Groundbreaking ceremony held for Mount Vernon Memorial Highway Trail project
Fairfax County officials held a groundbreaking ceremony Jan. 26 for the Mount Vernon Memorial Highway Trail project, which is designed to provide pedestrians and cyclists with continuous trail access from George Washington’s Mount Vernon to Richmond Highway.
Held at George Washington’s Gristmill, the event featured remarks from several local dignitaries, including Jeff McKay, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, and Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck. The groundbreaking had special meaning for Storck, an avid cyclist and runner, who has long considered the trail one of his number one priorities.
“Connecting people is the core of our mission as leaders,” said Storck. “These kinds of connection points absolutely do that.”
Preparatory work for the approximately $6.5 million project — which is locally funded by a bond issue approved in 2014 — has already been underway for some time. Following the land acquisition process, Fairfax County relocated utilities in 2021 while Fairfax Water replaced the water main. The county awarded the construction contract in December 2021 to Anchor Construction Corporation of Washington, D.C. As soon as Fairfax County issues the Notice to Proceed to the construction firm, the contractor will submit a detailed work schedule and get started — likely by spring of this year, said Sonia Shahnaj, project manager with Fairfax County Department of Transportation’s (FCDOT) Transportation Design Division.
In coming months, Anchor will build about 6,200 linear feet of a 10-foot-wide, asphalt, shared use path, as well as a 14-foot-wide, 218-foot-long pedestrian bridge next to the Mount Vernon Memorial Highway bridge spanning Dogue Creek. The project will complete the missing trail segments along an approximately two-mile stretch between Richmond Highway and Southwood Drive, within the Fairfax County portion of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail. Construction crews will also improve existing pedestrian crossings, install new crosswalks with pedestrian signals, install American with Disabilities Act-approved curb ramps and improve bus stops.
Local residents and commuters can expect to see some traffic changes during the project, though Shahnaj said the contractor would make every effort to keep travel lanes open. Single lane closures are permitted for limited periods during less congested times of day. Vehicles will still have adequate access to Grist Mill Park during and after construction work hours, Shahnaj added.
The Wastewater Design and Construction Division of Fairfax County’s Department of Public Works and Environmental Services will be working on a separate but concurrent project to improve drainage near the trail construction site. Additionally, Fort Belvoir will be repairing the bridge at Walker Gate, so FCDOT will coordinate closely with installation officials to ensure the traffic flow remains uninterrupted, said Shahnaj.
Overall, the trail construction project is about a year behind schedule, based on the projected timeline from December 2019. According to FCDOT, one delay was due to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission’s permit time restrictions for in-stream work at Dogue Creek. Construction currently is scheduled to wrap up by December 2022.
Local bike commuters like Jeff Gauger, vice president of the Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling, are glad that the project is finally about to get started. Gauger commended Supervisor Storck and FCDOT — particularly active transportation planner Nicole Wynands — for helping make it happen. Additional trail improvements will be needed, however, once construction is complete, said Gauger.
“The existing trail segments are in poor condition and need to be widened and repaved in order to make this a functional trail,” he said.
Fairfax County’s destination marketing organization is also looking forward to the trail’s completion.
“The Mount Vernon Memorial Highway Trail project will connect and make accessible so many of the rich, historic and exciting attractions and experiences in this vital corridor and beyond for pedestrians and cyclists,” said Barry Biggar, president and CEO of Visit Fairfax.
More information on the Mount Vernon Memorial Highway Trail project can be found on Fairfax County’s website.