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Votes

Calming Traffic along Hunter Mill

Citizens discuss traffic-calming measures for 7.2-mile byway.

Suggestions came easily: Improve left-turn capability from the Oakton Shopping onto Hunter Mill; have signage near the Hunter Mill Country Day School; fix the terrible signage and signal confusion as Sunrise Valley Drive goes onto Hunter Mill Road.

These ideas were just a few of those expressed by over 200 residents who attended a traffic-calming meeting last Tuesday sponsored by the Hunter Mill Defense League (HMDL). The purpose of the gathering was for area citizens to learn about various traffic-calming measures and offer suggestions on how to make Hunter Mill Road a safer place to drive.

“The demands on the road are great,” said Janet Tener, an HMDL member, who explained that commuting volume is heavy going southbound in the morning and northbound in the afternoon.

HMDL hopes that the information garnered from the meeting will serve as the basis for a public/private traffic-calming study and implementation, akin to one done several years ago by residents who lived along Georgetown Pike in Great Falls and McLean.

Hunter Mill Road, a 7.2-mile, two-lane byway, connects Oakton to Reston, from Chain Bridge Road to Baron Cameron Avenue. Designated as a byway and historic corridor in 2001-02, the road has more than 40 properties deemed to be of historic value. Over 2,600 tax parcels line the corridor. Each of four supervisor districts — Dranesville, Hunter Mill, Providence and Sully — contains a portion of the winding road.

“This kind of terrain, which used to be commonplace in Northern Virginia, is disappearing,” Tener said.

The road not only services commuters, but pedestrians and horseback riders as well. A portion of the Washington & Old Dominion Trail cuts across Hunter Mill, and paths for horseback riding connect the riding areas dotted throughout Oakton.

A HISTORY of looking at traffic-calming measures for the road had already been established among county, state and local groups. In 2001, Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) created the Hunter Mill Task Force, whose duty was to develop a vision statement for Hunter Mill Road. A committee from within that task force looked at traffic-calming ideas for the section of the road within the Hunter Mill District.

“The community’s vision is to maintain Hunter Mill Road as a tranquil, residential byway with unique natural, historical and picturesque character, thus preserving one of the last remaining scenic, rolling terrains in Fairfax County,” reads the vision statement.

Also in 2001, Del. Vince Callahan (R-34th) requested that a traffic-calming study be performed, similar to the one done in his district for Georgetown Pike.

In 2002, the Hunter Mill Traffic Calming Committee was established from within HMDL, which has been working with Callahan, county supervisors, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and the Fairfax Department of Transportation. The committee adopted the 2001 vision and is currently attempting to raise money for a private firm to conduct a traffic-calming study throughout the whole stretch of the road.

While the committee is fund-raising for the study, Callahan has been attempting to secure funding through a state budget appropriation. The appropriation would fund the costs of engineering services required to select appropriate traffic-calming measures for Hunter Mill Road. VDOT would transfer $75,000 in the first year of services to Fairfax County. The findings would then be presented to the governor and the chairmen of the Senate Finance and House Appropriation committees by Nov. 15, 2004.

That appropriation is currently awaiting approval by both the House of Delegates and the state Senate.

To kick off its traffic-calming study, the Hunter Mill Traffic Calming Committee conducted a community outreach meeting on Feb. 17 at the Unity Church in Oakton. At that meeting, Rob Prunty, from the engineering firm Wilbur Smith Associates, presented to the group an overview of traffic-calming measures Prunty had worked with on the traffic-calming project for Georgetown Pike.

“They had a lot of issues which were similar to what is going on with Hunter Mill Road,” Prunty said.

Prunty explained that traffic-calming measures can include changes to street alignment, the installation of barriers, and the implementation of physical measures that would alter behavior of both drivers and non-motorists.

TRAFFIC CALMING tools can include physical geometric treatments such as traffic circles and roundabouts, and bulb-outs, which narrow the road; pavement texture treatments; signage and entrance treatments such as the ones at the entrances to Georgetown Pike and to the Town of Vienna; safety spot improvements such as speed humps; and technology-based alternatives such as red-light cameras.

One example of where several traffic-calming measures have been implemented is at Walker Road near the intersection of Georgetown Pike. Located near the Great Falls Shopping Center, Walker Road now has on-street parking, pork-chop islands that force a driver to turn right, bulb-outs, and brick crosswalks.

After hearing the traffic-calming presentation, the audience was separated into three groups: those interested in Hunter Mill Road from Chain Bridge Road to Lawyers Road, from Lawyers Road to the Dulles Toll Road, and from the Dulles Toll Road to Baron Cameron Avenue.

“I’ve always questioned the shoulder grading of the road,” said Karen Thompson of Vienna. “I would like to see the shoulders maintained better.”

Others had questions about the increase of hazmat trucks seen on the road, right-turn lanes at various intersections, crosswalks along major intersections, and synchronization of lights.

Several suggested that traffic and accident data be collected to see which areas get priority.

“The lady brought up a good point about accidents,” said Tim Green of Oakton, referring to a woman who had just spoken up about them. Green said two of his neighbors had been rear-ended when trying to get onto Hunter Mill Road.

After the meeting, Wilbur Smith Associates will analyze citizen feedback. Should the study proceed, they will collect traffic data and hold several meetings before creating a final document of suggestions for traffic-calming implementation. Public officials would then push for the actual implementation of the document’s suggestions.