Update on Traffic Light Debate for Lewinsville Rd at Spring Hill School
Update: 3:51 p.m. Tuesday: The McLean Hamlet Homeowners Association has voted to ask Fairfax officials to find alternative solutions to installing a traffic light on Lewinsville Road, said president Ralph Ward.
The Hamlet is one of several homeowners associations that are scheduled to meet tonight to consider the traffic light proposal at the Lewinsville Coalition. Ward added if the coalition takes an up or down vote on just the question of whether to install a light, then The Hamlet will support a traffic light.
Cost of the new traffic light and other traffic changes: $300,000.
By Bobbi Bowman, The McLean Ear
MCLEAN, VA – A proposal to install a traffic light on Lewinsville Road, in front of Spring Hill Elementary School a short distance from the intersection with Spring Hill Road, is the subject of community meetings around Spring Hill this week.
School officials, community organizations, recreation center officials, VDOT, the office of Dranesville Supervisor John Foust have been wrestling for months over the light and several other changes coming to this stretch of Lewinsville Road triggered by the Spring Hill Recreation Center getting a new entrance.
“This is the most frustrating project that I have been associated with except for not getting the tunnel for the subway,” Foust said. He has taken no position on the light.
Why should you care if you have no children at Spring Hill and do not use the rec center? Because Lewinsville Road is a major commuter road for McLean residents to get to Tysons Corner. Especially with the construction on Route 123.
The proposed light is a tenth of a mile from the Lewinsville-Spring Hill Road intersection — already a major bottle neck in morning and afternoon rush hour. Cars can back up pass the school in the morning waiting to turn left from Lewinsville to Spring Hill. In the evening, the left hand turn lane from the Dulles Toll Road onto Spring Hill can be a nightmare especially when it rains.
Three projects converged on this short stretch of Lewinsville Road where Spring Hill elementary and Spring Hill recreation center are across from each other.
Project 1. The Lewinsville Coalition, a group of 12 homeowners associations, in the area, asked for and got Fairfax County and VDOT to agree to build a median down the middle of Lewinsville as a safe zone for pedestrians crossing the four lanes of Lewinsville Road between the rec center and the school.
Project 2. Fairfax County Park Authority plans to completely renovate the Spring Hill rec center and give it a new entrance and 250 new parking spaces. You now enter from a side street NOT from Lewinsville Road. The new entrance would be ON Lewinsville Road directly across the street from Spring Hill Elementary.
Project 3. When Spring Hill school officials heard about the new entrance, they asked for a light for the safety of their children crossing between the rec center and the school and because most of their school buses need to turn left into the school and when leaving.
Now, you know these three groups were not talking to each other.
John Foust said his office finally realized that lack of communication and brought everyone together. No surprise, when the light was proposed some nearby residents saw a safety issue. Some saw heavy traffic hindered by of a new light.
Spring Hill principal Roger Vanderhye said school representatives were sitting at a meeting called by Foust to talk about the median, “Then out of the blue . . . he said did you know that they are going to change the entrance to the recreation center.”
“When we heard about the new entrance, that would create all types of problems” for the school, he said. That’s when he requested the light.
“It’s a safety issue,” he said. “No one likes more stop lights but we thought this was a way to get parents and students safely across Lewinsville and our buses,” he said.
The school has 14 buses and 11 of them turn left. The buses now wait in the “suicide lanes” (those lanes with both the right and left turn arrows) until they can pull into the school, he said. The plans now call for left turn lanes in both directions on Lewinsville to serve both the school and the rec center.
The McLean Hamlet homeowners association was scheduled to meet Monday night on the traffic light issue. President Ralph Ward said Monday in his personal opinion: “I think it’s a safety issue. If there was an accident, I wouldn’t want to be responsible for not putting the light in.”
Both Vanderhye and Ward said representatives of the Lewinsville Coalition have opposed the light in meetings with Foust’s office. Coalition president Irv Auerbach said, “The Lewinsville Coalition has not taken a position and will not do so at least until the members discuss the issue at tomorrow’s (Tuesday) meeting.”
Foust said, “I have not yet made a decision about placing a traffic light in front of Spring Hill school. I recognize that placing a light on Lewinsville Road will be an inconvenience to automobile traffic. However, we believe the light at the school could be coordinated with the light at Spring Hill Road so that the inconvenience is mitigated.”