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Wednesday: Update on Soapstone Extension

Map of suggested Soapstone extension/Credit: Fairfax County

Coming eventually to south Reston: an extension of Soapstone Drive that will provide an additional crossing of the Dulles Toll Road for cars, pedestrians and cyclists.

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation project was approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in 2014. Officials held a briefing last October, where they said major funding has not been identified and an environmental review will not be completed until fall of 2016.

Officials will give a progress report on the environmental analysis Wednesday, June 15 at South Lakes High School. The meeting is from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., with a formal presentation at 7:30 p.m.

The environmental review will look at land use, community impact, traffic, safety, noise, water quality and other environmental factors, FCDOT officials said last fall.

Having an additional crossing of the toll road will help alleviate traffic, particularly along Wiehle Avenue at Sunset Hills Road and Sunrise Valley Drive. It will also provide direct access for buses across the Dulles Corridor and to Wiehle-Reston East without requiring travel on Wiehle Avenue and offer improved connectivity for pedestrians and bicyclists to the Metro station from points north and south of the Toll Road.

In 2014, the supervisors included $2.5 million for the preliminary design of this project as part of its Six Year Transportation Project Priorities. At that time, they also put the project — estimated to cost $91.75 million — on the county’s list of high-priority projects for 2015-20.

An exact price tag won’t be known until the connector is farther along, officials have said.

According to the preliminary plans, the road, which will have three lanes approaching the bridge and four lanes on the bridge, will require demolition of several office buildings on Association Drive.

Check out this Soapstone Connector Feasibility Study (2013) for more information, as well as a county information page with the most recent presentations.

Graphic: Fairfax County

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Fairfax County Transportation Planners ID Best Spot For Soapstone Crossing

Traffic on Wiehle Avenue/Credit: Reston 2020

Fairfax County transportation staff has selected a location for a future four-lane extension of Soapstone Drive that will cross the Dulles Toll Road.

Transportation officials have been looking at several alternatives for the crossing for more than a year. The crossing would be one of several recommended for Reston to alleviate traffic from north to south.

The opening of Metro’s first Reston Silver Line station later this year is expected to bring additional development, cars on the road, residents and workers to Reston. The recently approved changes to the Reston Master Plan allow for the construction of 22,000 new residential units, more than 8 million square feet of new office space, 2 million square feet of new hotel space and 700,000 square feet of additional retail. Reston could see more than 30,000 new residents, as well as tens of thousands of workers, with the development.

Without major road improvements — including several more toll road crossings — traffic could be a disaster, development-watchers say.

Transportation staff showed four options in a report in February of 2013. The most prudent one, presented last week, combines two of them: a direct extension of Soapstone that crosses slightly northwest and ends at a new intersection at Sunset Hills.

Planners said the crossing will help alleviate traffic on Wiehle Avenue, improve access to the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station, complement existing and future development, and align with Reston’s planned urban street grid in that area.

The plan would impact several properties on both side of the toll road, including Solus and Musica on the north side and the National Association of Secondary School Principals on the south.

Additionally, there would be a four-way intersection with traffic signal at Sunrise Valley, as well as another four-way intersection with no signal, or perhaps a traffic roundabout, on the Sunset Hills side, planners said.

The proposal will now move on to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for approval.

While planners did not estimate the cost of the project, they did predict last year that $100-150 million would be needed for a future Soapstone crossing.

Identifying funding for the project will also come next. The project currently has $2.5 million for the next phase of preliminary engineering and environmental impact studies.  If it moves forward, the project will be added to the county’s unfunded $4 billion transportation project queue.

A Soapstone crossing (at a cost of $91.75 million) has already been identified on the county’s list of high-priority projects for 2015-20.

Photo by Reston 2020 via Flickr.

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