Superstreet design ruled out for two major Route 1 interesections

Buckman Road birdseye view

A birdseye view of a traditional intersection design for the Buckman Road/Mount Vernon Highway intersection.

Virginia Department of Transportation planners have decided to go with a traditional intersection design rather than a “superstreet” design for two major intersections affected by the upcoming Route 1 widening project.

Both the Cooper Road/Sacramento Drive intersection with Route 1 and the Buckman Road/Mount Vernon Highway intersection with Route 1 will not have superstreet designs, VDOT officials said at Wednesday’s meeting at Mount Vernon High School.

“During [our] analysis we came to the conclusion that the tradition intersection was the preferred [design] based on all the reviews and evaluation,” said William Dunn, VDOT’s project manager for the widening project.

The traditional intersection design has certain advantages over superstreets, Dunn said. They are in alignment with the county’s comprehensive plan, allow for greater east-west connection, and require fewer traffic signals — something he said will be beneficial for bus rapid transit (BRT) planned for Richmond Highway.

superstreet design for Buckman Road and Mount Vernon Highway

A superstreet design displayed at the November 2017 meeting. Click to enlarge.

Dunn’s announcement was met with applause by some in attendance, and he acknowledged public sentiment against the superstreet design also factored into VDOT’s decision. The superstreet concept, which VDOT said would allow for better traffic flow and improve safety, has been unpopular with some influential community members since the very start of the project. The Mount Vernon Council of Citizens Associations passed a resolution in July 2017 opposing the design, saying it made it harder for residents to cross from one side of the highway to the other. They also said it clashed with Embark’s vision for a more walkable and bikable Route 1 corridor. 

A jughandle design had also been considered for the Buckman Road/Mount Vernon Highway intersection, but it was also dropped in favor of the traditional street design, Dunn said.

The traditional intersection design at the Cooper Road/Sacramento Drive intersection will require realignment of Sacramento Drive in order to meet with Cooper Road. Displays at the meeting and online show Sacramento Drive running through area currently occupied by the Woodlawn Shopping Center and its parking lot. 

Birdseye view of the Sacramento Drive/Cooper Road intersection

A preliminary design for the Sacramento Drive/Cooper Road intersection.

The Buckman Road/Mount Vernon Highway intersection will also be shifted about 250 feet south of its current location, according to Dunn. 

Both the Cooper Road/Sacramento Drive and Buckman Road/Mount Vernon Highway intersections will have crosswalks from all four corners, and will allow for left turns to be made from each side of the intersection, Dunn said.

Cost estimate changes, right-of-way meetings

The Richmond Highway widening project, which will add a third lane both northbound and southbound to the stretch of road between Fort Belvoir and Hybla Valley, is still in the design phase. The project will also add sidewalks and bike lanes to each side of the highway, and leave enough room in the median for a future BRT system called for in the Embark Richmond Highway initiative.

VDOT’s Nick Roper said that the $215 million project may see an increase in its price tag due to modifications from the original project design. Those changes includes higher and longer bridges, and an evolving design for the southern Buckman Road intersection with Richmond Highway. 

“We will be working to offset some of the cost increases with other cost reductions,” Roper said, adding that he anticipates VDOT will present a revised estimate during a public hearing on the project’s design in the fall. 

This May, property owners will be invited to meetings with VDOT officials about the right-of-way acquisition process. Property owners will be mailed postcards inviting them to meetings on either May 1, May 9 or May 15 at the South County Government Center. The right-of-way phase of the project is scheduled to begin next spring. 

A new interactive map is also now available on VDOT’s project page. It will allow community members to get a closer look at the latest design for the widening project — including proposed changes to other intersections along the highway.

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  1. Bonnie Rathbone

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