There’s no getting around it: The intersection of Spring Hill and Lewinsville roads in McLean is oddly shaped and laborious to navigate.
The crossroads, which from above looks like an X nearly squashed flat, for some time has been the crosshairs of Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) officials, who are seeking to make the intersection safer, less confusing and more efficient.
After public feedback following previous briefings, transportation officials rejected options to take no action at the site or build a peanut-shaped roundabout. Transportation officials displayed some new concepts at a June 5 public-information meeting at Spring Hill Elementary School.
One option would leave the intersection largely unchanged, but would add turn lanes. Another choice with an “offset T” design would channel traffic through two separate T-shaped intersections located a short distance apart. The latter solution is similar to one that will be implemented at another elongated-X intersection at Old Dominion Drive and Balls Hill Road in McLean.
The T-intersections’ lights would be timed to allow the smooth flow of through traffic, said FCDOT director Tom Biesiadny.
“If you’re changing direction, obviously, you might have to wait for a traffic light,” he said.
The offset-T solution would reduce rush-hour traffic congestion, improve safety, enhance pedestrian and bicycle options, reduce the intersection’s size and eliminate its skew, and create a pair of new green spaces, officials said. This option would, however, pose greater right-of-way impacts for nearby park and school sites, they said.
According to FCDOT, the intersection saw 33 crashes between Jan. 1, 2011, and Dec. 31, 2015. 2011 led the pack with 11 wrecks, followed by eight each in 2014 and 2015, four in 2013 and just two in 2012.
Forty-two percent of those wrecks involved injuries; the remainder damaged only property. Twenty-one percent of the crashes occurred during the morning peak period, 36 percent in the evening peak hours and 43 percent at other times of day.
Rear-end collisions accounted for 21 of the crashes (64 percent of the total). There also were five head-on crashes (15 percent), four that occurred at an angle (12 percent) and one each of a sideswipe in the same direction, a sideswipe in opposite directions and a vehicle hitting a fixed object off-road.
In addition to driver inattention, rear-end crashes at the site also were caused by motorists’ failing to yield to vehicles turning right to the north and east, as well as a lack of left-turn lanes when heading east, north and south.
Transportation officials attributed the head-on crashes to driver confusion caused by the intersection’s unusual geometry. This befuddlement also contributed to the angled crashes, although officials also blamed the lack of a protected eastbound left-turn signal phase and the intersection’s extended footprint, which makes it hard for drivers to judge turning gaps.
County officials will solicit further public input on the revised concepts for the intersection, recommend their preferred alternative this summer or in early fall and then begin producing more detailed designs.
The improvements are an FCDOT project, but the agency will coordinate with the Virginia Department of Transportation, Biesiadny said.
“They’re our partners and they own the roads, so we want to make sure that they’re comfortable with whatever we propose,” he said.
The project likely would be accomplished in phases and its timetable and budget would be determined by which option FCDOT selected, aided by public input.
Local residents pored over charts on tables in the school’s cafeteria and listened to county officials’ remarks. Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville) said he was anxious to hear what the public thought of the proposed designs.
“Congestion is only getting worse” at the intersection, Foust said. “If we can find a solution, we need to implement it.”