Fairfax County officials are considering tasking the Virginia Department of Transportation with studying potential improvements to the Fairfax County Parkway.
Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield) put forth a motion for staff to request that VDOT study the 35-mile highway, which runs from Springfield to the Loudoun County line, identifying ways to decrease congestion, including HOT and HOV lanes.
The Parkway currently carries up to 80,000 vehicles a day, and that number is only expected to increase, Herrity told his colleagues.
“This critical corridor is currently handling more traffic than it was designed for, is continually congested and shortly will be handling interstate level volumes,” he said in his motion.
According to the county’s Comprehensive Plan, the highway will eventually get a third lane running the full 35 miles in both directions and five new interchanges.
But Herrity said a VDOT study would identify more long-term solutions including toll lanes, as well as the third lane in both directions.
“This study will provide a comprehensive look at what improvements need to be made to the Parkway in order to keep up with projected traffic demand,” Herrity said.
Supervisor John Cook (R-Braddock) supported the motion, calling it “timely and critically important.”
Cook wanted to make sure that bus routes in particular were part of the study, as transit options would be vital in decreasing congestion on the Parkway.
“To be able to get from Springfield to Reston on a bus would be a major improvement,” Cook said.
But other supervisors were skeptical of enlisting VDOT for another study when the current Comprehensive Plan already outlined fixes to the parkway.
“I don’t want to slow down the possibility of improvements,” Supervisor Michael Frey (R-Sully) said. “Studies can become major bureaucratic processes.”
Herrity said VDOT officials had assured him that any study would not interfere with previously identified improvements. But he also said that a VDOT study would potentially find better solutions than the Comprehensive Plan’s.
“What our county staff doesn’t have is which of the solutions … would provide us with the most congestion relief?” Herrity said.
A potential VDOT study will likely be addressed at the next Board of Supervisors Transportation Committee meeting, at the request of Supervisor Jeff McKay (D-Lee), the committee chair.
McKay said he would do his best to address the issue at the next transportation committee meeting agenda but that there was typically a high volume of projects covered at the meeting.
“If we can get it on the next agenda, we will put it on the next agenda,” he said.
Herrity said the study needed to get underway as soon as possible but was ultimately willing to wait.
“I’m not sure why we need to delay the request for six months, but if that’s the will of the board, then I’m willing to go along with that,” he said.