Saturday, March 15, 2008

Dulles Loop Update - Rt. 50 Short and Long-Term Improvements Underway

Here's an update on improvements to the "Dulles Loop" (Rts. 50, 28 and 606 around the Dulles Airport), focusing specifically on Rt. 50 in the Dulles South region, per a recent Dulles South Business Alliance Meeting's presentation by the Dulles Loop Implementation Group's hired consultants, as part of their strategic Dulles Loop traffic study.

This study is conducted jointly by the Dulles Area Transportation Association (DATA) and the Washington Airports Task Force (WATF), in cooperation with the public and private partners that collectively form the Dulles Loop Implementation Group (DLIG). The project includes generating an implementation plan for immediate improvements to the Route 50 and Route 606 portions of the Loop, identifying and generally estimating the cost of missing elements, establishing conceptual sections for several long-term right-of-way options in a manner that is mindful of a need for continued growth and evolution of the right-of-way. Phase 2 of the project involves developing a conceptual Dulles Loop master plan that could be included in the region’s 2030 planning scenario, and help ensure VDOT's interim upgrades are consistent with longer-range planning.

VDOT's "interim" solution to the Rt. 50 traffic issues is to arrive at a "6-lane arterial" near-term improvement of the road from Poland to Rt. 28. This addresses the horrid inbound traffic (east) between South Riding and Rt. 28 most mornings, and the nightmare afternoon/evening backups west along the same stretch. The solution includes improved traffic signalling and turn lane solutions, better access management (to businesses off the road), plus additional "through" lanes. This Fall, VDOT intends to let an RFP for the design/build/implement project, which would be completed within just a couple of years.

In the longer term, according to DLIG strategic planning efforts, the intention is to eliminate all signals, have 6 lanes uninterrupted flow, standard access management; all within the same Rt. 50 space (i.e. with no futher intrusion into the parcel properties on either side of the roadway). There does exist a natural tension between the Rt. 50 frontage landowners and those conducting strategic planning, in determining the balance between customer accessibility, business visibility and through traffic. The DSBA's objective is to avoid the "faceless freeway corridor" now implemented along Rt. 28 and Rt. 7 in Loudoun, while adjusting access to depend less on major intersections and single-use driveways, and to highly leverage alternatives like collector roads and joint in/out exits. Add to this expectations from most residents in the area for uninterrupted, visually appealing access in and out of this Gateway to Loudoun County, and you've got a very delicate balance of negotiated interests to weave through, and orchestrate as part of the overall strategic Loop planning.

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