Prince William Residents Can Just Picture It: A Rte. 1 Finally Worth Looking At
Friday, September 4, 2009
An eyesore. A ghetto. An area poised for improvement. That's how some residents of Prince William County's Triangle community describe the place they call home.
Located along Route 1 just north of Marine Corps Base Quantico, Triangle for decades has been defined by the untidy highway corridor lined with dilapidated buildings, fast-food joints, less-than-stellar hotels and multiple auto dealerships.
One of the most run-down stretches in the county, it just became more unsightly, but residents hope that is actually a sign of progress as the county tries to revitalize the area.
County officials bought and demolished 40 buildings -- which housed mostly businesses -- along about a mile on Route 1 through Triangle as part of a plan to bury all utility lines and turn the road into a six-lane divided highway with new landscaping, a walking trail and a bike path.
The corridor is dotted with construction vehicles, building rubble and dirt mounds. A good chunk of the commercial base is gone. Residents said they are now pinning their hopes on the county's vision to "beautify" the road, turning it into a marketing tool that will attract new business to the stalled community.
"This has taken a toll on the community, because it looks like Triangle has been hit by an atomic bomb," said Daniel Cosner, 55, who lives about two miles west of Route 1 in Dumfries. "This is painful to watch to some degree, but if you look toward the future, you know it is going to look a lot better than it has in decades."
Several blue-collar, racially diverse neighborhoods in Triangle abut the highway. Some of the people there are longtime residents, while others are more transient, coming in to work at neighboring Quantico. County officials estimate the median household income of the roughly 7,000 people in Triangle is two-thirds of what it is in the rest of the county.
Officials from Alexandria to Prince William have spent the past 12 years discussing how to revitalize Northern Virginia's stretch of the historic highway that traces the eastern coast of the United States. Prince William, however, is the first to step up, using almost $70 million from previous bond referendums for the project.
"They have been talking about this as long as I can remember, and thankfully it's finally off the ground," said Cosner, a native of the neighborhood. "This will help modernize Triangle and address traffic. It's progress, and I'm glad it's happening."
County Supervisor Maureen S. Caddigan (R), whose district includes Triangle, said work to widen the road and bury the wires is expected to take two years. After that, the plan is to create a six-lane traffic circle at the edge of Quantico's base and build the Village of Triangle -- a town center development that would house shops and restaurants.
"The Triangle area is very old and very untidy. This had to be done," said Caddigan, who added that she has made it her main project since she took office nearly 20 years ago. "We are right near the beautiful new [National Museum of the Marine Corps], which brings people from all over the world. Prince William is a proud county, and we want this place to look nice and be a place where tourists stop when they come in."
Caddigan said the effort to change Route 1 has taken so long partially because of lack of funds. But even after the bond referendums solved that problem, the county still had to convince the Virginia Department of Transportation that the road needed to be six lanes, she said.