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Future Soapstone Connector will cut through historic district in Reston

Reston’s massive Soapstone Connector project will likely cut through a historic district (via FCDOT)

A massive, half-mile road extension in Reston will likely have to cut through a historic district on Association Drive.

The Soapstone Connector would bring a new, direct link between Sunset Hills Road and Sunrise Valley Drive over the Dulles Toll Road — a critical connection that would relieve congestion on Wiehle Avenue.

As preliminary design work continues, county and state planners have revised an environmental assessment — first completed in 2017 — with updated traffic studies, summaries of previous public hearings, an impact analysis and additional documentation, according to Negin Askarzadeh, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation’s Soapstone Connector project coordinator.

The county’s transportation department held a meeting on the topic for the first time in several years last night (Monday). It was the first public meeting since 2018.

The county still favors one option of several discussed thus far: the southern terminus would be located at the intersection of Soapstone Drive and Sunrise Valley Drive, while the northern terminus would connect to Sunset Hills Road. The proposal would disrupt nine of 10 sites potentially eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

The Soapstone Connector would link Soapstone Drive to Sunset Hills Road over the Dulles Toll Road in Reston (via Fairfax County)

A new memorandum of agreement between federal, state and county stakeholders details a number of mitigation measures to limit the impact on the historic area.

Askarzadeh also said a public historical report would be prepared in order to “meaningfully convey the importance of the district” as part of Reston’s planned community.

By 2046, the existing transportation network won’t be able to accommodate projected peak hour demand for travel in the area. The average delay at Reston’s major intersections is expected to increase from 40 to 80 seconds.

A draft evaluation — known in planning jargon as a 4(f) evaluation — also states that “there is no feasible and prudent alternative to the use of land from the historic district,” according to the county. The report, completed in 2020, was recently approved for public availability.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is expected to make a decision on the preferred alternative for the project after reviewing the drafted agreement. The document also requires the approval of the Federal Highway Administration to determine that no other alternative is feasible to proceed with the project.

Once those approvals are in place, the county will coordinate with the Virginia Department of Transportation to begin designing the project.

At the meeting, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said he looks forward to the next steps in the planning process.

“This project has been a long time in the making so we’re moving forward,” Alcorn said.

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