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Traffic Calming on Hunter Mill

An upcoming study of traffic calming on the historic road was announced Friday.

<bt>The Hunter Mill Road Traffic Calming Committee held a press conference Friday afternoon to announce that a study will be conducted to determine the means for traffic calming along the road. Committee members also unveiled the report they have put together to set the goals for the traffic calming process.

About 15 people gathered at the intersection of Hunter Mill Road and the W&OD Trail under a misting rain to discuss the future of the winding, two-lane road, which runs for just over seven miles between Reston and Fairfax.

Committee Chairman Bruce Bennett announced that his committee is working with the Northern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC) to contract an engineering firm to conduct the study. He also said he wanted to make it clear that traffic calming efforts would not include speed bumps or added stop signs.

Supervisor Linda Smyth (D-Providence) expressed her satisfaction with the progress being made on the project. "This seems to be the year that we're getting Hunter Mill Road to go the way we want it to go," said Smyth.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerry Connolly did not attend the press conference but issued a statement of his continued support for "the preservation of Hunter Mill Road as a historic byway and its protection from undue growth and development."

The road has been designated as a Virginia Byway and has been deemed eligible for nomination to the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places. Education about the corridor's historic significance is, in fact, one way the committee proposes to control traffic.

"Hunter Mill Road has a lot of history, and we want to get that out, and we want you to think about it as you drive — the speed limit," said Jody Bennett, Bruce Bennett's wife and member of the History Committee of the Hunter Mill Defense League.

The Comprehensive Plan currently calls for parts of the road to be widened to four lanes, but residents along the road have been outspoken about their desire to prevent its widening and keep it in its original road bed.

In 2001, citizens along the road created a vision statement to define what they wanted for the road's future: "The community's vision is to maintain Hunter Mill Road as a tranquil, residential byway with unique natural, historic and picturesque character, thus preserving one of the last remaining scenic, rolling terrains in Fairfax County."

Speeding had been a problem on the road, and citizens were inspired by traffic calming efforts along Georgetown Pike to consider traffic calming as a way to make Hunter Mill Road safer without changing its character, said Bruce Bennett.

In 2002, according to a release from the traffic calming committee, Del. Vince Callahan (R-34) secured authorization for the traffic calming study with support from state senators Jeannemarie Devolites-Davis (R-34) and Janet Howell (D-32) and Del. Ken Plum (D-36). The supervisors of the four districts along the road — Providence, Sully, Hunter Mill and Dranesville — each appointed representatives from their districts to form the Hunter Mill Road Traffic Calming Committee, which consists of nine members.

Last year, Del. Callahan petitioned for funds for the committee, and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) allocated $75,000 for the upcoming study.

Supervisor Smyth said a consultant to Fairfax County is expected to make a recommendation that the Transportation Policy Plan be amended so that the road will not be widened beyond Lewis Knolls Drive. It is currently on the books to be widened from Chain Bridge Road to Vale Road.

THE COMMITTEE HAS SOUGHT public input, observed traffic on the road and selected locations on which to focus traffic calming efforts, according to the release. These include the road's intersections with Chain Bridge Road, Samaga Road, Vale Road, Hunters Valley Road, Lawyers Road, Cedar Pond Road, Hunter Station Road and Baron Cameron Avenue.

Among the findings listed in the committee's report are recommendations that the road should be a two-lane road with a 35 mile per hour speed limit.

The report also recommends that hazardous material (HAZMAT) through-traffic should be banned.

"It's a narrow, community road in some places with no shoulder, and it services a large number of school buses during the school year," said Bruce Bennett. "It's not equipped to handle [HAZMAT trucks]."

The preservation of the historical value of the corridor has been a major focus of the committee's concerns. Fifty-two historic sites and structures have been identified along the road, said Jeanette Twomey, president of the Hunter Mill Defense League. Twomey said the road began as an Indian trail and remains in its original road bed.

"In the long run, preserving places of history is going to be really valuable to the county," she said.

Traffic calming measures recommended in the report are education, police enforcement and roundabouts. Twomey said there are plans to install "markers and interpretive exhibits" along the road to educate the public about the corridor's historic and cultural features.

Roundabouts would allow free-flowing traffic and safe access from side roads, said committee member Daniel Sponn. He said other measures might be considered, including "splitters," which create a refuge for pedestrians in the center of the road, and "bulb-outs," which create a constriction in the roadway.

The report also calls for trails along the road and for crosswalks at road and trail intersections.

Bruce Bennett said a contract is currently being negotiated with an engineering firm which he would not yet name, and he said he was told by NVRC that a contract should be secured by the month's end. The results of the study should be ready by late winter, he said.

The study will not result in a design for the road, but will be "more of a conceptual study of solutions," said Sponn. "There will probably be some sketches, but not any final engineering."

The committee's report, which is intended to guide the upcoming study, emphasizes the idea that Hunter Mill Road is a community road and should be designed according to the needs and wishes of the citizens who live along it.

"Fairfax County keeps pushing for wider, straighter, flatter roads," said Sponn. "We accept that we're going to have a large volume of traffic on the road — more than a two-lane road can really handle," he said. "But if we make it wider, it will encourage development, and then it'll still be filled up."