Concerned about how the increasing urbanization of Tysons Corner and the resulting traffic will affect surrounding neighborhoods, Fairfax County had 29 intersections analyzed.
The three Vienna intersections are Maple Avenue and Beulah Road, Maple Avenue and Lawyers Road, and Old Courthouse Road and Westbriar Drive. And last Monday, June 9, the Town Council heard details of the traffic study.
“We investigated, if we increase capacity on I-66 and the Beltway east of Route 123, would that attract more traffic to I-66 and draw it away from Maple Avenue?” said Dan Rathbone, chief of Fairfax County’s Transportation Planning Division.
They learned that 54 percent of westbound p.m. traffic starting from Old Courthouse would still head for Nutley Street via Maple Avenue. “Only about 240 cars would be diverted from Maple Avenue – and about 100 during peak times – so that wouldn’t help,” said Rathbone. “So if you keep Maple Avenue two lanes in each direction, the traffic will find other paths.”
REGARDING THE THREE VIENNA INTERSECTIONS studied, transportation planner Dan Stevens with the county Department of Transportation presented the findings, plus some ideas to mitigate the traffic. At Beulah Road, he said, “We propose adding an additional left-turn lane to get a more-efficient use of green-light time by changing the signal timing on that approach [to Maple] to get more cars out per second.”
“The [county] Board of Supervisors allocated $70 million over the next 30 years for intersection and pedestrian improvements,” said Rathbone. “So there’s some funding available.”
But Councilwoman Laurie Cole said Vienna’s intersections would be competing for this money against the other 26 intersections studied. And, asked Councilwoman Edythe Kelleher, “We’ve worked hard to make all the traffic lights work together, so how would the Beulah change affect them?” But Rathbone assured her that the actual, traffic-light cycle wouldn’t be changed.
At Lawyers Road and Maple Avenue, said Stevens, “We changed a through-and-right-[turn] shared lane into a through and right-[turn] exclusive lane. This would improve the flow out of Courthouse Road and increase the delay for Lawyers Road [directly across the street].”
“This is to reduce the overall delay for that intersection and improve the flow on Maple Avenue – which has more traffic – by increasing the amount of green-signal time for Maple,” added Rathbone.
HOWEVER, SAID MAYOR Laurie DiRocco, “Taking private property [for right-of-way] for minimal improvement doesn’t seem to me to be in the best interest of the Town.” But Rathbone said there’d be “significantly less traffic congestion at those intersections in 2030” if Vienna did this mitigation.
At Old Courthouse Road and Westbriar, said Stevens, “We recommend a traffic signal. It gives Westbriar traffic a chance to make a right turn. Putting in a traffic signal [here] gives drivers more opportunity to merge onto Old Courthouse Road.”
Vice-Mayor Carey Sienicki asked, “Is there any way Maple’s center lane could be made more efficient by directional arrows or speed-limit changes?” But Rathbone replied that reversible lanes for peak-traffic times actually cause more accidents.
However, he said, “Reducing the traffic limit deceases the distance between vehicles for a smoother traffic flow.” He also wondered how up-to-date Vienna’s traffic-signals’ sensors’ timing and software are because “that could also make a difference.”