Imagine not being able to cross Route 28 between Braddock and Walney Roads in Centreville. How about no longer being able to turn left onto Route 28 south from Walney, or left onto Route 28 north from Braddock?
Get ready for the possibility, because these are but a few of the ideas the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is proposing for the Route 28/Braddock/Walney intersection. They were presented Monday night at a public meeting at the Sully District Governmental Center.
And while some of the 125 or so people packed into the standing-room-only space politely thanked the VDOT representatives for their time and effort, most strongly objected to what they heard.
"I live off Walney and I'm really opposed to this plan," said Martha Garmon of Cabell's Mill. "We've got our lives on both sides of [Route 28]."
Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully) said Monday's meeting was just the start of the process for what is intended as a short-term solution only. "We want community input," he told the crowd. "Think about what's proposed, critique it and get back to me." Comments may be e-mailed to him at Sully@fairfaxcounty.gov, and he'll relay them to VDOT.
"Our technical team developed this proposal," said Bud Siegel, VDOT's preliminary engineering manager for Fairfax County. "You live in the Corridor and know it better than we do, so you can identify issues, problems and concerns."
VDOT transportation engineer Sunil Taori said the goal is to improve safety and traffic flow on Route 28 by reducing congestion. Currently, he said, morning-peak traffic packs Route 28 north and backs up the I-66 ramps. In the afternoon rush, traffic on Route 28 south backs up to Westfields Boulevard.
IN THE MORNING, he said, nearly 4,400 vehicles travel north on Route 28 in the vicinity of Walney and Braddock, with another 4,000 going south there in the afternoon. Of that amount, about 460 vehicles turn right from Walney onto Route 28 north in the morning, with 892 turning right from Braddock to Route 28 south, in the morning. Another 1,200 vehicles each morning turn right onto Walney from Route 28 north.
In addition, said Taori, in 2004, there were 44 crashes in that intersection — 34 of them, rear-enders — and they further added to the congestion. So VDOT's proposing a partial median closure at that intersection and installation of a median island.
Drivers could no longer cross Route 28 between Braddock and Walney, and the existing traffic signal would be improved and retained for northbound left turns and east- and westbound right turns. Walney's left lane would be removed, and traffic could only turn right from Walney onto Route 28 north, through a channelized island.
Both lanes coming from Braddock onto Route 28 would turn right, or southbound, only. Motorists would no longer be able to turn left, or north, onto Route 28. They'd instead be redirected to the Westfields Interchange.
Drivers could still turn left onto Braddock from Route 28 north, but Route 28 south traffic could no longer turn left onto Walney. However, traffic on Route 28 north could still turn right onto Walney.
"This results in more green-light time for Route 28 [drivers]," said Taori. "Therefore, 1,000-1,400 more vehicles can go north on Route 28 in the morning, and 500-600 more vehicles can go south on Route 28 in the afternoon."
He said these numbers would mean a 25-percent increase in Route 28 traffic volume heading north, and 12 percent, heading south. So, said Taori, "We think we can increase safety and reduce congestion by eliminating some of the conflicting movements."
Project cost is estimated at $150,000, with VDOT footing most of the bill. "All the work takes place within our right-of-way," said Siegel. "So we could proceed fairly quickly and go to construction by mid-2006."
Virginia Run's Ted Troscianecki worried "there could be conflicts" between afternoon traffic traveling south on Route 28 to reach I-66 west, and vehicles turning right from Braddock onto Route 28 south. But Taori assured him "there'd be no right turns [there] without the light."
"IS IT FEASIBLE to put a full cloverleaf at that intersection?" asked Troscianecki. "No," replied Susan Shaw, in charge of VDOT's Route 28 Corridor projects. "It's too close to I-66." Although an overpass had been proposed for that area, years ago, she said it would require "significant right-of-way" and cost upwards of $10 million.
Cabell's Mill resident Dan O'Keefe noted that lots more office buildings are being built in the Westfields Corporate Center and said he thought VDOT's "doing this for them, and not for the residents. For me not to be able to get to the Giant or the Post Office is ridiculous."
