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Here’s Why Wiehle Overpass Won’t Open Until 2021

by Karen Goff — March 18, 2016 at 10:30 am 11 Comments

Wiehle Avenue at W & OD TrailA planned pedestrian bridge that will move the W&OD Trail over — rather than across — Wiehle Avenue at Sunset Hills Road will take extra time to build because a half dozen electrical poles must be relocated, Fairfax County transportation officials said.

The overpass will cost $10 million (money for it was allocated by the county several years ago) and will be completed by 2021, says Scott Ruffner, Fairfax County Department of Transportation Project Manager.

Moving the utility poles will be an 18-month process, he said.

“These are high-voltage poles that need extra time,” he said.

The overpass is badly needed at the increasingly busy intersection of two of Reston’s main roads. In addition to the North-South and East-West main streets, there is a Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Station and a cluster of fast food restaurants.

The intersection is also just north of the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station, which has parking for more than 3,000 cars.

The overpass will make it safer for the pedestrians and cyclists on the trail. They currently cross Wiehle in a crosswalk.

Ruffner said 24,0000 vehicles pass through the intersection daily and FCDOT has “many safety concerns.”

There were seven reported crashes there from July 2011 to June 2015, some vehicle vs. vehicle, others vehicle vs. trail user.

FCDOT officials say they see a variety of behaviors at the intersection. Some drivers are cautious and slow down for pedestrians. But others are confused, oblivious and careless, said Ruffner.

“You never know what you are going to get,” he said. “We need to improve safety, alleviate sudden stops and provide a good East-West route for the trail users.”

FCDOT is looking at two configurations for the trail leading to the overpass — a 3-percent grade or a 5-percent grade. The 3-percent footprint (easier for cyclists) is much longer and will take the project and its associated utility movement all the way from Isaac Newton Square to Michael Faraday Drive.

The plan includes access down to Wiehle in case users want to leave the trail. The street-level crosswalk will be closed when the bridge is completed. The sidewalk on Wiehle will also be widened, officials said.

FCDOT is seeking public feedback about the bridge’s potential design elements. See more information and find out how to give your feedback on Fairfax County’s website.

Here is a tentative project schedule:

  • Document Completion, Winter 2016
  • Public Hearing Design Approval, Spring 2016
  • Land Acquisition Completion, Spring 2018
  • Final Design Approval, Winter 2018
  • Utility Relocation Completion, Summer 2019
  • Construction Completion, Winter 2021

Photo: Current crosswalk of W&OD Trail at Wiehle Avenue

  • Chuck Morningwood

    C’mon, Ken and Cathy. Use some of that political muscle and make this happen faster. Five years is at least three years too long.

    • Mike M

      Wait. What? You want results? Hmmmn. How about a lecture on diversity instead?

  • Terry Maynard

    As I have just posted on the FCDOT website above, this bridge should also be built to accommodate pedestrians (including the handicapped) crossing from one side to the other of Wiehle–and not have to walk a quarter-mile to take a bicycle ramp along the trail. There could also be stairs for pedestrians. I suggested the ramp could either be a spiral or a zig-zag so that pedestrians crossing Wiehle could be as safe a bicyclists & runners on the trail.

    Regrettably, I may have just added another year to this project.

    • Richard

      I’m not fond of spiral or zig-zag design for W&OD road crossings. For those of us who like to run, bike or commute down the trail, it’s like having a speed bump on a highway. Pain in the neck. But there definitely should be easy access from the sidewalks up to the crossing by stairs or ramps.

      • Terry Maynard

        I wasn’t proposing spiral/zig-zag along the W&OD, just for access from Wiehle sidewalks–and basically tacked on to the current general design.

  • What happened to us?

    The Golden Gate Bridge was built in just over four years. And this was 85 years ago.

    • vdiv

      But, but, but… they didn’t have to move six utility poles…

  • Greg

    Why don’t they move the bridge, and leave the poles where they are?

    • Guest

      There you go, being sensible again. Don’t you know this is a public works project?

    • vdiv

      Why are there utility poles in the “dense urban core” in our fake little city in the first place? Oh that’s right, can no longer make the developers to pay for and build the required infrastructure. If they were none would be keen to build monstrosities around here.

  • Reality Tunnel

    Reston is about tunnels not bridges. We could have a tunnel by now but no, some modern thinker went lofty on us. Member folks you can always rely on reality tunnels but not bridges. Make it so.

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