By Michael Pope
The sound of construction cuts through the Winkler Botanical Preserve, home to a handful of 100-year-old trees and thousands of blooming wildflowers. Looming over it all is a 17-story building where more than 6,000 Department of Defense employees will work starting in September 2011. The Virginia Department of Transportation suggested a plan known as Plan D that would route traffic through the preserve.
"I say Plan D for 'devastating to the preserve,' or maybe plan 'dumb,'" says Jodi Smolik, executive director of the preserve. "By the time you do road construction impacts, terrorist buffer zones, soundwalls, this would all be gone. It would basically be an exit ramp and a highway with buses and cars going through it."
Delegate Charnel Herring says VDOT backed down after overwhelming opposition to the plan.
"I think it was a coordinated effort of everybody," says Herring. "It was just a community, grassroots movement to make sure we protect that preserve."
Now, it's back to the drawing board to figure out a better way to get thousands of daily commuters from the interstate to the new Department of Defense building.