Gainesville business owner Cathy Young knows how desperately Northern Virginia needs transportation upgrades to cope with the ever-growing traffic gridlock in the region.
But she never thought the solution would threaten her livelihood.
If the plan for the new Gainesville Interchange at Route 29 and Interstate 66 goes through as expected, the $70 million Virginia Department of Transportation construction could put more than a dozen establishments, including Young's, out of business.
"We're going to get our businesses taken away," said Young, owner of Cathy's Hair Design, located behind Route 29 in Gainesville Village Square. "We're going to have to relocate, but I hope to stay in the area."
Young has lived in Gainesville for 24 years and has had her shop in the small strip mall behind Wendy's for 11 years.
"The relocation maximum is $20,000. That doesn't cover my costs," Young said. She said when she built her store over a decade ago, it cost $60,000 without equipment.
The interchange project is in the design stages now, with construction slated to begin around fall 2004. The project would increase Route 29 from four to six lanes between Virginia Oaks Drive and the I-66 interchange and would bring the road above the railroad tracks that cross Route 29.
Traffic at the current Gainesville interchange gets choked up with rush hour travelers from Fauquier County and areas west, many heading to technology hot spots in Northern Virginia.
"I work in Reston, and [traffic] backs up out to 66. There's usually a two-, three-, four-mile backup," said William Anderson, a human resource manager who lives in Gainesville.
And mixing rush hour with shows at Nissan Pavillion, located off Route 29 in Gainesville, can be a formula for disaster.
The railroad tracks near the venue have been a cause for concern for years. In July, a sport utility vehicle full of fans headed to the Bob Dylan and Paul Simon concert was hit by a train when a traffic jam left the vehicle trapped on the railroad tracks. There were no major injuries, but the accident led both local officials and the executive director of Nissan Pavillion to urge state transportation officials to quickly carry out plans to build a bridge over the railroad tracks.
Funding for the plan has been approved, but specific plans are still under consideration.
"We understand progress and need for transportation" solutions, said Supervisor Edgar S. Wilbourn III (R-Gainesville). "But there has been a good amount of concern from the constituents in Gainesville. A lot of the properties would be condemned at the interchange."
Because of concern among residents and business owners about the interchange, Wilbourn organized a community task force last year. Members have held meetings with VDOT to discuss issues and concerns and suggest alternatives.
One of the major concerns is the amount of money that would go to businesses that would be demolished because of the roadwork and expansion. Wilbourn said the money given to businesses is the same amount they would be allowed by law if their building was condemned for other reasons.
"There are bills in legislation to change the condemnation laws," Wilbourn said.
Other businesses that may demolished include the Christmas Gallery, a Mobil gas station, a Texaco gas station and a Wendy's fast-food restaurant. "Some of those people have been there for 16, 18 years," said Jack Kapp, mayor of Haymarket. "They're just getting built up to be a viable business."
Other businesses, such as Joe's Pizza on Route 55, which will be turned into a dead end, say they will be affected even if they aren't demolished.
"Like a lot of the business owners, the widening of the roadway will have an impact on our property," said Paul Weinschenke, vice president of The Peterson Companies. The company just constructed the Gateway Center, the $12 million first phase of retail development at the 420-acre commercial project in Gainesville called Virginia Gateway. "But we set aside an area on the front edge [of the property] and held off on developing portions of the project and did not put a building in the way of a lane or ramp" that might be constructed.
Stephen Bates, project manager for the Virginia Department of Transportation, said the organization has been in contact with Gainesville residents and business owners. "There definitely will be an impact with businesses through there," he said. In the meantime, VDOT is attending citizens meetings, he said, and listening to the concerns.
"It is going to affect the businesses. But you need to realize that things do [happen] eventually," said Gainesville commuter Anderson. "The growth was invited, and now we need to make room for the growth."
CAPTION: Cathy Young faces the prospect of having to move her hair salon.
CAPTION: Cathy Young and several other business owners will have to relocate or close if the plan for the new Gainesville Interchange goes through as expected.