Proponents were more vocal Oct. 18 at the second Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) meeting about possible temporary closures of a ramp leading from Georgetown Pike to northbound Interstate 495 in McLean, but a majority of local residents who have sounded off still oppose it, VDOT officials said.
While approximately 300 people attended VDOT’s first meeting on the subject Aug. 2 at McLean High School, about 200 came to the Oct. 18 meeting at the same venue, said Allison Richter, VDOT’s liaison for Fairfax and Arlington counties.
In response to some residents’ complaints about lengthy traffic backups on Balls Hill Road and other local roadways near the highway on-ramp, VDOT officials are considering a four-month-long pilot program that would close the ramp for general use (emergency vehicles likely would be excepted) from 1 to 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.
Supporters of the possible ramp closure include the Langley High School Parent-Teacher-Student Association, which in an Oct. 11 media release said Langley High parents who were surveyed backed the closure by a margin of 47 percent to 32 percent, while teachers and staff members favored it by a total of 36 percent “yes” and 27 percent “no.”
The survey included 355 families and 63 staff members and teachers.
Sixty percent of parents who responded said afternoon or evening traffic congestion had forced them or their children to miss a Langley High after-school event, the group’s statement read. In addition, 59 percent of respondents whose children participate in extracurricular activities starting after 5 p.m. say those students sometimes remain at Langley High after the school day so as to beat traffic congestion.
“Considering that school begins at 8:10 a.m., that’s a long 10- to 14-hour day for students with demanding academic schedules,” said Patty Burgess, president of the parent-teacher-student group.
But the Great Falls Citizens Association (GFCA) has come out against the proposal.
“Some Great Falls residents regularly travel to Maryland in the afternoon and evening and would be negatively impacted by the proposed closure,” GFCA president Bill Canis wrote in an Oct 12 letter to VDOT Chief Engineer Garrett Moore.
The citizens association on Sept. 25 passed a resolution opposing, at least for now, the pilot program to shut down the ramp in the afternoon and evening peak period. VDOT does not know how the proposed closure would affect local roads in McLean and Great Falls because the transportation agency has focused on collecting data pertaining to expressways and principal arterial roadways instead of minor arterials and collector streets, the resolution read.
The resolution recommended VDOT analyze how the potential ramp closure might affect cut-through traffic’s ability to access the Beltway.
GFCA’s resolution also urged the General Assembly to pass legislation to let Fairfax County issue permits to allow local residents to turn into neighborhoods where such turns otherwise would be restricted during peak travel periods. County officials could then study the results and perform test measures to see what traffic restrictions were needed.
The association also recommended that VDOT implement upgrades to the I-495 and Georgetown Pike in order to reduce traffic volume and improve its flow. In addition, VDOT should conduct a comprehensive study on how to improve transportation in Montgomery County, Md., and Northern Virginia’s major commercial ares while affecting local residents the least, according to the resolution.
VDOT will continue accepting public comments about the proposal through Nov. 12. Transportation officials then will examine the feedback, meet with county and elected officials, and decide on the matter in early December, Richter said.