Several dozen community members filled the cafeteria at Dogwood Elementary School on Thursday to learn more — and express their opinions — about proposed changes to street designs in Reston.
The proposal from the Fairfax County Department of Transportation to alter lanes on Colts Neck Road, North Shore Drive and Twin Branches Road drew a large amount of reaction, positive and negative, from community members who would be affected. FCDOT officials say the changes would increase safety for all users of the roads — drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians — by allowing for the addition of crosswalks, creating bike lanes and limiting speeding.
“All of this is happening because [the Virginia Department of Transportation] is repaving the roadways, so we have a chance to re-stripe,” said project manager Adam Lind, Fairfax County’s Bicycle Program manager. “The county has a Bike Master Plan that they adopted in October 2014, so we are here simply trying to implement those recommendations.”
The meeting was a followup from a November meeting at which community feedback on priorities for the three roads was gathered.
Residents raised concerns at Thursday’s meeting about the potential loss of parking in certain areas, including near Hunters Woods and Lake Anne elementary schools and the Lake Audubon Pool. In addition, worries were brought up by residents including increased congestion on Colts Neck Road and the potential danger of having one center turn lane in areas with left-hand turns on both sides.
“We’re definitely getting feedback from both sides,” Lind said. “A lot of it is people who have their concerns about their specific neighborhoods, and we think we’ve done a decent job trying to address a lot of those concerns, but the point of these meetings is to get this local feedback so we can continue to make upgrades and updates to the design.”
Bruce Wright, of Reston, is a Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling board member. He said making Reston a more bike-friendly community is important. In addition, he said, pedestrian safety on Colts Neck Road is a particular concern.
“There have been two pedestrians killed crossing Colts Neck, and I think by going from four lanes to two lanes, it’s going to be safer for everybody,” he said. “I think it’s going to be great if the county goes through with that plan.”
Among the proposals for Colts Neck Road is the call for the creation of at least one crosswalk at Hunters Woods Village Center and a possible pedestrian “refuge island” between lanes. Lind said to create crosswalks, a four-lane road must be altered to become a two-lane road with a center turn lane.
“You go across one lane, you have a pedestrian refuge, and then you go across the other lane,” he said. “We’re not going to add a crosswalk across a four-lane undivided [road] like Colts Neck; it’s just not safe.”
Dave Crocker, vice president of the nearby Hunters Square Cluster, said residents of his community have been wanting crosswalks for years.
“[The DOT] came out a couple years ago and put counters in place and eventually got back to us and said the numbers didn’t warrant crosswalks,” he said. “So we’re pleased to see this proposal here.”
Bicyclists and non-bicyclists clashed during the meeting, however, about proposals to remove parking and traffic lanes in some areas to make room for bike lanes. One resident said it is “fundamentally undemocratic” to take lanes away from drivers to provide a seemingly disproportionate amount of space for the relatively small percentage of the community that travels by bicycle.
“We’re taking 25 percent of the pavement, a limited public resource, and making it segregated for [bicyclists],” said John Farrell, president of Colonial Oaks Cluster. “The rest of us, the 80 percent of the trips who go everywhere in their cars, are getting deprived the use of that [pavement].”
Bicyclists in attendance said providing dedicated space for riders is a major advantage for everyone involved, as they now must travel in traffic lanes in places without bike lanes.
“Give me a place to get out of the way, and I’ll do it for you,” said one bicyclist. “It’s going to keep me safe and keep the cars moving at speed.”
Suggestions and comments made by attendees of Thursday’s meeting were collected and will be analyzed by FCDOT, Lind said, and the plan may undergo further alterations before it is executed. FCDOT will continue to collect comments until at least March 31. Residents may submit comments by email to [email protected].
Lind said the repaving and re-striping work is expected to take place sometime between May and November.