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Votes

Walney, Braddock, Route 28

VDOT, residents discuss new plan's pros and cons.

Not every one of the more than 80 people attending Tuesday night's public meeting about the Route 28, Braddock and Walney Roads traffic tangle liked VDOT's proposed solution.

But they also couldn't ignore what VDOT transportation engineer Sunil Taori was saying.

WHEN IT COMES to crashes, he said, "This intersection is in the worst 2.5 percent of all [similar] intersections in the state. And in 2005, the crash problem spread out [along the area], causing secondary crashes in the back queue."

As it is, morning-peak traffic on Route 28 north backs up into the I-66 ramps. And afternoon-rush traffic on Route 28 south backs up to Westfields Boulevard.

So to improve safety and traffic flow on Route 28 by reducing congestion, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) in November told residents its plan to make things better. It recommended a partial median closure at that intersection and installation of a median island.

Drivers could no longer cross Route 28 between Braddock and Walney, and the traffic signal would only permit northbound left turns and east- and westbound right turns. Walney's left lane would disappear, and traffic could only turn right from Walney onto Route 28 north, through a channelized island.

Both lanes coming from Braddock onto Route 28 would turn right (south) only. Motorists couldn't turn left (north) onto Route 28; they'd be directed to the Westfields Interchange.

Drivers could still turn left onto Braddock from Route 28 north, but Route 28 south traffic couldn't turn left onto Walney. But traffic on Route 28 north could still turn right onto Walney.

Taori, plus VDOT civil engineer Bud Siegel and VDOT project manager Pete Imperiale returned Tuesday to the Sully District Governmental Center to share with residents how they tweaked the proposal since the first meeting.

Also present were Del. Chuck Caputo (D-67th), Sen. Ken Cuccinelli (R-37th), Fairfax County Planning Commissioners Ron Koch and Jim Hart and a representative for Del. Tim Hugo (R-40th).

"I appreciate the input we've had on this idea," said Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully). "VDOT proposed some short-term solutions, there were many concerns and VDOT took them to heart. We also got lots of e-mails offering other suggestions."

"There's no money for an ultimate, long-term solution — a major interchange," he continued. "And there are cut-through traffic problems, too. We're not going to make everyone happy, but I hope you go away from the process feeling that VDOT did listen."

Siegel told the residents, "You know the corridors better than we do, so we used your comments and suggestions, plus some other things, to modify our proposal. You told us [that intersection] has a high crash rate and the signals at the Route 28/I-66 ramps contribute to the problem. And you said, 'Don't move the problem to the next traffic light.'"

"SO WE developed additional mitigation measures," said Taori. "More congestion means more crashes and more crashes mean more congestion, so we expanded our scope to a wider area."

Now under consideration by VDOT are the following proposals:

* Install a traffic signal at Walney and Westfields.

* Install route-guidance signs directing drivers to travel on the main arteries, rather than on local roads.

* Eliminate the ramp spur from Route 28 north to I-66 west.

* Eliminate the ramp spur from I-66 east to Route 28 south.

* Redirect traffic to Route 29/I-66 via Routes 28/29 interchange with route-guidance signs.

* Restrict the senior center at Route 28/I-66 to right-turn in, right-turn out, only.

* Encourage traffic-calming on Sequoia Farms Drive, with the county, VDOT and residents working together.

* Redirect traffic from Route 28 north to I-66 west via Route 29 west/south.

* Redirect traffic from I-66 east to Route 28 south via Route 29 east/north.

The Route 28/I-66 modifications would require Federal Highway Association approval. The Braddock, Walney, Route 28 improvements would need VDOT's commitment to restrict access at that intersection and only allow right turns in and out of the senior center.

Taori said all these changes would move traffic faster on Route 28, with less delay, and additional green-light time for Route 28 drivers would improve safety.

"It's relatively low cost and simple to implement," he said. "And it benefits us all as a community and a region and improves our quality of life. There'll be some inconvenience to residents on the Walney Road side of Route 28, but we believe the benefits will outweigh the inconvenience."

Frey noted that traffic problems also exist on the two-lane section of Poplar Tree Road. "There's no state money for it," he said. "But I've gotten some money from the Centreville Area Road Fund and, in July, the Board of Supervisors approved it so we can begin the design process [to improve] that stretch of Poplar Tree Road. The Supervisors also approved a bond referendum for November 2007 with $100 million for transportation improvements, and Poplar Tree would be included in it."

West Fairfax County Citizens Association (WFCCA) President Ted Troscianecki asked about Stone Road, and Frey said a safety-improvement plan is already in place to extend the median from Awbrey Patent Drive to Route 29. A traffic signal will be installed at Billingsgate Lane at London Towne Elementary, and the left-turn lane there will be improved. And some communities won't get to turn left on Stone.

