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Calming Traffic at Wiehle

New committee targets traffic at Reston’s future Metro stations.

A newly-assembled advisory committee will have the task of thinking of ways to improve access to the planned Wiehle Avenue Metro station, according to the county’s Dulles Rail project manager.

“It’s all about getting people to and from the Metro stop,” said Richard F. Stevens with the county’s Department of Transportation, a strategy he said includes both diverting traffic away from the station to mitigate congestion and making it easier to access for all modes of transportation.

The 18-member committee, which held its first meeting July 25, will spend the next 18 months working with consultants and county staff to develop an “access management plan.”

“I consider this a regional project. It will have a great impact on improving life throughout the corridor,” said Supervisor Catherine Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill), who appointed members of the advisory committee.

CRITICS OF RAIL have argued that mixed-use development around the Wiehle station — which features more than 450 residential units and roughly 1 million square feet of office space — will exacerbate traffic congestion. In addition, the Wiehle station includes a mixture of surface and structured parking to accommodate the federally-mandated 2,300 parking spaces.

The committee’s task will be identifying improvements designed to prevent blockages and counteract the effects of added density.

In the next year, between four and six community meetings will be held to hear from citizens as consultants work with the advisory group to study traffic patterns around the station.

With guidance from the committee, consultants will produce in a technical report that proposes traffic calming strategies to manage bus, pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle traffic around Reston’s two planned stations.

The committee is made up of citizen members, business representatives, and members from the Dulles Corridor Rail Association, Reston Association, Reston Planning & Zoning, and the Reston Citizens Association.

DUE TO RESTON’S restrictive covenants along the Dulles Corridor, the county has all but given up building residential on its nine-acre park & ride lot adjacent to the planned Wiehle Avenue station, according to Stevens, who also provided an update on development plans at the Wiehle site.

“What we’re doing is taking the existing parking lot and converting it into mixed-use development with primarily commercial and retail,” said Stevens during his presentation.

The Reston Center for Industry and Government (RCIG) covenants, which date back to 1965, restrict residential construction at both Wiehle and the Reston Parkway stations, including hotels.

“We’re fortunate though because there’s a nearby property [near the Wiehle station] that allows residential,” said Stevens, referring to a large lot off of Sunset Hills Road owned by Chuck Veatch. “I think we’re going to be very successful bringing that into the project.”

Stevens praised the work of Reston-based Comstock Partners, who the county selected earlier this year to develop the site. “I think they’re being very creative,” said Stevens.

Other committee members lamented the fact that the county-owned park & ride would be without residential. “I think it’s ironic. The county has pushed mixed-use [near Metro stations], but on its own site it can’t because of the covenants,” said Dave Edwards, a committee member who also serves on Reston Planning and Zoning.

Stevens added that the process for changing the zoning at the site has started “because we need to have all the public facilities in place by September 2011.”