One day, as Eleanor Anderson waited for her husband and her two dogs in the Difficult Run parking lot just off of Georgetown Pike, she watched as a small white sedan traveling east on the Pike came to a screeching halt right in front of her. When Anderson turned to see what had stopped the car dead in its tracks, she saw a tractor-trailer truck that had lost control in a tight turn on the opposite side of the road — sending the back end of the truck to rest in the eastbound lane.
"The driver of that white sedan narrowly escaped being crushed underneath the body of that tractor-trailer truck," said Anderson, addressing the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors at a public hearing held Monday, Oct. 23. "Along this portion of the Pike, there are many such turns."
At its meeting, the supervisors held a public hearing on a proposal to prohibit through truck traffic on Georgetown Pike as part of its Residential Traffic Administration Plan. Dranesville District Supervisor Joan DuBois pushed for the proposal after hearing from numerous citizens concerned about traffic safety on Virginia's first Historic and Scenic Byway.
Anderson and three other Great Falls residents testified in favor of the proposal at the hearing. John Fennell said, that as his house lies right on Georgetown Pike, he has witnessed countless accidents and safety hazards.
"Georgetown Pike is very dear to my heart and very near to my home," said Fennell.
Like Anderson, he also saw a near-fatality near the intersection of the Difficult Run parking lot and Georgetown Pike. In that case, Fennell watched as a car was trapped in between the guard rail and a tractor-trailer truck.
"The tractor-trailer was wedged just underneath their windshield post," said Fennell.
IT WAS THIS EXACT accident that first spurred DuBois into action.
"That gentleman called me, and he is the one who really prompted me to look at this," said DuBois. "He was one of those victims where there was not enough room for him and the tractor-trailer."
DuBois asked both the Great Falls Citizens Association and the McLean Citizens Association to advise her of their positions on the matter, and was further motivated by the unanimous support of both organizations.
Fennell also noted that any time there is an accident on Georgetown Pike, it causes horrific traffic congestion.
"The road is closed and it's very difficult to find alternate routes," said Fennell.
He added that he frequently sees both trucks and cars crossing over the double yellow lines dividing the winding two-lane road.
"When I was on the way here I counted four cars crossing over the yellow lines, and trucks do it all the time," he said.
Great Falls resident Lisa Tofil spoke at the hearing on behalf of the Great Falls Citizens Association. Tofil pointed out that it is not just the stretch of Georgetown Pike from the Capital Beltway to Old Dominion Road that is dangerous, but rather the whole length of the road from the Capital Beltway to Leesburg Pike.
"There have been 1,111 reported accidents on the Pike in the last five years," said Tofil. "Of those there were 319 injuries and two fatalities, one of which took place this year, and my understanding is that it was in between Springvale and Route 7."
The Great Falls Citizens Association also asked local police to take a survey of daily eastbound traffic passing through the heart of Great Falls , just near the Great Falls Village Center. According to Tofil, police reported through-traffic consisting of 46 trucks and buses and 23 tractor-trailers. In addition, the average speed of these vehicles was 46 miles per hour, which is 11 miles above the posted speed limit of 35. Police also said that 96 percent of the vehicular traffic passing by the Village Center was traveling above the speed limit.
"When you have all these cars and trucks and buses speeding on a dangerous road, it's just a recipe for disaster," said Tofil.
RESIDENT Paul Anderson spoke on behalf of Eleanor Weck, president of Great Falls Trailblazers, an 700-member organization that is dedicated to making Great Falls or more walk-able and ride-able community. Anderson read from Weck's written testimony which stated that, as Virginia's first Historic and Scenic Byway and the "main street of Great Falls," Georgetown Pike "defines the character of our semi-rural, low density community."
"The tractor-trailer restriction will significantly add to the safety of non-motorized traffic along the Pike," wrote Weck.
Fairfax County staff, represented by Doug Hanson, senior transportation planner for the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), also advised the Board of Supervisors to approve the proposal. Hanson said that the proposal will not restrict tractor-trailer traffic that has a legitimate end point on the road, such as trucks delivering to Safeway or other Village Center businesses. He added that the current policy also does not set any restrictions by weight.
"It would not prohibit vans and things like that, but is targeted at trucks of a semi-tractor-trailer type of nature," said Hanson.
The supervisors voted unanimously to approve the proposal.