The planned project to widen Rolling Road (RR) to 4 lanes, 2 northbound (NB) and 2 southbound (SB) with a 15 or 16’ raised median and with left turn lanes will happen this time starting in 2017 for Phase I and again in 2021 for the main portion or Phase II. The project’s final design will soon be completed, but expect VDOT will:
- Propose a raised median
- Retain the 30-MPH speed limit
- Include a standard 5’ cement sidewalk on the east side all the way to Old Keene Mill Road
- Include an 8 – 10’ asphalt, multi-modal path on the west side to Old Keene Mill Road
- Will not bury the utility cables
- Use water catchment reservoirs under that asphalt path to help manage storm water runoff
- Improve the intersection at Rolling Road and Old Keene Mill Road (now known as Phase I) before the start of the widening project, now known as Phase II
- Retain the traffic light at Rolling Road and Barnack Drive and install another traffic light at Rolling Road and Greeley Blvd. The signal light at RR & Barnack is invaluable to the safety of our Rolling Valley ES school children and often the only way of turning left onto NB Rolling Road traffic during evening rush hour traffic. For the sake of moving traffic, that light can be switched to a blinking, warning light during hours when school buses aren’t turning onto Barnack Drive or from Barnack onto Rolling Road.
- Offer double wide driveway aprons to those with driveways that empty onto Rolling Road
- Include curbside parking only where it now exists along Rolling Road, but not where there is none now.
- Include sound walls from Birmingham north as residents along Smithfield Avenue decide.
This project was first introduced in the late 1980’s and shelved only to be restarted twice more only to be shelved again due to lack of funding or priority. It is now on again and with good financial footing. VDOT is attempting to fund this project without reliance on Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) money to be exempted from more strict standards such as lane width. Without FHWA involvement, VDOT can use 11’ lanes opposed to the federal standard of 12’.
The current redesign is the 4th iteration of the plan, each costing $3 - $5.0 million for preliminary engineering, environmental impact studies, traffic counts and consulting. It is now expected to cost $35.2 million. Money had been the issue before in shelving the project, but now $25.6 million of the expected project cost of $35.2 million is in hand. The balance is expected from FY18 to FY21. The preliminary engineering and redesign is ongoing, but close enough to commence Public Information Hearings early in 2017. Right-of-way acquisitions can start soon after the public hearings are completed, but expected to take a couple years. And then construction starts in FY21. It had been forecasted as an 18 - 24 month project.
In each of the public hearings on previous plans, the input was mixed depending on which side of the intersection of RR & OKM Road you live. Those who live and commute from north of the intersection of Old Keene Mill (OKM) Road are excited to have it widened to 4 lanes thinking it would ease their commute. And, it may actually help the southbound traffic during morning commutes toward the Parkway and Fort Belvoir. But, don’t expect it will do much for evening, NB commute.
Those who live south of OKM Road and north of the Parkway are a bit more wary of this project for the impacts it will have on their quality of life before, during and after the project. Most are convinced that the roadbed does not exceed capacity except during rush hour commuting. We are skeptical that adding additional traffic on RR will not improve the flow of traffic due to expect restrictions at the intersection of RR & OKM Roads.
Justification for the project was the assumption that according to VDOT, RR was/is at or very near full capacity and by connecting the two segments of the Fairfax County Parkway and the opening of the new National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) – traffic volume would surpass its capacity. Therefore, it needed to be widened to accept that increased traffic volume. VDOT says we now have between 18,000 – 21,000 vehicles on this section of RR per day, but is that number manageable? Yes – it can get backed up during rush hour traffic, but no more than most roads in the area.
But will additional capacity and volume add to the rush hour backups? The intersection at RR & OKM Roads is the restrictor. Drivers wanting to continue north toward West Springfield High School now queue up in existing two lanes from the intersection back south of the entrance to the Sunoco Station. That is often all that can make it through one traffic light cycle. Simply adding more cars to the queue will not mean more will be able to get through on one light cycle. And, given that OKM road is at full capacity during rush hours, changing the timing of the light won’t address the issues.
For over 20 years now, we have been faced with a couple choices: 1) convince our elected officials that widening RR should not happen since it will not increase traffic flow; capacity maybe, but not the flow due to restricted traffic at the intersection of Rolling and Old Keene Mill roads. Or, 2) attempt to ameliorate the damages from the project before, during and after it is completed. It is now clear that we will not stop this project.
