Local Residents Offer Feedback on Proposed Traffic Fixes

Three options proposed for intersection of Herndon Parkway and Sterling Road; discussion of how toll road circumventers add to traffic woes.

Kevin Sitzman, a VHB engineering consultant hired by the town, presents data and options for traffic relief at the intersection of Herndon Pkwy/Sterling Road at a town hall meeting Dec. 4, 2013. (Photo: Jennifer van der Kleut)
Kevin Sitzman, a VHB engineering consultant hired by the town, presents data and options for traffic relief at the intersection of Herndon Pkwy/Sterling Road at a town hall meeting Dec. 4, 2013. (Photo: Jennifer van der Kleut)
At Wednesday night's town hall meeting, engineering consultants presented three recommended options for reducing traffic delays at the intersection of Herndon Parkway and Sterling Road as locals expressed frustration over growing traffic concerns and the potential for more in the coming years.

The thinking around this intersection has changed over the course of recent traffic flow studies, as engineering firm Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc. (VHB) discovered that backups at this intersection are not due to people cutting through the town to get to the Dulles Toll Road/267—which came at "a great surprise," said consultant Kevin Sitzman during the meeting.

VHB engineers said they had used a helicopter to track traffic flow around the west part of town and found that, out of 500 cars, only seven—or a little more than 1 percent—were cutting through the intersection to get to the toll road.

However, locals in the audience Wednesday night said it was their thinking that the growing amount of traffic in this intersection is more likely due to “circumventers” who are avoiding the toll road altogether. And, as tolls continue to rise, they predict that will grow.

“As tolls continue to go up, how do we fix that problem? This is a short-term fix,” said one man in the audience, who said he used to live and work in Reston and used to do the same thing—cut through Herndon.

Sitzman said it’s a give-and-take equilibrium. He said as tolls rise, more people will circumvent. But he also said, as traffic increases, even if tolls rise, some people will opt to take the toll road regardless of rising fees if it shaves time off their commute because the alternative routes are getting more congested.

Others expressed concern that ongoing construction in neighboring Fairfax and Loudoun counties will impact traffic patterns in town and at this intersection in some way, and wanted to know if that will make any changes to the intersection moot in the future.

Town of Herndon Director of Public Works Bob Boxer said that could be true, but said the Town’s thinking is that these are easy, affordable fixes that could probably be completed by summertime, and could provide relief for 10 or even 15 years, and that he recognizes that more work will need to be done in the future.

"Everything is interconnected in Northern Virginia. I don't know all the different wheels that are turning," he said of what neighboring counties are considering in terms of development and the forthcoming Silver Line. "But we do want to do something short-term to try and make people's lives better, and a lot of people have been working hard on this."

Boxer said a public hearing during a Town Council meeting will be held in the near future, and encouraged locals to offer feedback before then.

"I can promise you only two things—that we will take [all feedback offered] into consideration, and that we won't be able to please everyone," Boxer said.

Boxer and the VHB consultants said added provisions for pedestrians in this intersection are also a "long-term item" they will look at in the future.

Below are the three recommended options the Town and VHB presented at the town hall, and want locals to offer feedback on. They are listed in order from least expensive and least amount of benefit, to most expensive and most amount of predicted benefit.

When asked, Boxer said the Department of Public Works favors Option L1' because it offers the most value in terms of relief for the money it will cost, but that nothing is set in stone or decided upon at this time.

Option L4: 
On northbound Herndon Parkway, convert the middle through-lane to a left-turn-only lane. Resulting lane configuration is dual left turns and a shared through-right. (Approximate Cost: $20,000-25,000)

Option L3: 
Adds improvements to Option L4. On southbound Herndon Parkway, convert shared through-right lane to a right-turn-only lane. Resulting southbound lane configuration is right-turn, through, left-turn lane. (Approximate Cost: $38,000-47,000)

Option L1-Prime (L1'): 
Adds improvements to Option L3. Resulting eastbound lane configuration is free-flow right, through, and left-turn lane. (Approximate Cost: $250,000-300,000)

View illustrations of the proposed options here.

Read VHB's full traffic study and report here.

TO OFFER FEEDBACK ON THE OPTIONS: Contact the Town of Herndon Public Works Department at publicworks@herndon-va.gov or 703-435-6853.

When you contact the department, they desire to know 1) which option you prefer; 2) your reasons for preferring that option; and 3) your interest in the issue—are you a town resident, commercial property owner or commuter through the area?

TELL US - Which option do you prefer? Why or why not? Share your thoughts with fellow locals in the comments below.


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Kathy Gaynor December 05, 2013 at 09:47 AM
The problem I see already with L4 and subsequent add-ons is that traffic will now COMPLETELY BLOCK both the right and left lanes of Herndon Parkway all the way back to Summerfield (and beyond) because people will try and scoot up the right lane to cut over to the new left turn lane closer to the light. They do that already with the current single-left turn lane, and then they block the left through lane waiting to cut somebody off. Now, they'll block the right through lane trying to get to the new left turn lane and all through traffic will be hindered. I would also like to see some pedestrian improvements. I've seen people trying to cross both 606 and Herndon Parkway to/from the southwest corner and about get taken out by cars turning right from eastbound 606 to southbound Herndon Pkwy. The incline from the road causes traffic ahead to block their view of the intersection and the pedestrian signal. I'd like to see a ped signal put on the southwest corner FACING WEST so that traffic coming up the incline can see the white walking figure and know that a pedestrian is/may be present. Whew. Guess I rambled on a bit.
The Convict December 05, 2013 at 12:48 PM
I beg to differ about the volume of "cut through" traffic to the Access highway. Most of the westbound traffic coming through that intersection in the mornings is either getting on 28 or continuing on to the west past Ariane Way, and the reverse in the evening. My own belief is that half of the "cut through" traffic is about Tolls and the other half is about the excessive backups on the DTR. However, if you hold that most of the traffic through the 606/Herndon Parkway intersection is either to/from the Access highway, then the best thing to do is to address that "cut through" option. The best way to deal with "cut through" traffic is to get the MWAA to open the Access highway to HOV and free up the left lane to non-HOV vehicles. Getting the HOV vehicles off of the DTR would probably move more of the SOV vehicles off of the Access highway. Or, another move would be to get Loudoun or the MWAA to make Ariane Way where it crosses the bridge over the Greenway into a one-way route only against the two rush hour traffics. That is, only allow outgoing traffic in the mornings and incoming traffic during the evening. And, of course, if the Tolls/Fees are the primary reason for "backtracking" then (1) the MWAA should move vigorously enforce the backtracking regulations and/or (2) put Tolls on the Access highway as well. Of course, I think Tolls on either of these roads is just plain silly, but Tolls seems to be the wave of the future for financing road projects instead of bonds and taxes.
Layna Cook December 05, 2013 at 04:18 PM
In comparing just these alternatives, I'd say that Option 3, at a high of $72k, actually provides the most value for the money. Option 1 is 5x the cost, at $372k, and only seems to provide a little more direction on the right turn lane of 606 going East. That usually seems to be the turn with the least amount of problems. Start with Option 3 and see how it goes!


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