Forum Discusses Transportation Improvements in Fairfax

Posted: October 24, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Dave Andrews

During its most recent quarterly meeting held last week, the George Mason University–Braddock District Community Forum discussed the modifications Mason and the City of Fairfax are making to improve traffic in the region.

Building Patiot Pride logo

Much of the meeting focused on changes made to the 2009 high school graduation calendar at the Patriot Center. The scheduling during last summer’s two-week-long series of graduations was a topic of concern for many area residents. Oftentimes hosting three graduations a day during high-traffic periods, the Patriot Center became the eye of a teeming traffic storm.

“It’s definitely a challenge for everyone because the high schools are trying to accommodate as many families and faculty as possible,” says Benn Crandall, director of special events at Mason. “Looking at school size, location and potential traffic impact, we have a lot to consider as we continue negotiations with the principals.”

For 2009, Mason has been working with high school principals to coordinate a more practical schedule. The changes have thinned out the number of three-a-day graduations during weekdays, and increased the number of graduations on Saturdays – last year, the Patriot Center was limited to just one graduation per Saturday.

“We’re still looking at how we can further reduce congestion in the area caused by graduation traffic,” Crandall said, “but it’s a very complicated balancing act in order to not overwhelm the community.”

But not all commuters were disgruntled during last summer’s graduation marathon.

“I think it’s a wonderful service to the community,” said one community member during the forum, “that George Mason opens up the Patriot Center to allow a large number of families to attend graduation; many other regions aren’t as fortunate. The traffic notices were helpful and well placed, and there were plenty of alternate routes to choose from. Traffic is important to many people, but it’s not the only issue in life.”

Also during the meeting, representatives from the Fairfax County Department of Transportation presented a number of preliminary design alternatives to improve the intersection of Braddock Road and Route 123. Nearly all of the designs involve a separated grade bridging Route 123 over Braddock Road with varied locations of on and off ramps.

Transportation officials narrowed the presentation down to the five alternatives with the least amount of impact on the area. However, it was stressed that the designs were only preliminary, and that data is still being collected through January 2009 to determine the best course of action.

“Our main goal is to limit the footprint of construction as much as possible,” said Seyed Ahmad Nabavi, transportation planner for the Fairfax County Department of Transportation. “Separating the grades of the roads would be extremely difficult, but right now we are simply collecting data and brainstorming ideas.”

Potential construction costs and options are still unknown. The only funding that has been identified for the project thus far has been devoted to the study. No money is yet available for the final design and actual construction, which officials estimate could be as far away as 10 years.

The final transportation issue discussed was that of a six-foot-wide pedestrian trail on the university’s side of Roberts Road. The trail would run from Braddock Road to Shenandoah Lane.

Plans for the project had been on hold for a number of years due to lack of funding. Now that Mason has granted an easement of land to Fairfax County, all that is left is the final approval of the plans from the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Mason has already made plans to create an identical pedestrian path along Roberts Road that would run between Shenandoah Lane and Aspen Willow Drive. That path should be completed by fall 2009.

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