An image of Option L3, a new traffic plan reassigning turning lanes at the intersection of Herndon Parkway and Sterling Road.
Image provided by Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. (VHB)
Recently the Herndon Town Council and Mayor Lisa Merkel have been addressing several infrastructure issues, amongst them the overcrowding of students at Herndon Elementary Schools. With developments of Silver Line and soon completion of phase 1 for the Silver Line, the Town Council has been brought to address the traffic flow situations at the Herndon Parkway and Sterling Road intersection.
Improvement of the traffic situation at that intersection has been part of the annual Capital Improvement Program (CIP), a financial planning document that establishes a six-year schedule for public improvements and serves as a companion policy to the Town of Herndon 2030 Comprehensive Plan.
In a Dec. 4, 2013 meeting, the firm of Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. (VHB) with an office based out of Vienna, introduced residents to proposed plans for improvements to the intersection of Herndon Parkway and Sterling Road. The firm has been working with Town staff and council members since 2012. On March 11, at a public Town Council meeting, council members and Mayor Merkel approved a plan to improve the traffic flow at the Herndon Parkway, Sterling Road intersection.
VHB came up with several dozen alternatives to improve traffic operations at the intersection. Among the different options VHB reviewed were adding new lanes and potentially reconstructing the entire intersection.
THE NEW PLAN includes reassigning turning lanes with the Herndon Parkway left turn onto Sterling Road. "Option L3 was the favorite of citizens who had voted," said Bob Boxer, Director of the Town of Herndon’s Department of Public Works. Option L3 also has one right turn lane on Herndon Parkway turned into an exclusive right turn lane instead of a shared lane.
"I think the Council arrived at the best decision possible, given the physical constraints of the intersection," stated town council member Grace Wolf. "The proposed design balances the concerns of the citizens with the reality of what future traffic patterns will be and will help alleviate the traffic congestion. We will be monitoring the impact to our local neighborhoods and still be able to make adjustments to protect access to our residential neighborhoods. We will also introduce new signage and enforcement to ensure our streets remain safe."
In the December meeting representatives from VHB discussed a study conducted regarding traffic peaks on the Sterling Road and Herndon Parkway intersection. Their studies showed the biggest cut-through origin and destination is VA-228 south of Herndon from the intersection of Sterling Road and Herndon Parkway, and that drivers could be trying to avoid congestion along VA-28 and the Frying Pan Road exit by cutting through Herndon. "Surprisingly there isn’t as nearly as much cut through traffic as we had expected," stated Merkel. "But with the proposed developments on the Loudoun side that is sure to change."
While residences and home developments in Ashburn and other areas of Loudoun County have developed over the past several years, some streets of the Town of Herndon have become part of the work commute for travelers. At one point Wiehle Avenue was considered to be part of a gateway for traffic to Loudoun County, but this idea was cancelled from the Reston Master Plan and land that would have been used for an extension has been designated as parkland. "This was a huge mistake for regional traffic flow," stated Merkel.
"I know that this intersection has been a problem for the people in that area as well as the people in the town," said council member Sheila Olem. "We have been working on this as things have grown," said Olem. "I know there are major backups on Sterling Road, the whole thing is a mess…. We could probably do better if we had more money and more land but we don’t."
IN THE END, the motion to adapt an improvement plan for the Herndon Parkway and Sterling Road was passed with a vote of 6 - 1 with council member Waddell voting no.
"This is not a perfect solution, but does offer a relatively inexpensive short term improvement to improve the gridlock at this busy intersection while allowing us time to continue to seek grant money for a more long term solution as the development in Loudoun County becomes a reality," said Mayor Merkel.
To learn more about the Town of Herndon, visit www.herndon-va.gov/