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Votes

One Way...For Now

One-Way ... for Now

Church Street Northwest between Lawyers Road and Pleasant Street will remain one-way, as it is now. However, the possibility of making the street two-way has not disappeared from the radar.

On Monday, the Vienna Town Council voted 5-1, with one abstention, to uphold a recommendation by the town's Transportation Safety Commission (TSC) to keep that portion of Church Street one-way. Three households had requested that Church Street be opened to serve traffic both ways, and testimony that the TSC received at two public hearings and over e-mail were split half and half on the issue.

Councilmembers Laurie Cole, George Lovelace, Edythe Kelleher, Maud Robinson and Vienna mayor Jane Seeman, voted for the one-way designation, while Councilman Mike Polychrones placed a dissenting vote and Councilman Sydney Verinder abstained because he wanted more information.

The Council voted against making the road two-way because of pedestrian safety issues and because the Vienna post office may expand and renovate its facility in the next several years, thus changing the layout and the traffic flow of the area.

"The street is not ready for two-way traffic," Seeman said. "There are a lot of things that need to be done before that street can be opened."

Kelleher agreed, relating a sentiment shared by her peers.

"I think it would be wiser for us to be proactive rather than reactive," Kelleher said, asking if town staff could study traffic data and pedestrian safety issues on that stretch of Church Street and Lawyers Road.

A LETTER submitted by petitioners Matthew and Susan Stich and Johanna and Michael Covel asked the TSC to remove the barrier next to the Vienna post office.

When the TSC conducted public hearings on the subject, it received oral and written testimony on both sides of the issue. Those advocating the barrier's removal said it would ease traffic congestion on other streets in the northwest section of Vienna, while those against removal expressed concerns about pedestrian safety, given the street's location and its proximity to the post office and the busy intersection of Church Street and Lawyers Road.

The TSC eventually decided by a vote of 7-0, with one abstention, to recommend not opening up Church Street to two-way traffic. According to TSC chair Rich Denbow, commission members had several concerns: the already burdened intersection at Church Street and Lawyers Road and the pedestrian safety issues that accompany that intersection; the possible congestion at the curbside mailboxes at the post office; the narrow intersection of Church and Pleasant streets; and the utility pole and the fire hydrant at that intersection, which would prevent an expansion of that intersection.

DESPITE THE recommendation, a handful of citizens, including the original petitioners, voiced their opinions at Monday's evening.

"It's the only street in town where we have this barricade," said Michael Covel, who had suggested that someone should have approached area businesses and citizens for funding to relocate the utility pole and fire hydrant.

Town resident Harris Miller agreed.

"It does seem to me that the Council should be looking into opening up barricaded streets," he said.

Matthew Stich said he thought the intersection could relieve traffic congestion along the northwest sector of town.

"If we're really, really interested in doing this, we have to look at traffic in the whole northwest corridor," Stich said. "This is for the benefit of taking traffic away from the northwest corridor. ... The road was made as an industrial road."

A few other citizens had concerns about pedestrian safety on Church Street should the barrier be removed.

Richard Dingman, a former Councilman, recalled talking about the same intersection 35 years ago. He didn't want the conversation to continue for another 35 years.

"I would implore the Council to go on the record [that it is] your intent to open the street," said Dingman, adding that the Council should take charge of the situation, instead of waiting for other factors to influence the issue.

The Council eventually decided to uphold TSC's recommendation, although Councilmembers added that they would like to explore the possibility of opening the road in the future.

"This is a very unique intersection," Lovelace said, adding that he was concerned about curb cuts along Church Street.

Robinson questioned the motives of some of the petitioners, since they had previously discussed their interest in creating a townhouse development near the area in question.

Last summer, the petitioners were applicants who wanted their properties removed from the Windover Heights Historic District,

The integrity of adjacent residential land needs to be considered, Robinson said.

Polychrones said that opening Church Street to two-way traffic would take traffic pressure off Windover Avenue.

"Opening the street would put us in the driver's seat," Polychrones said, casting the sole dissenting vote.

Verinder abstained, saying that more information was needed in order to make the best decision. Traffic counts were not included in the study to open Church Street.

THE COUNCIL also discussed the following items:

* The Council unanimously approved placing audible signals at two intersections on Maple Avenue, at Lawyers/Courthouse roads and at Center Street.

The audible signals were at the request of Charles Davis, a blind town resident, who regularly walks to the Vienna Metrorail station from his home. He judges when to cross the street by the sound of traffic. He added that it was sometimes difficult during rush hour to gauge when traffic has stopped and when it has not.

"It's a guessing game whether to cross," said Davis.

* Concerned about possible traffic impact, the Council agreed to communicate its opposition of a proposed mixed-use development south of the Vienna Metrorail station. The out-of-turn plan amendment, which would facilitate the development's progress, is set to go before the Fairfax County Planning Commission on July 22.

The proposal by the development firm Pulte calls for a mixed-use, higher density development south of the Metro station. Council members preferred that the county retain the original density prescribed by the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan. Councilwoman Cole was charged with presenting the Council's concerns to the Planning Commission.

* The Council approved a resolution opposing Dominion Virginia Power's proposed transmission line along the Washington & Old Dominion Regional Trail. Dominion Virginia Power has been considering installing a new 230kv transmission line along 11 miles of the trail, thus cutting down an estimated 26,000 trees.