Letter to the Editor: Intersection Needs Improving

Letter to the Editor: Intersection Needs Improving

— This is in response to your letter [“Why Is Project Fast-Tracked?”] regarding the proposed improvement to the intersection of Pleasant Valley Road and Braddock Road. You have asked several questions which I will attempt to answer. However, this is not a Fairfax County project but a Virginia Department of Transportation initiative and some of your questions are better answered by VDOT.

I do understand the questions about the sudden availability of funds and the reappearance of this project. However, no one should be surprised about efforts to fix the intersection. I have received complaints for almost 20 years about this intersection, many from the Virginia Run community. It first met the warrants for a traffic signal in 2003, after numerous studies over several years.

Working with VDOT in 2005 the matter of a traffic circle was first presented. After a community meeting I held to present the idea, the Virginia Run Board sent me a letter supporting the improvement. Unfortunately the availability of state secondary road money dried up and the project had to be put on hold. And certainly traffic has not improved since then!

The project was put back on the front burner last summer by three state delegates and one state senator who convinced the Commonwealth Transportation Board to redirect funds to this improvement. They were also instrumental in convincing the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors to use their local funds to match state revenue sharing funds for the project. With the CTB money there is approximately $3 million available. Final costs are not yet known but I have made clear Fairfax County has no money to contribute to this improvement.

I am certainly well aware of the volume of traffic coming from Loudoun County, and I want to do all we can to encourage them to use Route 50. That’s why I have worked so hard to move those improvements along as fast as possible. The $100 million project now underway will widen Route 50 from South Riding all the way to Route 28 and improve all of its intersections. This will provide significant improvement. However, we all know the growth that is underway in Loudoun, and it is not going to stop. To do nothing to an intersection that has been failing for a decade in hopes that the Route 50 improvements will eliminate the need is not realistic.

I also understand the perception of some that this is solely a Loudoun County problem. If this were the case I would not have been hearing complaints from Sully residents for so long. This intersection was failing long before the growth in Loudoun County. Traffic from South Riding and other developments along Braddock Road has clearly made it worse.

But the delays caused by this intersection affect thousands of residents of western Fairfax County. Students wanting to go to Westfield High School, Virginia Run residents wanting to go north on Route 28, visitors to Cox Farm and emergency service to the entire area are all affected by these backups. And of course many people go out of their way to avoid this problem, thus burdening other roads like Stone Road.

There is still a very long way to go before any improvement is approved and actually under construction. There are still environmental reviews and studies of the impact on park land to be done. A decision on the final design — traffic circle or signal — and final engineering must be done. I have participated in two open public forums already, and am willing to do more if need be to make certain people have sufficient opportunity for input. But I must say that, while this is not a Fairfax County initiative, I am glad that the issue has been raised again. This has been a problem for so many years and it needs to be addressed.

Thank you for raising the issue of the funding sources. As you know VDOT has acknowledged the web site was incorrect and the federal funding source is the Regional Surface transportation Program (RSTP) and not the Highway Safety Improvement program (HSIP). They are correcting the web site.

I understand there are some who fear this transportation improvement will negatively affect their community and their quality of life. I have heard the same concerns from others about almost every single road improvement that has been put in to place since I have been on the board. I shudder to think where we would be if every project that had opposition was not done. Route 28, I-66, the 28/29 interchange, Centreville Road, West Ox Road, the Fairfax County Parkway — all had issues and concerns of local communities. We worked through them and completed those improvements. The worst case fears raised did not arise. I believe the same will happen here.

I see no logical reason why more traffic from Loudoun County will all of a sudden divert down Pleasant Valley Road through Virginia Run just because the backup at the intersection is reduced. Most of that traffic is trying to get to I-66. We have improved the Braddock/28 intersection and VDOT will start very soon additional improvements to the dual left turn lanes from Route 28 southbound onto east bound 66. These will certainly offer more incentive for drivers to follow that route rather than divert through Virginia Run.

As always I do appreciate your involvement and efforts on behalf of the community. Whether we ultimately agree or not your participation has always been a benefit to the community.

Michael R. Frey

Sully District Supervisor