The Council unanimously approved the "Option 2-C" plan, a hybrid of two of the three plans the Department of Public Works and the firm Pennoni Associates presented earlier in the summer.
Bob Boxer, director of Public Works; Mayor Lisa Merkel; members of the Town Council; and engineer Doug Kennedy from Pennoni Associates said that several concerns expressed by community members over recent months about how widening the intersection would put pedestrian and cyclist safety at risk motivated them to come up with the hybrid option.
After a public meeting in July and several weeks of allowing residents to fill out surveys and write in feedback, Boxer said, "Generally there was support for the project to proceed. But there were challenges [surrounding safety for pedestrians and cyclists]."
Boxer said another concern some residents expressed was the danger of cars that get frustrated waiting to make a left turn and then opt to travel straight through the intersection and make a U-turn at Missouri Avenue.
Option 2-C includes the following improvements:
- A single right turn lane onto northbound Van Buren.
- An additional left turn lane on westbound Herndon Parkway (making for dual left turn lanes).
- Adding an eastbound right turn lane onto Herndon Parkway.
- Revising pedestrian ramps to reduce crossing lengths by around 7 feet.
- An extended asphalt path along Van Buren for pedestrians.
- The addition of a pedestrian island in the middle of the intersection.
- Adding a right turn signal so that pedestrians can stop traffic by pressing the crosswalk button, adding for more safety.
In addition, engineer Doug Kennedy explained that there is a cost savings by going with Option 2-C over Option 2. Option 2-C is only $1.95 million, versus the nearly $2.2 million Option 2 would cost.
Boxer also confirmed that this project is fully funded by regional surface transportation funds.
However, Kennedy did explain that while Option 2-C does take more into account pedestrian and cyclist safety, it is not projected to improve traffic conditions as much as Option 2 would have.
Kennedy said in their prior studies of the intersection, they estimate roughly 20,600 vehicles per day travel along Van Buren coming south from Fairfax County Parkway, and roughly 19,300 travel on Herndon Parkway, with the busiest leg being the east leg.
Kennedy also said they predict a 1.8-percent annual increase in traffic between 2012 and 2022, factoring in future new traffic that could result from the opening of the Silver Line station, but not factoring in any potential future extension of Worldgate Drive.
Currently, Kennedy said an acceptable grade in the traffic/engineering industry is a D. As it stands now, the intersection is graded F during peak morning hours and E during peak afternoon hours.
He said Option 2-C should bring most of the intersection to an E, except the northbound and westbound turn lanes would still remain at an F, and there could be added delays with right turns.
However, he said 2-C does address the problem of back-ups that occur from cars queued up to make left turns, it minimizes the number of cars that would or could try to go straight through the intersection and make a U-turn at Missouri Avenue, and it improves conditions for cyclists who may want to bike to the future Metro station.
When it came time to vote, Councilmembers and Mayor Merkel expressed their support for moving forward with Option 2-C.
"I do see it as an improvement—it’s a solution, short-term. I’m amazed at how many people go through here, and I think it eases congestion and addresses some of the concerns," Councilman Charlie Waddell said.
Councilman Dave Kirby said he thought Option 2 provided the most "bang for their buck," but that given the concerns of locals over the safety of pedestrians and cyclists, he thought 2-C was a good compromise.
Councilwoman Melissa Jonas said, "I think [2-C] is highly appropriate for this area for the future Metro station. I think it’s forward-thinking, innovatively-thinking, and probably the best use both long- and short-term for the public resources."
Vice Mayor Connie Hutchinson said, "I fully support 2-C. This is going to be one of the busiest pedestrian and bicycle routes in the town once Metro comes."
Mayor Merkel said she agreed with Hutchinson.
"I think if the goal is to take more cars off the road by the public transportation we provide, then I think 2-C makes the most sense, and is the best compromise for the bicyclists and pedestrians," she said.
The vote passed unanimously, and the project will move forward.
TELL US - What do you think of Option 2-C? Do you think it is the best compromise? Tell us in the comments.
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