Work in the two Holly Knoll neighborhoods began in the second half of April. Specific dates for the other locations to be resurfaced will be available about 10 days prior to work beginning. Those living in subdivisions can expect to see “no parking” signs with precise date information at least three business days prior to the start of work. Crews typically work on weekdays from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM. During the project, traffic patterns may change and residents may be asked to temporarily relocate parked vehicles, garbage cans, or basketball hoops.
For further information on project status, current paving conditions, etc.see: http://www.virginiadot.org/projects/northern_virginia/northern_virginia_paving_program.asp
Brockman Lane Emergency Access Gate
In Spring 2016, Loudoun County installed an automated vehicular gate system on Brockman Lane between Fairfax and Loudoun Counties. The intent was to improve fire & rescue and law enforcement response time by replacing the old manual gate that had been installed in following a 1988 Memo of Understanding between the counties: MOU.pdf.
Unfortunately, both during installation and the months following activation, the new gate was repeatedly vandalized and some drivers illegally used the connecting road. While Fairfax County issued a number of tickets last summer, ticketing activity has declined since then.
Operating problems, repeated vandalism, and rising costs associated with repairs to the gate have compelled Loudoun’s Department of General Services (DGS) to consider other options to limit access. Toward the end of 2016 orange polyurethane road markers were installed across the road as a test to see whether such devices would be sufficient to stop cut-through traffic. The gate arm was to be left in the upright position for an extended period of time until a final decision could be made. As TRN understand it, if the flex poles work, the gate would eventually be removed. The police department was not informed about this.
Because of the questionable effectiveness of the orange road markers and perceived on-going use of the gate by drivers seeking to shorten their commute between Loudoun and Fairfax Counties, in February TRN asked that a traffic counter be installed to gather usage data. However, at this point Fairfax County doesn’t feel that this step is warranted based on current information.
A representative from DGS has been invited to attend TRN’s next meeting on April 4th to provide an update on this issue.
Dangerous Driving Practices, Traffic Incidents and Safety
Over the past year an increasing number of dangerous driving practices on local roads have been reported to the committee and posted on Nextdoor Great Falls. TRN and residents attending the meeting shared incidents that have been observed, including drivers who (i) use the right or left turn lanes to pass, (ii) speed and then pass over the double yellow line, and (iii) pass school buses with flashing lights, especially in the early morning hours. It was also reported that a vehicle had almost struck a child who was crossing the Georgetown Pike from the Grange to Great Falls Center. (Note: a signalized crosswalk doesn’t currently exist between these locations.)
While the community feels that aggressive driving and illegal passing have risen over the past few years, Officers Neach and Horita indicated that they haven't observed the same trend. The officers also stated that while the police actively patrols local roads it is difficult to find places where they can pull in and park in order monitor activity and catch those who violate traffic laws. (Note: Given that there are many more Great Falls residents on local roads than assigned officers to observe incidents, this disparity isn’t surprising.)
Responding to the question about what can be done, the officers said that if someone is able to safely get a photo or video of an incident and/or a license plate, then these could be reported via their non-emergency number (703-691-2131). At no time should someone who observes a violation put him/herself at risk either by trying to quickly record information while driving or by directly confronting the other driver. If information is shared that clearly indicates a violation has occurred then the police can follow-up with the person about the incident. The police will also use information from TRN’s meeting to specifically watch for drivers who are ignoring traffic laws, such as the aforementioned incidents involving school buses.
As far as physical deterrents that might improve road safety, the officers deferred to the Virginia Department of Transportation as it would have more expertise in this area. However, suggestions made by attendees include: (i) installation of pole or other devices to narrow the road and, thereby, reduce traffic speed, (ii) construction of medians for safer pedestrian crossing in the village, and (iii) flashing “your speed is” signs in selected locations where speed and illegal passing more commonly occur.
Traffic Back-ups at Great Falls National Park
It was indicated that the U.S. Park police should be directing traffic near the park on days when the volume is high and the road to the park is congested. However, as the Reston District has concurrent jurisdiction, officers help out as needed and when available.
Suggestions made by the community included: (i) notifying the park police in advance, (ii) involving elected representatives such as Barbara Comstock to push for changes, (iii) installing a roundabout at the intersection of Georgetown Pike and Old Dominion Drive and forcing drivers to move around the circle when traffic to the park is backed-up, (iv) using Auxiliary Police Officers to help direct traffic, and (v) hiring police officers on overtime at National Park Service expense.
Statistics and Programs
In closing, Officers and Neach Horita provided some statistics as well as information about programs that have been put in place to improve road safety. The table shown below reflects the number of citations and crashes that were recorded in Fairfax County and the Reston District station during the period 2014-2016. On average, over 10,000 traffic citations have been issued in the Reston district each of the last three years.
