495 Express Lanes Survey
Lingering Erosion and Planting Issues

May 22, 2017, Survey of erosion control and replanting issues still lingering four years after "completion" of construction:

The Friends of Accotink Creek joined State Senator Dave Marsden along with representatives of VDOT, Stormwater Planning Division, the Sierra Club, and others for a one-year-later follow-up tour of problem sites along 495 that had been reported by FACC. This was subsequent to our May 2016 survey of significant issues associated with the implementation of the native landscaping plan and problem erosion and sediment control areas.

Of all the problems documented last May, results are a mixed bag. Changes we observed:

  • Left over construction debris has been cleaned up pretty thoroughly. Of course, that should have been accomplished promptly after construction without reminders being needed years later.
  • Many new trees of higher quality are appearing to replace the casualties of the initial inadequate revegetation efforts. We are glad to observe there also appears to be greater care given to the installation and care of the newer trees. We sadly note VDOT still insists on planting some non-native trees, especially Kousa dogwood, responsible for spreading the plague that is killing off our native dogwoods, Virginia's state flower.
  • Less action was visible on erosion and sediment issues. Some actions had clearly been taken just days before, leading to the unfortunate suspicion that the issues were only addressed due to the imminent inspection by Senator Marsden.
    • Braddock Road cloverleaf - In SE quadrant, large gully is now armored, but hasty repairs to conveyance channel left much to be desired. In NE quadrant erosion rills and gully were redeveloping after recent grading.
    • Little River Turnpike cloverleaf - In SW quadrant, the gully is still forming at end of pipe, causing sediment build up in gas line easement. In NW quadrant, trail was regraded, but it is only a temporary solution. FCDOT may address this in an envisioned program of improvements to pedestrian and bike facilities along Little River Turnpike.
    • We did not observe any other action that has been taken to address the erosion and sediment issues identified one year ago in May 2016.
    • The single most glaring erosion and sediment issue, the trashing of a spring-fed wetland, has so far only been refered for study by the Northern Virginia Soil & Water Conservation District.

In general, we observed disappointingly common areas of bare ground although this may improve as the belated VDOT remedial replanting efforts proceed. It was also too common to observe thriving stands of invasive alien species such as Chinese lespedesa and Weeping love grass deliberately planted as part of the original replanting program and which will plague the right of way and beyond in perpetuity. Again, we urge that any future seed mix should be native grasses and wildflowers and zero non-native invasives.

VDOT will report back to the other parties with updated status.

Subsequent anaysis of aerial photos by DPWES brought to light another issue that had previously not registered - The equipment staging area was never restored to its existing condition. A gravel parking lot exists where there had been full vegetative cover before. This will require new discussions.

See the full DPWES survey report and analysis

The Friends Accotink Creek appreciate the continuing efforts of Senator Marsden and the Fairfax County Restoration Project to bring attention to our concerns.

Read the sad history of the 495 Express lanes project:
Our May 2016 495 Express Lanes Survey
Report on 2014 495 landscaping massacre
Report on 495 Express Lanes replanting phase
Reports on 495 Express Lanes construction problems

Here we go all over again? Construction is expected to begin on the I-66 Express Lanes in late 2017. Although we were unable to hold the asphalt at bay or even to have current stormwater controls applied to this project, let's all keep our eyes on it and hold VDOT and contractors to standards the citizens and environment of Virginia are entitled to expect.

Good gully Miss Molly!