Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

Lee Boulevard, Arlington Boulevard, Lee-Jackson Memorial Highway, Route 50…doesn’t matter what you call it, the four lane highway that serves as a major thoroughfare in Northern Virginia has been cussed and discussed for many years. Traffic congestion, pedestrian safety, multiple frontage roads, and chaotic intersections all will be considered during the Route 50 STARS (Strategically Targeted and Affordable Roadway Solutions) Safety and Operational Improvements Study that was presented in a community meeting Monday night at Falls Church High School.

The STARS program was implemented by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) in 2006, and has been refined continually to address safety and operational issues on roadways across the Commonwealth. The Route 50 STARS review of a section of Route 50, from Jaguar Trail to the Wilson Boulevard overpass near Seven Corners (Route 613), is data-driven, and will examine crash hot spots, speed data, and traffic count data to develop reasonable solutions that can be funded and implemented in the short term. An important part of data collection is gathering information from stakeholders, including residents who use the corridor every day, and are knowledgeable about the rhythms and intricacies of their own neighborhoods.

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Residents at Monday night’s meeting offered many suggestions for the three-mile corridor, which carries 51,000 vehicles on an average day. The distance to be studied has a 45 mph speed limit, three slip ramps, five signal-controlled intersections, a signalized mid-block pedestrian crossing (near Graham Park Plaza), an emergency signal for the Jefferson Fire Station, and 12 unsignalized intersections and median openings on the main line. Annual crash rates since 2013 for this stretch of Route 50 were at least one-third higher than the average for primary highways in Northern Virginia.

Many residents appealed for more protection for cyclists and pedestrians, a reduction in the speed limit, both likes and dislikes about the recently installed sidewalks in the corridor, improved lighting at night, and preventing illegal turning movements. One resident noted that installing a time-limited Do Not Enter sign on the frontage road near McDonald’s would reduce driver anger and frustration during morning rush hour. Reflective paint on crosswalks, flashing pedestrian crossing signals, and yellow flex posts were some of the lower cost suggested fixes that could be implemented quickly.

VDOT is seeking public comment from the broader community, and invites residents and travelers of the study area to take a short online survey at www.virginiadot.org/route50fallschurchstudy. The deadline for participation is Oct. 31. A second public information to present the survey results and potential recommendations will be scheduled for Spring 2020.
Good news for history buffs! Virginia Historic Marker T-40, commemorating Lincoln’s Review of Union Troops in November 1861, was removed from its location on Route 7 in Bailey’s Crossroads during a recent sidewalk installation. Unfortunately, the marker was lost during the construction, and VDOT funding for marker replacement was not available. Former History Commissioner Naomi Zeavin was resolute in getting the marker replaced, and worked with VDOT staff to find a new location, and I asked State Senator Richard Saslaw, who represents that area, for assistance. On Monday, we got the good news that the funding has been identified, a new marker is on order, and is expected to be reinstalled sometime this winter. Thank you, Naomi, and thank you, Senator Saslaw!

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