McLean group calls for traffic signal or beacon at Ingleside Avenue

Afternoon rush-hour traffic clogs up Dolley Madison Boulevard at the Ingleside Avenue intersection in McLean (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

As Fairfax County explores ways to improve the flow of traffic on Dolley Madison Blvd., the McLean Citizens Association sees an opportunity to also address safety issues at the Ingleside Avenue intersection.

The residents’ group urged the Fairfax County Department of Transportation last week to consider installing a traffic signal there or at the adjacent Elm Street intersection as part of the county’s ongoing Dolley Madison Corridor Study.

“Installation of a traffic signal at either location would heighten safety for pedestrians and bicyclists,” MCA President Scott Spitzer wrote in a letter approved by the board of directors on Wednesday (July 6). “A signal at the Dolley Madison/Ingleside intersection would also address concerns raised by residents who are unable to turn left from Dolley Madison Boulevard onto Ingleside Avenue during rush hour traffic.”

Though they’re the size of neighborhood streets, Ingleside and Elm connect downtown McLean to the residences north of Dolley Madison (also known as Route 123) as well as the Dolley Madison Library, McLean Central Park, and McLean Community Center.

Traffic backups on Route 123 routinely block Ingleside in particular, making it “almost impossible” for drivers to turn into or out of the street, one MCA board member said during last week’s meeting.

“I certainly have had experience trying to take a left on Ingleside and having to wait minutes because nobody will let you in,” Glenn Harris, who chairs MCA’s transportation committee, said.

If a traffic light isn’t possible, given the proximity of Old Dominion Drive, MCA says it would support a flashing pedestrian beacon and “enhanced crosswalks” at either the Ingleside or Elm intersection.

There are currently striped crosswalks across Dolley Madison on the east sides of both intersections, but Elm Street has no sidewalks, and Ingleside only has a sidewalk on the west side.

For drivers on Ingleside, even a right turn onto Dolley Madison can be tricky, thanks to trees that block their sightlines, an MCA board member noted.

A crash that killed a bicyclist on Dec. 29 “supports the view that there are safety issues at the intersection,” Harris said.

Not all MCA board members supported the idea of a traffic signal at the intersections. Three voted against the proposal, primarily out of concern that they would exacerbate the Route 123 congestion that FCDOT is trying to mitigate.

“Those distances [between intersections] are just too short, and it would create another bottleneck,” one member said.

MCA also suggested in its letter that FCDOT evaluate the feasibility of a pedestrian bridge over Dolley Madison as a possible longer-term solution, acknowledging that the cost and other factors could make it unlikely to happen.

As for the concepts that the county is considering to address traffic in the Dolley Madison corridor, the group supports several that would extend or add lanes at the Dulles Toll Road and Lewinsville Road/Great Falls Street intersections but opposes a “jug handle” that would restrict left turns onto Old Dominion.

MCA also came out against a proposal that would eliminate left turns from Great Falls onto Chain Bridge Road, a route multiple board members said they use to bypass Route 123.

“This proposal would appear to impose a burden on local residents and, by preventing drivers from taking this left turn, and requiring them to turn left on Dolley Madison Boulevard would actually increase the level of traffic congestion on that road,” the letter said. “This appears to be inconsistent with the overall objective…to reduce congestion on Dolley Madison Boulevard.”

FCDOT’s public comment period for the Dolley Madison study concluded on Friday (July 8).