Save our Neighborhood: Oppose University Drive Extension to Eaton Place

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The next and last stage will be a vote at the 60% engineering review phase. The date is not yet known. 

Email your comments to mayor&council@fairfaxva.gov and melanie.crowder@fairfaxva.gov and request that they be read for the public record. 

Overview

The City of Fairfax has received Smart Scale funding from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) to extend University Drive north from Route 50 to Eaton Place in the Northfax area which would create a commuter connection directly through our neighborhood.

The traffic study for this project anticipates a 15%-25% increase in traffic on University Drive - that’s 1,000 to 1,500 more cars per day! It also shows that traffic in and around the area will become WORSE if this road extension is built.

Our home values, pedestrian safety and quality of life on and around University Drive will be negatively impacted if this project is approved.

How is this project being funded?

This project comes with an estimated $10 million price tag, of which approximately $7.5 million will be paid to private land owners. Our regional tax dollars will pay the bill. 

By using taxpayer dollars to demolish the existing shopping center buildings and gifting the property owner $7.5 million taxpayer dollars, we are paying for part of a redevelopment project that has yet to be determined. This is an unacceptable use of taxpayer funds.

The NVTA funds – taxpayer dollars specifically set aside for traffic congestion relief and road improvements – should not be used to negatively impact traffic. It's an astronomical price tag for a 1000 ft road and an unwise use of funds.

Today's traffic conditions

University Drive is narrow and already sees heavy usage as a residential street, especially during rush hour. University Drive absorbs traffic heading north out of Old Town Fairfax to Route 50 and eastbound. Fortunately, the current terminus at Route 50 insulates the neighborhood somewhat by limiting through traffic.

Residents already report property damage to vehicles parked along the road and more traffic will increase the number of accidents as historically demonstrated when 2014 traffic was diverted onto University during bridge construction. 

Travel lanes are only 8 feet wide when safe travel lanes should be at least 12 feet. The road cannot safely sustain more traffic without significant risk of increased accidents including both parked vehicles and head-on collisions. 

Why will this road extension increase traffic flow?

This cut through would increase traffic by 15-25%, diverting high volumes of traffic into our neighborhood. If this cut through is built, we anticipate a major shift in driving patterns.

  • Southbound traffic: Traffic that currently flows down Chain Bridge Road would be diverted onto University Drive as drivers take advantage of the early left turn onto Eaton to avoid the traffic light at Chain Bridge Road and Route 50.
  • Northbound traffic: Traffic that currently follows the more direct route along Chain Bridge Road to I-66 or westbound Route 50 will be redistributed onto University Drive, sending traffic in all east-, north-, and westbound directions directly through our neighborhood. 

Minimal Traffic Improvements

Even proponents of the project admit that there will be only "minor improvement at FFX Blvd/Route 123" intersection. The traffic study shows the cut-thru will worsen traffic in Northfax, especially at the already-strained intersection of Chain Bridge Road and Eaton Place. There is yet no evaluation of the future tax dollars it will take to then address those consequences which may be very costly. If the project proceeds, residents in the neighborhood near Chain Bridge Road & Eaton can expect a worsening of traffic congestion into and out of their neighborhood. 

Pedestrian Safety

Residents already report frequent incidents of drivers failing to stop at stop signs and near-collisions with pedestrians. Increased traffic will jeopardize pedestrian safety, especially in vital crosswalks that families depend on to access Van Dyck Park. Many children in our neighborhood walk or bike to and from school and their safety should be our top priority. 

A police presence is already in place many nights of the week to patrol for speed violations and failure to obey traffic signs. Adding pass-thru commuters to the neighborhood will only exacerbate the current safety problems.

The Impact of the Redesign on Traffic

When asked for verifiable data that shows that this new design will reduce the previous estimates of a 15-25% increase in traffic on University Drive, the official response from staff was not compelling.

"Given the short timeframe to respond, we did not redo the traffic study. The consultant traffic engineer relied primarily on engineering judgment for the estimate. His primary resource was the VTPI Transport Demand Elasticities report (http://www.vtpi.org/elasticities.pdf which includes a summary of some studies related to elasticity for trip activity with respect to travel time. He referred back to the original traffic analysis to look at the level of travel time savings and traffic diversion assumptions they made, and then projected the trip reductions for this new alternative alignment based on an estimate for the relative difference for travel time. The report provided a range of values that suggested -0.5 elasticity was the approximate mean value for traffic diversions, but assessing traffic diversions for a specific road connection like the University Drive extension is still ultimately a judgment. We had previously projected a 10% traffic diversion from Route 123 to University Drive, which was in-line with the -0.5 elasticity value and an anticipated travel time savings of 20% (i.e. approximately 8 minutes instead of 10 minutes to drive between the City and I-66 using University Drive instead of Route 123). In reviewing the alternative alignment, he estimated that it will add approximately 30 seconds per vehicle for trips using the University Drive extension. That represents a 25% increase in travel time for University Drive route and that was the basis for my 25% estimate for reduced cut-through trips on University Drive."

This is confirmation that the cut-thru creates a faster route than 123. The new design would still make it faster for drivers to take University Drive as a cut-thru than to stay on 123, which is still effectively traffic redistribution into our neighborhood. That's exactly what the neighborhood has been opposing and the new design still doesn't solve that. Even with the redesign, it sounds like we're still looking at a possible 20% increase in traffic on University Drive. This is unacceptable to the community. We do not want our neighborhood to be a new North/South travel route.

Economic Development

Planners for the redevelopment of the Regency Shopping Center in Northfax have stated that the road extension through the property reduces available land use and places limits on their design options. If the goal is a walkable shopping center, a road bisecting different parcels reduces walkability rather than aiding in it.  

Our Request

Residents of our community ask you to vote no to stop this plan from moving forward. The City of Fairfax should pursue responsible redevelopment that does not negatively impact the existing residential community. We urge you to abandon this proposed plan and focus on fiscally responsible projects that improve, rather than harm, our community. 

Read more about the plans

 

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