The Virginia Department of Transportation on Tuesday announced plans to investigate whether the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project contributed to flooding last month that seriously damaged about 150 homes in Fairfax County’s Huntington neighborhood.
Virginia Transportation Secretary Pierce Homer said the internal review was expected to be completed in September, with the results forwarded to an independent panel that will include local residents.
All materials generated by the review will be made available to Fairfax County officials and the Army Corps of Engineers, which also is scrutinizing the flooding that followed unusually heavy rainfall.
Some residents believe a construction barge from the bridge project broke loose during the stormy weather in late June and blocked parts of Cameron Run, causing the stream to swell as much as 14 feet in some areas. They also think gravel and silt from the project clogged the stream, perhaps another factor in the flooding.
“There isn’t a person in that community that doesn’t think the bridge construction has been a factor,” said Fairfax County Supervisor Gerald W. Hyland, who represents the Huntington neighborhood. He notes that the area has never seen such severe flooding, even in the aftermath of Hurricane Isabel in 2003.
“We’re all of one mind that we have to get to the bottom of this,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly, though he added that it was too early to begin assigning blame.
In a July 19 letter to both county supervisors, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said he shared their concerns about the “recent and unfortunate flooding in the Huntington community.”
According to Kaine’s letter, Homer has directed both the state transportation agency and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project staff to conduct the review. “I have also asked Secretary Homer to keep you apprised of the status of this matter,” the governor told the supervisors.
The Cameron Run watershed drains runoff from a 42-square-mile area into the Potomac River, where a replacement span for the Wilson Bridge is being built. Flooding on June 25 devastated the neighborhood, flooding basements and breaking out windows. Waterlines still are visible on some homes.
“It looked like a war zone,” said Geoff Livingston, who circulated a petition among residents calling for Kaine to investigate the flooding. “People are just depressed.”
Livingston welcomed the decision to investigate, saying “it’s certainly the right thing to do.” He said that if the bridge project is found responsible, he hopes officials will compensate residents who have absorbed the high costs of replacing appliances and flooring.
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