As the Virginia Department of Transportation continues designing how to widen U.S. 1 to six lanes through Dumfries, property owners are concerned about how the project will affect businesses along the road after VDOT purchases the rights of way.
More than 120 people attended VDOT’s public hearing Oct. 18 to learn more and give input on the project design. The public can submit comments on the design until Nov. 2.
Final drafts are expected in spring 2019 and VDOT plans to begin right of way acquisition and utility relocation in mid to late 2019 along U.S. 1, also known as Fraley Boulevard through Dumfries.
Under the plan, the route currently used for two lanes of northbound traffic through the town will be widened to six lanes of traffic, with three lanes heading in both directions.
Main Street in Dumfries currently carries two lanes of southbound traffic on U.S. 1. That street will be converted for local use two-way traffic after the project is completed.
Early project costs include $7 million for preliminary engineering and $45 million for right of way acquisition and utility relocation.
The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority awarded the project $44.86 million earlier this year, noting the wider road would increase capacity and safety, improve access to businesses, and provide protected bus stop locations and pedestrian accommodations.
Construction could begin by 2023, but the project still requires $78 million in funding.
Main Street will be realigned with Possum Point Road at the north end. At the southern end of Main Street, VDOT is planning a cul-de-sac near Quantico Gateway Drive.
The widening project also includes the construction of a 10-foot hike-and-bike path along the southbound side of the new U.S. 1 and a 5-foot sidewalk along the northbound side.
The widening project is expected to increase capacity along the stretch of U.S. 1 between Dumfries and Bradys Hill roads. Currently, 28,000 vehicles per day travel through the area, said Nicholas Roper, VDOT’s Northern Virginia district engineer for project development. Once construction is complete the stretch will be able to accommodate 68,000 vehicles per day, he said.
The project is aimed at reducing traffic congestion and improving capacity, Roper said, noting that U.S. 1 has been widened or is in the process of being widened north and south of Dumfries.
“Everything is being planned in segments to relieve congestion and improvement quality of life,” he said. “Returning Main Street back to the town and making it a local road will be a huge benefit to the town.”
VDOT wants property owners to voice their concerns so officials can work to mitigate the effects of the widening project, Roper said.
Where right of way acquisitions can’t be avoided, VDOT is set to buy parcels and, in some cases, help commercial and real estate owners relocate.
“If there’s a business on Route 1, we’d like to relocate on Route 1,” Roper said. “Each right of way situation is unique, so we can’t predict them all.”
'THEY SHOULD REALLY CONSIDER THE PEOPLE'
Harold & Cathy’s Dumfries Cafe has served customers at its Fraley Boulevard location since 1990. The project's preliminary designs show the cafe’s location could be turned into a drainage pond.
“Everyone in our family has worked in the cafe,” said Kayla Julian, the cafe’s assistant manager. “It’s always been a place for us to go and gather. It’s an institution in Dumfries. When I looked out in the crowd [at the public hearing], I recognized so many customers.”
She worries about having to leave the current location and finding an affordable place to rent.
“I think they should really consider the people who have been the backbone of Dumfries for so long before they decide to tear us all up,” she said.
“We do understand construction brings pain and benefits,” said Claudia Llana, preliminary engineering manager with VDOT.
Jeff Ferlazzo, who owns Dumfries Shopping Center along U.S. 1 near Williamstown Drive, said preliminary designs show he’ll have to sell about 2 acres of his 13-acre property. Although that means losing parking spaces, Ferlazzo said he expects the widening project to increase the number of people driving on the road.
“[VDOT] is receptive so at least we have contacts to talk to,” he said.
Reliable Auto Sales & Service along U.S. 1 is also slated to be affected by right of way acquisitions, said Mohammad Naweed, a manager with the business that has been at the location since 2005.
“For a lot of people, it’s emotional because they’ve been there for so long,” he said. “Emotionally it’ll devastate people because they’ll lose [their] business … How many people will lose their jobs?”
Rose Sunderlin, who owns property along Main Street, said she doesn’t know how the widening project will improve Dumfries. Sunderlin is concerned that two of her three properties are slated as rights of way for the widening project.
“How will this deter traffic to go to Main Street?” Sunderlin said.
Hilda Barg, who previously served on the Prince William Board of County Supervisors and owns property along U.S. 1, said she wants to see the town grow economically.
“I think there will have to be some pain for some gain,” Barg said. “I’m for progress and [to] see things get better. We have to work together, not just for the town but for the whole county.”
Dumfries’ Mayor Derrick Wood said town officials plan to reduce the speed limit for the new Main Street and create a downtown district. And he noted that the town wants to support businesses needing to relocate.
“My heart goes out to Dumfries Cafe,” Wood said. “I want to move them to the new Main Street.”
Meanwhile, work continues up U.S. 1 in Woodbridge, where widening projects are expected to bring a continuous six lanes of travel from the Occoquan River to Cardinal Drive.