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Will Richmond Highway traffic get a Mulligan?

There is great anticipation about Mulligan Road, but what effects will it actually have on the Mount Vernon area?

Construction of Mulligan Road, the long delayed connector road between Richmond Highway and Telegraph Road is back on track, with an estimated completion date of late 2013.  There is great anticipation about this new road, but its actual impacts on Mount Vernon and Lee Districts are unclear. I would like to take this space to examine what it will actually accomplish.

In 2001 the US government closed Woodlawn Road, a narrow two-lane road that traversed Fort Belvoir, ostensibly due to security concerns.  This action removed the only direct east-west connection from Richmond Highway to the Telegraph Road/South Kings Highway corridor along an eight-mile stretch from Fairfax County Parkway to the Penn Daw/Kings Crossing intersection.  In conjunction with the increase of traffic in the corridor due to BRAC the removal of this connection has undoubtedly contributed to congestion along Richmond Highway.

Ever since its announcement back in 2002 the new roadway has generated a lot of positive enthusiasm among the citizens of Mount Vernon and Lee Districts.  The road will be an attractive, four-lane divided highway with a parallel pedestrian/bicycle path, underpasses for wildlife to safely cross the road, and significant intersection improvements at both ends.  The road's importance is underscored by the movement to ditch the Mulligan Road name in favor of "Jeff Todd Way," in honor of the longtime community leader who owned the Roy Rogers at the corner where the road will meet Richmond Highway.

In 2006 the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) conducted an Environmental Assessment, which included a detailed analysis of the project's expected traffic impacts.  The study estimated that the new road would be traveled by an average of about 20,000 cars per day by the year 2030, but that the project would not actually reduce the number of trips on Richmond Highway.  According to the study:

"Traffic from the Connector Road will simply 'displace' the pre-Connector Road traffic on other roadways. That is, the Connector Road will distribute traffic from these roadways to other roadways which in turn will distribute traffic to other roadways throughout the region. The result is that the traffic-related impacts of the Connector Road become diluted."

While Mulligan Road/Jeff Todd Way will not actually decrease the number of cars travelling on Richmond Highway, other improvements being undertaken in conjunction with the project will actually have dramatic effects on the area.  At the eastern end of the corridor, the new road will line up directly with Mount Vernon Memorial Highway (Route 235), as opposed to the existing offset intersection with Old Mill Road.  The traffic study projected that this realignment would reduce traffic delays at the intersection by 70% during the AM rush hour and by 54% in the PM rush hour.  At the west end, Telegraph Road will be widened from four lanes beginning just north of the new roadway to its existing four-lane segment that begins at Beulah Street.  This improvement will reduce afternoon delays at the Telegraph/Fairfax County Parkway interchange by 58%.

So in the professional opinions of the traffic engineers who studied the project the overall effect of the new road will result in real improvements to the flow of traffic north and south along Richmond Highway.  What FHWA did not examine was the potential effects of the road on land use patterns and economic activity in the Richmond Highway corridor.  I naturally have some thoughts on that issue since, well, it's my job to have thoughts about Richmond Highway.

In my view the primary impact of Jeff Todd Way (let's just start calling it that!) will be to connect the open up the Kingstowne/Springfield area to the Richmond Highway corridor.  With the new road in place it should take about three minutes to drive to the new Wegman's on Telegraph Road and no more than 10 minutes to travel to the Franconia-Springfield Metro station.  The whole area suddenly becomes a lot more accessible to the outside world.

Another way to look at the new road is that the 30,000 people who live in the 11,000 households located south of Little Hunting Creek and east of Huntley Meadows/Fort Belvoir will be able to quickly and easily drive all the way to Springfield and I-95 without ever travelling on Richmond Highway.  I am confident that this newfound accessibility will dramatically improve the appeal of the Richmond Highway corridor as a desirable place for professionals and families to live.  An influx of this sort of demand will boost the area's buying power and, in turn, lead to more retail, dining, and entertainment businesses wanting to locate along Richmond Highway. 

