New Fairfax County Parkway Interchange Gives Peds and Bikes Short Shrift

Plans to rebuild two intersections along the Fairfax County Parkway at Fair Lakes Parkway and Monument Drive--adding ramps and interchanges--fail to make pedestrians or bicyclists welcome.

VDOT is planning to rebuild the intersections of the Fairfax County Parkway at Monument Drive and Fair Lakes Parkway (map). They will eliminate the intersections, replacing them with bridges and ramps. The detailed plan is available here (pdf, 9.3M). Robert Thompson discussed this project in an article in the Washington Post on Saturday, and details can also be found on the VDOT web site. It includes this language: "Shared-use paths and sidewalks will enhance pedestrian access at the interchange and to the Rocky Run Stream Valley Park trail system." Since I am not personally familiar with this area, it may be true that they are improving the current situation, but that would only be because it must be really bad now.

Although sidewalks and shared use paths are included in the project, this will be a dauntingly scary place to be either a cyclist or pedestrian. This is obvious from the artist's rendering of the project, in which it is virtually impossible to make out any pedestrian or bicycle infrastructure. The artist's rendering nicely details traffic flows, lanes and other automobile-related details. One can make out some sidewalks, but it's not at all clear how they are supposed to connect or how one could safely use them. The buildings in the lower left in the rendering are currently a Residence Inn. There is an office building shown on the lower right that one could probably hit with a golf ball from the Residence Inn. Although one could ostensibly walk from one to the other, it seems that the Fairfax County planners have not given much thought to actually making that a feasible option.

Looking at the detailed pdf graphic, it appears that pedestrians will be required to cross at least three slip lanes (one of them an acceleration slip lane) with no signals. They will also be required to walk under a 6-lane wide bridge next to eight lanes of traffic--a rather unpleasant experience one can imagine.

It's understood that VDOT is trying to make the Fairfax County Parkway more and more of a limited-access highway, and their goal is to move more cars at higher speeds and greater capacity than before--for better or worse. However, it's large projects like these that provide an opportunity to think more creatively about accommodating all modes. Particularly as bicycling is growing in popularity, it is important to create easier and safer ways of crossing barriers like these.

(This  post originally appeared on Greater Greater Washington, including more than 30 comments)

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