By Tim Cherry, Belvoir EagleMay 11, 2012
FORT BELVOIR, Va. (May 10) -- Shirley Contracting construction crews will complete the majority of widening Gunston Road, May 15.
The two year project stretches from 12th Street to John J. Kingman Road and improves traffic flow on the installation's most traveled street.
What once was a two lane road running north and south, is now four lanes wide, with turning lanes at each intersection.
Construction crews also assembled a new bridge, installed drainage to protect the environment, built additional traffic lights and adjusted power lines on the 1.8 mile long project.
Crews are still landscaping and finishing a sidewalk on Gunston's east side but the additional lanes should open to traffic next week.
The installation is separated by U.S. Route 1, which means drivers must exit and reenter post when traveling from North to South Post or South to North Post, or drive along Gunston Road across the bridge over Route 1. Widening the road was a critical component for Belvoir's response to the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Law that added 4,500 employees to main post.
"The biggest thing that Gunston Road is going to do is connect North Post with South Post," said Col. Mark Moffatt, deputy garrison commander for Base Realignment and Closure and Transformation. "We're basically providing an improved access to all military beneficiaries and the entire civilian workforce."
According to a Directorate of Emergency Services gate traffic study conducted in late March, an average of 56, 060 vehicles traveled through one of Belvoir's six gates accessing main post, per day.
Moffatt said Gunston receives roughly 60 percent of Belvoir's daily vehicle trips.
The widening helps cuts down on travel time tremendously but Timothy Wolfe, Fort Belvoir police chief, said it doesn't give motorists a right to break the speed limit.
Wolfe said the current limit around the construction zone is 25 mph.
"It's going to remain like that until the construction is completely finished and those guys are off the roads," Wolfe said.
Wolfe said when construction is complete Gunston Road's speed limit will become 30 mph south bound. The north bound limit from 12th Street to Herryford Village will remain 25 mph. The speed limit will increase to 30 mph after motorists pass the housing area.
"Everybody has been jammed up during this whole two year period and now they think it's a drag strip and it's not," Wolfe said. "The speed limits are they for a reason -- to protect everybody."
Prior to construction, Gunston had traffic lights at 12th Street, Abbott Road and Kingman.
Those lights remain and the road now there are additional lights at 1st Street, 3rd Street, 9th Street, Jackson Loop and Gorgas Road.
Moffatt said traffic engineers are synchronizing the lights so that north and south bound vehicles have green lights simultaneously to optimize traffic flow. Turning lane lights will turn green, in both directions, simultaneously as well.
Gunston road is also more bicycle friendly as construction crews installed two, 3-foot wide bike lanes north and south bound.
The lanes connect to Kingman Road's multi-purpose trail, where cyclists can connect to Telegraph Road, which has paved lanes and multi-purpose trails.
Gunston Road construction is part of the phase two main post infrastructure development plan.
Construction crews also widened 9th Street, installed gas lines along Gunston Road and 9th Street and placed the power lines underground to protect the lines from damage experienced during severe weather.
The new four-lane bridge was also installed during phase two.
Environmental concerns were considered throughout the develop process as construction crews installed pipes to drain water off roads and into repaired streams.
In total, Moffatt said, phase two cost $45 million.
Phase one, which Moffatt said is 99 percent complete, involved projects such as widening Belvoir and Pohick Roads and upgrading Tulley and Pence Gates with improved gate and brick wall features. Minor landscaping remains but phase one's total cost was $34 million.
"We were building roads that are going to take us into the mid 21st Century while we were still flowing thousands of people to their jobs or to their appointments or to whatever they needed to do," said Moffatt, who applauded the many people who helped with development and construction.
The imminent completion of both phases mark a major part of Belvoir's strategy for handling the 2005 BRAC law.
According to Moffatt, BRAC increased Belvoir's workforce population by 19,300 people in the Fort Belvoir North Area, the Mark Center, Rivanna Station and on main post.
The garrison has renovated existing facilities, built new buildings and improved traffic flow in response to BRAC. A few building renovations remain, but Belvoir is now better suited to handle the increased population on post.
"I think we've helped tremendously with the communication between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Directorate of Public Works and the garrison," said Ed Farquhar BRAC operations office, environmental and contractor support specialist. "The finished product is going to look pretty."
Moffatt said construction is expected to be finished by July 1.