It is nice that the matter of heavy congestion on Georgetown Pike in an around the Ball Hills Rd area and the chronic traffic safety concerns in the surrounding neighborhoods has finally received the attention of local elected officials and VDOT. Unfortunately, the proposed solution of closing the northbound ramp to the Beltway off Georgetown Pike fails to address the underlying problems and, quite frankly, is blunt and lazy; rich with unintended consequences. The root of the problem stems from out of state commuter traffic seeking relief from congestion on Leesburg Pike/Rt 7 and associated attempts to avoid tolls on the Dulles Toll Road at the Spring Hill Plaza. The problem is exacerbated due to the lack of enforcement and a justifiable means to abate the neighborhood “cut through” traffic.
First and foremost, efforts to expand capacity on Leesburg Pike need to be accelerated. This project is long overdue, needs to be fully funded and receive the attention and emphasis it deserves to get the project underway and completed as soon as possible. This will take time, so there are two other measures that can take near immediate effect that will serve to address the problem.
The first is a temporary toll reduction or toll abatement program at the Spring Hill toll plaza from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. (same duration as the proposed road closure pilot program). The husband of Del. Kathleen Murphy, Bill Sudow, was appointed to the WMATA Board by former Governor Terry McAuliffe while the Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors sits on WMATA’s Dulles Corridor Advisory Committee (DCAC). With this type of local representation and access at WMATA, I am sure a temporary toll abatement is a viable solution and can be taken up by the Board in their next meeting.
The second is the posting of traffic signs supported by active enforcement prohibiting through traffic on the surface streets between Leesburg Pike and Georgetown Pike. This permits normal road use by area residents while taking on the real problem. These neighborhood surface streets are not designed to handle the speed and volume of commuters looking to get to and from work in the most expedient manner. Commuter traffic attention and awareness to tight turns and curves, steep and narrow shoulders, cars entering and leaving driveways, pedestrian traffic and stop signs is low. Addressing this problem is a safety issue as much as it is a nuisance matter.
This solution attacks the core underlying issue and provides for immediate, material relief without impacting the freedom and rights of those who live in the surrounding neighborhoods. It breaks the patterns the pilot is seeking to disrupt while tackling the longer term issue of increasing traffic capacity on major commuter roads.