Gwonda Gaskins arrived home on a recent Friday night, opened the car door to get out and promptly almost fell into a hole in her yard.
The hole is a new feature in the landscape of her lawn, compliments of crews working on the Cockrell Road widening and sidewalk project in Manassas.
“Right now the yard is just all pulled up,” Gaskins said. “I was like, ‘What in the world?’”
The city purchased 12 feet of her front yard for the project earlier this year, so the work was expected, but it is still an inconvenience, she said.
The city also purchased land from four other owners, Manassas City Utility Director Michael Moon said.
With all the rain this week, she fears a landslide of sorts from the pile of dirt beside the hole she nearly fell into, Gaskins said last week.
“Good thing I saw the orange cones around it,” she said.
Lately she's been particularly worried about the huge ditch crews have dug in front of her house.
“It’s that ditch … if it keeps raining that ditch is going to fill up with water,” Gaskins said on Wednesday. “I have to squeeze by, just to get to my front porch. They have a fence there, they have it blocked for our protection.”
The work on Cockrell Road is a revenue-sharing project between the city and the state through the Virginia Department of Transportation, Moon said.
The city is managing the construction portion of the project, he added.
The area around Gaskins' modest home is—and has been for some time—at epicenter for road projects.
Most recently the gray two-story stands as a silent witness to a new bridge slowly rising in the distance. VDOT engineers told the Manassas City Council in September that the Wellington Road/Route 28 overpass project is expected to extend pass the original completion date of next month and run into next year, because of a miscalculation.
Moon said VDOT employees haven't specified an exact completion date, but do expect it to be substantially completed in November.
There are some items such as grating that may carry over into next year, Moon said.
City council members have complained that the area around the bridge is dangerous to motorists, especially the area near the bottom of the bridge heading south on Route 28 into Old Town Manassas.
It isn’t dangerous, said Gaskins, who grew up on Cockrell Road; you just have to pay attention, she added.
But what is dangerous is the newly reconstructed intersection of Cockrell and Ashton Avenue near her home. She’s seen a lot of near-crashes there, Gaskins said.
“I don’t understand why they wouldn’t put a four-way stop there?” she said.
The area is also home to the recently-completed Wellington Road widening project. The widening was also a joint project of the city and VDOT, Moon said.
Earlier this year crews cut down trees and had to dig up her late mother’s plants as part of their work on Cockrell Road, said Gaskins, an avid gardener.
“I said to them, ‘These are my mom’s plants, my mom planted those.’ They were really nice about it and they put them all back down even better than they were before,” she said.
The city plans to build a sidewalk from the corner of Ashton Avenue and past her home; city officials told her brother that phase would take about a month, Gaskins said.
The city also plans to add curb parking, Moon said.
Gaskins said she's not too excited about the curb parking right across from her house, because someone could look directly into her home from a parked car.
But not all of the changes are bad, she said. “It’s a blessing and malediction,” she added, laughing.
The blessing? The once-hanging utility lines are now all buried and the sidewalk will be extended, she said.
And perhaps best of all, the city also promised her a new driveway. She plans to go home and check the contract for that clause again to make sure it’s there, Gaskins said.