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Walk 'N’ Ride

Improvements at Burke intersection would provide pedestrian access to VRE station.

Standing at the intersection of Roberts Parkway and the Burke Centre Parkway, it becomes evident that crossing the street there is a risky endeavor.

Between the merging traffic from the turn lanes and the speeding cars going in all four directions, crossing can be a challenge. However, a recently approved project should help ease the risk to pedestrians.

“People should end up being more comfortable crossing that intersection [once the project is completed],” said Kevin Morse, a Burke Centre resident who lives just a few hundred feet from the intersection.

Morse has played a critical role in obtaining permit applications for the pedestrian improvements into the right hands. Since the intersection is in a Virginia Department of Transportation right-of-way, the county had to secure VDOT’s approval before proceeding with any sidewalk and crosswalk changes.

The county has had the funding in place, but VDOT kept kicking the application back for more and more changes. Finally, Morse decided to contact Sen. Ken Cuccinelli (R-37) and Del. Dave Marsden (D-41) to see if they could help.

“I didn’t realize until Mr. Morse advised my office that we had really hit a stall point,” said Cuccinelli.

EACH TIME THE APPLICATION went back to VDOT, a different set of eyes looked at it and found something new to fix. “That’s what ate up all the time,” said Marsden.

Cuccinelli said he then contacted VDOT and asked to expedite the process since it had gone back and forth for so long. After Ken Lim, the project manager from Fairfax County, arranged a sit-down with all of the parties involved, the kinks were worked out, said Marsden. VDOT then committed to Cuccinelli that it would speed up the plan’s consideration for approval, which happened Thursday, Feb. 15, said Lim.

“We feel this project has taken too long,” said Lim. “We’re doing our best. This is our priority right now.”

In the future, Marsden said he hopes similar delays in projects can be prevented by encouraging more open communication between the county and VDOT in the early stages.

“I’m not sure whether an issue can be dealt with through a policy or procedure change, or if it’s a people problem,” said Marsden. “I think the solution is to spend a little time right up front to sit down with everybody to get it all worked out.”

AS FOR THE project itself, those involved believe that it is necessary. The Burke Centre VRE station parking garage is currently in phase two of construction, which has displaced hundreds of parking spots there. Riders are now temporarily parking at St. Mary’s Church on Sideburn Road, and at the Burke Centre Library construction site at the intersection of Freds Oak Road and the Fairfax County Parkway. The pedestrian improvements would be finished well before the garage’s estimated completion date of late summer 2008, adding some relief to the displaced spots.

Morse hopes that people will get into the routine of walking and continue to leave their cars at home, even after the garage is completed.

“This community has long sought to make itself more and more walkable,” said Cuccinelli. “You sort of have a motivated pedestrian community; when you’ve got that kind of an attitude, it’s going to work.”

The project would connect paved sidewalks to the intersection via curb-cuts. Crosswalk countdown signals have already been installed, and improvements will also be made to the foot paths leading up to the intersection from the west and the south. A new sidewalk will be paved behind the guard rail along the Burke Centre Parkway, allowing for pedestrians to walk to both the Wal-Mart shopping center and the VRE station, said Lim.

"It's always good when you can get people to take alternative forms of transportation," said Marsden.

Burke Centre’s extensive system of trails is already conducive to pedestrian traffic within the planned residential community’s five neighborhoods, but trails nearly dead-end at the intersection since it’s so dangerous to cross.

“I have ridden my bicycle through there; it’s a nightmare,” said Marsden.

He hopes the pedestrian improvements can continue, since access to nearby shopping centers are also a problem area for foot traffic. The proximity is there, but people have to get in their cars to go to the local shopping plazas. The improved access to the VRE station will hopefully start an overall trend in pedestrian improvements, he said.

“This is the last connection piece in the pedestrian puzzle that really opens up the VRE,” said Cuccinelli. “It’s obviously very important to the people who live around there.”

"I just want to make it safer for people just to do routine kind of walking, like going to the grocery store," said Marsden.