. military bases.
But not for long.
McKay’s good cheer at the Department of Defense decision to spend $180 million to widen Route 1 near Fort Belvoir was tempered by news from another agency of the federal government that the long-delayed project to extend Mulligan Road would be delayed yet again.
It was enough to make McKay (D-Lee) suggest that perhaps Fairfax County or the commonwealth of Virginia should take over a project whose delays have exasperated east- and west-bound motorists ever since Woodlawn Road was closed for security reasons after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“You can have a really good news day, and you can have a really bad news day, but you don’t usually have them both on the same day,” McKay said by telephone during a break in Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Board of Supervisors.
The good part came when Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) announced that Virginia had secured $180 million to ease traffic congestion around Fort Belvoir’s military hospital. The way the grant was written, Fort Belvoir was one of only three such installations around the country to obtain such funds, officials said. Another was the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda.
“I’m thrilled,” said Supervisor Gerald W. Hyland (D-Mount Vernon), one of many Northern Virginia officials who have fretted about the looming consequences of redeployments triggered by the Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC).
Del. Scott A. Surovell and Sen. Toddy Puller (D-Fairfax) – both of whom have labored to bring new transportation solutions and development to the Route 1 corridor in their districts -- issued a press release full of hoseas.
“Congressman Moran’s relentless efforts to move this funding through the Congressional process has been highly successful,” said Puller, who pushed legislation in 1994 to conduct a study that laid the groundwork for widening Route 1 from Prince William County to Alexandria. “This is a huge jumpstart to the ongoing revitalization of the Route 1 corridor.”
“The seniority, knowledge, and relationships that Congressman Moran brings to the table are an asset to this community,” Surovell said.
They also praised Fairfax County for its $2 million to begin engineering improvements from Telegraph Road through Fort Belvoir to Woodlawn.
But back at the Fairfax County Government Center, McKay was raining on the Route 1 parade when he used his forum at the Board’s regular meeting to say that the Federal Highway Administration had recently warned of another delay on the Mulligan Road project, which would connect Route 1 to Telegraph Road in Springfield. McKay said the holdup is the result of a second bid protest by the same company that filed an unsuccessful protest before.
Here’s the full text of his topic for action, known as a Board Matter:
“Fairfax County was recently informed by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) that a second bid protest has been filed with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) by the same company that filed an earlier unsuccessful protest on the Mulligan Road Phase II Project. This news is devastating for South County, BRAC, Fort Belvoir, and the thousands of County residents who have been suffering in endless gridlock since Woodlawn Road was closed in 2001. It’s almost impossible to believe we could experience any more delay on this project. Already, the site looks abandoned and forgotten.
“The FHWA had re-awarded the construction contract to the originally selected contractor on September 16, 2011 and even issued a Notice to Proceed (NTP) for construction on October 11, 2011.
“Because of the protest, the FHWA now has 30 days to prepare a report, and the GAO has 100 days to issue a decision based on this report. The full 100 days would take the resolution of the protest into January 2012 and this is not acceptable. The FHWA is hopeful that its earlier re-evaluation will be considered as a positive factor in the GAO review and facilitate an expedited resolution of the issue. The FHWA also plans a GAO appeal requesting an expedited decision based on the importance and significance of Mulligan Road for the region and the urgency for immediate construction.
“Since the NTP was already issued, the FHWA has sent a suspend work order to Shirley Contracting. The first bid protest has already seriously delayed construction of Mulligan road and the GAO’s 100 day review will delay the start of construction even further. In spite of this delay, utility relocations by independent contractors are ongoing and will continue despite the protest.
“The Mulligan Road Connector and the widening of Telegraph Road from Beulah to Leaf are critical connections for the region, especially the South County area. Now that the BRAC relocations are underway, it is critically important that this road construction project be expedited.
“Madam Chairman, I move that the Board direct staff to prepare a letter to the FHWA urging it to use every opportunity to minimize further construction delays on this project and that we call on our congressional delegation to ensure that the FHWA can get construction moving as soon as possible. We need all hands on deck to expedite this project. We have now lost a full year of construction time and Route One is in total daily gridlock.”