Rollins Drive residents resist VDOT proposal for short-term road closure
Over 100 people showed up at the Virginia Department of Transportation’s (VDOT) Jan. 26 community meeting at Belle View Elementary School to discuss the agency’s proposed temporary closure of Rollins Drive at Fort Hunt Road. Many community members in attendance voiced strong opposition to VDOT’s proposal.
According to VDOT, its short-term safety recommendations for the busy intersection evolved from two prior meetings with residents and elected officials — including a May 3, 2022 meeting at a local library at which attendees reportedly agreed to have VDOT explore a temporary road closure. Some participants in the Jan. 26 meeting seemed unaware of the prior discussions.
The need for a quick-fix safety solution at Rollins and Fort Hunt, said VDOT district traffic engineer Gil Chlewicki, was due to three ongoing concerns impacting both drivers and pedestrians: poor intersection sight distance when looking northward on Fort Hunt from Rollins; numerous potential conflict points when crossing, merging or diverging from roads leading to the intersection; and crash records obtained by VDOT or recorded by residents. VDOT’s records showed 16 crashes between January 2017 and September 2022 at Rollins Drive, five of which resulted in injuries.
Several safety improvements at the intersection were implemented by VDOT in fall 2021, including installation of larger and newly repositioned stop signs; clearing of sight-impeding vegetation; road restriping; and the installation of other signage; however, those changes did not fully address some of the intersection’s underlying challenges.
While several other short-term safety solutions were explored by VDOT, according to Chlewicki — including restricting certain movements from Rollins and Westgrove Boulevard, reducing the speed limit on Fort Hunt Road or constructing a roundabout — none of those options solved all the intersection’s safety problems, and some were considered too expensive or time-consuming to implement.
“The only near-term option that would address all remaining safety concerns is the temporary closure of access to and from Rollins Drive,” said Chlewicki. He pointed out that the solution would eliminate the sight distance issue, significantly reduce the number of potential conflict points and enable the creation of a pedestrian refuge area halfway across the crosswalk on Fort Hunt Road.
To access Fort Hunt Road following the road closure, residents of Rollins Drive would have to detour via residential side streets onto Quander Road, which VDOT estimated would increase travel time by 30 seconds to a minute compared to existing conditions.
If community members agree with VDOT’s proposal, said Chlewicki, Rollins would be closed off for a six- to nine-month evaluation period, during which time VDOT would take note of community feedback and observe safety and operational effects of the closure, and effects on nearby intersections. Another community meeting would be held by the end of the closure period to discuss findings and next steps, including whether to continue with the closure or explore other options, and whether it’s feasible to install a traffic signal at Quander and Fort Hunt Roads.
Dozens of residents of Rollins Drive and surrounding areas who queued up during the Q&A portion of the Jan. 26 meeting were vocal in their criticism of VDOT’s proposal.
“You’re coming in with what seems to be a pre-determined position … and I think there are a lot of people that are not happy with that,” said one resident of Richard Casey Court.
Several community members asked VDOT why they hadn’t presented data from other potential solutions that had been considered. Residents commented on the importance of factoring in West Potomac High School when devising a solution. They also suggested a variety of intersection fixes that wouldn’t inconvenience residents of the Rollins Drive area or make it harder for emergency responders and other service vehicles to reach them on their already narrow street. Examples of those fixes included allowing only right-hand turns onto Fort Hunt from Rollins Drive and Westgrove Boulevard, making the intersection a four-way stop, beefing up pedestrian safety and cracking down on speeding along Fort Hunt Road.
Noting that VDOT has limited funding for long-term road safety solutions across Fairfax County, Chlewicki said the short-term, “band-aid solution” for Rollins Drive isn’t a foregone conclusion.
If there’s no community support, VDOT won’t pursue it, he said.
Following the meeting, Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck said that community members had done a great job in presenting some alternative solutions to VDOT and that he was looking forward to VDOT’s response.
“It was clear that they need to have another iteration of what to do,” said Storck. “We can get closer to a consensus of what should be tried right now.”
Community members can continue to provide comments on VDOT’s proposal
until Feb. 13, 2023 by emailing email@example.com
with “Rollins Dr. Safety Measure” in the subject line or by mailing feedback to the attention of Gil Chlewicki, DTE at VDOT’s Northern Virginia District, 4975 Alliance Drive, Fairfax, VA 22030.
The briefing deck from VDOT’s Jan. 26 presentation is available in both English and Spanish on the project website.