Countywide

New study highlights need for better bicycle and pedestrian options along Fairfax County Parkway

Fairfax County Parkway (via Google Maps)

Fairfax County Parkway is one of the main arterial routes through western Fairfax County, but staff say it’s due for an overhaul.

At a recent meeting of the Fairfax County Planning Commission’s Transportation Committee, Department of Transportation senior planner Thomas Burke laid out some of the changes recommended in a recent study of the Fairfax County and Franconia-Springfield parkways.

The study looked at 35 miles of the corridor broken up into five segments. Notably, it evaluated transit and multi-modal transportation along the parkways, rather than just vehicle traffic.

On the multi-modal front, Burke said one key takeaway was that the current bicycle and pedestrian facilities were inadequate.

“There was a lot of support in the community for enhancing bicycle and pedestrian experience on the parkways,” Burke said. “Right now, there’s one trail on one side of the parkway and a few gaps.”

Burke said the first priority should be plugging those gaps to have one contiguous trail running from Reston to Fort Belvoir.

“We took it another step based on community feedback,” Burke said. “Why don’t we put a trail on the other side so you don’t have to cross a six-lane highway to get to the shared use path, especially if you don’t need to cross it because origin and destination are on the same side?”

The county is looking at potential changes to the Fairfax County and Franconia-Springfield parkways (via FCDOT)

On the other hand, Burke said there isn’t enough demand for transit along the parkway for that to make sense as an emphasis for any sort of parkway overhaul.

“We took a transit look as well: transit is an interesting challenge for the parkways because there’s not a lot of density or employment centers,” Burke said. “There’s a lot of low-density areas and not a whole lot of jobs.”

Burke said the study similarly didn’t find as much demand for the high-occupancy vehicle options seen on other roadways around Fairfax County.

“For decades we’ve had HOV recommendations for most of the parkways,” Burke said. “From Franconia-Springfield — where the Metro is — up to Route 7, all has little diamonds signifying there will eventually be HOV…But we did not find a lot of demand.”

Burke said the study considered both 2+ and 3+ HOV lanes, but found low demand for either option.

The study also looked at road widening, with earlier staff recommendations saying parts of the parkway should be increased to eight lanes. But for the most part, Burke said the study found six lanes was sufficient for the northernmost sections of Fairfax County Parkway.

At the southernmost point of the study, where the Franconia-Springfield Parkway connects to Richmond Highway, Burke said the study recommended increasing the roadway to six travel lanes in parts. Just north of that section, where Fairfax County Parkway connects to Beulah Street, Burke said current plans to increase the parkway to eight lanes overshot the mark, and the road only needs its current six lanes.

Burke noted that this study is looking at long-range transportation improvements. Any of those changes, particularly the widening, could take 10-30 years to implement.

In parts, Burke said there was some community resistance to widening the parkways, and before Fairfax County goes forward with widening in those sections, there should be additional research and analysis.

A pair of virtual meetings to discuss the changes are planned for Wednesday, March 1 at noon and Thursday, March 2 at 6:30 p.m.

Image via Google Maps