F.C. Amends Plan to Narrow Rt. 7 To Single Lanes for Construction

Huge Traffic Snarls Expected; Project to Start in August


A boisterous meeting of impacted business owners and residents at City Hall Tuesday produced a dramatic change in the City of Falls Church’s plans for a three-month, severe disruption of traffic on Route 7, also known as W. Broad Street.

For months, through three public meetings, the City has stuck to its original plan to narrow Broad Street between Virginia and Pennsylvania avenues to a single lane each way between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. while utilities are undergrounded, the road bed is reconstructed and new brick sidewalks and other streetscape improvements are installed.

City Manager Wyatt Shields said that it would get the job done the fastest, despite the chaos that might be expected from the backing up of the 45,000 cars that traverse that section every day, including during two rush hours.

But after Tuesday’s meeting, City Hall’s plan has shifted. It is now to stop the work by 3 p.m. each day, keeping all lanes open during some business hours and for the evening rush hour. “It may the extend the duration of the project,” Shields said, in a follow-up interview with the News-Press yesterday. “But we will be pushing to tighten up the duration as much as possible.”

The original plan had the project taking two months.

Moe Wadda, the head of the City’s Utilities Division, said at the start of yesterday’s meeting, in defense of the original plan, “Something like this is like surgery. It is best to get it over with as quickly as possible.”

But a business owner retorted, “It is not best if it kills the patient.”

Wadda and Shields listened to the concerns of the business owners and residents of the Broadway, the Byron and the Lee Square apartments who were present. While the residents were concerned that noisy, heavy excavation work not be done during sleeping hours at night, they shared concern for City Hall’s original plan, suggesting alternatives, themselves.

Vice Mayor Lindy Hockenberry chimed in, proposing an alternative plan as well.

After more than an hour of presentations, questions and debate, Rod Wetherell, marketing manager for the National Cable Construction Company of Herndon, contracted by the City to do the work, conceded that “the 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. plan is not reasonable.”

He suggested that a 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily work frame is the “most reasonable, and typical for other municipalities.”

Shields said yesterday that he came away from the meeting sharing that view. He said that he now plans to have the project launched in early August. That assumes that the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will not call for a formal public hearing prior to the launch.

Shields said that