I will go out on a limb and make a prediction that in 10 years the whole three-mile segment of the Richmond Highway corridor from Buckman Road to Jeff Todd Way will be home to hundreds of attractive, new housing units, many successful stores and restaurants located nearby, and a far better image and reputation than it has today.

A final caveat to all of the above is the potential effects of the planned widening of Richmond Highway between the new connector road and Telegraph Road from four to six lanes.  The traffic study of that project is currently being undertaken and results should be known in the not-too-distant future.  I will certainly be writing on that topic when more information is known.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Shelley April 13, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Let's hope that the widening of Richmond Hwy. preserves the treasured green space and remaining farm land (and historic property) at that intersection. Woodlawn Stables is such an important provider to Mt. Vernon and surrounding areas of the community. They have provided over three generations of young people and adults a healthy environment to learn about farm life, teach responsibility, provide children and teens a facility to learn and compete in the sport of horseback riding and for many adults, WS is destination recreational facility. These types of venues have crept out of city planning and development. As someone that has been born and raised in the area for over 40+ years of my life, I'm all for much needed improvements to Rt. 1, but it would be tragic to lose this iconic institution that is in the heart of everyone that lives in Northern Virginia and drives this route. If I sit in traffic at this intersection, may it be with the beautiful view of Woodlawn Stables' beautiful green fields with horses grazing on them. Save Woodlawn Stables. Shelley Castle
elizabeth April 14, 2012 at 02:05 AM
Not only will Jeff Todd Way improve traffic and increase commercial/residential opportunities in the area, it will have a hugely positive safety impact for those of us who live in Mt Vernon. Several times a year, there is an accident on Rt 1 between Jeff's Roy Rogers and the Ft Belvoir main gate The most recent of these happened about 3 weeks ago, closing BOTH north and south bound lanes of Rt 1. WHen this happens, those of us needing to get to Lorton, or access Rt 1, have several undesirable options: head 6 miles up Rt 1 to Lockheed and wind our way over to Telegraph and back down; head 8 miles north on the GW Parkway to Old Town to the Beltway, or head North on Rt 1 8 miles to the Beltway. When Rt 1 is closed at Woodlawn, there is literally no where to go. Given the nature of the military installation, this is a national security issue. God fobid something happen here and we all need to evacuate, the only way we - the thousands of us who live in this dense area - can go is north, through the traffic, on Rt 1. I can't think of any scenario in which that sounds like a good idea. Jeff Todd Way can't come soon enough.
Cynthia Mitchell April 14, 2012 at 02:31 AM
I agree with Shelley, losing green space and recreational opportunities does not help our area one bit. I am tired of watching mom and pop businesses disappear in favor of title loan companies and big box stores. I think Route 1 is looking pretty seedy in places and I thought that was what we were trying to avoid. Well managed open space, such as previously mentioned, is the remaining remnant of Fairfax County's agricultural roots. Losing that would be a travesty.
William David April 14, 2012 at 11:32 AM
I agree completely with preserving as much green space as possible, however widening any road will sacrifice some. In the case of Richmond Highway, moving traffic along more quickly outweighs any loss of green space. It should be noted that one plan for widening Richmond Highway has the northbound lanes split from the southbound, going around the stables (and the church farther south up the hill). It should also be noted that the Woodlawn Stables land is owned by Woodlawn and is merely rented to the Stables business. Last I heard, the long-term plan had the stables leaving and being replaced by Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture (www.arcadiafood.org) which will help preserve that space.
Esmarelda April 14, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Where will the stables go?? They have been a huge part of the Mt. Vernon community for decades. When I last asked them about the road improvements they told me they have a long term lease and had no intention of leaving. Do you know something the rest of us don't?
Shelley April 14, 2012 at 09:48 PM
