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Interchange Designs for Parkways Unveiled

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More than 200 people attended the Oct. 28 Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) unveiling of the design chosen for the Fairfax County/Fair Lakes parkways interchange. The $45 million needed for construction is as yet unfunded, but whenever a money tree blossoms somewhere, VDOT will be ready to translate the project from paper to pavement.

"It's included in the county's Comprehensive Plan and in VDOT's Six-Year program ... but it all comes down to dollars and financing," said VDOT preliminary-engineering manager Bill Cuttler. "From a technical standpoint, we're ready to do this."

Supervisors Michael Frey (R-Sully) and Elaine McConnell (R-Springfield), plus Sully District transportation commissioner Jeff Parnes, were among those hearing about the plan during a public hearing at Chantilly High.

The Fairfax County Parkway between I-66 and Route 50 already carries some 64,000 vehicles per day, with 118,000 vehicles per day projected by 2025. So VDOT wants to widen Fairfax County Parkway within the existing median to six lanes — three in each direction — between I-66 and Route 50.

But an interchange is also needed to deal with the congestion. Currently, because of heavy traffic and the stoplight at the Fair Lakes Parkway intersection, northbound Fairfax County Parkway backs up to the I-66 interchange during morning rush hour. Similarly, southbound Fairfax County Parkway traffic is backed to the Route 50 interchange during the afternoon rush.

Fair Lakes Parkway and Monument Drive already carry about 30,000 and 6,000 vehicles each weekday, respectively, and these totals are predicted to increase to 47,000 and 18,000, respectively, by 2025. Furthermore, shopping centers along both roads also draw weekend motorists.

Four design alternatives for the interchange were presented at a June 4, 2002, public hearing, and a large majority of residents — along with VDOT's design team — favored Alternative 2. VDOT then refined it and presented details on Oct. 28.

Traffic flow on both parkways will be improved by eliminating the signalized intersections at Fair Lakes Parkway and Monument Drive. The additional lanes on the Fairfax County Parkway will improve traffic flow from south of I-66 to north of Rugby Road.

PLANNED IS a split-diamond, grade-separated interchange, with Fairfax County Parkway bridging over Fair Lakes Parkway and Monument Drive. These two roads will have full access to the Fairfax County Parkway via four ramps. Through traffic would be separated from local ramp traffic, with traffic signals on the ramps, not on the parkway.

Due to the close proximity of Fair Lakes Parkway to the existing interchanges at I-66 and Rugby Road, an additional auxiliary lane will be required in each direction between interchange ramps (I-66 to Fair Lakes Parkway, and Fair Lakes Parkway to Route 50).

Fair Lakes Parkway will be widened to accommodate the necessary left-turn lanes for the interchange. Beginning at Fair Lakes Parkway, a multipurpose trail is anticipated along the east side of Fairfax County Parkway, with a connection to the existing trail at Rocky Run Stream Valley Park.

Additionally, North Lake Drive would be made a cul-de-sac so it no longer intersects with Fairfax County Parkway. "We felt it would be a safety issue where the [interchange] ties in," said design consultant John Maddox. "Access out Tall Timbers Drive is proposed; a developer should build it soon." Meanwhile, residents of North Lake Village's 114 townhouses would weave through residential neighborhoods to reach the parkway or Route 50.

VDOT engineer P.K. Doss said the $5 million design phase and $2 million land-acquisition and utilities-relocation phase are both funded. The $45 million needed for construction is not, and Doss warned that the $52 million total cost is in today's dollars — so the price tag could rise in the future.

"Most of the land needed for right of way has already been deeded to VDOT," added Maddox. "There'll be landscaping, lighting on the [Fairfax County Parkway] from I-66 to Route 50, and numerous retaining walls — 8 to 10 feet high in places. And we've designed it to accommodate HOV lanes if they're approved for this area some day."

Next, said Doss, "We'll evaluate and compile public comments by the county DOT and VDOT and will seek the [Board of] Supervisors' endorsement, with McConnell's leadership, early next year." VDOT's chief engineer must also OK the plan so remaining land acquisition could begin next summer.

CHARLIE ROSE of PEC Solutions, which occupies three buildings in Fair Lakes, said his company looks forward to this project "alleviating much of the congestion in this area." And he asked what VDOT will do to maintain Fair Lakes' "aesthetic integrity." Cuttler assured him that the landscaping, bridge and sound walls would all be "nice-looking."

A man asked about VDOT's long-range gridlock-relief intentions for the area, and Cuttler said plans are afoot to improve Centreville Road. And, he added, "In 2005, we'll do design work [to improve] Stringfellow Road, too."

While noting that "there's a lot of competing projects across Northern Virginia for a limited pot of money," he said VDOT is looking for a "considerable infusion of federal money" to help fund the interchange. If it came through, he said, the project would be built in phases, over about 30 months, finishing by late 2006, early 2007.