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Fairfax County Seeks $132 Million for Soapstone Connector

Nearly $132 million is being sought to fund the Soapstone Connector, a long awaited, half-mile-long extension between Sunrise Valley Drive and Sunset Hills Road.

The funding request for the $169.2 million project comes roughly five years after the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a hybrid design for the project, which will provide an additional overpass over the Dulles Toll Road and ease traffic on south Reston roads.

Major development in the Wiehle-Reston East area, including Comstock’s Reston Station mixed use project, is expected to generate additional traffic on area roadways.

Local and state officials have long identified the need for the project, which aims to alleviate bottlenecks along Wiehle Avenue at Sunset Hills Road and Sunrise Valley Drive and improve connectivity for pedestrians and bicyclists to the Wiehle-East Metrorail Station.

According to preliminary plans, the new road will include a three-lane cross section with one travel lane in each direction and a two-way, left-turn-only lane. Other features include five-foot wide bicycle lanes on each side, a five-foot wide sidewalk on the west side and a 10-foot wide path on the east side.

Construction is not anticipated until after 2023. Additional design, engineering and environmental work is expected to continue through 2022.  In 2014, the county’s board placed the project on its list of high priority projects for 2015 to 2020.

A funding gap of $25 million remains to complete the project. Requests to the Commonwealth Transportation Board have been made. Construction is expected to cost $45 million.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority will review the request, which is one of 60 candidate transportation projects in the area. NVATA is seeking public comment on the project on May 10 at 3040 Williams Drive, Suite 100 in Fairfax. Online comments can be submitted through Sunday, May 20.

File photo

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Fairfax County Seeks Public Comment on Soapstone Drive Extension Tonight

Plans to extend Soapstone Drive could move forward as Fairfax County officials seek public comment tonight on the project, which would create an additional crossing on the Dulles Toll Road for cars, pedestrians and cyclists.

At Dogwood Elementary School (12300 Glade Drive) from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m., the floor will be open for the public to comment on a environmental assessment completed as part of a multi-step process since the Board of Supervisors approved the project in 2014. The study examines the potential effects of the project for properties listed in or eligible for the National Register of Historical Places, the country’s official list of historic sites worthy of preservation.

The new roadway will provide a half-mile extension between Sunrise Valley Drive and Sunset Hills Road and a new crossing over the Dulles Corridor. County officials have said the project is necessary to tackle congestion on Wiehle Avenue, limited access for buses to Wiehle-Reston East Station and the lack of connectivity for pedestrians and bicyclists in the area.

Completed in August, the assessment reviews impacts of the project on surrounding land. For example, the assessment finds the project rests within 200 feet of on two sites with hazardous materials and would result in increased noise for two areas near the project.

Overall, the assessment concludes the project will not “contribute substantially to cumulative impacts, particularly in light of the efforts to minimize adverse impacts of the project and other mitigation measures to be implemented.”

Following the public hearing, the county will revise the assessment as needed and submit it to the Federal Highway Administration, the body which will make a decision about the feasibility of the project.

In 2014, the county’s 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.

More information on the project is available on the county’s website. Written or oral comments may be submitted at the hearing or in writing within 10 days after the hearing to [email protected]. Include “Soapstone Connector” in the subject line.

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Beware of New — and Possibly Incorrect — No Parking Zones on Soapstone

New stretch of Soapstone

Virginia Department of Transportation crews are nearly done with a $1.5 million project to add sidewalks to the east side of Soapstone Drive from Glade to South Lakes Drive.

The work caps several improvements over the last few years to the increasingly traveled road. Among the additions: Going from two lanes in each direction to a wider road with one lane each way with bike lanes and turning lanes.

Another recent addition: “No parking” signs, which were installed along the new sidewalk stretch in the last few weeks. Several residents have reported getting ticketed when they left their cars on the east side of the road.

There has traditionally been parking on both sides of Soapstone, including on the gravel shoulder of the west side. The new east side was configured with a parking lane, and then a grass strip to provide a buffer so pedestrians aren’t hit with car doors while walking on the sidewalk.

John Farrell, president of Colonial Oaks Cluster, which is located off the stretch of Soapstone in question, said the signs were installed wrong and he is working with county transportation officials to correct the issue.

He said there is supposed to be some no parking areas, particularly to provide access to the Soapstone convenience center and into clusters on that stretch.

“We are determined that parking be restored on the east side,” he said. “They are not supposed to be parking within the sight lines of the shopping center and clusters, but otherwise it should be allowed on Soapstone. We don’t want people parking in our cluster [instead].”

Meanwhile, beware of the no-parking zones.

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Progress Report: New Walkway on Soapstone Stretch

Concrete mixer working on Soapstone Drive

Road crews have been busy for weeks along Soapstone Drive from Glade to South Lakes Drive.

They are working on a Fairfax County project that will add sidewalks to one side of Soapstone.

It’s an addition that has been discussed for years as that stretch of road is fairly busy and is in a densely populated area but has no place for pedestrians. There is parking all along the westbound shoulder of the road. The sidewalk will run on the east shoulder.

The project, funded by the county several years ago, adds approximately 3,000 linear feet of 5-foot wide concrete sidewalk.

Crews are also adding related construction items such as asphalt pavement, drainage improvement, curb and gutter, excavation, and minor traffic signal work, handrail installation, and pavement markings.

The project is expected to be completed in February, Fairfax County says.

This is project separate from the one planned to eventually build a Soapstone Drive extension for autos and pedestrians over the Dulles Toll Road.

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