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VDOT to fix parkway problem

fairfax parkway-fair lakes.jpg
VDOT map shows planned interchange at Fairfax County Parkway and Fair Lakes Parkway.

The Fairfax County Parkway was conceived at a time when some planners were dreaming of an outer beltway around Washington. But drivers know the parkway, with its congested intersections, is unlike any beltway they had in mind.

The Virginia Department of Transportation hopes to change the parkway experience a bit by removing the traffic signals at the Fair Lakes Parkway intersection and building a highway-style interchange over the next three years.

The parkway's planning and construction stretches across half a century. Sharon Bulova, the Fairfax County board chairman who was among the federal state and local officials who broke ground for the interchange this morning, remarked that she had participated in a ribbon cutting just last month for the last two miles of the parkway, near Fort Belvoir.

Now, the Virginia Department of Transportation, with the assistance of the county and with a big infusion of money from the federal stimulus program, is going back to rebuild one of the oldest stretches of the roadway for the benefit of the 66,000 motorists who drive through the congested space daily.

The cost will be $69.7 million, according to VDOT. That's $8.9 million for engineering, $2.6 million for right of way acquisition and utility relocation, and $58.2 million for construction. VDOT allocated $40.8 million in federal stimulus money to the project, speeding it up by at least two years.

The new design
-- The Fairfax County Parkway will be widened from four to six lanes from south of I-66 to Rugby Road, a distance of about three miles.
-- Signals at Fair Lakes Parkway and Monument Drive will be eliminated.
-- Long ramps will provide separate access to and from Fair Lakes Parkway and nearby Monument Drive.
-- Shared-use paths and sidewalks will allow for pedestrian and cyclist access at the interchange and also to the Rocky Run Stream Valley Park trail system.

Other benefits
-- When the project is completed, there will be no signals on Fairfax County Parkway from Popes Head Road to Route 50.
-- Traffic on Fair Lakes Parkway and Monument Drive should flow more easily, because of the separation of local and county parkway traffic.
-- The additional lanes in this three-mile stretch should Improved traffic flow at Interstate 66, Route 50 and Rugby Road.

During construction
VDOT says no lane closings will occur during rush hours, during the day on weekends or on holidays. The lane closings on weekdays will be scheduled for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Week night work hours will be 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Weekend hours will be 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. There will be some traffic lane shifts to deal with as construction progresses.

Beginning next summer and continuing for about six months, traffic on Fair Lakes Parkway heading towards the intersection will be detoured to Fair Lakes Circle.

The project will open in phases, but all the work, including the final paving, should be done by October 2013, VDOT said.

Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton was optimistic that more projects would be launched in Northern Virginia over the next six months. His outlook was based on the extra money discovered through a VDOT audit, the use of federal stimulus funds, and the lower construction costs VDOT is encountering because of the sluggish economy.

By Robert Thomson  | October 22, 2010; 1:30 PM ET
Categories:  Congestion, Construction, Driving, Virginia  | Tags:  Dr. Gridlock  
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