Tolling, HOV eyed as part of Fairfax County Parkway study

From new interchanges to toll lanes to bus rapid transit, Fairfax County leaders want the state to study potential solutions to traffic congestion on two major county roads.

The Board of Supervisors will vote Tuesday to launch a detailed analysis of traffic relief options on the Fairfax County and Franconia-Springfield parkways. First, the board will ask the Virginia Department of Transportation to tackle the $1.5 million job, and if it refuses, the county will pay for the work itself.

The study would cover the Fairfax County Parkway from Route 7 to Route 1, and the Franconia-Springfield Parkway to Beulah Street.

It would identify short-term, low-cost solutions and long-term, “cost-effective” mitigation measures, such as managed high-occupancy-vehicle lanes, advanced traffic management, congestion pricing or tolling, new interchanges and enhanced public transportation, such as bus rapid transit.

“The corridor study is everything, plus the kitchen sink,” said Supervisor Jeff McKay, D-Lee, who chairs the board’s transportation committee. “We’re asking if VDOT will do the study and pay for it. If they choose not to, we believe it’s important enough to transportation in the county that we’ll move ahead and pay for it.”

The Fairfax County Parkway, McKay said, was originally envisioned as a highway with no traffic signals and grade separated interchanges. But money was tight in the late 1980s, when construction started, and the design was pared back to include at-grade intersections.

Not surprisingly, McKay said, the worst parkway bottlenecks are found at the traffic signals.

The first parkway segment opened in 1987. The final piece did not open until 2012.

Fairfax County, like all Northern Virginia jurisdictions, will benefit from the transportation funding bill adopted by the General Assembly in February. The tax hikes that took effect July 1 will deliver Fairfax an estimated $159 million for road and transit projects this fiscal year — $47.6 million of which will flow directly to the county, and $111 million through the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority.

The parkway study, McKay said, will tee-up the highways for state and NVTA assistance.

While the study’s proposed scope of work includes tolling, McKay said the board has endorsed no concept and, likely, supervisors wouldn’t have the appetite for charging commuters to drive either parkway.

But every option, the supervisor said, should at least be analyzed for its potential to reduce congestion.

The growing demand for the both parkways’ limited capacity “necessitates that we collectively take a fresh look at the role the parkways play in the county and region’s transportation system, how capacity constraints could be reduced, and how high-occupancy toll/high-occupancy vehicle lanes or transit can make a substantial difference for the future,” according to a draft of the letter that will be delivered to Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton, requesting the study.

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