Fairfax supervisors argue over parkway's future: Widening or mass transit?

By |
Local,Virginia,Transportation,Taylor Holland,Fairfax County

Fairfax County supervisors are grappling over what to do about the increasingly congested Fairfax County Parkway: add mass transit and high-occupancy lanes or widen the road to fit more cars on it.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors attempted to answer that question Tuesday, but instead found that its members are divided on the parkway's future and are hesitant to immediately address it.

Supervisor Pat Herrity, R-Springfield, requested that the board ask the Virginia Department of Transportation to study the road and identify potential solutions, ranging from adding more interchanges to creating express or high-occupancy lanes.

Fairfax hires MontCo fire chief
Fairfax County has lured the Montgomery County fire chief across the Potomac River to serve as Fairfax's chief.
Richard Bowers, a 35-year veteran of the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, was named the Virginia county's next fire chief Tuesday. He will replace current Chief Ronald Mastin, who plans to retire in May.
Bowers said he hopes to come in and build a strong connection with county firefighters, residents and government officials and then transition to reducing 911 calls.
"Most importantly, I want [residents] to know that I'm their fire chief," Bowers said. "I'm going to concentrate a lot of time and effort on training ... and also community outreach."
Bowers is chairman of the Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments' National Capital Region Fire Chiefs Committee and was a Pentagon 9/11 operational response task force member. He also served on a Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster response team after the Oklahoma City bombing.
His annual salary will be $187,500, down from the $190,000 he received last year while serving as fire chief in Montgomery County.
He'll assume his new post April 29.

Although the county has a comprehensive plan for the future of the road -- the plan calls for eventually adding a third lane and more interchanges -- Herrity said an immediate study is needed to make up for a lacking "long-term vision."

But his suggestion received mixed reviews from his colleagues, some of whom questioned the long-term effects that such a study would have on the county's other planned projects.

"I don't want to slow down the possibility of improvements," said Supervisor Michael Frey, R-Sully. "Studies can become major bureaucratic processes."

The Fairfax County Parkway, which opened in 1987 and runs for 35 miles from north to south, was completed in 2010. Estimates show the road transports between 50,000 and 80,000 motorists each day, a number that could jump to more than 100,000 people by 2030.

Still, the board questioned how -- and when -- to begin working to reduce congestion.

Supervisor Cathy Hudgins, D-Hunter Mill, said the board should explore using buses along the route rather than expanding its lanes. Traffic won't just disappear by simply widening the road, she said.

"If we continue to widen, we're going to be taking out homes," Hudgins said. "We need a [mass] transit element here."

Despite the pushback from board members, Herrity said it was "critically important" to begin studying the Fairfax County Parkway as soon as possible to better understand how to change it.

"It is clear that our residents are concerned about the corridor and want steps to be taken which proactively deal with current and projected traffic congestion safety issues," Herrity said.

Board members said they hope to discuss the issue again in an upcoming committee meeting.

tholland@washingtonexaminer.com

View article comments Leave a comment
Author:

Taylor Holland

Staff writer
The Washington Examiner