I realize, it is easy to dismiss the value that green spaces, farms and recreational sports facilities bring to a community--especially when one is frustrated with traffic while trying to get to our homes, work and other places quicker. I believe development planning should be balanced by considering ALL COMMUNITY needs, even those needs that are harder to place a tangible value to. As you pointed out, Mr. David, there is a proposed alternative that can aleve traffic, while sparing Woodlawn Stables, and let the historic property continue to be used as intended, as a working farm. Lets hope the decision-makers can discern the recreational and historic values of the property, and choose the option you mention. Maybe you know something I don't, but I wasn't aware that "a long-term plan" had been approved with Arcadia taking over the lease. I know that Arcadia started promoting their desire to take over the lease for the land which Woodlawn Stables stands, but I also know that Woodlawn Stables has never wished or planned to stop leasing the property, or move their farm. Since our area has already developed any land capable of facilitating such a large lesson barn and farm, losing this lease would threaten this local family business into possibly being forced to shut down, and sadly Fairfax Co. losing one of the only publicly accessible equestrian lesson facilities remaining in the area.
Shelley April 14, 2012 at 10:03 PM
Sorry, I ran out of room... I find it rather disheartening that an organization like Arcadia--who's mission is to provide education to children, sustain the environment and practice farming principles--is attempting to displace another working farm who has successfully practiced these same principles for over thirty years. It is more disturbing that some within the National Trust for Historic Preservation are supporting this displacement. As you may know, the land that Woodlawn Stables stands upon has a rich history of being used as a farm for public equestrian events and purposes since the 1950's, long before becoming Woodlawn Stables back in 1979. I can't see a better land purpose or history for the NTHP to preserve, than the one it has been sustained and intended for, for over half a century. Respectfully, Mr. David, you may see WS as "merely" a business renting this land from Woodlawn Plantation, but for over three generations of residents who learned about farm and livestock life at WS, for the 300+ students a week currently taking lessons at WS, for the local businesses profiting from those +300 students/week and their families from all over Fairfax Co. shopping and dining in the area, to the Mitchell family, their employees, and the fifty horses living off that land, Woodlawn Stables is not "merely" a business but their livelihood and a valuable, rare, and treasured commodity to the Woodlawn and Fairfax County area.
Autumn Clayton April 15, 2012 at 05:30 PM
So not only is Woodlawn Stables under threat of road development it has Arcadia Farms chomping at the bit (pun totally intended) to displace them? So let me get this right - Arcadia Farms wants to displace a family owned functioning farm with their own sustainable farm? Isn't that the same thing as a big giant box store steamrolling a small business on Main Street? Just with a prettier blog and a fluffy mission statement? Have they thought about what will happen to the horses that call Woodlawn Stables home? We're not talking about fancy, flashy horses and ponies that will be easy to re-home. Woodlawn is adamant about taking the best care of their horses that have worked in their school - they earn a life long spot in that herd on those fields. Horses like trusty Patriot - an old grey gelding who has patiently and honorably taught hundreds of children and adults to ride, he now lives his days out munching on oats, soaking up the sun in the fields with the herd he has been part of for easily 15 years. Or the little palomino pony Pal who parents have trusted with their kids to learn the basics of riding - where will he go if the stables are forced to shut their barn doors? And what about the literally hundreds of other animals that live on the land? On any given day you can see deer. fox, bald eagles, ground hogs, turtles and bluebirds who live off the land. There are not many places like this left, let's not destroy this one.
DAVE April 16, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Unfortunately, needs and times change. Woodlawn Stables might very well be a victim of it.
T Ailshire April 16, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Hear, hear. It's beginning to sound like a small group of people has decided what the "right" (read high-density and retail) businesses are for US1, and if nature and small business has to take a back seat, so be it.
Shelley April 16, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Dave, as you say, needs and times change; fortunately in this situation, no one has to "be a victim" and the DOT has a exceptionally good and viable option that allows Woodlawn Stables and the Woodlawn historic property to survive and continue to be an asset to the community. As I mentioned previously in my comments, it is not only Woodlawn Stables that falls victim--we all do.