The Reston Station hosts traffic education and enforcement campaigns such as those dealing with texting, speeding, etc. The police department has also formed the relatively new Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) squad that is solely traffic-oriented and helps patrol for intoxicated drivers.
The Special Enforcement Team (SET) of the police department and patrol officers dedicated to the Reston district will continue to field concerns and proactively police for traffic concerns. They will continue to look out for a variety of infractions that not only include speeding, but also reckless or aggressive driving, disregard for lights and signals, illegal passing or turning etc., and they recognize these as unsafe behaviors in addition to speeding.
The March 20th Town Hall meeting on transportation plans associated with the 2017 PGA Senior Championship tournament at Trump National Golf Club during the period May 23-28 has been canceled.
Facing rising public opposition from Great Falls residents, organizers of the golf tournament will not be using Seneca Road and have withdrawn their request to use the road through Seneca Regional Park for spectator buses inbound to the tournament. Such use could have created traffic and safety issues along Seneca Road from Route 7 to the Potomac, and also caused access issues for residents and their guests beyond a checkpoint somewhere along Seneca Road (needed to provide security). The new plans now call for buses to be routed entirely through Loudoun County, and security will control access to the golf course from Seneca Regional Park.
Monday, March 20, 2017. 7:30 PM. Great Falls Library, 9830 Georgetown Pike
The public is invited to attend GFCA’s Town Hall Meeting on Monday, March 20 to hear more about plans associated with the 2017 PGA Championship to be held May 23-28 at the Trump National Golf Club in Potomac Falls, VA.
Representatives from the PGA will be briefing the community on preparations associated with transporting spectators and volunteers via bus from off-site locations to the course. More complete details on the proposed logistical arrangements impacting Seneca Road and neighborhoods near the golf club will be presented. The community will have the opportunity to voice its concerns, pose questions, and make suggestions. Resident feedback will be used to further develop and refine their plans.
Preliminary arrangements conveyed at TRN’s March 7th committee meeting are summarized below.
The public is invited to TRN’s March 7th meeting, where we will be focusing on local traffic issues that have been raised by the Great Falls community. The meeting will begin at 7:30 PM in the Meeting Room at Great Falls Library, 9830 Georgetown Pike.
A representative from Fairfax County Police Department will be participating in an informal round table discussion of what is perceived to be an increasing number of drivers violating traffic laws, as well as trends within Great Falls and across the area. Attendees will have the opportunity to share what has been observed and talk about what measures might be taken to discourage dangerous driving practices and improve safety. Included in the list of topics will be the issue of periodic traffic back-ups from Great Falls Park and resulting congestion at the intersection of Georgetown Pike and Old Dominion Drive.
In addition, staff from Loudoun County’s Department of General Services will be present to discuss the operational status of the Brockman Lane Emergency Access Gate and possible usage violations.
The Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) is holding a community meeting concerning the Georgetown Pike Trail Phase III and Phase IV projects on March 22, 2017, at the Great Falls Library, 9830 Georgetown Pike, Great Falls, at 7-9 p.m., in the Large Meeting Room. There will be a presentation by County Staff at 7:30 p.m., followed by a brief question and answer session. Public comments will be accepted through April 14, 2017.
The National Park Service will be waiving its entrance fee to Great Falls National Park on Monday, February 20 (Presidents Day). Traffic back-ups from the park entrance to the intersection of Georgetown Pike and Old Dominion Drive may occur. Drivers should plan their route accordingly.
Drivers who use Old Dominion Drive should note that the eastbound lane and shoulder area of Old Dominion Drive (Route 738) between Balls Hill Road and Van Ness Court will be closed from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM each day from Tuesday, January 31 through Friday, February 3 and on Monday, February 6 in order to replace several pipes and reshape a ditch.
Delays are anticipated and all work is weather permitting.
The first National Park Service fee-free day of 2017 is on Monday, January 16 - Martin Luther King Jr. Day. As back-ups from the park entrance to the Georgetown Pike/Old Dominion Drive intersection could occur, drivers headed to other locations may want to take an alternate route.
The McLean Citizens Association is hosting an Area Transportation Issues Forum at its Winter Membership Meeting on Thursday, January 26, 7:30 PM, at McLean Community Center, 1234 Ingleside Drive, McLean. Tom Biesiadny, Fairfax County Director of Transportation, will be the guest speaker.
The meeting is open to the general public. Those of you who are interested in learning more about plans to deal with increased traffic in the McLean and Tysons area; commuter traffic, etc. are invited to attend and ask questions.
For more information see MCA Winter Membership Meeting 01262017.pdf
The opinions expressed on these pages are those of the authors and may not reflect the views of the Great Falls Citizens Association
Great Falls Citizens Association
PO Box 27 • Great Falls, VA • 22066