A view of the Sacramento Drive and Richmond Highway super street design from the air. (VDOT image)
The Virginia Department of Transportation is holding its second information meeting on the planned Richmond Highway widening project from Jeff Todd Way to Napper Road.
The meeting will be held Monday, Nov. 6 from 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. at Mount Vernon High School. This is the second meeting on the project following April’s kickoff meeting, which introduced the community to the preliminary design proposals and other information regarding the scope of the widening plan. Monday’s meeting will include updated project information, including a discussion about the Environmental Assessment for the project, which is currently under preparation, according to VDOT.
The widening project, which is separate from Embark Richmond Highway initiative but key to some of the larger transportation changes envisioned in that plan, would expand Route 1 from two lanes each direction to three lanes. That would make Richmond Highway have three north lanes and three south lanes from the Beltway to past Fort Belvoir.
The project will also add bike lanes on each side of the highway, as well as improved sidewalks. It would also leave enough median space for future bus rapid transit (BRT) as called for by Embark.
The widening project is still in the preliminary design phase, and construction is not expected to being until early 2023. There are still many questions remain about how the final design will ultimately look, as well as for funding for the estimated $215 million price tag and which land will need to be acquired by the state to make room for the widening.
Design, impact concerns raised
There has been pushback on some of the initial project designs released by VDOT. The Mount Vernon Council of Citizens Associations has consulted with VDOT and the Fairfax County Department of Transportation regarding objections to the “super street” option proposed for the widening, as well as proposals to build sound barriers along parts of Route 1.
Over the summer the MVCCA passed a resolution opposing both the super street design and the sound barriers. Issues with the super street design focused on what members say is its incompatibility with the Embark initiative, saying the design favor through traffic while making it harder for local residents to access Richmond Highway and get from one side to the other.
“Members of the General Council felt that these configurations (super streets and sound walls) do not fit into the vision of the walkable, bikeable “Main Street” and gathering places being created through the “Embark” planning process,” the MVCCA reported in its September newsletter. “A few members stated that the sound walls will also reduce property values and make us look like a true highway or the Fairfax County [P]arkway.”
Residents of the Gum Springs area have also raised concerns about the widening project, particularly how the Spring Garden Apartment complex would be affected. Jube Shriver Jr., general partner for the group that owns Spring Garden, testified in May before the New Gum Springs Civic Association that residents and ownership were worried about how the project would encroach on Spring Garden property, forcing the removal of parking spaces and potentially lead to increased noise, trash and safety issues.
“[T]he road widening would eliminate as many as 43 parking spaces we currently have fronting the highway,” Shriver said, according to remarks available on the New Gum Springs website. “It would also eliminate the rudimentary highway vehicle noise and trash abatement offered by the existing 400 feet of shrubbery, railing and retaining wall we have in front of our property.”