David Versel April 16, 2012 at 08:28 PM
To all: thanks for commenting on my article. I want to make sure that we are all clear that I am only talking about the Mulligan Road/Jeff Todd Way project in this article, which is having absolutely no effect whatsoever on Woodlawn Stables or its operations. The planned Route 1 widening, which could impact that property, has not yet been designed, and there will be ample opportunity for public comment in the near future. I will be writing at length about the Route 1 widening process as it proceeds, so please keep an eye on Patch for those updates.
Shelley April 16, 2012 at 11:05 PM
Thank you, Mr. Versel; Sorry to hijack the comment area by focusing on your last paragraph mentioning the Route 1 widening and its effects, rather than the rest of the article. If anything, your article and the comments here have inspired me to further research both these projects and become better informed. For example, though Mr. William David mentions there is proposal that goes around the church and stables, I have yet to find any evidence of this proposal. The only bypass option I have seen (and confirmed by my research), cuts through the WS's main facilities and part of their fields. It concerns me that there might be misinformation out there; I look forward to your future articles better informing the public on how this will impact their community.
Susan Hellman April 17, 2012 at 01:25 PM
For full details on the Route 1 widening, refer to the website of Eastern Federal Lands Highway Division: http://www.efl.fhwa.dot.gov/projects/environment.aspx. Scroll down to U.S. Route 1 Improvements at Fort Belvoir. Yes, Woodlawn Stables will be affected in some way, but to what extent is not yet clear. Other properties affected include Woodlawn mansion, Woodlawn Baptist Church, Friends Meeting, and Fort Belvoir. FHWA is working hard to minimize negative impact on all sites. And Arcadia is not displacing anybody. They lease acreage on the northern side of the road. Obviously, there is a lot of misinformation out there regarding the future of Woodlawn Stables. Please refer to the EFLHD website to clear up misconceptions.
Native Virginian May 18, 2012 at 07:57 PM
The stable is a no issue. The stable will loose it's current lease to Arcadia which plan to use the property for a sustainable farm. The property is owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as is Woodlawn. The stable is leased and will cease when the current lease expires :-( I have already been through the emotions that most of you are feeling now when I heard about the project over a year ago. I use to ride, board a horse and attended the polo games back in the day when it was a polo club.
Native Virginian May 18, 2012 at 08:14 PM
Shelly, I don't believe that is Arcadia's intent. This was a business decision by the National Trust to try and save Woodlawn Plantation. Have you been to Woodlawn Plantation lately? The house and grounds are in terrible disrepair. Perhaps if we had all encouraged visits to Woodlawn Plantation like we do Mount Vernon Estate, this prospect would have never come to the table.
Native Virginian May 18, 2012 at 08:55 PM
Mr. David is correct. Arcadia plans on taking over the stable property when the current lease expires. So it's not a big box store moving in or a laundromat...it's a farm. You'd have more success trying to save Meadowood Stable which is owned by the BLM and is located in Lorton, VA. They are reviewing it's fate as we type.
David Versel May 21, 2012 at 12:46 PM
@Native Virginian: I am not sure where you are getting your information about the stables "losing" its current lease to Arcadia. As far as I am aware, the stables' lease is valid until 2016 and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which owns Woodlawn, has not announced any plans one way or another about the stables, Arcadia, or anything else. If you have different information than I do, I would love to know what you know. @everyone: I realize that Woodlawn Stables is a longstanding and very dear part of our fabric here, and we at SFDC are very sensitive to its importance to many people in the community. As such, emotions are running extremely high on this matter. However, just because people feel strongly about this issue, everyone has a responsibility to be honest and not to spread misinformation. We cannot have an effective and open discussion about Woodlawn (or any other property) if inaccurate information is being passed around. I will offer my all time favorite quote, from longtime Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan: "You are entitled to your own opinions. You are not, however, entitled to your own facts." Let's do our best to stick to the facts and form our opinions from there. This matter is too important to be wrecked by rumors and innuendo.
Shelley May 23, 2012 at 10:53 PM
