Image by the author.

The Fairfax County Parkway will be getting a makeover in the years to come, and the county is looking for your input on how to improve it. Its survey closes on Friday, November 30. Although tolls are a major talking point for commuters in Northern Virginia, there are a lot of other items you can advocate for too.

Email county officials today!

1. Safe crossings along the parkway

Parts of the parkway were originally constructed along smaller roads, and safe connections between neighborhoods were lost when the multi-lane, 50-mph parkway was put in. Certain locations have crosswalks installed, but they're not near stoplights, which has created dangerous conditions for people trying to cross on foot. Overpasses were built to help local vehicular traffic get through, but many of these were built with no consideration for pedestrian traffic.

The Hooes Road overpass restricts pedestrian traffic from crossing over the Parkway. Image created with Google Maps.

Pedestrian access can be added at the overpasses like the one pictured above at Hoes Road and the parkway. This will help ensure safe crossing between neighborhoods.

2. Connecting bike paths

The Fairfax County Parkway features an extensive network of paved trails along it, but these paths are incomplete. At three locations spread out along the parkway, there is no path for bikers or pedestrians to use. Additionally, at the spur where the Fairfax County Parkway meets the Franconia-Springfield Parkway, there is a labyrinth that even five years into living along the Parkway I still can’t quite figure out.

Slide from Fairfax County DOT Presentation on Parkway showing the areas where bike and pedestrian paths are not complete.

Connecting these areas are not only important for those looking for alternates to commuting in cars but also will serve the large population of recreational cyclist and runners that take to the trails outside of work.

3. Faster lanes for public transit and carpoolers

Many of the improvements coming will involve adding lanes along the parkway. This may temporarily relieve some congestion, but as the county continues to grow, it won’t serve as a long-term solution. The added lanes could be used as High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes during rush hour to encourage riders to carpool.

Installing HOV lanes would also allow for faster and more reliable bus service along the corridor. Once the next phase of the Silver Line is complete, the parkway will have Metro Stations located at both ends of it. By including HOV lanes, which allows for more reliable bus service, the county can make great strides towards reducing congestion in the future.

4. Keep neighborhood safe

Additional lanes aren’t just limited to the parkway in the survey. Several miles of roads connecting to the parkway are also marked to be increased from two lanes to four lanes. Many of these roads run through neighborhoods. Residents could lose their tree-lined medians and potentially parts of their yard in order to accommodate these lanes. Additional lanes will also lead to increased speeds.

Sydenstricker Road is one of the roads proposed to be widened to four lanes. Image created with Google Maps.

Advocating for retaining the two-lane roads through some of these neighborhoods will help us keep vehicular traffic speeds down, and also help neighborhoods keep their charming character intact.

5. Better connections to major arteries

Right now, the only connection between the Franconia Springfield Parkway and I-95 is restricted to High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) Lanes. Prior to I-95 converting to HOT Lanes outside of rush hour, residents could access the interstate via the Franconia-Springfield Parkway.

Now that the HOT Lanes have gone into operation, residents traveling north into DC who don't wish to pay a toll are diverted to the south along a new section of the parkway. This route adds more than five miles to every person's daily commute. It also results in traffic from the parkway being dumped two miles further south on I-95 just before the Mixing Bowl where I-395, I-495, and I-95 converge.

Drivers have to drive south in order to head north into DC along the parkway. Image by the author.

Creating a better solution will be expensive—just how expensive will be based on the chosen solution. However, improved connections would cut miles off of daily commutes and reduce congestion on I-95, the parkway, and along the local roads that commuters have turned to as a workaround.

Make your voice heard

The survey for changes coming to the Fairfax County Parkway closes on Friday, November 30. This will be an early step in deciding how the future of the parkway will take shape. Take a moment and advocate for what’s important to you.

Email county officials today!

Mike Grinnell has worked in the design and construction industry since 1998, and relocated to DC in 2001.  He has a BS in Building Construction from Auburn University and studied Economic Development in grad school at Virginia Tech.  Mike served two terms on the Potomac Yard Design Advisory Committee before moving to West Springfield with his wife and two daughters.