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Vienna Grapples with Growth

Traffic and development shape area's future.

July 19, 2002

At an April meeting with the Hunter Mill Defense League, Virginia Department of Transportation representatives said the $37 million to $40 million they had been anticipating for the project had all but disappeared.

Although funding issues may push the project back, a rail line is scheduled to be built through Tysons Corner by the end of 2006. The rail line is planned to branch off of the current Metro Orange Line, between the East Falls Church and West Falls Church stations. Currently the Orange line runs into Washington, D.C., with the last Virginia stop located in Vienna.

The new rail line, which is planned to extend to Dulles Airport and into Loudoun County, will be preceded by a system of buses. This bus rapid transit system should to be installed in 2006, just before the Tysons rail line. Bus rapid transit will begin at the West Falls Church Metro Station and will continue along the same route as the future rail line. Rail to Dulles, which is scheduled to be built by 2010, will run in the median of the Dulles Airport Access Road with stops at Reston, Herndon, the airport and Loudoun County.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) recently released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Dulles Corridor Rapid Transit Project. The document, which is available for review at libraries throughout the region, presents several proposals regarding the extension of bus rapid transit, and then rail.

In one option, buses would stop at a station in the median of the Dulles Airport Access Road, near the Spring Hill Road interchange. In the other option, buses would leave the access road, stopping at the Tysons-Westpark Transit Station.

The rail line is planned to run along the median of the Dulles Airport Access Toll Road until the Route 123 interchange. At that point, the elevated rail line would follow Route 123 and Route 7 through Tysons Corner. There will be between four and six metro stops in the Tysons area, depending on which of four alignments is chosen. In one of the alignments, labeled T4, one track branches off along Westpark Drive, with two stops along the road. The other three alignments include subway tunnels, underneath Route 123 and Route 7. Alignment T6, the most expensive of the four, includes an underground station along Route 7.

The entire rail project, culminating in 24 miles of new commuter rail track, is estimated to cost $3.3 billion. That estimate is based on a high cost version of the project, using the most expensive bus rapid transit system and the most expensive Tysons Corner rail alignment. The federal government is expected to pay 60 percent of the cost of the bus rapid transit portion of the project, and 50 percent of the rail portion. The rest of the funding is expected to come from the state of Virginia, Fairfax and Loudoun counties and the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority.

Maple Avenue Enhancement

By October the Town Council hopes the second phase of the Maple Avenue enhancement project will be complete, with brick sidewalks and period light poles running from Park Street to Beulah Avenue. Construction has already begun, creating re-routed driving lanes and increased traffic congestion along Maple Avenue. The first phase of the Maple Avenue enhancement project is already done, with enhanced roadside features along Maple from Lawyers Road to Park Street.

With the exception of some turn lanes, Maple Avenue will remain open during the project.

And after the project is finished, the town will start work on the final phase, extending the enhancements to the intersection with East Street.

Maple Avenue, also known as Route 123, is the main road running through the town of Vienna.

Mill Street Park

Another projected Maple Avenue enhancement is the not-yet-built park at the intersection with Mill Street, across from Fresh Fields. The town recently purchased the land for the park, a 19,000 square-foot lot including a 24,000 square-foot commercial building which houses Legends Flooring, White Tiger Restaurant, Mattressland, Carpetland, White Swan Bridal Shop and the Tap Room. The lot cost a little more than $2 million , and the town financed the purchase with a one cent increase to the town meals and lodging tax. The increase was met with opposition from local restaurant owners.

Despite the controversy, the town is holding public meetings to gather input on what the park should look like. It is meant to be an open space park, without recreational features such as playgrounds. Although the town might have some idea of what the park will look like by the end of 2002, it will probably be a few years until the town is able to open the park.

Most of the tenants in the commercial building where the park is planned have leases running until 2003 or 2004. The bridal shop, though, has a lease running until 2009. The town will wait until most of the leases run out, and then will probably have to negotiate with the Bridal Shop in order to break the lease.

Vienna Dog park

On Saturday, July 13, after a little over a year of discussion, planning and public hearings, the Town of Vienna opened its first off-leash dog park at Vienna’s Moorefield Park.

The park, located at 700 Courthouse Road, is the second off-leash dog park in the area. Two years ago Fairfax County opened Blake Lane Dog Area, near the corner of Blake Lane and Bushman Drive in Oakton.

Dogs are allowed in the new Vienna park as long as they are licensed by either the Town of Vienna or Fairfax County.

The park includes a water fountain, an obstacle course and several benches. There are double-gate entrances to prevent dogs from escaping the chain link enclosure. The park was paid for with both county and town money. Vienna budgeted $10,000 for the park, and the county contributed $5,000. Cathy Salgado, director of the Vienna Department of Parks and Recreation, said the park ended up costing "a little over $10,000."

The area of the park is 13,500 square feet (90 feet by 150 feet), and the surrounding fence is five feet high.

Aggressive dogs can be asked to leave the park and owners are responsible for cleaning up dog waste. Other rules include a 16-year age requirement for dog handlers, a maximum of two dogs per handler, and a requirement that owners must fill any holes their dogs dig. The park will stay open from 7 a.m. until dark. Other rules will be posted at the park. Salgado said a volunteer friends of the dog park group will help enforce park rules.

Anyone who would like to join the friends of the dog park group, or who has questions about the park, can call the Vienna Parks and Recreation Department at 703-255-6360.

Hunter Mill Controversy

For years, debates have risen over the land along Hunter Mill Road, near the interchange with the Dulles Toll Road. Residents, developers and the Virginia Department of Transportation have squared-off from time to time over the future of the area. Sandwiched between the two large commercial centers of Tysons Corner and Reston, Hunter Mill residents have fought to keep the rural character of their neighborhoods in the face of encroaching development. They have formed a citizens group, called the Hunter Mill Defense League, to represent their interests.

Hunter Mill Defense League members have researched the history of the road, and are working to have it designated as a state and national historic district. And with the help of state legislators, Hunter Mill Road has been named a scenic byway. Scenic byway status does not place any limits on alterations to a road, however.

The Virginia Department of Transportation has been working on five improvements projects for Hunter Mill Road, including the replacement of bridges over Colvin Mill Run and Difficult Run, improving the Dulles Toll Road interchange, realigning Hunter Mill Road near Sunnybrook and widening the road at the Route 123 intersection.

Although the Hunter Mill Defense League opposes many of these projects, which involve widening the road, the group would like to see improvements to the Dulles Toll Road interchange come sooner than later. At an April meeting with the defense league, Virginia Department of Transportation representatives said the $37 million to $40 million they had been anticipating for the project, over the next four years, had all but disappeared. Now just $4.6 million is available, and no construction schedule is in place. To alleviate some of the traffic problems around the interchange, though, a stoplight will soon be installed nearby, at the intersection of Hunter Mill Road and Sunset Hills Road.