Mason, VDOT Detail Fairfax Traffic Improvements
Posted: September 17, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am
By Dave Andrews
At a Mason-City Forum held on Sept. 10, representatives from Mason and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) updated community members on the status of the major building and road construction projects under way on and around the Fairfax Campus.
Tom Calhoun, Mason vice president for facilities, discussed various new projects, including Parking Deck III; the Public Safety Building, which will house University Police and the Safety Office; faculty and staff housing; the Mason Inn and Conference Center; and student on-campus housing.
Throughout the presentation, Calhoun was quick to point out that most of these projects include a construction plan designed to not only minimize additional traffic but also to improve the traffic situation in many areas around campus.
Plans for the faculty and staff housing community include routing all construction vehicles through an interior road to prevent increased traffic on Roberts Road. Also, once the community is built, it will be close enough to campus to allow residents to walk instead of drive to work.
During construction of the new 2,600-space parking deck on the north end of campus, Mason has sought to compensate for all the displaced parking spaces. The deck stands in what once was Lot F (which accommodated 900 parking spaces). Mason has created 300 spaces where Patriot Village once stood. It has also increased shuttle services between the West Lot and the east side of campus, as well as to and from the Field House parking lot.
With more and more on-campus housing being built (a total of 5,000 beds by next year), the parking deck also serves as a place where these students can park. Moreover, having more students live on campus reduces the amount of traffic on roadways in the surrounding areas.
At the forum, community members asked about the visibility of the seven-story Mason Inn and Conference Center from Route 123 and adjacent neighborhoods. Calhoun stressed that the building will remain mostly hidden by trees, but the audience had concerns about what the area would look like through leafless, deciduous trees during winter. To address this concern, the university intends to plant more evergreen trees to provide additional, year-round screening.
Fairfax residents were also interested in the status of the George Mason Boulevard project that began earlier this month. The road will create a new route between the north end of campus and downtown Fairfax. Once the project is complete, a large portion of University Drive will be permanently closed off to through traffic.
VDOT representatives said most of the project belongs to the City of Fairfax and will be funded using federal and state money. The total cost is expected to be slightly more than $2 million.
The only university money used for the project will be put toward creating a right turn lane on University Drive turning north onto the future connecting portion of George Mason Boulevard. The added turn lane should ease traffic flow from the new parking deck.
The middle part of the project is already complete, as a portion of George Mason Boulevard currently exists. Developers will simply have to connect the north and south ends. The road is expected to be complete in May 2009.