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First Steps To Widen Fairfax County Parkway

Engineers and county officials release rough plans for long-proposed widening of parkway.

Engineers and Fairfax County public works officials released a preliminary conceptual design last week for the long-proposed modification of a 13-mile stretch of Fairfax County Parkway that, if undertaken, would add new turn lanes to intersections, increase the number of usable traffic lanes and potentially add a carpool (HOV) lane option for commuters.

The designs, which apply to the section of the parkway running from the Dulles Toll Road to Route 50, were released in a town-hall style information meeting sponsored by the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services at Oak Hill Elementary in Oak Hill last week on Wednesday night.

"This is all very rough at this point," said Bob Reed, project manager of the preliminary engineering being undertaken by the Pasadena, Calif.-based engineering firm, Parsons Corporation.

The expansion of the width of the parkway has been planned since it was first opened in 1987, according to Keith Foxx, project manager of the Fairfax County Parkway expansion for the county. The project is being undertaken with the objective of creating a carpool lane for commuters, which would ultimately increase traffic efficiency and quality of air and potentially decrease noise, Foxx added.

This is the first draft for the project, which is currently in its conceptual and survey stages, and is being funded with a $3.5 million grant from the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Engineering consultants working with the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services — the managing body of the task — have said that the project, if adopted, will not begin construction stages for the next several years.

AT THIS TIME, the project is calling to expand approximately seven miles of the parkway from four lanes to six, Reed said. All in all it would affect, if approved, seven major intersections and as many as 60,000 cars on an average day.

The final cost of construction is estimated at $125 million and would be supplied from federal sources granted to VDOT if approved, according to Reed.

The $3.5 million grant — the only funds being spent at this stage of the project — covers the conceptual designs of the expansion, environmental studies, land surveys, environmental studies and 26 percent of the preliminary design plans, according to Foxx.

"We’re talking about completely reconfiguring intersections … adding another left turn lane and increasing signal time," Reed said. "We’re talking about constructing noise barriers so that the traffic won’t affect residents that much."

"Typically in a project like this there is a lot more personal impact," he added. "I think in October as this begins to pick up and people know more about it, more people will come and get involved."

AMONG THE APPROXIMATELY 50 people who attended the event were Rob Morris and his wife who live on Archdale Road in Reston, which backs up to Fairfax County Parkway.

Morris said that while he and his wife bought their home prior to the construction of the highway, they knew that it would be there and that it would extended.

"I’m not totally concerned about the project itself because they built it with the intention of bringing it up to six lanes," Morris said. "What we’re concerned about is the noise level and what the county is prepared to do to block the noise that is coming through."

Since the parkway was constructed with the expansion in mind, it still owns a significant amount of land that borders the road to be used for construction of extra lanes and noise barriers, Reed said.

While Reed does not see the county claiming eminent domain on the property of any residents in order to expand the property, that possibility of easement — the county paying a fee to landowners for land-use rights — for construction of the wider carpool lanes and the possibility of sound barriers.

"My feeling is that if they can do something about the noise, then I’m sure we’ll be able to sell our house when we decide to," Morris said. "Will it sell for as much as a house not backed up by [the parkway]? Probably not."

FOR THE PROJECT to go forward, it would need to be approved by Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors after a series of public hearings and the actual final amount for construction would need to be approved and allocated by VDOT to Fairfax County’s Department of Public Works and Environmental Services, Foxx said.

Allocating the total amount of funds needed for the project, Foxx said, is something that is not even a consideration of county and state transportation officials at this point.

"I haven’t heard any talk of funds," he said. "If anyone asked me about funding I would have to tell them that it would not be for years and years down the road."

"It’s probably a sure thing, but it’s also probably 10 or 20 years away. No one is talking beyond design at this point."