The following update on the Soapstone Drive Connector Project was prepared by RCA Vice President John Hanley on March 1, 2014.
1. SCOPE, TIMING AND COST
The Soapstone Drive Connector Project, #15 in the Fairfax County (FC) Revised Recommended Priority Project List, is planned for funding during the period FY 2015-2020. It is intended to provide a crossing for cars, bicycles and pedestrians over the Dulles Toll Road (DTR) between Sunrise Valley Drive and Sunset Hills Road.
The project has received approval for planning level funding and $2.5 million has been allocated for ongoing study and evaluation. Located in Hunter Mill District, the Soapstone Connector (SC) represents a major undertaking and is estimated to cost $92 million. At this early stage, FC believes that this sum will not necessarily represent the eventual CapEx. Several buildings are likely to have to be demolished and depending on redevelopment plans, developers’ proffers may reduce FC’s outlay.
It is unlikely that the SC project, even if the proposed plan is approved soon, will be constructed this decade. As the County states in its priority listing, its construction will hinge on the availability of further funding and favorable market conditions.
2. ROUTE OF THE PROPOSED CONNECTOR
Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) reviewed five different routes from the end of Soapstone over the DTR. In FCDOT’s words, “…none of the alternatives emerged as superior”. Eventually, the Department compromised with a hybrid route. This still has to be approved by the FC Board of Supervisors.
The hybrid route begins directly across from Soapstone, traversing Sunrise Valley via a signal controlled crossing. Its proposed route broadly follows the western side of Association Drive, impacting several properties and buildings, particularly the present HQ of the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
It is anticipated that, that appropriate at grade intersections will be incorporated both to the south and north of the DTR along the connector route, so as to provide access to properties along the route.
Soapstone, as it approaches Sunrise Valley, consists of two active traffic lanes, with a center lane for turning, plus two bicycle lanes. This represents a cost advantage for the actual crossing bridge over the DTR, since it will only need to consist of two lanes (no turns on the bridge), two bicycle lanes and one shared use path. Nevertheless, the bridge crossing will require the construction of significantly high and substantial ramps to support it as it traverses the corridor.
As the connector heads north after crossing the DTR, it enters a clear area, before its route affects several properties prior to its end with a proposed signal controlled junction at Sunset Hills to the west of the BAE complex in front of the electrical transformer installation to the north.
All in all, the hybrid connector route appears to be a good choice. While it joins Sunset Hills further west than some might like, it does provide a clean intersection at Sunrise Valley Drive (rather than an offset second intersection) and follows a route that minimizes disruption of the present building/property fabric. All of the other alternatives would appear to require the same ramp construction noted above.
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