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Groups To Present Streetscape Plans

Chain Bridge section to undergo facelift, undergrounding

The potential elimination of curb cuts and the undergrounding of utilities are two subjects sparking debate that will be discussed as part of the upcoming MRC (McLean Revitalization Corp.) presentation revealing its streetscape study.

"There has not been such a presentation before — this will be the first presentation before the MCA [McLean Citizens Association]," said MCA Planning and Zoning chair Adrienne Whyte.

Whyte said the MRC presentation is open to public questions and comments. "We want people to come," she said of the meeting slated for Tuesday, March 19, at 7:30 p.m. at the McLean Community Center.

One of the goals of the MRC is the undergrounding of utilities, said MRC chairman of the board Jack Wilbern. "We want to underground as many utilities as possible, starting with Chain Bridge [Road]," he said.

THE BOARD of Supervisors approved a bond issue for undergrounding during 1987-88 for $2 million, which Wilbern says is not nearly enough in 2002. He said that Virginia Power estimates to underground its lines on Chain Bridge Road would cost $6 million and an additional $3 million for the remaining undergrounding to be done by cable and telephone.

Part of MRC’s plan to save money on the cost of undergrounding is to get new developers to handle their own undergrounding by writing such language into proffers, said Wilbern. He cited two examples — the BP Amoco and Exxon gas stations at Chain Bridge Road and Old Dominion Drive. Both are planning renovation projects and it is Wilbern’s goal to have them underground their utilities "as their contribution to the streetscape projects."

"Undergrounding is a nice idea, but extremely expensive," said former MCA president Gus Anderson, a 10-year McLean resident. "The money would be better spent on trees and landscaping. I do support new development undergrounding — it’s cheaper than digging up sidewalks," he said.

Anderson, preferring to spend money on trees, may get his wish. Another MRC goal is to "put trees between people and cars," said Wilbern, hoping to widen the grass aprons abutting sidewalks from two feet to five feet. "We would have to get permission from each land owner in the form of an easement."

Another MRC proposal — the elimination of curb cuts — is meeting with some objection. "Closing a bunch of curb cuts in downtown McLean to simplify ingress and egress could be a problem," said Whyte. "It forces more people into fewer egress points and you run the risk of congestion. I’m interested in how our business people feel — this will have a direct impact on both the businesses and the patrons. I’m more than likely going to drive by that business. This is a subject worthy of debate. There’s no right answer yet," she said.

PART OF THE MRC study focuses attention on improving Chain Bridge Road with contrast brick paver crosswalks and a cobblestone median, said Wilbern. "The crosswalks won’t be black — a different color will be used. It will be similar to Falls Church and Vienna — brick sized and shaped concrete. It has the benefits of brick, the durability of concrete. We’re proposing the same sort of material down the middle of McLean — Chain Bridge Road — a cobblestone median — just like Elden Street in downtown Herndon," said Wilbern.

"The general consensus is that Chain Bridge is the focal point of the local community with residents going to someplace in McLean, versus Old Dominion where people are generally going through McLean. We had to prioritize the road," said Wilbern.

"I live a block and a half off Chain Bridge," said Anderson. "I’ve kept track of the proposals. It has a lot of potential to make Chain Bridge attractive and slow down the traffic. This neighborhood borders Chain Bridge for three blocks between Ingleside and Pathfinder. Unfortunately, as Dolley Madison gets more congested, more traffic filters over Chain Bridge. It was not designed to be a thoroughfare," he said.