Follin Lane Project Is Still Worrisome

Follin Lane Project Is Still Worrisome

Residents question safety and need for long turn lane.

(From left) Residents David and Loretta Roby, Pat Melton and Suzanne and Sean McClorey are concerned about the Follin Lane project.

(From left) Residents David and Loretta Roby, Pat Melton and Suzanne and Sean McClorey are concerned about the Follin Lane project. Photo by Bonnie Hobbs/The Connection


Early afternoon traffic on Follin Lane heads toward Maple Avenue.

The Town of Vienna is moving full-speed ahead with its plan to widen Follin Lane from two to three lanes. And last Monday, Oct. 20, it awarded $59,000 to Urban Ltd. for additional engineering services associated with the project.

But the nearby residents are still worried about safety and destruction of the tree canopy. They also question why the right-turn lane from Follin onto Maple Avenue toward Tysons Corner must increase to four times its current length.

“The turn lane originally went from Hine Street to [Route] 123,” said Mashie Drive’s David Roby during last week’s Town Council meeting. “But now it’ll have a 600-foot-long right-turn lane to accommodate commuters. There’s hardly any traffic that turns right there – most of it turns left.”

Suzanne McClorey lives at the corner of Hine and Follin, which has been the site of numerous traffic accidents. And she says widening Follin will only make things worse since it’ll enable motorists to drive even faster on that road.

“Safety needs to be part of this project in the beginning, and not tweaked after the fact,” she said. She also wondered why Mayor Laurie DiRocco advised her and her neighbors to take their concerns to the Town’s Transportation Safety Commission.

“It just doesn’t make much sense to me,” said McClorey. “The Transportation Safety Commission is just regular citizens. But we live there and are in a better position to decide about this issue than they are.”

But, replied DiRocco, “They look at it from the perspective of the Town as a whole. And they try to be consistent when it comes to their decisions. Residents, walkers and students are stakeholders there, as are the people who work in that area, and we want it to be safe for everyone.”

Agreeing, Councilwoman Linda Colbert said, “Our boards and commissions are made up of good citizens interested in helping their community.”

“In every project we undertake, safety is always important,” added Director of Public Works Dennis Johnson. “All construction plans have to follow Virginia engineering and safety standards.” He also noted that Follin Lane trees that should be protected will be marked.

Still, said Roby, whose property backs up to Follin, “Follin Lane is a very narrow road that feels like a neighborhood road, with a large tree canopy. And there was no consideration given to saving it; this project would wipe out large parts of it. We’re glad you’re saving some trees, but we feel this plan is still too aggressive.”

REGARDING THE RIGHT-TURN LANE, he said he saw a traffic study about the project and was “surprised that it has a number of recommendations to improve traffic from Navy Federal [Credit Union], but doesn’t mention lengthening the turn lane.

“That storage lane is currently 150 feet and – even with the [planned] Navy Federal expansion, the study said the peak traffic would need only 171 feet of stacking,” continued Roby. “So I don’t see the need for a 600-foot turn lane, and we ask you to shorten it. The trees are important to the residents, not just for beauty and air quality, but for a buffer from the road.”

DiRocco asked if there are ways to save some of the trees by shortening the turn lane, and Johnson said that’s why the Town arborist needs to survey those trees. She also asked why 600 feet are needed for the turn lane, and Deputy Director of Public Works Michael Gallagher explained.

“The queuing [on Follin] is in excess of 700 feet because traffic wanting to turn onto Maple [Route 123] is backed up there,” he said. “And the more people that can get out of it and turn right will lessen the queue for the left lane. It’s not warranted by the amount of traffic turning right onto Maple.”

But Roby’s wife, Loretta, said the traffic study – done by Navy Federal – states that Navy Federal is building a 1,200-car parking garage. “Potentially, there’ll be 1,200 extra cars going down Follin Lane – and even Navy Federal says Follin and the current turning lane are adequate,” she said. “So it’s misinformation, over and over again.”

Gallagher said the report, done by Wells & Associates, didn’t address the turn lane because Navy Federal did it because it wanted to put in a traffic signal. He also noted that 70 percent of the drivers on Follin turn left onto Maple and 30 percent turn right.

Mashie Drive resident Steve Skjei said Vienna shouldn’t approve any Follin Lane changes “until the right-turn lane is reduced to something reasonable or [someone] produces a valid reason for it being 600 feet.” He also related his own traffic survey, done the previous three work days, Oct. 16-17 and Oct. 20.

On Oct. 16, he said, 47 percent of people turning right onto Maple from Follin did it on a red signal. The numbers the other two days, said Skjei, were 60 percent and 54 percent, respectively.

“So why are we destroying trees to lengthen the right-turn lane?” he asked. “The existing [one] is very effective. At one time, I saw four cars and a bus make that right turn on red.”

ALSO WORRIED about the construction impacts, he said, “There are huge volumes [of vehicles] turning left onto Maple, and it’ll greatly affect the people living to the west.”

McClorey said Johnson and Gallagher seem “dead set” on having this long turn lane that is, in effect, a “dedicated lane.” But Councilwoman Carey Sienicki told her the project is also “for the town in total. Extending the traffic lane would give some relief to people living in the area.” She said the engineering team “already changed the corners to make it better for pedestrians and address your concerns. I think they do a tremendous job.”

Hine Street resident Frank Johnson said his problem with Follin is the crisscross and T-bone accidents there. “To me, the issue is safety – people racing down Follin or cutting across an intersection,” he said. “The sight lines are horrendous.”

DiRocco said removing some of the brush there will improve that situation and “the intersection issue is going before the Transportation Safety Commission.”

Nearby resident Doug Noble said he’d rather have traffic on Follin than on the other area streets because “children are riding their bikes to school on them.” Furthermore, told the Council, “A traffic study is usually prepared by a developer in their best interests. But we all have an interest in what’s going on Follin Lane, and you should think about that as we move forward on this project.”

And the Council members took the residents’ words seriously. “I’m concerned about the different interpretations of this study,” said Vice-Mayor Edythe Kelleher. “I’d like someone from Wells to come to [Town] staff and address and clarify them for us.”