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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Mason BRAC Task Force agrees on transportation priorities

The Mason District BRAC-133 Task Force has completed its ranking of proposed road improvements to alleviate traffic congestion caused by the new Department of Defense complex at the Mark Center.

At its Nov. 1 meeting, the group agreed on these three top priorities:

  • Reduce weaving on Beauregard Street, southbound from North Chambliss Street to Route 236, by eliminating the free-flow right turn lane. All southbound vehicles on North Chambliss would then traverse the signalized intersection, thus separating the Lincolnia/North Chambliss traffic from the Beauregard traffic. The Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) estimated this project would cost $1 million.
  • Install a “mountable curb” at the intersection of Route 236 and Chowan Avenue to slow down eastbound drivers on 236 by making it more difficult for them to use the service road to bypass traffic. A mountable curb is like a speed bump, but would be positioned differently.
  • Install a median or other barrier on Route 236 at Oasis Drive to separate the westbound lane from the other lanes. This would prevent drivers exiting the shopping center on 236 from crossing three lanes of traffic to make a left turn onto Beauregard.  This means drivers who want to head south on Beauregard would have to exit the shopping center from the rear rather than onto 236.
Those priorities are in addition to the two top priorities already agreed to by the task force in October: optimization of traffic signal timing along Route 236, Beauregard Street, and South Van Dorn Street and improved signage on the Interstate 395 southbound off-ramp at Route 236.

The task force, made up of representatives of Fairfax County neighborhoods close to the BRAC complex, was charged with considering potential projects aimed at resolving traffic congestion. At the Nov. 1 meeting, there were representatives from Charleston Square, Lincolnia Park, Dowden Terrace, and Palisades.

The BRAC complex will have 6,400 employees when it is fully occupied in 2012. Employees have been gradually relocated to the new office buildings since August. At least 5,000 employees are expected to be in place by the end of 2011. The complex only has 3,600 parking spaces.

Beyond the projects identified as top priorities, the task force on Nov. 1 ranked these additional projects in order of priority:

  • Widen the Interstate I-395 ramp to Quantrell Avenue at the southbound Route 236 exit. The estimated cost is $1 million.
  • Close the opening on Route 236 at the Exxon station east of Beauregard, and create a pullout for buses, so vehicles won’t get stuck behind buses.
  • Address capacity on Beauregard Street at Route 236 by adding an additional southbound left turn lane. This would cost about $12 million.
  • Improve the capacity on Lincolnia between Braddock Road and North Chambliss Street by adding left turn lands at major cross streets. This would cost an estimated $5 million.
  • Improve the traffic flow on Route 236 by adding an exclusive northbound right-turn lane at Cherokee Avenue. This would cost $500,000.
No money has been allocated for any of these projects, but having a prioritized list will be helpful when seeking funding from the capital projects division at FCDOT and exploring grant opportunities, says Tom Burke, a senior planner at FCDOT. “Now we know what the community wants,” he says.

The task force tabled a decision on two other options: widening Route 236 to six lanes between I-395 and Braddock Road ($35 million) and installing a transitway along South Van Dorn Street (over $100 million), which has already been approved by the Alexandria City Council. Those are huge projects, and the group didn’t have enough information to make a decision on them.

It will discuss those projects at its next meeting, in February, along with the need for residential parking districts in Fairfax County and possible changes in bus routes and bus stops.

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