Reprinted from the Oct. 25, 2005 Edition of the Great Falls Connection.
For a truck driver unfamiliar with the Great Falls and McLean area, Georgetown Pike can be deceivingly inviting as an alternate route to other more heavily trafficked roads.
"On a map, it looks like a straight line," said Wade Smith, a member of the McLean Citizen's Association (MCA) transportation committee.
William Byrnes, Chair of the MCA transportation committee agrees.
"It looks perfectly innocent on a map," said Byrnes. "It's just too bad it doesn't have any place to turn around. It's scary for trucks once they are on it — they don't realize what they are getting themselves into and then they can't get off."
Smith pointed out that truck drivers need to be warned about Georgetown Pike's sharp curves and hilly terrain.
"It's largely people that don't know what they are getting in to," said Smith. "No truck driver from this region would ever choose that route."
At last week's MCA transportation committee meeting, members discussed a resolution to urge the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and the Commonwealth Transportation Board to prohibit or restrict cut-through trucks, trailers and semitrailers on Georgetown Pike between the Washington Beltway and the intersection of Old Dominion Drive. The resolution asks that the Board of Supervisors first hold a public hearing on the issue, and that they then take steps to put limitations on truck traffic.
"Can you think of any road in this area that is more scary to drive on than that stretch of road?" asked committee member Rob Bates.
THE RESOLUTION STEMS AS THE RESULT of an initiative by Dranesville District Supervisor Joan DuBois. Four months ago, DuBois received a call from a Great Falls resident who had a near fatal run-in with a truck on Georgetown Pike.
"He had an accident out there on one of the corners when a large truck going by had pushed him off the road," said DuBois.
According to the MCA resolution, the resident "was nearly killed when a large tractor trailer could not physically navigate the sharp turns at Difficult Run, and fish-tailed, causing his vehicle to slide underneath the truck and be totaled."
"He asked if we could do anything, and my office started looking into it and we found out that we can," said DuBois. "You can't keep local trucks off, but you do have the ability to work through VDOT [Virginia Department of Transportation] to keep trucks from using it as a cut-through."
DuBois' office then contacted the Great Falls Citizen's Association (GFCA) and the MCA and asked for feedback. DuBois says she is currently waiting to hear back from the community, and will proceed with the initiative when it becomes clear that it is desired by local residents.
"I need input from the citizens to make it happen because that's the way you initiate the restriction," she said.
According to Ryan Hall, VDOT representative, a request for cut-through truck restrictions from the citizens is "just one step" in the process. Once the request is submitted, a public hearing must be held with the Board of Supervisors and VDOT, and VDOT must assess the impact of such a restriction.
"But the final authority comes from the Commonwealth Transportation Board," said Hall.
In an effort to help the situation, VDOT recently installed signs along Georgetown Pike stating that it is not recommended for tractor trailers and truck traffic.
"But VDOT cannot restrict through-truck traffic without the County putting in a request and holding public hearings," said Hall.
It appears that DuBois will be getting the feedback she needs to take the next step in the process. At its meeting last week the MCA transportation committee completed its resolution, which will be submitted to DuBois once the MCA Board gives the final approval. Additionally, the GFCA has declared its full support of DuBois and the MCA resolution.
"The Board certainly does endorse the effort to try to restrict tractor trailers," said Eleanor Anderson, chair of the GFCA transportation committee. "They're much too big for Georgetown Pike and they can't negotiate the turns safely without going over into somebody else's space. They are inappropriate, especially since they are bigger and longer than trucks used to be. We are in full agreement with the MCA."