More than 200 people packed into the lecture hall at Lake Braddock Secondary School for a meeting hosted by Braddock Supervisor John Cook on options for relieving traffic congestion on Braddock Road.
The Braddock Road Multimodal Study, being carried out by the Fairfax County Transportation Department (FCDOT) is exploring options for improving transportation on the Braddock corridor by car, bus, and bicyclists—with a focus on easing traffic for commuters heading to and from Tysons.
(1) Widening Braddock Road from six to eight lanes between the beltway and Burke Lake Road. Michael Guarino, a transportation planner with FCDOT said the study will consider several alternatives: adding two HOV2 lanes (restricted to high occupancy vehicles with at least two people), adding two HOV3 lanes, and adding two HOT (high occupancy toll) lanes.
(2) Developing a transit center and garage with free parking at the Kings Park Shopping Center with about 500 spaces targeted to commuters taking buses or carpooling. FCDOT Director Tom Biesiadny said the garage most like would be behind the shopping center on a site occupied by an office building, although no decisions have been made.
(3) Widening Braddock Road from four to six lanes between Burke Lake Road and Guinea Road.
According to Guarino, the study will consider a range of issues, such as how to enforce the HOT or HOV lane restrictions, whether the bridge over the beltway should be widened, whether there should be at-grade or grade-separated lanes, and how to improve the flow at major intersections, such as Wakefield Chapel Road.
Cook called the study “trend setting” in that there will be “more community involvement than ever before on a transportation project.”
Cook asked community associations and homeowner associations adjacent to Braddock Road to select people to serve on a citizen advisory group on the project. It is chaired by Kevin Morse, the Braddock representative on the Fairfax County Transportation Advisory Commission, and co-chaired by Thomas Kennedy, the Braddock representative on the Trails and Sidewalks Committee.
The citizens advisory group has about a dozen members, including residents of Kings Park, Red Fox Forest, Long Branch, Canterbury Woods, Ravensworth Farms, Danbury Forest, and other communities. Cook also plans to host quarterly meetings for the public.
The study would take about 18 months, and it would take about seven years for design and construction. VDOT would have the final say on what gets done.
This project has been a long time coming, Cooke noted. The Board of Supervisors adopted a plan to widen Braddock Road in 1990. It’s only become feasible now, after the Virginia General Assembly approved a landmark transportation bill last year.
Braddock Road scored high on a cost-benefit analysis carried out by FCDOT to determine where to spend the new transportation dollars it will receive from the state. The Board of Supervisors approved 75 percent of the cost of the project over six years and would approve additional funding as the project proceeds.
According to Cook, this part of Braddock Road handles about 72,000 automobile trips a day. “We want to give people options that don’t involve driving,” he said, so improving bus transportation is a big part of the project. He would like to see more people take advantage of a new Fairfax Connector route launched by the county in 2013 between the Burke Centre VRE station and Tysons Corner using the beltway express lanes.
Cook noted that a quarter of a million people are expected to move to Fairfax County within the next 30 years, much of it due to the growth of Tysons. The plan approved by the BoS for redevelopment in Tysons calls for 100,000 new residents and 100,000 new jobs.
As part of the Braddock Road study, FCDOT will also undertake a driver origin destination study; a traffic analysis to assess vehicle merging and weaving issues; study license plate data from cars at the Kings Park Shopping Center; look at the the need for improved bus stops, trails, and pedestrian crossings; and study noise levels, the impact on wetlands and school bus routes, traffic signal coordination, and other issues.
Members of the audience raised lots of concerns about the project: Making Braddock Road too wide could turn it into a concrete jungle. New bus routes are needed to get people to and from D.C. and Metro stations in the evening, not just for commuters. Five hundred parking spaces at the transit center isn’t enough to meet the demand. How would non-commuters be kept out of the garage? Would commuters fill up the shopping center lot? And would it become more difficult to exit from a neighborhood onto Braddock Road?