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Safety improvements planned for ‘disaster’ streetscape along Columbia Pike

Columbia Pike between Backlick Road and Tom Davis Drive (via Google Maps)

A stretch of roadside along Columbia Pike referred to as a “disaster” in a recent meeting — near where four people were struck by a driver last year — could be getting some safety-focused upgrades.

On Monday (Jan. 23), Fairfax County presented plans for a “Complete Streets” overhaul for a section of Columbia Pike from Backlick Run to Tom Davis Drive. The project involves the construction of a new 6-foot-wide sidewalk and a high-visibility crosswalk at Tom Davis Drive, along with ADA-compliant curb ramps and a 6-foot-wide strip of landscaping.

In terms of “Complete Streets” projects, the Columbia Pike one is fairly limited in scope: it only affects the southern side of the street and doesn’t include any bicycle upgrades. Staff emphasized that what was presented was just the first phase.

Area of improvements planned for Columbia Pike (via Fairfax County)

“[This project] has been discussed for a long time,” said Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross. “It looks simple on paper, but when you look at the various land use parcels that need to be included it becomes a much broader kind of proposal. I am anxious to learn what the design is going to look like now…Now we’re really getting down to the nitty gritty so some decisions can be made.”

The Complete Streets project will also cut down on the number of curb cuts — areas where vehicles cross over the sidewalk to get in and out of parking. While limiting vehicle access can be frustrating for retail along a street, Gross said the reduction in curb cuts shouldn’t impact businesses too severely.

“Right now it is chaotic for pedestrians and vehicles alike in that section,” Gross said. “There are too many curb cuts. It really shouldn’t affect access to businesses because there will be other curb cuts available. The basic idea is much safer for everyone.”

James Albright, a member of the county’s Trails, Sidewalks and Bikeways Committee, said he was excited to see improvements coming to Columbia Pike.

“I appreciate this project because this sidewalk is a disaster. It’s not safe,” Albright said. “This has been an area of concern.”

But Albright also expressed concern that the county was doing nothing for cycling along Columbia Pike, with no additional bicycle facilities planned as part of the overhaul.

Turner acknowledged that bicycle lanes were not proposed as part of the phase 1 improvement. Transportation Planner Nicole Wynands said Columbia Pike is a relatively narrow, four-lane road without much wiggle room to include bicycle lanes.

The project is currently scheduled to continue design through summer 2025, with construction running from 2026-2027.

Photo via Google Maps

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