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Corridor Neighbors Worry about Rail

Proposed rail would increase traffic and noise, they say.

July 25, 2002

Although most of the residents of the Polo Fields community are in favor of running a rail line along the Dulles Corridor, they are also concerned about the increased noise, traffic and lighting that a new rail line would bring, according to Lily Griffin, the president of the Polo Fields homeowners association.

"It definitely will improve the value of our homes if you can walk to the metro," she said. But she added, "The traffic is an issue. Lighting and noise are other issues with all of our residents."

For instance, Griffin pointed to the Monroe Street bridge.

"That's a one-lane bridge," she said. "A lot of people would be taking that road to get to the metro."

There is no room in the already densely developed neighborhood to widen the bridge, she added.

The narrow bridge is already causing some drivers to cut through Thunder Chase Drive to avoid the bridge and Sunrise Valley Drive, she said.

"There's a tremendous amount of traffic around our subdivision," she noted.

On the issue of noise, Griffin said that while sound barriers might be a solution, they are also obtrusive. "I don't know that that would work," she said.

SOME COMMUNITIES along the corridor have already started organizing. Citizens in Hallcrest Heights in McLean hired an acoustical engineer to determine the real impact of a rail line along the Dulles Toll Road, said Clark Tyler, president of the Hallcrest Heights homeowners association.

Hallcrest Heights is a community of 158 townhomes sandwiched between Route 123, Great Falls Street and the Dulles Corridor. Some maps in the Environmental Impact Statement for the Dulles Corridor Rapid Transit Project show an elevated rail line running right above the neighborhood before veering off to the west to go into Tysons Corner.

The EIS was released last month and presents a variety of options for public transit along the Dulles Corridor, including rail service, rapid bus transit service (BRT), or a combination of the two. The rail option would require building a rail line in the median of the Dulles Toll Road.

"We're going to be sitting under an elevated railway," said Tyler. "When it gets to us it's going to be fully elevated to bend into Tysons."

Despite that, Tyler said his homeowners association supported the Rail to Dulles project.

BUT OFFICIALS working on the Dulles Corridor Rapid Transit Project say the noise impact will be minimal. "I don't believe there were significant impacts based on noise in any of the residential areas," said Chip Badger, assistant director for public transportation with the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation. "The additional noise from either the BRT or the rail is within ambient noise levels."

Badger also said that the project was considering a five-foot buffer wall for the rail option. The wall would separate the rail line from the highway.

Tyler is not convinced. He said the noise levels are already too high in his neighborhood. Believing that there will be no significant noise impacts of screeching wheels turning towards Tysons Corner is "like believing in the Easter bunny," he said.

"This is the only section in the Dulles corridor that does not have adequate noise barriers," he added. "You can't treat it as a rail-only instance. A corridor is a corridor. It has everything but honking geese."

THE POLO FIELDS and Hallcrest Heights communities received the support of the Board of Supervisors on Monday.

"Having gone over to the Polo Fields and watched the traffic that comes in, I understand there are some concerns," said Supervisor Catherine Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill).

Hudgins added that she was looking forward to learning how the engineers of the rail study determined that there would be no significant noise impact.

"I think we interpret that as to how they quantify 'no significant impact,'" she said.

The board also asked the Fairfax County Department of Transportation to forward the neighborhoods' concerns to the Dulles Corridor Rapid Transit Project and to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and to request a written response from WMATA.

"Although I am aware that complete noise and traffic mitigation strategies will not be developed until the final design of the project, I believe that it is important to voice the concerns of our communities as early as possible," wrote Supervisor Stuart Mendelsohn (R-Dranesville) in a statement presented to the Board.

Mendelsohn also said he thought there would be a significant noise impact from the project.

"The EIS gave it a little short shrift," he said.