After hearing what Poplar Tree Estates residents had to say last week about the widening of Stringfellow Road, Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully), Sen. Ken Cuccinelli (R-37th) and Del. Chuck Caputo (D-67th) took their own stands on the proposal.
"MY BIGGEST concern is the sheer size of what you're doing," said Cuccinelli to VDOT liaison Bud Siegel. "It seems to me the simplest way to shrink it is to eliminate the two-foot, additional bike path [on each side of the outer lanes]."
And since VDOT decides on the design presented to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for its final vote, Cuccinelli told Siegel, "You can make adjustments [before then]."
Siegel then admitted that the "four feet of additional roadway is up for debate" and the road would function just as well with the outer lanes being 12 feet wide, instead of 14 feet. "But the Board doesn't create the design — you do," said Poplar Tree resident Tom Loyd.
"I've talked to a number of you about your concerns and I've certainly gotten the message," Cuccinelli told the residents. "I'm a little frustrated with how the project has muddled forward, and I know Chuck and I will exercise our persuasive powers on this one."
Caputo said this project is right in the heart of the district he represents. "What's clear to me is there's strong concern from the community, and paramount is safety," he said.
"As a former Greenbriar resident, I learned the value of citizens' involvement," continued Caputo. "And from what I've heard here, this project is not ready for prime time."
To Siegel, he said: "You hear our comments, but you have to act on them. You have to come up with a design that meets [the residents'] safety concerns." To loud applause, Caputo said, "I suggest a redesign of this project; the current design I cannot support."
Frey said he attends Poplar Tree Estates Homeowners Association meetings every year and, each time, residents tell him, "You've got to widen Stringfellow Road." Noting that Stringfellow is a minor arterial roadway connecting two major highways, Routes 50 and 29, he said it also serves other communities, such as Fair Crest, Autumn Woods, Northbourne, Little Rocky Run and Hampton Forest.
"And I represent them also — people there who are trying to get to Chantilly High and the library," said Frey. "So we have to balance everybody's needs, and it's a difficult job."
He said the transportation bond on the ballet in November is for $110 million, and the projects in there aren't designed — nor were the 2004 bond projects. "We don't have the money for the design until the bond is approved," said Frey. "That's just an unfortunate fact of life."
But, he said, "No matter what [Siegel] says, I will not support on-road bike lanes. There's a place for them in the more urban areas with Metro stations where people could bike to work."
"I DON'T BELIEVE the demand for the bike lanes is here, and I believe the adjacent bike path serves the purpose perfectly well," continued Frey. "I know [Springfield District Supervisor] Elaine McConnell supports that position, and I believe [Board Chairman] Gerry Connolly does, as well. So I believe we'll eliminate the 2-feet outside lanes."
Regarding residents' land being taken for the project, Frey said he'd have to look at the impacts of shifting the road. "The road today isn't safe," he said. "We need turn lanes to separate the through traffic from people turning into their property, schools or the library."
He said a median is necessary for safety on a four-lane highway, but VDOT will see if that median "can be shrunk" in places. "It'll take some time, but I think most of the issues can be resolved," said Frey. "I believe we can work it out — including the entrance to Rocky Run. I know [Sully District School Board representative] Kathy Smith is going to advocate for [that]."
However, he added, "You have to make sure that, when you're fixing one problem, you're not creating another. I won't support a project I don't believe is safe. I can't promise you'll get an answer you'll like, but you will get answers. Me, Elaine and Gerry are paying attention to this, so what we agree on will be approved."