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Friday, October 25, 2013

Fairfax County study analyzes traffic problems at Seven Corners

The Seven Corners interchange.

Business owners, real estate professionals, and residents of Seven Corners gathered for an early breakfast at Public House No. 7 Oct. 24 to learn about the results of the first phase of the Seven Corners Transportation Study.

The meeting was sponsored by the Baileys Crossroads Revitalization Corporation, which received a $2,765 Neighborhood Enhancement Partnership Program (NEPP) grant from Fairfax County to support several community engagement activities, including a series of Seven Corners Business Breakfasts and a cleanup of the Willston area in Seven Corners scheduled for Nov. 16.

The transportation study is part of the planning process for revitalizing Seven Corners underway by the Seven Corners Land Use and Transportation Task Force in collaboration with the Fairfax County Office of Community Revitalization.

It’s clear that any plans for reinvestment won’t be successful unless something is done about the horrendous traffic congestion around the main intersection of Arlington Boulevard (Route 50), Leesburg Pike (Route 7), and Wilson Boulevard.

The transportation study is being carried out by Kittelson & Associates for the Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCOT). The first phase of the study, completed in September, examines current conditions. Phase two, which just got underway, will address recommendations for improvement.

To document the current state of traffic congestion in Seven Corners, researchers collected “vehicle movement counts” at 17 locations along the Route 50/Route 7 interchange and at 19 locations on surrounding roads, said Kris Morley-Nikfar, a transportation planner in FCDOT.

A helicopter was used to take aerial photos—at the rate of one image per second—on April 16 during the peak traffic periods: between 7:30 and 8:50 a.m. and between 4:35 and 5:50 p.m. The result was an “origin-destination analysis” determining traffic volume through the area.

Researchers found most of the traffic involves people passing through Seven Corners; drivers are starting at a point outside the area and heading to a destination outside the area.

Among other findings:
  • Traffic volume in the interchange area is highest during the weekday afternoon peak period, followed by Saturday midday, and then the weekday morning peak period.
  • Over 82 percent of the peak p.m. period traffic is through traffic.
  • Traffic on routes 50 and 7 comprise over 72 percent of total traffic.
  • Most of the delay occurs in the interchange area, with several intersections operating at the “F” level of service, which indicates the highest amount of delays.
  • There are long queues of cars on eastbound Route 7 and westbound on Route 50 and Wilson Boulevard during the peak times.
  • Vehicles blocking the intersection cause delays and queuing.
  • Particularly heavy congestion was also documented at the Route 50/Patrick Henry Drive, Roosevelt Boulevard/Wilson Boulevard, and Route 7/Patrick Henry intersections.

One member of the audience suggested that most of the traffic is passing through the area because people who live in Seven Corners avoid the area due to the heavy congestion. And that is discouraging economic development because people can’t get to local businesses easily.

The researchers also conducted observations of pedestrian and bicycle activity throughout the interchange area. Unsurprisingly, they found very little of both, due to high speeds, difficult crossings, and lack of sidewalks, bike lanes, and crosswalks.

The second phase of the Seven Corners Traffic Study, to be completed in spring 2014, will consist of an assessment of future land use scenarios and transportation network recommendations to be developed by the Seven Corners Task Force. The study will identify medium and long-term solutions for the Seven Corners interchange and surrounding roads and suggest mitigation measures to address current traffic problems.

Mason Supervisor Penny Gross told the group the Seven Corners Task Force will finish its work in fall 2014. At that point, the task force will submit its recommendations for revitalizing Seven Corners along with proposed language for incorporating its recommendations into an amendment to the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan.

Gross said she plans to introduce a measure at the Oct. 30 Board of Supervisors meeting seeking authorization for a plan amendment. That needs to be done to ensure the BoS will consider the plan amendment when it is submitted next fall.

Meanwhile, there are some other things going on in Seven Corners, Gross said. A Gold’s Gym is taking over the space formerly occupied by Fitness First in the newly renovated shopping center between Route 50 and Wilson Boulevard. In addition, Fairfax County Public Schools is continuing to pursue the potential for converting the five-story office building at 6245 Leesburg Pike into what could be the county’s first urban-style school.

Another presentation at the Bailey’s Business Breakfast, on the county’s transportation planning process, will be discussed in a future post.

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