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Widening Under Way

Elden Street project, set to last more than a year, is seeing its first tests with traffic.

As the temperature increases, so has the pace of road laborers striving to complete a lane-widening project stretching from Worldgate Drive to Herndon Parkway that will cost more than $11 million and cause the shutdown of usable lanes for commuters during working hours.

"We have to work on the road, so we close the lanes during those times," said Oscar Jamilla, senior construction manager in charge of the project. "There is a lot of work to be done and we need to get in there … we need to work with the storm sewers and grading."

As many as half of the four lanes currently existing on Elden Street will be closed in segments between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., Monday – Friday and occasionally 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. while the project is underway, according to Jamilla. The 755-meter segment of Elden Street being widened sees about 41,000 cars a day, he added.

"We’re hoping to ease up on the traffic during the rush hours, we’re trying to alleviate any of the traffic problems that might come," by closing lanes during less than peak hours, Jamilla said.

"We have informed everyone ahead of time, so we haven’t experienced any big backups yet," he added. "It will be a continuously happening event, we close the road for the safety … of everyone."

Despite the efforts by those in charge of the project, traffic problems have been persistent and delays have occurred, according to Lt. Donald Amos of the Herndon Police Department.

"I know we’ve had an increase of back ups, especially during rush hour … and lunch hours," Amos said, "but it hasn’t been an issue where we’ve needed officers out there to direct traffic."

"The longer it goes on, the more people are realizing that there is construction and they try to find different routes," he added. "It takes a little more time getting to places, but the idea is that once the project is finished, it will take less time for everyone."

As of Sunday, electric signs informing motorists of construction hours and to expect traffic delays were present on Elden Street.

Jamilla said that while workers have yet to shut down the project due to traffic and reopen closed lanes, that option remains a possibility if traffic gets "too bad."

THE PROJECT IS mostly funded with more than $10 million from the Virginia Department of Transportation, with additional funding of more than $500,000 coming form the town of Herndon’s Capital Improvement Program budget, according to Herndon transportation planner Mark Duceman.

When complete, the project will add medians to Elden Street and increase the number of usable lanes from two to a maximum of six, including newly-added left and right turn lanes to Worldgate Drive and Herndon Parkway, Jamilla said.

"There was frequently congestion in that part of the road and it was decided a long time ago to be widened, and now we’re finally working on it," said Zoran Dragacevac, senior civil engineer for the town of Herndon, who noted that the business of widening Elden Street had been on the minds of town officials since the mid-'90s.

"What’s happening is that a lot of people are using Herndon as a cut through from the Dulles Toll Road to Route 28," he said. "It creates a lot more traffic … so we needed the extra lanes."

"The whole idea is to get people around Elden Street, so they won’t have to go downtown," said Harlon Reece, a Herndon Town Council member and an associate board member representing the town on the Dulles Area Transportation Association, a non-profit transportation advocacy group.

According to Reece, the main reason that the construction is needed is to be able to increase the efficiency of traffic for people coming off the Toll Road on to Elden Street and making turns on Herndon Parkway.

"Right now a lot of traffic really stacks up right there on the Herndon Parkway where a lot of people will be turning left and right and there weren’t enough lanes to allow them to flow very well," Reece said. "I think that is what will be the biggest benefit … the increased mobility to get on to Herndon Parkway."

The project itself won’t be completed by the end of summer. While the project is currently running ahead of schedule, Jamilla said, it is not slated for completion until August of 2007.

"We might finish earlier than August [2007]," Jamilla said. "As it stands we’ll finish way ahead, [the workers] have been working day and night."