Mr. Versel: While it’s true that there is always a chance of possible misinformation being passed on in forums like these, I think it is unfair to generalize and admonish commenters by suggesting that this type of information is being passed on because commenters “feel strongly” or “emotions are running high” about Woodlawn Stables. Certainly, one can feel very passionate about their cause and still stay factual. As one of the co-founders of Save Woodlawn Stables and one of the commenters being categorized as “everyone”, I want to say that I, and SWS, have strived greatly to put out factual information, and have encouraged our thousands of supporters to do the same. I stand behind every word I say and have the evidence to prove it. If I am wrong, then I will gladly retract it if one can prove otherwise. Regardless of how strongly we feel about this issue, we have remained fair, respectful and civil while expressing our concerns with how this elevated bypass will do irreparable damage to the Stables, the historically designated resources on the property, and to the Woodlawn estate as a National Historic Landmark. Most of all, we have remained very forthcoming and transparent, reaching out and working very closely on solutions to the issues with fellow preservationist, neighborhood and civic associations, state and county officials, Federal Highways Administration, Fairfax County and state elected representatives and Members of Congress...
Shelley May 23, 2012 at 10:58 PM
...I, myself, have even reached out to Ms. Hellman, Director of Woodlawn, who commented above and still hope that she may contact our organization so that we may also work together, or at least be able to better understand each organization's viewpoint and concerns. For anyone that wants to question our facts or opinion, feel free to read our position paper and other information at www.savewoodlawnstables.org Again, thank you for reporting on these important traffic issues, we hope that our fellow citizens will join us at the public meeting on June 5, 2012, 6:00 p.m., In the Hayfield High School cafeteria. Shelley Castle Save Woodlawn Stables
skillywag May 25, 2012 at 07:28 PM
While I understand concern about misinformation being spread about this issue, let's take a look at where this "misinformation" may have come from, shall we? After looking through a lot of the information out there I began to wonder why the Trust would possibly support this bypass option that would destroy historic buildings on George Washington's land for the sake of a hundred feet into a field of unkempt weeds if they widened in place . And lookey what I found, not only publicly available, but on their own website. http://www.preservationnation.org/resources/training/plt/PLT-Woodlawn-Final-Report.pdf http://www.preservationnation.org/who-we-are/annual-report-and-tax-returns/NTHP_AR10.pdf (pg 21 of doc). The net of these documents is that the Trust has had plans to get rid of the stables since at least 2010 to replace it with Arcadia farming group and the bypass option gives them an easy out. As to what many have said in these comments, Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s Micahel Babin and Arcadia are seeking to take over the property that is currently occupied and used by Woodlawn Stables. The plantation encompasses about 120 acres, Woodlawn leases 66 of those acres, they plan to lease 100 acres to Arcadia. Well, you do the math. There certainly seems to be some ulterior motives on the part of the Trust to say the very least. I call it shady underdealings, but that's just me.
skillywag May 25, 2012 at 07:29 PM
Some particularly telling excerpts (of the docs in the comment above: http://www.preservationnation.org/resources/training/plt/PLT-Woodlawn-Final-Report.pdf http://www.preservationnation.org/who-we-are/annual-report-and-tax-returns/NTHP_AR10.pdf (pg 21 of doc)): "Woodlawn would offer an exclusive lease agreement for the 66 acres across Hwy 1 to Arcadia/Star with the stipulation that the property be used for organic farming and a cooking school. If the stable tenant is not amenable to having the lease bought out, Arcadia/Star would have the option to sublet all or part of the land from the stable tenant." "Once a lease agreement can be established on the 66 acres across the highway, the cash flow into Woodlawn will automatically generate positive outcomes." - I'm shocked to see this all comes down to money for an entity whose role is supposed to be to protect our national and cultural historic treasures. Why are they not trying to keep both Arcadia and the Stables and still generate cash flow? My point being, before we start accusing people of making up their own facts, let's do a little digging as to what the facts actually are. I think as relatively intelligent adults we can draw some conclusions from the publicly available facts.

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