Cut-Through Traffic Program, Ramps To Nowhere Concerns For Bierman

January 24, 2024 0 By JohnValbyNation

FAIRFAX COUNTY, VA — Supervisor Jimmy Bierman joked on Tuesday morning that he was batting a thousand after the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the first board matter he ever introduced as the Dranesville District’s representative to the board.

“One for one,” he said after the vote, which elicited laughter from his colleagues. “Look, when you’re batting a thousand, you’ve got to celebrate it.”

Bierman was actually two for two when it came to the pair of resolutions he introduced at Tuesday’s meeting. One addressed the problem of cut-through traffic in residential neighborhoods and the other decried the lack of coordination in the I-495 Next project.

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“The problem of motorists using neighborhood streets to avoid bottlenecks on major roadways, such as Route 7 and I-495, has grown significantly since 2019,” Beirman said. “Due to road navigation guidance systems, such as Waze, in Dranesville, constituents reported that they have sat in a line of traffic within their own neighborhood for over 40 minutes.”
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Some residents have even taken to parking several blocks away from their home in order to avoid sitting in a long line of traffic, according to Beirman. The delays have even caused residents to miss important appointments.

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The Fairfax County and Virginia departments of transportation’s cut-through mitigation program was designed to address this problem by allowing residential communities to restrict cut-trough traffic on neighborhood streets.

“A residential cut-through sticker program providing exemptions with this help ensure that county restrictions do not themselves create additional problems for local residents,” Bierman said.

A draft ordinance to enact the sticker program has already been presented to the board during transportation committee meetings on July 18, 2023 and Jan. 31, 2024.

Bieman’s motion called on staff to answer the board’s questions from those meetings, including the cost of the program, the sticker fee, and the estimated revenue generated by the fee. Staff was then directed to present that information during the Feb. 13 committee meeting.

As part of the Capital Beltway accord in November 2019, the governors of Maryland and Virginia agreed on a coordinated funding plan for VDOTs I-495 Next project.

“The project, in conjunction with Maryland’s plans to widen the American Legion Bridge and construct high occupancy toll lanes, could reduce congestion, provide additional travel choices, and improve travel efficiency along one of the worst traffic hotspots in the country,” Bierman said, introducing his second motion. “However, recent changes to Maryland’s plans and the manner in which the Virginia construction has been performed have been very concerning to area residents, especially those in Dranesville.

In preparation for the bride widening, VDOT has already removed sound barriers and large swaths of trees in Bierman’s district.

In addition, the project will no longer be a public-private partnership, with Maryland intending to apply for federal grant money, according to Beirman.

“These changes have raised questions and concerns about what Maryland intends to do and when they intend to do it,” he said. “Among other things, there’s confusion about the purpose of the ramps being built that previously were proposed to tie into high occupancy toll roads on the Maryland side. If these toll roads aren’t constructed, are we building ramps to nowhere?”

The board has not received a response to a letter it sent to VDOT last September about the written agreement between the two states.

I’m also troubled by the numerous concerns from residents about the significant impacts on the surrounding neighborhoods, including areas of tree loss along long stretches of I-495, and dramatic increases to neighborhood congestion resulting from peak hour cut-through traffic.” Bierman said.

Due to the uncertainty of Maryland’s plans, Bierman introduced a resolution directing staff to draft a second letter to VDOT Secretary W. Sheppard Miller inquiring about the lack of coordination in the project and the concerns expressed by county residents, including the deforestation along the beltway. The motion also asked VDOT to present a plan for future coordination at the Feb. 13 transportation committee meeting.

Both Bierman and Mason District Supervisor Andres Jimenez were elected in November to succeed outgoing Supervisors John Foust and Penny Gross, respectively.

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