Left turn wait times, pedestrian safety are biggest concerns in Fairfax Co. study to improve Route 29

As Fairfax County continues to study and consider possible improvements to a busy stretch of Route 29, community members in the Virginia suburb say they’d like to see pedestrian and cyclist upgrades, plus shorter wait times to make turns.

The county’s transportation department launched the study in March 2023, and has been collecting survey responses on ways to improve the nearly three-mile stretch between Buckley’s Gate Drive/Summit Drive and Jermantown Road, which is near the City of Fairfax line.

At the county’s second public meeting on the Route 29 corridor study this week, supervisor James Walkinshaw said he’s previously referred to the portion of the road as “a little bit of a mess.” Residents, he said, have concerns about a lack of pedestrian connectivity, sidewalks and shared-use paths that stop and start, traffic backups and congestion.

A map of intersections along Route 29 from the Fairfax County transportation study. (Courtesy Fairfax County Department of Transportation)

Between Feb. 12 and March 1, survey respondents expressed similar concerns. Some are seeking wider sidewalks and paths and more separation between the road and the sidewalk. Drivers, according to the survey results, identified long delays while making left turns as one area that should be addressed. Some pointed to short turn lanes at the intersection of Shirley Gate Road and Waples Mill Road.

Arpita Chatterjee, transportation planner with the county’s Department of Transportation, said metrics suggest that pedestrians aren’t completely comfortable at various points of the roadway. Most of the intersections, she said, don’t have a pathway or are unmarked. Chatterjee said the county is proposing having shared-use paths for cyclists and pedestrians for most of the corridor.

To improve pedestrian safety, according to a presentation shared at the meeting, the county could add striped crosswalks wherever they’re missing, check each crossing has pedestrian push buttons, make sure there’s enough time for pedestrians crossing and shorten the crossing distance wherever possible.

Changes to lane geometry, Chatterjee said, could help improve turn wait times at certain intersections. Islands in road medians could also help protect pedestrians.

One attendee said the left turn lane for Route 29 at Legato Road is “very long, so people go past it and make U-turns” to bypass it.

“They are usually going very fast, in a hurry, obviously,” the attendee said. “The other day, I saw a boy almost get hit.”

Some of the proposed changes, Chatterjee said, could help congestion along the road during peak morning and afternoon travel times.

Any changes would have to be added to the transportation priority plan before county leaders can start figuring out how to fund the improvements.

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Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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