If approved, said VDOT's Imperiale, construction on the Route 28, Walney, Braddock improvements could tentatively begin by spring/summer 2007. Audience members then weighed in on the proposals.

ONE MAN said he was "insulted by anything less than a full interchange there," and another worried about cut-through traffic going through neighborhoods. Others suggested part-time lanes during rush hour, but Taori said they'd be difficult to design and could lead to accidents.

A Cabell's Mill resident suggested putting barriers with gates across Walney in rush hour, but opening them at other times so people could reach I-66 without taking a "huge detour." But Taori said that would be too difficult technically and would delay the project. With VDOT's plan, he said, "You'd have some extra time to travel, but it would be safer."

"It's another sell-out solution," yelled another man. "Doing the job cheaper has always taken a back seat to doing the job right. Instead of a series of half-baked solutions, let's step back and do it right the first time."

The audience applauded, but Frey then explained the financial and environmental problems an interchange there would entail, not to mention the seven or eight years of advance preparation. "I'm right there with you," he said. "I wish we could do the interchange. But even if we had the money and started today, it would take years to complete and we can't live with the accidents. We haven't had a fatality, yet, but we might if we don't do anything."

WFCCA's Carol Hawn asked who's "pushing the completion of this limited-access road [Route 28]?" Taori said it's the CTB (Commonwealth Transportation Board), and Hawn replied, "Is the CTB aware of the funding necessary to do a good job?" Defending the plan, Siegel answered, "As stewards of the roadway system, we saw a low-cost way to improve traffic flow and safety on Route 28."

Jeff Parnes, Sully District representative on the Transportation Advisory Committee, suggested allowing just right turns in and out of E.C. Lawrence Park and eliminating Route 28's north- and south-bound traffic lights there.

"And if you're going to make people use northbound 28 to the 66 west detour, they ought not be routed to the Route 29 interchange," he explained. "Instead, route them perhaps through Machen Road to Route 29. Explore a route with fewer lights."

Then addressing the crowd, Parnes said, "If lack of transportation funds is the problem, Frey and VDOT aren't the ones who determine them. Let your local delegates and senators know. They're meeting about it right now in the General Assembly."

One man wondered how VDOT's proposal would affect fire and police response time to Cabell's Mill and areas off Walney Road, but Imperiale said it should be "the same or better because of the change in the signal phasing."

Scott Dickinson of Sully Station said, "I don't think a sign saying, 'Route 28 north, this way,' will stop people from cutting through Sequoia Farms." But Siegel said traffic calming in that community would make it a "less convenient route."

Frank Dibartolomeo of Virginia Run wondered what would happen if VDOT didn't receive positive consensus for its plan. "Government comes from the people, and we are the people," he said. "You may create more safety hazards by having more traffic going on Sequoia Farms Drive and Westfields Boulevard."

"And what's the impact on Sully Station Drive and kids going to Stone Middle School?" he asked. "Think about the accidents and, God forbid, the children who are going to get hurt."

A WOMAN who lives in Sequoia Farms said her homeowners association requested a traffic-calming study on Sequoia Farms Drive this summer. "We met the criteria for number of vehicles and speed, but didn't qualify for traffic humps," she said.

"Over 900 cars a day travel [on it] from Westfields to Braddock," she continued. "What's going to happen when you have a thousand cars going north on 28 and half of them turn on Sequoia Farms Drive some summer morning when children are going to the swimming pool?"

Meanwhile, tired of sitting in traffic waiting to get onto I-66, David Schutz, who lives behind E.C. Lawrence Park, said VDOT's plan is "absolutely needed. And Brad May, with the Goddard School off Westfields Boulevard, said it's "imperative" that it be implemented now because of I-66 safety concerns.

Cabell's Mill Homeowners Association President Tom Bloom said, "This does nothing for our community and won't alleviate any of the afternoon traffic." But Bill Keech Jr., general manager of the Westfields Business Owners Association, said there's no easy solution. He also urged VDOT to look at the public's suggestions and provide "more thorough" answers.

"We applaud your efforts," he said. "But we'd like to see Virginia and its elected officials step up to the plate and improve the 28/I-66 intersection." Del. Caputo replied that the General Assembly is considering some 90 bills to raise money for transportation.

"I don't like this project, but I approve of it because I came within milliseconds of being killed in [the Walney, Braddock, Route 28] intersection by a red-light runner," said Stephen Vandivere of Cabell's Mills. "And it's dangerous for kids crossing the street at Stone Road and Braddock to get to Stone Middle School."

Sen. Cuccinelli said the Route 28 public/private partnership "came one intersection short and should have gone all the way to 66. Safety is a top issue here, but we can't trade an adult safety problem for a child safety problem. This proposal is better than it was in November, but I'm uncomfortable about what's going to happen to kid safety on the west side [of Route 28]."

To comment to VDOT, e-mail Frey at Sully@fairfaxcounty.gov by Oct. 16.