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City should move forward with University Drive extension

by on 11/14/2016

With approval of the City Council, Fairfax City applied for and was awarded funding by the state for the extension of University Drive to Eaton Place. Now the City Council seems to be seriously considering canceling the University Drive extension. That would be a step backward for Fairfax City.

The University Drive extension is central to the creation of a street grid for Northfax, the area near the intersection of Chain Bridge Road and Fairfax Boulevard. The City’s comprehensive plan for Northfax states, “Important considerations in the redevelopment of Northfax should include architectural character, streetscape, pedestrian amenities, the stream/structure interface, open space, and connectivity between areas east and west of Chain Bridge Road and north and south of Fairfax Boulevard” (p. 171). The extension is a critical early step in building out the street grid and creating more compact, walkable blocks in Northfax.

In 2015, Fairfax City applied for funding under the state’s “SmartScale” program for both the University Drive extension and the Government Center Parkway extension. Both projects were awarded full funding, with no local match required. The SmartScale program is extremely competitive. The high scores and awards for both projects represented a significant victory for the city.

If the city were to cancel this project, it would forego the opportunity to use federal funds for a local project identified as a priority. There is a great need for infrastructure improvements and a scarcity of available funds. To cancel the project and return these funds would be fiscally irresponsible.

Improvements can and should be made to University Drive to mitigate already existing traffic impacts, such as bulb-outs and lighting on crosswalks. The City should invest in complete sidewalks on both sides of University Drive and appropriate traffic calming measures.

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2 Comments
  1. Cuttie permalink

    Have you heard the testimony from the people who live on and around University Drive? They don’t want it and the additional traffic (1000-1500 cars per day) in their neighborhood.

    Have you watched the developer presentation? They said the cut-thru — and it IS a cut-thru — limits their ability to redevelop the site.

    Have you read the traffic study? It shows that not only will traffic either stay the same or get worse at the current Northfax intersections, but that it will be LOS F (level of service) at the new intersection at Eaton. I encourage you to read the traffic study. It’s on the City website. It is not favorable.

    Additional traffic “calming” measures aside, the people who routinely run the stop signs, speed, fail to yield for pedestrians, hit parked cars on University, etc. are commuters, not locals. The last thing we need is more commuters on a residential street.

    BTW in a previous post I asked for evidence, documentation and/or studies that proved your position that short blocks are more walkable than long ones. Your reply included a link to an opinion piece by a “new urbanist”. Opinions are not facts.

  2. AD0 permalink

    “The University Drive extension is central to the creation of a street grid for Northfax.”

    If you listen to the Mayor’s comments on 11/8, the cut thru is NOT critical to the economic development of Northfax. In fact, what you’ll hear is actually the opposite – that sometimes it behooves a city to forgo a pie-in-the-sky, years-in-the-making vision yet to yield value for a sure-thing that promises to start delivering tax dollars to the city in the near-future. When you have a great opportunity to seal the deal on a highly-quality tenant, you MUST reconsider your previous notions.

    In fact, the grid system will need to be reevaluated anyway, since the Fuddruckers lease extension already means that the grid system as initially penned out will not hold. And, the owners of the Regency shopping center have even said that their design options have been limited by having to account for a road through the property. A street grid does not generate tax revenue; the businesses do.

    “To cancel the project and return these funds would be fiscally irresponsible.”

    I wholeheartedly disagree. What would be fiscally irresponsible would be to proceed with a project that the city’s residents have spoken loud and clear against. What would be fiscally irresponsible would be moving forward on a project just because we have money we CAN spend. What would be EXTREMELY fiscally irresponsible would be proceeding with a project when the project planner’s own traffic study shows an overall negative impact on traffic in the entire Northfax area and when it has been clearly stated that this will snowball into additional millions of dollars in projects to try to fix impacted intersections that this project would significantly worsen (i.e., CBR & Eaton).

    We shouldn’t feel compelled to move forward with a plan just because it’s in a document. That’s irresponsible. We should take the facts into consideration instead of moving forward with blinders on. What would really “be a step backward for Fairfax City” is a cut-thru that makes gridlock worse in the entire Northfax area and the parceling up of a plot of perfectly developable land split up into such small quadrants that even the developer can’t effectively use it. What would really be a step backward for Fairfax City is turning a neighborhood road into a commuter corridor that puts residents’ safety and property at risk while giving up on a promising commercial business owner that could serve as an anchor for future development and tax revenue in Northfax.

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