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Town Examines Herndon Parkway-Van Buren Street Intersection Improvements

Public comment open on three options for Herndon Parkway and Van Buren Street intersection.

— The Town of Herndon hosted a public comment meeting Wednesday, July 17, to solicit suggestions on improvements for the intersection of Herndon Parkway and Van Buren Street. The intersection was identified in Herndon’s Transit Oriented Core study as needing improvements.

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The first of three options for improvements to the intersection of Herndon Parkway and Van Buren Street, which calls for the addition of a right turn lane on Van Buren Street and would lengthen the westbound turn lane on westbound Herndon Parkway.

The intersection is graded F in terms of level of service in the morning peak hours, and E in the afternoon hours. Level of service is a measure of vehicle operator delay through an intersection. The levels are graded A through F, based on average delay, with A representing free flowing conditions and F representing congested conditions.

According to a traffic study by Pennoni, an engineering consulting firm hired by the town, approximately 20,600 vehicles per day pass through the intersection on Van Buren Street, with the south leg the busiest. The same study indicated approximately 19,300 vehicles per day on Herndon Parkway, with the east leg having the highest volume.

Robert Munse, a project engineer with Pennoni, said that all options would include signal modifications, right of way acquisitions and relocated pedestrian facilities.

“Our proposed improvements are intended to be short term improvements to improve capacity to make the intersection more efficient for pedestrians, vehicles,” he said. “We recognize that Metro Silver Line is coming, and will change the traffic patterns and operations and we want to allow these concepts and patterns to develop so the town can pursue funding through VDOT through construction of improvements.”

THERE ARE THREE OPTIONS currently on the table for the intersection. The first would add a northbound right turn lane on Van Buren Street and lengthen the left turn lane on westbound Herndon Parkway. The estimated cost is $1.016 million.

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The second of three options for improvements to the intersection of Herndon Parkway and Van Buren Street, which calls for the addition of two northbound lanes on Van Buren Street, a left turn lane on westbound Herndon Parkway and an eastbound right turn lane on Herndon Parkway.

This option would improve traffic operations during morning peak hours, as well as improve the stacking on the left turn lane on Herndon Parkway. However, it would not improve delays during afternoon hours, the westbound and northbound left turns would still be graded F and the left turn on Herndon Parkway would not improve.

The second would add two northbound lanes on Van Buren Street, a left turn lane on westbound Herndon Parkway and an eastbound right turn lane on Herndon Parkway. The estimated cost is $2.199 million.

This option would improve traffic during morning and afternoon peaks, provide pedestrian enhancements and improve the west leg of Herndon Parkway. But it would still leave the intersection at an E grade in the afternoon peak hours, leave the northbound and westbound left turns at F, as well as have the largest right of way impacts.

The third would completely reconstruct the intersection as a roundabout with dual lanes coming from each approach. The estimated cost is $1.287 million.

This option would address the northbound morning delays, improve overall traffic in the morning peak hours and would not have a signal. However, it would still result in an E in the morning peak hours and an F in the afternoon peak hours and would result in significant queues leading into the roundabout.

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The third of three options for improvements to the intersection of Herndon Parkway and Van Buren Street, which calls for the construction of a roundabout, with two lanes feeding it in each direction.

“A roundabout seems like it would be excessive, but if it can produce significantly better results, I’m all for it. I believe that was accomplished with the set of roundabouts at Gilbert’s Corner in Loudoun County,” said Greg Titus of Herndon. “But the presenter didn’t seem to be optimistic about any huge improvements in traffic flow, so I don’t think such a drastic option is worth it.”

Bill Yaslow of Herndon also said he felt the roundabout option was pushing it a little too far.

“The meeting began with Mr. Munse saying that these are intended to be short-term solutions, because the traffic patterns are going to change so much with the coming of Metro,” he said. “Building a roundabout seems awfully permanent and irreversible, while extra turn lanes and medians are much easier to play around with should the need arise.”

Public Works Director Bob Boxer said that there is no set schedule for the improvements.

“We want to hear comments and consider them, and we’ll post a Frequently Asked Questions document on the town website in early August,” he said. “Eventually a proposal will be discussed by the Town Council, and there will be a public hearing in the future, which could be as early as Sept. 10. But I do not see us breaking ground on anything in 2013.”

COMMENTS can be submitted through July 31 by email at publicworks@herndon-va.gov, by mail at P.O. Box 427, Herndon, Va, 20171 and in person at the town municipal center, 777 Lynn Street, on the second floor.