Tolls Off the Table for Fairfax County Parkways

Tolls Off the Table for Fairfax County Parkways

Public opposes Express Toll Lanes on Fairfax County and Franconia-Springfield Parkways.

Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) planner Thomas Burke told the Board of Supervisors Transportation Committee that “tolls were not included in the strategies under consideration” as improvements to the Fairfax County and Franconia-Springfield Parkways at their meeting on Feb. 12 at the Government Center.

Burke was there to update the committee on the progress being made by FCDOT and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) on the “Alternatives Analysis and Long Term Planning Study” of the two major thoroughfares. The multimodal corridor study spans the often-congested 31 miles from Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) in the north, to Route 1 (Richmond Highway) in the south and includes 17 interchanges and 83 intersections.

FCDOT is leading the long-range aspect of the study, reviewing today’s deficiencies along the network and projecting future needs in order to make recommendations for improvements for 2040 and beyond. VDOT, in conjunction with the county, conducted an Existing Conditions study in 2017, developing more than 350 recommendations for immediate or near-term improvements to the roadways. To date, said Burke, 49 of those recommendations have been implemented. Still in the works for VDOT is a planned widening of a section of the Fairfax County Parkway from Route 29 to Route 123, including the interchange at Popes Head Road and Shirley Gate Road extension.

In October of 2018, FCDOT held three public outreach meetings to inform the community of the project and to solicit public feedback before developing recommendations.

Some of the questions being posed included:

• How transit should be integrated into the corridor

• Addition of, or improvements to, interchanges and intersections

• Bicycle/pedestrian considerations

• Possible implementation of Toll and/or HOV lanes

At the meetings, attendees were invited to participate in several interactive exercises to offer their own suggestions. Comments sheets were also made available and, in addition, project managers produced a 45-day on-line survey and commentary forum that gave participants the opportunity to “plan” various segments of the parkways, or simply leave written comments as they wished.

The number of respondents exceeded their expectations.

“We were thinking maybe 3 or 4 thousand would participate,” admitted Burke, judging by the response to previous on-line transportation-related surveys. Instead, a total of 15,150 responses were recorded via the online survey, with 108 more responses received via emails, the website comment form and to district offices. Another 71 comments were recorded on the project’s Facebook page.

FCDOT and the project planners were pleased that their efforts to engage the public through numerous methods, including social media, resulted in “so many voices being heard.”

Burke summarized the responses for the committee. While HOV lanes were generally ranked below road widening and addition of transit options, the idea of adding toll lanes to any segment of either parkway was met with significant opposition.

FCDOT got the message. None of the preliminary strategies under review will include toll lanes as an option, although HOV-2 lanes, possibly just at certain junctures, are still being considered.

Burke’s presentation was met with appreciation for the work already done and still to come. Supervisors John Cook (Braddock) and Pat Herrity (Springfield) however, cautioned that they would like to see any strategies for improvements take a “more regional outlook” before recommendations are developed, with Cook asking “how do these concepts affect others roads in the region?”

Supervisor McKay (Lee) also asked that the FCDOT team keep up communications with the county’s delegates in Richmond, in light of upcoming legislation that could affect the project.

Burke says there will be more public outreach events in the next few weeks to report on the survey results to the community and gather additional feedback before further recommendations are brought before the committee and the full Board of Supervisors.

The update presentation, as well as history and additional information, are available on the county’s website.