By Leslie Perales
Jan. 11, 2012
The Herndon Town Council voted unanimously against constructing a roundabout at the intersection of Dranesville Road and Park Avenue.
More than 25 people came out to tell the Council how they felt about the proposed roundabout on Tuesday night (Jan. 10), and many others submitted comments by phone or email. Nearly every speaker was opposed to the roundabout, with many supporting adding raised medians instead.
The Council chose to move forward with raised medians from Park Street approaching northbound Dranesville Road to Bennett Street. This would also include trimming Dranesville between Park and Herndon Parkway to two lanes.
The project also will change the turn lanes on southbound Dranesville Road at Herndon Parkway so there will be a dedicated left turn lane, a single thru lane and a dedicated right turn lane, in order to divert more traffic to Herndon Parkway.
The Council will also consider painting in the new medians prior to construction to see how drivers react to them, as well as a possible extra $200 fine for speeding on that section of Dranesville Road.
Many residents who live near the intersection said the proposed 90-foot roundabout was cutting it too close to homeowners properties and were afraid the town would need to acquire their land to make the traffic circle fit.
Bob Boxer, director of Herndon’s department of public works, said there have been about 20 accidents in or near the intersection in the last decade, and the project has been in the works since 2001. Some of the funding for the project would come from the Virginia Department of Transportation.
Prior to the public comment period on the public hearing, Councilman Jasbinder Singh said from his studies the intersection doesn’t meet slope and lighting requirements for a roundabout and didn’t believe a roundabout would fix the intersection’s issues.
Councilman Bill Tirrell said his biggest concern is the impact on traffic by taking Dranesville Road down to two lanes from four lanes in the area from Herndon Parkway to Park Avenue.
Vice Mayor Lisa Merkel said if there is any chance the roundabout would need more land than is available then one should not be placed there. In response, Boxer said they would know before they brought out the bulldozers whether or not the roundabout would fit.
Herndon resident Lynn Schumaker, who drives a bus for Fairfax County Public Schools, said bus drivers have been following the issue very closely. She said she is concerned that bus traffic would not be able to travel through the roundabout without hitting nearby signs, vehicles or other property.
David Hartnett said he has been paying attention to the intersection since 1998 when he compiled a list of all the accidents there and the town installed a flashing yellow light at the approach in response.
Hartnett said he is concerned about fire trucks negotiating the roundabout and the median option is cheaper and would be more effective, but ultimately something needs to be done to improve the safety of the intersection.
Herndon resident William Campenni said there are already issues on Dranesville Road at 3rd Street that need to be addressed. He said with a median and decreasing the lanes, the already backed up intersection would get worse. He said the intersection needs a cross walk and a stop line so the traffic lining up to cross Herndon Parkway doesn’t block pedestrians.
Joann McCammon said there is no need for a roundabout and the intersection isn’t as dangerous as it has been made out to be. She said it’s not listed until the 57th page of the Herndon Police’s report on dangerous intersections. She said there are better ways for the town to spend money and calm the intersection.
Ann Csonka said roundabouts can be efficient, safe and environmentally friendly, and she supports them when all the conditions are right to make them work. She said in this case it does not. She said it is overkill for the conditions of the intersection, as well as intrusive, and the traffic is imbalanced on the three-legged intersection.
Many other Herndon residents agreed and members of the Council said based on public support, additional information they heard, and concerns over the size of the roundabout and other issues, they felt moving forward with the median option would be best.