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County to launch study of West Falls Church transportation needs tonight

The proposed West Falls Church Active Transportation Study area. The green covers areas within a 1-mile walk of the Metro station (via FCDOT)

With plans to develop the West Falls Church Metro station area now in place, Fairfax County has decided to evaluate how to improve the surrounding transportation network so it can actually accommodate the anticipated growth.

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation will kick off a West Falls Church Active Transportation Study at 7 p.m. today (Monday) with the first meeting of a new citizens’ advisory group.

The study will focus on the pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure in and around the West Falls Church Transit Station Area, which is bounded by I-66, the Dulles Toll Road, Haycock Road, and the Falls Church City border near Route 7.

“The ultimate goal of the study effort will be to improve pedestrian and bike access and safety around the Metro station,” Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said by email. “To the extent located in the study area, safe access to several schools, including Lemon Road and Haycock [elementary schools] in the Dranesville District, will also be considered.”

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors directed staff to create an active transportation plan in July after approving an amendment to the county’s comprehensive plan that allows more mixed-use development in the West Falls Church TSA.

While Virginia Tech halted plans to redevelop its West Falls Church campus earlier this year, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority officially signed an agreement with developers in August to bring over 1 million square feet of residential, retail, and office space to the TSA.

Coupled with Falls Church City’s impending West Falls project, the development could draw an influx of residents and traffic that has community members pushing the county to address existing safety challenges and enhance streets and sidewalks not built to support the increased density.

The West Falls Church Active Transportation Study will identify possible projects to improve safety, accessibility, comfort, and connectivity for bicyclists, pedestrians, and other non-motorized travelers, according to a draft scope of work.

In addition to providing “multiple opportunities for community input,” county staff will conduct an assessment of existing facility gaps and barriers to access in conjunction with the 13-person advisory group, which will consist of:

  • Three representatives each from the Dranesville and Providence districts
  • Two representatives each from Dranesville and Providence school PTAs in the study area
  • One representative each from the McLean Citizens Association, Providence District Council, Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling, and Fairfax Families for Safer Streets

The citizen group will be assisted by a technical advisory group with local and state transportation, schools, parks, and police officials as well as one representative each from Metro, the City of Falls Church, and Virginia Tech.

Noting that the study will encompass both sides of Route 7, Foust points to Haycock Road between Great Falls Street and the Metro station as one area he anticipates will get a lot of attention.

“The sidewalk is very narrow and needs to be improved,” he said. “I also expect [the advisory group] will identify many intersections where we need to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety.”

A tentative timeline for the study has an initial public meeting taking place this winter, followed by the completion of the existing conditions assessment in the late winter or early spring. A final report with recommendations is scheduled to go to the Board of Supervisors in summer 2022.

Foust says the study will establish priorities among the identified projects, which could be funded privately through the county’s rezoning process or compete for public money.

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