This week, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors endorsed VDOT's design plans for widening a 3.1 mile portion of Richmond Highway from four to six lanes. Included in the plans are pedestrian underpasses where the highway goes over Little Hunting Creek and Dogue Creek. I was, frankly, astonished in reviewing the board's endorsement that no alternative to these underpasses was apparently considered nor were the prospective costs of the underpasses contemplated or discussed.
In May, the Mount Vernon Council of Citizens' Associations (MVCCA) enacted a resolution supporting the underpasses. In their resolution, there is no discussion of the cost. I note that the MVCCA has 41 member associations, a small fraction of the over 200 community associations in the Mount Vernon District. The resolution was passed by a vote of 11-4, meaning 11 of the over 200 community associations weighed in in support of the resolution. I certainly respect their support but note that 11 community associations do not provide political cover for a supervisor to claim they represent the entire Mount Vernon District. They don't. The New Gum Springs Civic Association, representing a community close to where the Little Hunting Creek bridge will be located opposed the resolution.
Richmond Highway is shared by the Mount Vernon and Lee Districts. VDOT conducted an on-line survey to which 381 citizens responded. Of those respondents, 58% supported the Little Hunting Creek underpass and 59% supported the Dogue Creek underpass. Just over 220 respondents do not speak for the over 250,000 residents of the combined Mount Vernon and Lee Districts.
The proposed pedestrian underpasses are a bad idea and are likely exorbitantly expensive. The MVCCA dressed up their resolution by suggesting safety aspects such as cameras, panic buttons, lights, and emergency alarms. Frankly, none of these items will preclude a criminal from lying in wait within an underpass and raping and/or murdering a pedestrian. By the time the police arrive, there will be nothing but a dead body to collect.
The solution is actually quite simple, so simple that our politicians, eager to spend our limited funds, won't consider it. At the locations where the bridges over these creeks will be located, brightly lit and boldly painted crosswalks should be installed complete with traffic signals actuated by pedestrians so they can safely cross the road. The cost should not exceed low six figures and pedestrians crossing Richmond Highway in that manner will be much safer than those walking through an underpass where a criminal can easily lie in wait and pounce on an unsuspecting person. Why provide a convenient ready-made venue for criminals at high taxpayer expense?
In an era in which it has been widely reported and documented that Northern Virginia receives from Richmond only 25 cents for every dollar of tax money we send to Richmond, it is imperative that our politicians act with fiscal responsibility, even those who are running for re-election with no opposition. I urge VDOT to consider my suggested solution for pedestrians crossing Richmond Highway and reduce their budget for this project accordingly, so those funds can be reallocated to Northern Virginia for more pressing concerns.
H. Jay Spiegel