Fairfax Co. road improvements could ease commutes

WASHINGTON – It may seem like a rarity around here, but two construction projects have come in under budget, allowing the money to go toward other much needed road improvements in Fairfax County.

Among the projects covered by the $11.2 million saved on construction of the Burke Virginia Railway Express parking garage and Gallows Road project, Fairfax County will make new improvements around the Mark Center that could help drivers find a key shortcut they may not know about.

Part of the improvements to the exit ramp from Interstate 395 south toward Little River Turnpike will include better signs that indicate Quantrell Avenue can be used to cut through to Beauregard Street and the Plaza at Landmark shopping center.

“What we’re trying to do is make the signage better for the alternative route and then also to make some improvements on the alternative route so it actually works effectively when people try to use it,” Fairfax County Transportation Director Tom Biesiadny says.

The hope is that more cars would choose Quantrell Avenue over Route 236 and the congested intersection with Beauregard Street.

Other changes tied to the increased traffic around the Mark Center since the BRAC process include changes to a left turn lane at that intersection, and a new right turn lane on Cherokee Avenue that could give drivers commuting to the Mark Center from the south a better option.

The project getting the most funding from the extra cash is a spate of improvements to sidewalks and other pedestrian infrastructure in the four-mile stretch of Route 50 between the Beltway and Seven Corners.

With schools, libraries, restaurants, malls and more along the stretch, Biesiadny hopes filling in sidewalk gaps and renovating sidewalk stretches that have run down, could encourage more people to walk and actually ease traffic in the congested corridor.

“Right now the pedestrian facilities are fairly sporadic, they’re not in good shape, and they’re not connected,” he says.

“By improving the pedestrian facilities, we will improve the access to transit, to the bus stops, so it will encourage more people to use transit.”

The sidewalk improvements will also include some upgrades to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Other projects included in the new funding plans are aimed at easing traffic bottlenecks in the county and replacing bridges.

As for how the two projects that freed up the funding for the new work came in under budget at a time when many others in the area are noted for their actual or potential cost overruns, Biesiadny says “it mostly had to do with the fact that the bids were pretty aggressive.”

“The contract environment is pretty good right now, he says.

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