Your View: Inroads, but no final solution to West End traffic


To the editor:
On February 2, Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton announced two major transportation projects that have significant implications for Alexandria.  
First, as a result of strong civic activism and in response to a lawsuit filed by Arlington, Mr. Connaughton stated the commonwealth was abandoning efforts to construct High Occupancy Toll lanes along the I-395 Corridor. Second, and separate from the HOT lanes decision, he announced that the Virginia Department of Transportation was moving forward with a proposed direct access ramp from the HOV lanes of I-395 to Seminary Road in order to help reduce vehicle congestion associated with the location of the BRAC-133 at Mark Center.   
For those Alexandrians engaged in efforts to mitigate the effects of BRAC-133, the announcement has produced a sense of cautious optimism. A direct access ramp would help reduce vehicle congestion on Alexandrias West End roads resulting from BRAC traffic and begins to address the current lack of critical mass transit infrastructure at Mark Center something that should have been thought through long before BRAC-133 was ever considered at this location.
While many questions remain about the specifics of this project, including funding availability, environmental impacts, construction timelines and impact on the surrounding neighborhoods, this appears to be an overall positive development in addressing the coming BRAC vehicle congestion.  
We must also be realistic about the impact a direct access ramp will have on addressing larger West End transportation challenges. Although a ramp may greatly assist in reducing BRAC-related congestion, constructing a ramp from the I-395 HOV lanes should not be viewed as the panacea for all vehicle congestion in the West End. A direct access ramp will likely help reduce some but not all of the traffic congestion associated with the BRAC-133 site by providing more direct access to Seminary Road.  
It does not, however, address the broader and more complex issues of existing vehicle congestion seen on our neighborhood streets, specifically Seminary Road and in the Beauregard corridor.
A direct access ramp is but one piece of a larger transportation puzzle that must include both road and significant transit improvements. Concurrent with our communitys evaluation of the direct access ramp, we must continue our transit planning and evaluation efforts for the West End and elsewhere in Alexandria.  In order to seriously begin addressing vehicle congestion, we need multi-modal transportation options that link new and existing destination centers in Alexandria and throughout the region, including locations such as Shirlington, Pentagon City and Skyline.  As we see multi-modal options taking shape along the Route 1 corridor, we must apply the same transit planning and evaluation principles in the West End.
In the coming months, our community will assess the direct access ramp proposed by VDOT.  It is important for our community to thoroughly study this ramp and its impact on our neighborhoods.  

Ultimately, I believe our community should support this project.  
In addition, we must continue to evaluate all robust transit options for the rest of the West End and throughout Alexandria, including lower-cost options like bus cue jumping and better traffic signal coordination as well as higher-cost systems like Bus Rapid Transit and streetcars.  Just as the ongoing Route 1 transit planning will give residents and commuters multi-modal options in moving in and through that corridor, we must also do the same multi-modal planning and implementation in the West End to give residents and commuters the transportation options they deserve.