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County considers permits for residents to bypass cut-through traffic restrictions

Traffic on Route 50 (Arlington Blvd) facing Seven Corners (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Fairfax County is continuing talks on a proposal that could allow some residents to better access their homes in areas with certain traffic restrictions.

Cut-through mitigation restrictions prohibit turns into neighborhoods from major transit corridors during rush hour. While the restrictions aim to prevent local roads from getting jammed by drivers trying to evade traffic, it can make it challenging for residents to legally access their homes on those streets.

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation is proposing a residential cut-through permit zone that would exempt residents in affected neighborhoods from the restrictions by providing permits for their vehicle. Signs that restrict turns would be changed to say “resident permit required.”

After first proposing the permit program in early 2023, FCDOT presented an update to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors at a transportation committee meeting on Tuesday (Feb. 15).

Currently, the county is considering introducing the program in three areas with existing cut-through restrictions.

  • Carolyn Drive and Nicholson Street in Lake Barcroft
  • Oxford Street and Downing Street in Annandale
  • Thomas Avenue in Great Falls

“There are approximately 350 addresses that are impacted, and that could initially seek impairments if this program were implemented,” county transportation planner Henri Stein McCartney said.

Another seven communities are in the process of implementing cut-through restrictions.

“If all seven projects were implemented, we would expect to have approximately 1,300 addresses county-wide that could participate in the program,” McCartney said.

Fairfax County currently has seven communities requesting cut-through traffic restrictions (via FCDOT)

In January, the Board of Supervisors directed FCDOT to work with the Department of Tax Administration on revenue collection options for the program.

“In those conversations, tax administration recommended that we speak with the vendor that they currently have under contract for the county’s parking enforcement software,” McCartney said. “We are very early in our conversations with this vendor.”

FCDOT will return to the committee in June with additional information on using the vendor, she added.

The department is proposing a $25 permit fee for residents participating in the program. If the permits are implemented for all of the areas that have or are currently considering cut-through traffic restrictions, the county could collect an estimated $33,000 to $99,000 in gross revenue.

Chairman Jeff McKay questioned how the program would be enforced, saying it could put law enforcement in “awkward positions.”

“I don’t think we want our police checking every car that comes down the street during a certain period of time to verify residency,” he said. “I mean, to me…there’s a whole lot of problems with that.”

In its presentation, FCDOT noted that some neighboring jurisdictions, including Fairfax City, Vienna and Alexandria, have turn restrictions but don’t require permits for residents to legally access local roads. The only jurisdiction that does offer residents permits to get around turn restrictions is Falls Church City.

“Why did they decide to not offer permits and then how do they do enforcement? Because to me, that’s a really critical question here,” McKay said.

An officer with the Fairfax County Police Department conceded “it would probably be difficult to enforce,” adding that he couldn’t speak to what other localities are doing.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn asked county staff to look into automated enforcement as an option.

McCartney said she was unaware of any other jurisdictions currently using automated enforcement, but the vendor they’re working with offers it.

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