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Deal close to save homes from I-66 widening

The I-66 widening project is set to take down some houses, but officials say that will change. (WTOP File)

FAIRFAX, Va. — The Virginia Department of Transportation is close to a deal to save up to 35 homes in Dunn Loring from the chopping block during a project to widen and add toll lanes to Interstate 66, the agency announced Tuesday night.

The announcement came as two residents from Dunn Loring and Merrifield testified before the Commonwealth Transportation Board at a public hearing Tuesday.

Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne interjected to say that residents near the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station will be pleased to learn about the changes, which will be released in late May.

Beth Lanthier is one of the residents in Dunn Loring affected under the original plan.  Her home would not have been demolished, but her property would have been affected, and her neighbors would have lost their homes.

“It’s heartbreaking because you have person after person talking about scrimping and saving to buy a very modest house, just like we did, just to be torn down.  Where are we going to go?  We want a neighborhood where we can walk to Metro.  We are the model of smart growth,” said Lanthier.

“I feel betrayed.  I can’t believe this is modern-day Virginia that we knock down people’s houses so that we can put lanes of new roads,” she adds.

Layne says he has heard the message loud and clear.  Even though he cannot guarantee no homes will be torn down, a new proposal to be unveiled next month will satisfy her concerns.

“We’re going to mitigate and eliminate the impact on the 35 homes.  I think that number will be substantially reduced,” says Layne.

“I knew we were going to be able to do this because we look at this project in corridors.  There may be different footprints in that corridor where we can move the road.  And we’re able to do so in this area,” he adds.

He declined to specify exactly how the configuration of the I-66 widening project would be changed to address the impact in Dunn Loring and Merrifield, but Layne says is confident the announcement will make a significant difference.

VDOT plans to unveil the next plan to the community before the May 27 meeting on the I-66 project.

“The impact may not be zero homes, but as we work through this process, that is the objective.  I can’t promise that, but that is always the objective,” says Layne.

Lanthier was pleased to hear the news, but she adds that she needs to know more details about the changes.

“I’m optimistic.  I would like to see that no houses have to be knocked down.  On the other side of 66, there is a community where homes could be knocked down. Stenwood Elementary School is losing a playing field it built with private fundraising.  So there is no one in the Dunn Loring, Merrifield, Vienna area that wants to see this happen,” says Lanthier.

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