Shirley Lohman was driving home yesterday afternoon from Alexandria to Fairfax County when, in the middle of a residential street she's been driving on for years, she saw a 24-foot-long, chain-link barricade.
"That is ridiculous," she said, referring to one of two barricades erected on Monday in a dispute between Fairfax County and Alexandria over commuter traffic. "This is America. Everyone has a right to drive down the street."
Not so in Dowden Terrace, a residential pocket of more than 400 ranch-style homes that straddles the border between Fairfax County and Alexandria near Baileys Crossroads. In an effort to stop Fairfax commuters from driving through the Alexandria portion of the subdivision, Alexandria city officials installed two chain link fences across streets there.
While people like Shirley Lohman were finding new ways to get home yesterday, politicians and neighbors from opposite sides of the barricades blames each other for deception and intolerance - and the fences.
Alexandria Mayor Frank E. Mann, said, "We have been rather rudely used by the county." Fairfax Supervisor Alan H. Magazine (D-Mason) said, "We have been slapped in the face and the damn barricades are ugly to boot."
Anna May Lint, of the Alexandria side of Dowden Terrace, said the fences will get rid of the traffic she blames for the recent death, by auto, of her cat Spot.
Kena Rodriguez, who lives near a barricade on the Fairfax County side, said, "It makes no sense to me. I'm not a politician. I don't even speak good English, but I just don't like it. This is not West Berlin, it's America."
There have been grumblings, rumors and threats about the barricades since last summer when Fairfax County extended Lacy Boulevard, which joined Springdale to Dowden Terrace. Lacy Boulevard formed a bypass that commuters heading toward Washington on Columbia Pike used to avoid frequent delays at Baileys Crossroads and to cut over to Shirley Highway.
In the past year, according to Alexandria's transportation office, the number of cars moving through the Alexandria section of Dowden Terrace has increased by about 2,000 cars to 12,500 a week.
"The basic facts," said Joseph H. Berardelli, an Alexandria community leader who has helped pressure the city into erecting the barricades, "are that we have had property demage because of the traffic, dogs and cats killed. Why should we wait until our children are killed?"
Magazine yesterday disputed Berardelli's "basic facts." He cited statistics from the Virginia Department of Highways and Transportation that show that the annual traffic increase in the Dowden Terrace area has been no greater than 8 percent, an increase considered normal for Northern Virginia.
Magazine also denied a charge by Berardelli and Mayor Mann that Magazine had promised the city that a major road would be built to take away commuter traffic from Dowden Terrace.
Donald Keith, chief highway department engineer for Northern Virginia, said yesterday that Magazine should not be blamed for the delay in construction of a road that would connect Columbia Pike to Seminary Road. "Highway funds are entirely matters of the state highway commission," Keith said.
Keith said he believes Alexandria, which builds and pays for most of the maintenance of its 456 miles or roadway, has a legal right to erect the barricades.
Magazine, however, said he has asked the county attorney and the state attorney general to challenge the legality of the Alexandria barricades.