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Richmond Highway Plans Still In Question

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Virginia officials are trying figure out how to widen Richmond Highway.
William F. Yurasko (http://www.flickr.com/photos/wfyurasko/3711698304/)
Virginia officials are trying figure out how to widen Richmond Highway.

Looking out over a field of buttercups blooming along the gently rolling hills of southeast Fairfax County, Del. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) surveys a key part of his district.

"Right here, we are on some of George Washington's former estate," he says. "Today it's known as Woodlawn stables. It's at the intersection of Route 1 and Mount Vernon Memorial Highway."

It's a critical crossing for Route 1, also known as Richmond Highway. This is where the Department of Defense has already allocated $180 million to widen the road as part of BRAC. One scenario has the road encroaching on this stable, which would have to be shut down and relocated.

"It seems to me like in its current location there is adequate room on both sides to give a little and keep the road where it's at, and so both properties give up a little bit and you won't be destroying the historical properties we have here," says Farrier Arvin Reynolds.

But history is everywhere, and a few hundred feet to the west is historic Woodlawn Baptist Church cemetery. Pastor Travis Hilton says widening the road where it is would mean the end for the graveyard.

"Part of our cemetery would have to be removed, the bodies exhumed and placed somewhere else," says Hilton.

Surovell says that creates a dilemma for state and federal officials.

"I mean, there's a lot of history here," he says. "Obviously you've got these historic graves up here with Woodlawn Baptist Church. And then over here in the woods is the Frank Lloyd Wright House, the Pope Lehigh House, which was actually moved here because of another road widening in the 1960s when they built I-66."

Historic Woodlawn Plantation and the Pope Lehigh House are protected by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which means that the federal government is legally bound to minimize damage to the historic properties. The question now is which ones to save.

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