Return of the HOT Lanes:
New Name - New Game
Entering the Replanting Phase
I-495 Capital Beltway Expansion Project

Replanting and landscaping to begin along the 495 Express Lanes (formerly HOT) project:

Following removal and paving over of the wooded buffer along the Capital Beltway, VDOT and its contractor, Fluor-Transurban, have developed plans for replanting along the limited open areas remaining. The replanting plan may be viewed on their website, where comments and suggestions may also be submitted until June 22, 2012. The initial list of species to be planted includes several which are not native, but there is hope that can be refined. We encourage you to comment, letting VDOT know of the desirability of locally native species.

We did a quick photo survey of the current status (May 2012) of vegetation along 495 in the Accotink Creek watershed.

The survey showed:

A variety of native species are reestablishing themselves, including winged sumac, smooth sumac, staghorn sumac, sycamore, tulip poplar, mixed oaks, mixed hickories, sweet gum, black locust, broomsedge grass, mixed maples, pine, deer tongue grass, panic grass, mixed goldenrods, nettle, grape, pokeweed, Virginia creeper, sassafras, hornbeam or beech (not sure), dogbane milkweed, and blackberry.

At the same time, the ever-present invasive alien plant species were also at work claiming this open space for themselves: mile-a-minute, Japanese stilt grass, Oriental bittersweet, porcelainberry, autumn olive, flowering cherry, knapweed, tree-of-heaven, and silk tree mimosa.
050512 Photos - Photo survey of current status quo before replanting

For comparison, replanting has already begun along a similar huge road project in our watershed, the Fairfax County Parkway extension. This is on DOD property and DOD replanting rules apply.
050412 Photos - Comparison with planting underway along 7100

Also for comparison, VDOT stopped mowing the I-95/644 (Old Keene Mill Road), also in our watershed, after 2008. An impressive regrowth of trees has occurred, but, isolated from wooded areas that could serve as a native seed bank, is is mostly invasive species.
051012 Photos - Comparison with unmown I-95/644 interchange

The erosion and sediment issues we documented earlier in the construction are not gone, but are much diminished (and harder to observe), now that many areas are at final grade and ongoing work is largely inside the median and interchanges. (Our earlier HOT reports)

Native winged sumac and hickory reclaim their place along 495
Someone has found an alternate means of revegetation

Contact Friends of Accotink Creek, E-mail.