McLean The intersection of Balls Hill Road and Old Dominion Drive is one of the worst in McLean -- often taking drivers more than three minutes to pass through it during peak morning and evening rush hour. On Thursday, June 28, 2018, more than 50 residents got to hear about a $20.5 million plan showing four different options to improve that intersection by Project Manager Gibran Abifadel of the Fairfax County Department of Transportation held at Cooper Middle School.
It all started with the Transportation Priorities Plan in 2014, which cost $200,000. The study started in March 2016 and includes conceptual design and analysis showing four alternatives to improve the traffic flow of the intersection through better configuration, signal operations, accessibility and safety. Residents will have the opportunity to weigh-in on which of the four options they prefer and offer their feedback. Comments are due back to the county by July 13.
THE EXISTING CONDITIONS of the intersection include three-minute backups in the a.m. and p.m. rush hours; poor sight distance at all legs of the intersection; left turns that act as U-turns from Old Dominion Drive onto Balls Hill Road; and right turns that act as U-turns from Balls Hill Road onto Old Dominion Drive. Crash data indicates there have been eight crashes on Balls Hill Road and 21 crashes on Old Dominion Drive. The speed limits on those roads are 35 mph and 45 mph.
According to John Foust, Dranesville District Supervisor: “Balls Hill and Old Dominion is one of the worst intersections we have in the McLean area in terms of delay. We’ve been looking at it, studying it, and now have the funding to improve it. Fortunately, there are options that would dramatically improve the ability of the intersection to handle the traffic.”
Foust said after showing the options to the community, they’ll take feedback from the residents and then try to address them. Next, they’ll come back again to the community, address some of the concerns that have been raised and make a recommendation as to which of the four options is best and see how the community reacts.
He added: “I hope we’ll be able to as a community come together and come up with a plan to address this and hopefully improve it dramatically.”
According to Tom Biesiadny, Director with the Fairfax County Department of Transportation: “The current intersection at Balls Hill and Old Dominion is failing and it’s resulting in a considerable amount of congestion pretty much in all directions during the peak period.”
He continued: “So, the purpose of this effort is to look at several different options to improve the operation of the intersection. We have four different alternatives and we’re looking at feedback from the public as to which ones they like and which ones they don’t like.”
Alternative A would be taking the existing intersection and splitting it into two intersections -- one in the north and one in the south. At a cost of $13.5 million, the community will gain a mile-and-half of 5-foot bicycle facilities and 3,000 feet of pedestrian facilities. It helps to solve the delay and queuing issues and is a small right-of-way footprint compared to Alternative B.
Alternative B is a roundabout option. The pros are that it reduces queuing, maintains VDOT design standard (horizontal curvature); offers the option to landscape and keep its historic look; has a traffic-calming effect; is the lowest cost (at $12.1 million); and the community gains 2,000 feet of walkways; and it improves the alignment at Balls Hill Road and Old Dominion Drive.
Abifadel said the third option is to leave the intersection where it is, put two different slip ramps, provide additional storage bays to improve the intersection so it keeps the existing footprint of the intersection as it is but widening it out a little bit to help facilitate the traffic to get through the intersection.
Alternative C takes the existing intersection and widens it out at a cost of $12.7 million. It adds a dedicated left-turn lane and the intersection would stay as it already is. The community would gain a mile of bike facilities, and 3,000 feet of walkways. It would have a smaller right-of-way footprint compared to Alternative B; and lower cost than Alternative A.
Abifadel added: “The fourth option is exactly the same as the first one where we’re taking the intersection and splitting it into two but the bottom part of the intersection has a little more of a modification to improve it and make it a little bit better and efficient to facilitate the traffic at Balls Hill Road and Old Dominion.”
Alternative A.1 offers an improvement on the first alternative A, by taking existing intersection and splitting it into two. At a cost of $15 million, it solves delay and queuing issues; has a small right-of-way footprint compared to Alternative B; and the T-intersection is improved. The community also gains a mile-and-half of bicycle facilities and 2,750 feet of walkway facilities, and there’s space provided for storm water management.
THE NO-BUILD ALTERNATIVES are if the county does nothing, the intersection will fail and there will an increase in delays with more congestion and aggravation for residents. It would have an “F” grade for level of service.
Two housing developments are located near the intersection: Mehr Farms with 10 homes is currently under construction, and Summerstone development with four homes was approved in April. Another unnamed parcel west of the intersection has the potential for development.
As far as the timing of the project, the Board of Supervisors approved $20.5 million local funding for the intersection improvement on May 15, 2018. The county is now taking comments (due by July 13) from the community and will be finalizing a recommendation in the Fall to take to the Board of Supervisors. In the Spring 2019-Spring 2023, they’ll do the preliminary engineering design; in the Spring 2021-Spring 2023, they’ll do the right-of-way acquisition, and in the Spring 2023-Fall 2024, they’ll be doing construction. So, the project may be completed in six years.
For more information on the project, visit the website: www.fairfaxcounty.gov/transportation/projects/balls-hill-road
Or contact Gibran Abifadel at email Gibran.Abifadel@fairfaxcounty.gov.