It’s settled. The stretch of Hunter Mill Road between Vale Road and Mystic Meadow Way will no longer be designated a four-lane road on the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan.
At the board’s last meeting, Providence District Supervisor Linda Smyth had presented her case that Hunter Mill was not just another case of residents wanting less traffic in their neighborhood, and the decision was deferred. At Monday’s meeting, some board members asked that it be deferred again for further consideration, resulting in a brief standoff.
As some of the road’s residents looked on from the audience, Smyth moved that the county’s transportation plan be adopted with the exception of the four-lane designation on Hunter Mill between Vale Road and Mystic Meadow Way in Oakton, which she asked to have changed to two improved lanes, noting that traffic calming measures may be installed. Most of the road south of Mystic Meadow is already four lanes.
Lee District Supervisor Dana Kauffman asked for an exception for a stretch of Telegraph Road to be changed from a four- to a three-lane designation.
Braddock District Supervisor Sharon Bulova noted that she had been vocal about her concerns around these exceptions at the previous meeting. “I was concerned about the precedential nature of that because a lot of us have constituents who would like to see lanes come off the plan,” she said.
HOWEVER, BULOVA said she had since met with residents along the road who had “made some very, very good arguments for why this case really should be favorably considered.” She said she had learned that the matter had been under consideration for much longer than she had realized and that she had not previously been aware that the stretch of road in question was about a mile at Hunter Mill’s southern end.
She said she’d been convinced that “this is a unique situation we really should consider.” “But I would like to have that conversation,” she said, submitting a substitute motion that the transportation plan be approved with the two exceptions to be revisited at a later date.
Connolly, who had already expressed curiosity about the traffic calming study in progress for Hunter Mill Road, asked Bulova if the discussion she was asking for would include a presentation on traffic calming, to which she responded affirmatively.
“We deferred this decision from our original date so that people could look at some of these issues. As Supervisor Bulova said, this has been under discussion for years – literally, years,” Smyth protested, noting that the matter was “nothing at all new.” “As far as I’m concerned, I’m ready to vote now on this issue.”
Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins suggested that a briefing on traffic calming might mollify some of the board’s concerns.
Connolly agreed. “I think the whole board would find it quite fascinating, and I think, actually, it would help defend the case Mrs. Smyth is making,” he said.
FOR A FEW MINUTES, it appeared that curiosity about traffic calming — both in relation to the road in question and in general — would cause the matter to be deferred again.
Springfield District Supervisor Elaine McConnell also expressed interest in learning more about the traffic calming effort. “This is an issue I think we all need to understand before we approve it,” she said, seconding Bulova’s substitute motion.
“It is my recollection that the board did set up the Hunter Mill Road Traffic Calming Committee,” Smyth responded. “The direction on the study was, ‘How can we make Hunter Mill Road, as a two-lane road, function?’”
At this point, Connolly put Bulova’s substitute motion to a vote. After four ‘ayes’ and five ‘nays,’ Connolly also voted against the motion. With the substitute proposal defeated, the transportation plan was approved, incorporating the changes requested by Smyth and Kauffman.
After the hearing, smiling Oakton residents lingered in the Government center lobby and heaped accolades on Smyth.
“We were very pleased with what our supervisor accomplished for the community,” said Linda Byrne of the Traffic Calming Committee.
“Linda Smyth clearly took control and made it happen,” said Bruce Bennett, the chairman of the committee. “She did the right thing.” He added his appreciation for the support of Del. Steve Shannon (D-35), who had sent a letter to the board supporting the alteration to the plan.
The amendment had originally been proposed by Bob Adams, also of the Traffic Calming Committee, who was on a business trip in Japan at the time of the meeting. Hearing of the outcome, a delighted Adams said, in a phone call Monday night, Smyth had “really worked hard on this, and getting this motion passed was a real accomplishment.” He added, “Having four lanes there at the end of Hunter Mill would really be terrible.”
Smyth later said she had fought for the change because of such extenuating circumstances as the Hunter Mill corridor's eligibility for the historic register, which has been a matter of extensive research, and the current traffic calming study.
"If other areas have gone through all of these steps, I'm not aware of it," she said. She added, "We will be sure everybody does get that presentation on traffic calming."