County board approves preferred path for Soapstone Connector in Reston

The massive project will likely cut through a historic district (Photo via FCDOT).

After several years of discussion, the county has officially selected the likely path for the Soapstone Connector, a major $237 million connection planned between Sunrise Valley Drive and Sunset Hills Road in Reston.

At a board meeting yesterday (Tuesday), the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors selected one of several options for the layout of the project. The motion was approved without any discussion.

The vote kicks off the environmental process, which will conclude with a decision from the Federal Highway Administration. Once federal officials approve the environmental aspects of the project — which are governed by the National Environmental Policy Act — the project will move towards the design phase.

The connector will extend Soapstone Connector by a half-mile between Sunrise Valley Drive and Sunset Hills Road. It includes a crossing over the Dulles Toll Road, the Dulles International Airport Access Highway and the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station.

So far, early design work anticipates that the connection will include a three-line cross-section, on-road bicycle lanes on each side, a sidewalk on the west side and a shared-use path on the east side. The bridge include four travel lanes and on-road bicycle lines and paths from the rest of the connection.

The county has studied roughly 31 alternatives for the project. Most recently, an environmental assessment added an additional alignment north of the Dulles Toll Road for further discussion. The county is favoring an alternative that does not impact gas lines as significantly — which county staff said was an important consideration when reviewing gas transmission lines owned by Williams Gas Pipeline Transco. This alternative crosses the gas line over a shorter distance.

The county still favors the 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.