As far as the folks at VDOT are concerned, a roundabout at the intersection of Pleasant Valley and Braddock roads in Centreville is a swell idea. They say it will eliminate a traffic bottleneck there and get drivers moving.
But the people who live in nearby communities such as Virginia Run, Pleasant Forest and Sully Estates, say the increased steady stream of Loudoun County vehicles on Pleasant Valley and Braddock roads will prevent them from getting out of their neighborhoods.
Other residents don’t want this project done at all, and at least one person is questioning the legality of its funding. So a public meeting on the issue, last Wednesday night, June 5, at Virginia Run Elementary was both heated and contentious.
“I look at that intersection as a chokepoint that keeps the traffic from going through our neighborhood,” said Virginia Run’s Gary Kanady. “Don’t invest a dime [in improving it].”
Otherwise, said Virginia Run Board of Trustees President Jay Johnston, “The impact will be felt by all the homeowners associations along Braddock and Pleasant Valley roads.”
VDOT’s Bud Siegel, however, said the challenges of moving the type and volume of traffic this intersection has make a roundabout “much better and more viable” than the present situation. Currently, he said, “People have to stop while others are turning left.”
But the residents said fixing it would lead to a plethora of problems VDOT’s not considering. “What we’re not talking about is our neighborhood, Pleasant View Estates, and several others,” said Barb Coleman. “How are we going to get out? This doesn’t work for us — we’ll never be able to make a left-hand turn.”
As things stand now, she said, “When the traffic’s moving, we can’t get anywhere. It took my husband 10 minutes to turn left, the other morning, because of all the traffic on Pleasant Valley Road.” So allowing Loudoun County traffic to flow unimpeded through that intersection, said Coleman, will make matters worse. And, she added, “It’s ridiculous that this would get built before the S-curve gets fixed.”
The S-curve on Braddock Road is already infamous in the area because it’s so steep and twisty. Kanady expressed the sentiment of many at the meeting when he said, “That S-curve is as dangerous as the dickens.” Residents also stressed that fixing Braddock/Pleasant Valley and increasing Braddock’s traffic will shift the bottleneck to that curve, backing up vehicles past Sully Estates to Old Lee Road.
Kanady said the roundabout would just encourage even more drivers from Loudoun County to travel through their neighborhoods. And, said another resident, “If Pleasant Valley traffic is yielding to Braddock, there’ll be no relief.”
But Frey said the residents’ objections “aren’t going to stop Loudoun from growing and using Braddock Road.” In response, some people suggested putting up jersey walls to “make it harder for them to use Braddock.”
“Traffic is going to go everywhere,” said Frey. “And Stone can’t handle all the traffic from Virginia Run that wants to go to Westfield High or north on Route 28.” Regarding the S-curve, he said, “There’s a whole host of homeowners along Braddock Road who’ll say, “If we fix that curve, then they won’t be able to get out of their homes.”
But it should be fixed, said resident Chris Terpak-Malm. “All these guys that drive off Braddock Road in the S-curve don’t call the police to report their accidents,” she said. “But on Monday [June 3], an accident there stopped traffic for 40 minutes.”
Living a couple hundred yards from the Braddock/Pleasant Valley intersection, she said, “We can’t get out of our neighborhoods in the rain now, and we’ll never get out if the intersection’s improved. Parents need to be able to turn left to go to Westfield because that’s our school. And two, single-family homes have driveways on Braddock, and people don’t go 35 mph on it — they go 50 mph.”
Although Siegel said a roundabout is forecast to handle traffic there for 20 years, a Westfield parent said traffic volume would saturate a circle. Instead, he said, the intersection should be widened and a traffic light with turn lanes installed. “It may take longer and cost more,” he said. “But maybe that’s the right, long-term solution for these neighborhoods.”
“Why not wait and do a traffic study to see the impact after the Route 50 east-west improvements?” asked Virginia Run’s Tami Troscianecki. “You might not need to do this.”
But Frey said it’ll be another six months before Route 50’s done and would take another year to do a traffic study. Then, he said, “We’re into 2017 and having another meeting like this.” At those words, the room erupted in applause.
However, he said Virginia Run’s 1,400 homes are part of the traffic and he doesn’t believe the intersection can wait much longer to be improved. “In 2002, people from Virginia Run called my office and complained about this intersection,” said Frey. “We’re not going to start tomorrow, but we can’t take it off the radar; we’ve got to do something.”
He said the county’s long-range Comprehensive Plan shows Braddock realigning to the left of the S-curve and tying into Old Lee. “But it goes through parkland and has huge environmental and neighborhood-access issues,” said Frey. “And it’s a big controversy.”
“So it’s not as simple as fixing the S-curve because of expensive environmental issues,” he continued. “It’s in a floodplain and we don’t have the money to do the whole project. The Braddock/Pleasant Valley intersection is where the congestion is, and this is a perfectly rational solution.”
But Virginia Run’s Jim Hart wondered, “How did commuting times to South Riding become a priority? Safety at the S-curve might just be more of a priority than speeding up this intersection.”