A long-running dispute over whether to erect street barricades in a large neighborhood near Bailey's Crossroads was settled last week: The barricades are going up.
The Alexandria City Council voted 5-4 last week to erect temporary street barricades on two main roads in Dowden Terrace, a subdivision of more than 400 homes divided by the Fairfax County-Alexandria line. The vote came after months of squabbling between neighborhood factions that opposed and supported the structures.
The council go-ahead came only six weeks after it voted not to erect them until the city received answers from the state about funds needed to build a $1 million connecting road, expected to relieve alleged through traffic from Fairfax County in Dowden Terrace.
The answer from the Virginia Department of Highways and Transportation came quickly. In a letter to Alexandria Mayor Frank E. Mann last week, VDH&T Commissioner John E. Harwood wrote, "I am not optimistic that we will be able to put this project under construction in the near future."
Residents on main roads in Dowden Terrace have claimed that through traffic in the neighborhood has become a nuisance. They say the problem started when Fairfax County connected a road called Lacy Boulevard to Dowden Terrace. They contend that the road is used as a through route from Columbia Pike to Seminary Road for Fairfax County commuters who want to avoid the congested Bailey's Crossroads interchange.
Other residents who live further inside the subdivision, and who will have to travel a more circuitous route to their homes when the barricades go up, say the barricades are an impediment to emergency vehicles and force residents to use less safe streets in the subdivision. They say there is no traffic problem in the neighborhood.
The Alexandria police and fire departments are opposed to any obstruction of neighborhood streets, since response time in emergencies would be lengthened.
The barricades, which probably will be chain link gates that can be unlocked by the fire department or cut with bolt cutters, will be placed on Lacy Boulevard at the city-county line and at Dawes Avenue and N. Stevens Street, within a few yards of the line, by the end of next week, said city traffic director Charles Kenyon.
"I'm still convinced the barricades are part of a Berlin Wall syndrome between the county and the city," said Oswald Tolley, a Dowden Terrace resident opposed to the barricades. "And I'm not sure how legal it is to have county roads run up against these things once they cross the line."
He said the Dowden Terrace Civic Association is considering ways to have the state investigate the propriety of the barricades.
Fairfax County Supervisor Alan I. Magazine (D-Mason), who has fought against the barricades, predicted that their presence "will probably cause some interjursidictional problems."
"First, Alexandria had problems with Fairfax County traffic coming across its southern end, now they have trouble with traffic coming across the northern end," Magazine said. "Well, it's unrealistic to expect some county commuters not to cross Alexandria on their way to the District. I'm very upset about the city's action."
Dowden Terrace residents on both sides of the issue and county and city officials all had hoped to solve the problem through construction of another connecting road, called Moncur Avenue, around Bailey's Crossroad within a year and a half.
But Harwood's letter said construction of the Bailey's Crossroads interchange is already carrying a $1 million deficit and that construction of Moncure Avenue would have to wait, unless its $1-million construction cost could be reduced.