"Am I supposed to go north on 28 and make a U-turn at the sports field to go left on 28?" he asked. "What kind of wacko ideas are you proposing? It's just unfair to build a road for the people coming from I-66 to get to those offices, [to the detriment of residents]."
Another man said the plan "creates one more barrier in a town already cut in half by I-66 and Route 28" and would send even more vehicles onto two-lane Poplar Tree Road and the already busy Stone Road. Besides, he added, it won't do much to change the overall traffic picture on Route 28: "You can't just do this and act as if traffic would evaporate as soon as it crosses Braddock Road."
Stephen Vandivere of Cabell's Mill said he believes the changes could be helpful because they'd "provide breaks for Cabell's Mill traffic," causing traffic on Walney to become intermittent. "This will be good for some communities and bad for others," he told Taori and Siegel. All you can do is balance the good against the bad."
"There are impacts on neighborhoods on both sides of 28," said another man. "You're stopping traffic on 28 in both directions, anyway, at I-66, so why are you even looking at this? The turns from Route 28 onto I-66 east and west are the keys to the traffic bottlenecks."
Sen. Ken Cuccinelli (R-37th) said residents on both sides of 28 are "one community," and O'Keefe's wife Chris said the proposal would "cut off" Cabell's Mill residents from the rest of Centreville. "My dentist [and] eye doctor are west on 66 or south on 28," she explained. "Every time I go out, I'll run into all this extra traffic because people will be going east and then west, or north and then south."
To go south on Route 28, she'd have to travel north to the Westfields Interchange, and from Walney Road in her neighborhood to Westfields is 2 1/2 miles. Or she'd have to go east on Northbourne Drive to Stringfellow Road to Route 29 to access Route 28 south or go west on I-66.
DECRYING SUCH long detours, another resident said, "We don't want to have to drive three or four miles elsewhere through several lights to travel two miles." Added Bob Gordon of Cabell's Mill: "We'll have to drive through our communities to get anywhere."
As it is, said Marty Bouveron of Sequoia Farms, "It's like NASCAR in the morning. A lot of traffic cuts through Sequoia Farms from Newgate to go right toward Westfields."
Carol Hawn of Old Mill said the proposal will cause motorists to make U-turns at the E.C. Lawrence Park traffic light even more than they do now. "They're going north to south, and it's becoming a real bottleneck," she said. "So you need to look at this, too."
She also urged VDOT to include the New Braddock/Stone Road interchange that's on Fairfax County's Comprehensive Plan. "We need to look comprehensively at the entire traffic makeup [of this area]," she said.
Another woman suggested restricting times when people could turn left from Walney and Braddock onto Route 28. And Brad May, with the Goddard School off Westfields Boulevard, suggested opening the crossover between Braddock and Walney on weekends and non-peak times.
Mentioning Stone Middle School, just off Braddock Road, Cuccinelli noted "significant impacts on children" on the west side of Route 28. And, mentioning two daycare centers along Braddock, Rocky Run's John Volarich told VDOT, "You have to look at the safety of our children there, long term. And London Towne, Cub Run and Deer Park Elementary kids need to be able to walk to and from their homes and buses safely."
County Park Authority Chairman Hal Strickland addressed VDOT on behalf of E.C. Lawrence Park. "When you redirect more traffic through there, from Braddock up to Westfields to Walney, you make it an unpleasant experience for park visitors," he said. "It's almost untenable now, and it'll add more traffic to a poor-standard road."
Wade Jones of Chantilly's Patera community lives up Walney Road and turns south on Route 28, each morning. Saying he'd prefer both lanes of Walney to be allowed to turn south, he said the traffic light there during rush hour "is on for maybe 10 seconds and only four cars get through it legally."
Taori said the detours might actually be faster for motorists than waiting for several revolutions of a stop light. But, said Randy Randall of Cabell's Mill, "For those of us that live and work in the 28 Corridor, this is a major inconvenience."
Supervisor Frey, however, said if Route 28 isn't working, motorists will divert through the neighborhoods. "So we need to balance the needs of drivers on Route 28 vs. the needs of the community," he said. "I think this is a good-faith effort by VDOT to put a proposal on the table that'll increase safety and improve traffic flow on Route 28. We will address all the issues brought up tonight and make sure VDOT gets your comments."