Falls Church’s City Hall “doesn’t have a tin ear,” an official told the News-Press yesterday, revealing that planning is underway to use an orderly detour system to ease traffic congestion on West Broad Street when two of its lanes will be closed for construction for up to two months, beginning next month.
45,000 cars pass along the corridor on an average day. Reducing West Broad (Route 7) to a single lane each way, critics said a number of public meetings on the subject, will create an epochal bottleneck. It is guaranteed to bring traffic to a dead stop in the center of Falls Church, and also to create chaos on side streets as angry drivers seek alternative routes through residential neighborhoods, they’ve argued.
City Manager Wyatt Shields said at Monday’s City Council meeting that he thought it would be best if drivers “found their own ways” using a variety of alternative routes, but City Hall has reconsidered that approach, according to officials. “We’ve gotten some push-back against that idea and have decided that funneling traffic in one direction is better. Detour signs will be set up.”
The News-Press had editorialized on the subject last week, saying, “The project should be delayed until the City works out the means to divert traffic over to Park Avenue, thus making Route 7 two lanes one way and Park Avenue two lanes the other way. That way the commerce of the region continues apace, Falls Church is not one big parking lot, and everyone gets a good night’s sleep.”
City Hall said its precise plans for detouring traffic will not be completed for a week, but that there will be access to two lanes of traffic going each direction through the period of the construction.
However, hopes remain high that the construction, which includes the undergrounding of utility lines, the reconstruction of the road bed and sidewalk “streetscape” amenities in the 400 block of W. Broad, will begin in August.
City officials decided to do the work during daytime hours because of a small number of residences in the block. They originally planned for work to be between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. daily to get it done as fast as possible.
Then, after strong protests from business owners in the block, the City adjusted the plan to keep the afternoon rush hour free from the work. Now, however, with plans afoot for a uniform detour approach, it remains to be seen what new revisions to the length of the work day may be planned.