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Fairfax County drops some road widening projects from long-term, regional plan

Looking east on Route 29 at the Cedar Lane intersection in Merrifield (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Fairfax County is changing lanes on some of its long-term transportation plans, veering away from a few road-widening projects in favor of ones that involve transit or pedestrian and bicycle upgrades.

As authorized by the Board of Supervisors on Dec. 5, county staff submitted a list of projects for the region-wide Visualize 2050 transportation plan that no longer includes widenings of Route 29 in the Merrifield area, New Braddock Road, Stringfellow Road and Magarity Road in Pimmit Hills.

A project to extend New Guinea Road in Fairfax Station to Route 123 (Ox Road) was also dropped from the county’s submission to the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB), which is currently reviewing projects from Virginia, Maryland, D.C. and Metro for the long-range plan.

At the same time, the county added some projects, including Orange and Yellow Line Metrorail extensions and the Route 7 bus rapid transit (BRT) system, that it hopes will pave the way for a less car-centric future.

“I think this is a balanced approach,” said Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn, then the chair of the board’s transportation committee and now its vice chair. “We end up with some additional projects going into the proposed plan, including some very important transit projects, and I note we also are showing five road projects coming out of the plan that I think are clear are no longer appropriate for the long-term plan.”

As a planning organization for the D.C. region, the TPB is required by the federal government to produce a regional transportation plan every four years, most recently finalizing Visualize 2045 on June 15, 2022. But work on the next update started early so new goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions can be incorporated.

In another change, jurisidictions are also required to resubmit all of their projects instead of carrying them over from one plan to the next like before.

According to the Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT), decisions about which projects to resubmit, add and take out were based on staff evaluation, conversations with the supervisors and public comments gathered by the TPB and the county, which held two public meetings in September.

It “was a good decision” to remove the New Braddock and Stringfellow road widenings in Centreville, Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith said. New Braddock Road would’ve been widened and extended from Route 28 to Route 29 opposite Stone Road, while Stringfellow Road was slated to be expanded to four lanes between Route 50 and Fairfax County Parkway.

Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said she worked with staff to ensure there “would not be any negative consequences” as a result of the removal of the Route 29 project in her district.

The county had planned to widen Route 29 from four to six travel lanes between the Fairfax City limit and the Capital Beltway (I-495) in Merrifield, but staff are now reevaluating that stretch of road “to better reflect completed segments and focus on active transportation facilities,” FCDOT says.

Construction is still underway to widen Route 29 from four to six lanes in the Centreville area.

“Since those changes may not be deemed regionally significant by the TPB, a decision was made to not submit this project for the Visualize 2050 Update,” an FCDOT spokesperson said.

The Magarity Road widening would’ve added two lanes to the roadway between Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) and Great Falls Street in McLean.

While some widenings were dropped, the county hasn’t entirely moved away from road projects. On top of the previously mentioned transit projects, the newly submitted proposals include:

  • A southside extension of the I-495 toll lanes, though the board has emphasized a need to include transit in the project
  • The addition of 11 miles of new I-95 Express Lanes from the Franconia-Springfield Parkway to Opitz Blvd in Prince William County, allowing drivers to travel in the off-peak direction
  • The initial phase of the Seven Corners Ring Road, which will curve around the problematic interchange from the west side of Route 50 to the east side of Route 7
  • The Cleveland Ramp from the Dulles Toll Road to Scotts Run Crossing/Route 123 in Tysons

The Town of Herndon also requested that the county submit an extension of Fairbrook Drive from Herndon Parkway to Spring Street and multimodal improvements on Sterling Road from Elden Street to Rock Hill Road.

“I think this is another good step, [a] balanced approach forward in making sure that we’re moving people safely and appropriately through our roads,” Palchik said.

The TPB says it will release an analysis of how all the Visualize 2050 projects align with the region’s air quality goals on March 1, opening up a month-long public comment period. The board is aiming to complete the plan in June 2025.

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