Any decision about the potential Eisenhower-Duke connector has been postponed until the fall.
The task force that has been reviewing various options for the past few months has recommended to City Council that the life of the task force be extended until September so that further studies on traffic impact can be conducted.
“It is a delay of sorts, I guess, but doesn’t delay any action that might happen,” said Mayor Kerry J. Donley. “The connector is not part of the VDOT six-year plan and even if it was, it might get cut. VDOT is moving forward with projects that have already been started and those that are being federally funded. Our waiting until September to make a final decision on this matter has no real impact on when it might be constructed.”
The task force did eliminate four of the six options that were under consideration. “The two options that are being sent forward are the no build option and the Roth Street option,” said Richard S. Baier, the director of the Department of Transportation and Environmental Services. “These will have the least impact on residents of the city.”
The no build option would not connect Eisenhower Avenue with Duke Street but would require significant improvements to various intersections in the area, including Edsall and Pickett and Van Dorn. “This is an option that we really need to take a look at,” said Councilwoman Redella S. “Del” Pepper.
WHILE THIS WOULD CERTAINLY be the least disruptive of the alternatives, the cost would have to be borne entirely by the city. According to city estimates, the cost of the intersection improvements and the cost of building a connector would be roughly the same.
The Roth Street option would begin at Eisenhower Ave., proceed through the VDOT staging area, go over the rails and down onto Roth Street. “We really have looked at the impact to the neighborhoods and met with people from the effected areas to discuss this option,” Baier said. “Until now, however, we have always looked at regional connectivity. We want to make it easier for people to get from one of our two arterials to the other but we don’t want to encourage commuters to use the connector to cut through the city, thereby creating more traffic problems in our neighborhoods.”
Baier said that this option does reduce the cuing of traffic on Duke Street. “In the morning, we believe that this option would reduce the traffic cuing all the way to Callahan and Diagonal and John Carlyle,” he said. “This should make it much easier to get east on Duke Street.”
ONE OF THE REASONS FOR delaying any decision by City Council is that the traffic impact to the neighborhoods north of Duke Street has not been adequately studied. “We really want to look at how this will impact the neighborhoods east of Quaker Lane and north of Duke,” Donley said. “And we want to add two representatives from these neighborhoods to the task force.”
Ken Moore, the president and Chief Executive Officer of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, expressed his disappointment at the delay. “The city put in place a comprehensive decision-making process that brought together many dedicated citizens and businesses who worked closely with city staff on this important issue over the course of many months,” Moore said.
“Now we need to be vigilant about following through with the overall goal of finalizing a solution for the burgeoning Eisenhower corridor. I am sure that Mayor Donley and members of the City Council will agree that this project is too important to fall victim to inertia.”
Using nine million square feet of development as a benchmark, and considering the development of the Patent and Trademark Office, Baier projects an additional 50 to 95,000 cars a day in the area. “This really is a quality of life issue,” Moore said. “Effective transportation routes throughout the city will help reduce the massive traffic gridlock we currently experience on our roadways while encouraging positive growth in the city.”
Moore believes that a connector is a possible transportation solution that should not be overlooked. “Any plan that seeks to raise the standard of living in Alexandria must take transportation options like the connector into consideration,” he said.
If City Council votes to allow the task force to continue to study traffic impact, the matter would come back for a vote in September. “We certainly don’t want to delay this matter indefinitely,” Donley said. “We simply want to give everyone more time to look at the impact to our neighborhoods.”