City Cautions That West Street Project Will Include Road Closures

By Stephen Siegel
Falls Church Times Staff
June 5, 2015

Falls Church City Public Works Director Mike Collins has been surprised that residents don’t seem very anxious about the massive West Street makeover that’s been going on since February and which will enter a new and more disruptive phase this month.

Perhaps they’re just taking it in stride. Or maybe they don’t know the extent of it.

Mr. Collins said Friday that the project, which started during the winter with the replacement of water mains from Broad Street to the Fairfax County line, then moved to curb and gutter replacement in May, will become more challenging soon, as a full roadbed rehabilitation and repaving gets under way.

To keep people informed, officials have sent out letters to area residents and posted information on the City’s web site. And now they’ve scheduled an outdoor meeting for anyone interested at 6:30 pm Monday at West Street and Lanier Place, just south of Parker.

The project’s next steps will include relatively long-term road closures. The road will not be re-opened daily for rush hour, as it was during Fairfax Water’s water main replacement project, and individual sections could be closed for as long as three consecutive weeks, Mr. Collins said.

While short sections of the road are closed, only residents whose driveways are in the affected area will have access to that stretch of road; no access to side streets will be provided. And detours into residential neighborhoods will be created.

Officials hope to avoid having massive through traffic traverse those residential neighborhoods, and have been warning via signs for some time that such vehicles should seek alternate routes, preferably major roads such as Washington and Shreve.

For those who use West to access their nearby residential street, detours have been designed but not finalized, and Mr. Collins said officials are open to receiving feedback about how to improve or modify them. They’ll also be watching what happens as the project begins, and plan to make adjustments if they prove necessary.

“We’re going to be monitoring it as it happens, so as we see challenges and problems, we are going to react to it,” he said.

The reason the project is so extensive is that officials are rebuilding the entire road structure to bring it up to modern standards. They expect that decision also will ultimately save the City money, as the paving will be more durable.

“With traditional paving, you’re just throwing away money,” Mr. Collins said. “We’d be back in 5-7 years.” But with this approach, he said the bottom layers will last 60 years and the paving will last for 20.

The first road closure is scheduled for the section of West that runs between Poplar and Fowler. The section south of Poplar is four feet wider and does not have to be closed. Mr. Collins said late June or early July is his best guess for when that closure will occur, although it’s hard to determine the exact date, because it will be dependent on weather.

Once the repaving is complete, officials plan to hold another neighborhood meeting about how best to redesign the street to maximize its pedestrian and bicycle safety.

That’s not set in stone, either, but officials are interested in adding parking lanes, bike lanes, and crosswalks; they’re well aware of how difficult the street can be to cross.

Mr. Collins said the new markings will run almost the entire length of South West, from Ellison Street to the City limits.

“Everyone’s on board with trying to improve pedestrian safety,” he said.

Adding parking lanes will help visually narrow the road, which studies have shown causes drivers to slow down and operate more cautiously. Bike lanes make bicycles more visible, and crosswalks alert drivers to expect pedestrians at that location.

But Mr. Collins said they would not be adding any additional concrete, beyond the curb replacements, such as medians or islands; traffic calming measures will be done with striping only, and the road will not be physically narrowed.

June 5, 2015 


2 Responses to “City Cautions That West Street Project Will Include Road Closures”

  1. grateful2binfc on June 6th, 2015 11:38 pm

    Stephen, thanks for your detailed reporting on this. Great to have it to share!

  2. Rob on June 7th, 2015 8:17 am

    Probably can’t happen because of the block-by-block phasing, but it would be a good idea to underground utilities as part of this big dig.

Feel free to leave a comment. Please increase the credibility of your post by including your FULL NAME and CITY. All comments are subject to editing for courtesy and content.