There is still a ways to go before the final design is complete, but residents got a peek at the Richmond Highway Bus Rapid Transit system’s conceptual design Tuesday at Bryant High School.
The meeting, which featured an open house and presentation by the Fairfax County Department of Transportation, was attended by hundreds. But problems with the sound system led to a disjointed and sometimes inaudible presentation in the large Bryant gym. Some in the audience expressed frustration about the situation during the FCDOT presentation, and many headed to the exits before the question-and-answer-session that followed. The Q&A then turned out to be harder to hear than the presentation itself, resulting in more complaints.
Beyond the technical snafus, residents did get a chance to view the meeting’s many displays, as well as ask questions of the FCDOT and VDOT staffers in attendance. Of particular interest was a large map — displayed over multiple folding tables — showing the BRT’s conceptual design. Starting from the north at the Huntington Metro and going south to the system’s endpoint at Fort Belvoir, the map featured estimates of the right-of-way needed, the locations of the nine proposed BRT stations, proposed stormwater facilities, and historic properties identified in proximity to the project.
The map also included designs for two intersections that have been identified for big changes: Richmond Highway/Popkins Lane/Collard Street, and Richmond Drive/Fordson Road.
Popkins Lane is projected to be realigned in order to create a true four-way intersection with Collard Street. Doing so will eliminate a traffic light and hopefully keep the BRT’s articulated buses from needing more time to get through the intersection. The office building at 6969 Richmond Highway and the Key Upholstery building next door would be razed to make a path for the new street.
Four options for dealing with the Fordson Road intersection, which will be the location of the Hybla Valley BRT station, were discussed. During FCDOT’s summer “mini meetings” with residents, they had presented a proposal that would make Fordson Road a right-in, right-out intersection. However that idea proved to be unpopular with a number of residents, according to FCDOT.
“That was probably the biggest takeaway [from the summer meetings],” FCDOT Director Tom Biesiadny said.
FCDOT came up with three other possibilities that would keep Fordson Road and Richmond Highway a four-way intersection. One would split up the northbound and southbound station platforms, and the other two would keep the platforms together but move them in a way that requires widening beyond the originally projected 178 feet.
Biesiadny also said that a previous design in the county’s comprehensive plan that would have closed Fordson Road off from Route 1 completely and routed traffic behind the Dunkin’ Donuts shopping center to Boswell Avenue has been shelved. Some Gum Springs advocates had long argued against that plan, saying that Fordson Road represented the entrance to the historic neighborhood.
Other highlights from the meeting:
The $730 million project is now almost halfway funded. $50 million in funding through the state’s Smart Scale program was the most recent addition, and the county will be applying for a Northern Virginia Transit Authority grant before the end of the month.
The timeline for the BRT project is unchanged. Construction on phase I, which will go from the Huntington Metro to Hybla Valley, is slated to begin in 2023. Construction on phase II, which will run from Hybla Valley to Fort Belvoir, will run from 2025-2029.
Woodlawn Plantation, the Woodlawn Cultural Historic District, the Original Mount Vernon High School, St. Louis Catholic Church, the former Penn Daw fire station (now A&A Rental Station), the Jefferson Manor neighborhood and the Fairhaven neighborhood are among the historic — or potentially historic — resources potentially affected by the project.