If Route 1 is to be transformed from a blighted get-through-it-quickly byway to a planned gateway to the "Potomac communities," two bookend tourist attractions will have to do some heavy lifting.
The planned Belmont Bay Science Center in Occoquan and Quantico's Marine Corps Heritage Center, which is under construction, are the keys to bringing thousands of tourists, economic development and, county officials hope, some cachet to the Route 1 corridor, now the preserve of used-car dealerships, tired strip malls and aging apartments.
To keep the projects on track, county supervisors are scheduled Tuesday to consider the allocation of $200,000 to each project. The money would come from county reserves.
"You'll start to see two real tourism anchors on each end of the corridor,'' said Assistant County Executive Melissa Peacor.
For the Marine Heritage Center, the money is needed to bring utilities to the complex. The county has already committed $850,000 to the center and donated 135 acres adjacent to the Quantico Marine Corps Base.
The 100,000-square-foot museum is expected to double in future years and include exhibitions on Marine Corps history, a theater, gift shop, restaurant, hiking trails, research facilities and a hotel and conference center. The center will include a 210-foot tilted spire rising from a 160-foot glass atrium at an angle reminiscent of the statue of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima.
The center is expected to have 250,000 to 500,000 visitors a year. The opening is planned for late next year.
The Belmont Bay Science Center, a branch of Richmond's Science Museum of Virginia, will be just north of the Occoquan National Wildlife Refuge.
The county funds would be used as seed money to help the center raise the estimated $105 million needed for construction and to fund its endowment.
The center is expected to open in 2007. County officials said it will eventually bring more than 750,000 visitors annually.
The centers' progress adds motivation and time pressure to Virginia and Prince William to provide the other upgrades to the Route 1 corridor, said Pat Thomas, a county government manager overseeing the Potomac communities effort.
"It's much easier to justify improvements and creates more momentum for the state,'' Thomas said.
Thomas said there are about $154 million worth of road improvements to Route 1 planned and underway, including the Routes 1 and 123 interchange, the Prince William Parkway extension, the Routes 1 and 234 interchange and a Route 1 widening to make the road safer and more attractive.
The Board of County Supervisors this year ruled out creating a redevelopment agency to carry out the revitalization effort. The agency was strongly pushed by board Chairman Sean T. Connaughton (R).
On Tuesday, Thomas and other county staff will recommend that supervisors create an internal, interdepartmental staff team to carry out the plan.