Up to this point, we (Civic Association of West Springfield Village) have taken a third approach by asking VDOT to delay long enough to complete three smaller projects and then count the cars to decide if the road really needs to be widened.
First – install another traffic light on RR to segment NB traffic; that is now done and operational at Rolling Road and Hunter Village Drive.
Second, complete that second on-ramp from RR / Parkway onto westbound (WB) Parkway; and that is also done.
And third, we believe that if the intersection at Rolling & Old Keene Mill Roads has any chance of handling additional traffic, another left turn lane from northbound RR onto westbound OKM Road has to be added and extended further south to allow more cars in a left turn queue. And the right-hand turn lane from RR onto eastbound OKMR has to be extended to allow more cars to queue up. The left turn lane is now in Phase I of the project, but the right hand turn lane extension is not, but will be accomplished in Phase II. Phase I is to begin early 2017, well before the actual two-year project commences in 2021. But VDOT and our elected officials have no interest in conducting another traffic count or using a local model to see if the widening project is actually warranted. VDOT has used a regional model that includes growth and more cars on the roads.
But if they go ahead and it appears they will, VDOT believes they have most property right-of-way needed for the final design. They own the utility easement which is about 7 and one-half feet from curb to just inside sidewalk. That will become road bed and the utilities easement will have to move back toward homes. How far back? At least 7 and one half feet, more if the sidewalk or path is wider than 5’ and if they use an underground water catchment system for storm water management. On average, the curb will be moved at least back to where mailboxes are now. On top of the new utility easement, most homes will give up another 5 – 10% of their front yards for a temporary construction easement. Some Rolling Road residents may not be able to park any cars in their driveway during construction and certainly less than now after it is completed.
VDOT plans to widen the road in phases to ensure at least one northbound lane and one southbound lane will be open throughout.
We also submitted the following requests and issues with the proposed project:
- We need a simple, uncluttered map that each RR homeowner can see how much of their yard will be taken for this project and how much more will be taken as a construction easement. The project designs plans are hard for engineers to understand and do not adequately illustrate the amount of property to be acquired for this project.
- Speed limit – we have 57 homes that front Rolling Road and several side streets that feed Rolling Road. Even if you widen it, it still has to be considered a residential street for safety and the speed limit remain at 30 MPH knowing that drivers will speed upwards of 40 MPH.
- Restrict Oversized and Hazmat Traffic – We now have larger trucks using Rolling Road to access the Parkway, Highway 1 and I-95. Local deliveries ok, but it is being used now for more than local deliveries. Granted this is an enforcement issue, but the close proximity of homes along RR clearly mandate no hazmat truck traffic other than fuel for local service stations.
- Storm Water Management – the west side of Rolling feeds into a 39” conduit that now blows SWD intake boxes and sidewalk out of the ground at Landor Lane & Vancouver Road. It can’t take on any more storm water during peak flow.
- Curbside Parking or Double Wide Driveways – This should be addressed only to those with property that front Rolling Road. But they should have input before the project plan is updated. If a double wide driveway apron is factored into the design, each will have the option of widening their driveway.
- Biking Lanes – No on-street biking lanes. Use the sidewalks instead of taking more property for putting the biking lanes on the actual road bed.
- How can we turn left from side streets onto Rolling Road? Getting across one lane of traffic to wait to enter the opposite lane is difficult and dangerous at best; what will it be with two lanes travelling in both directions? This holds even more concern for school buses or other long vehicles. This will be even more an issue for Kenwood Oaks and Rhygate subdivisions.
- 16’ raised median or continuous middle turn lane or no median at all? – Which would cause less encroachment on Rolling Road home lots? Would the continuous middle turn lane give a safe harbor for school buses attempting left turns onto RR. A raised median will prohibit left hand turns from Ashford Court, Glover Court, Taft Drive and Rivington Road onto Rolling Road and left hand turns from Rolling onto the same side streets.
- Bury the utility cables – The overhead cables are unsightly and will be even more so when moved back closer to Rolling Road front doors. However, the additional capacity on the road should still merit street lights. We continue to push this even though our segment of RR does not fit the state’s plan for areas to bury the cables. Estimated cost is over $30.0 million and is not supported by utility companies.