Superstreet rejected, other issues still pending

By Edythe Kelleher, Executive Director

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) held its third community meeting regarding the Richmond Highway Widening Project the evening of Wednesday, April 4, 2018 at Mount Vernon High School.

For those just joining the discussion, the widening project is for the three-mile segment of Richmond Highway from Jeff Todd Way to Napper Road. Afterward, this part of the roadway will be consistent with the section that was improved along Fort Belvoir, with six vehicle lanes and pedestrian/bicycle facilities. It will also enable construction of median-based Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), which is planned for the entire corridor in what has been dubbed, “Embark Richmond Highway.”

Five sections of sound wall are still on the plan.* These will be up to fifteen feet tall. (See the walls at Inlet Cove in Lorton as an example.) VDOT requires sound walls unless rejected by a majority of the affected property owners. However, this depends on how many residents respond. For example, if twenty letters are sent and five responses, three in favor, are received, that section of wall will be built. VDOT representatives stated that sound wall criteria are already met under current conditions, so if residents are satisfied with the status quo and would not want a fifteen-foot wall, they should vote, “no.” This will require detailed outreach for the affected residents to understand their choices.

VDOT engineers considered, and abandoned, some alternative designs for two major intersections. A “superstreet” was examined for Cooper/Woodlawn Road, which would have made those streets right-in-right-out and forced traffic to make U-turns instead of left turns. “Jug handles” were considered for Buckman Road, which would have made left turners turn right onto mini-ramps before turning left at a signal. It is good news that these alternatives have been abandoned in favor of traditional intersections, as they would have been more expensive, required taking of additional property for road right-of-way, were not intuitive for local drivers, and would have created more conflicts with the future BRT.

Putting utilities underground is also being requested by community members. The extra costs would have to be paid by Fairfax County. Senator Scott Surovell stated that his legislation, just signed into law, would allow the county to use various sources of revenue to pay for utility undergrounding. County staff have concerns, including that those funds are already committed to other projects, and that residents of other areas will also want their local utilities placed underground. Stay tuned on this question.

Details about the Richmond Highway Widening Project can be found at http://www.virginiadot.org/projects/northernvirginia/richmond_highway.asp with an interactive map at http://www.virginiadot.org/projects/northern_virginia/richmond_highway_interactive_map.asp Comments may be emailed to richmondhighway@vdot.virginia.gov until May 4; put “April 4 public information meeting” in the subject line.

*Here are the proposed sound wall locations: Talbott Farm townhouses, Sky View Apartments and Towne Manor Court townhouses (Mount Vernon Townes), Woodlawn Gardens Apartments, Shannons Green townhouses (Mount Vee Manor), Spring Garden Apartments.