Residents of a Chantilly homeowner association near the intersection of Route 50 and Rugby Road/Middle Ridge Drive say they are fed up with inaction concerning what they say are potentially deadly traffic patterns that make living in their neighborhoods unsafe.
For more than a year, Hampton Brown, president of the Birch Pond Homeowners Association has been petitioning the Virginia Department of Transportation and area officials to make changes to traffic flow patterns that he says are unacceptable to the people who live in the community.
“It is a safety issue that is affecting more than 200 residents in this area,” he said. “But no one is listening.”
Last year, Brown put together a presentation outlining the potential dangers with the current design of the intersection, which he provided to VDOT. He also sent it to Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield), Del. Jim LeMunyon (R-Chantilly) and U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Dist. 10).
Within the presentation were listed issues such as a concrete barrier on Rugby Road that forces traffic to make U-turns into the intersection where VDOT analysis shows more than 75,000 cars pass each day; buses that stop on Route 50 to pick up and let off passengers; and poor pedestrian access that exists across the intersection.
Following the presentation, officials at VDOT responded in a letter to Brown that it had gotten together with Fairfax officials to examine his complaints but concluded there was little to be done about them.
“Unfortunately, the heavy volume of traffic using the intersection, the capacity available, and the nature of the side street and service road access conditions are difficult constraints,” replied VDOT Area Manager Don Ostrander. “While several minor adjustments have been made, no additional changes are planned at this time as a result of the field investigations, meetings and analysis.”
Brown says VDOT’s answer is unacceptable and that as it stands, the Birch Pond neighborhood is unsafe.
“One of our main concerns is an emergency access connection, or ‘fire road’ connecting to Milan Road that is chained up and purposefully made inaccessible,” Brown said. “Right now, should there be a catastrophe on Route 50 that blocked Middle Ridge Drive, homeowners in Birch Pond could not leave the community. And our research shows that accidents happen at that very intersection all the time.
“The VDOT data base for accidents at the intersection of Route 50 and Rugby/Middle Ridge lists less than 10 accidents within the last three years,” Brown said. “But from my research there have been more like six within the last 18 months and at least one fatality within the last two-and-a-half years.”
There were 15 total vehicle crashes at the intersection in 2011 alone, according to Fairfax County Police records. Statistics for 2012 were not readlily available.
In his reply to Brown, Ostrander said both “Fairfax County and the community” explored the option of opening the Milan Road emergency access connection but concluded that “it is not favorable at this time.”
Other traffic and access issues also exist in the area, said Birch Pond resident Dana Chambers, who has three children living in her Birch Pond home.
“It is very difficult getting in and out of the Birch Pond neighborhood,” she said. “When I take my daughter to daycare and my husband takes the kids to Greenbriar East Elementary, we have to turn left out of Birch Pond onto Middle Ridge, and often times the cars coming up Middle Ridge do not stop at the corner. They speed through directly to the light. When turning left into Birch Pond from [Route 50], the same issue persists. Cars do not stop at the corner and allow you to turn left into the neighborhood, even though you have a green arrow giving you the right of way. On several occasions I have had to slam on the breaks and my horn to avoid a head-on collision.”
Brown says he and the Birch Pond community now are collecting photographic evidence of traffic crashes at the intersection and forming an internal traffic committee to conduct its own traffic analysis study.
“We are building momentum and critical mass and will soon hold public meetings on this issue,” he said. “If our representatives won’t listen to us and address this issue, we will strategically begin forming committees to push them out of office. This is a fundamental safety issue for people in this community, and we will not be ignored.”