This story was originally published in the Nov. 4 issue of Fourth Estate.
Braddock Road and Route 50 are both currently under construction for road improvements.
This month the Virginia Department of Transportation is repaving both directions of Braddock Road’s lanes between Shirley Gate and Ox Road. This project covers approximately three miles of the road. VDOT is paving Braddock from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.
Mason Parking and Transportation Services sent an e-mail out on Monday, Oct. 20 informing the Mason community about the project’s impact on traffic.
“One lane at a time may be closed in each direction. Similar to the Patriot Center traffic, it is highly encouraged to use alternate routes to campus and avoid Braddock Road during these hours,” the e-mail stated.
The update was also posted on Mason Parking’s Facebook page and Twitter account.
According to the project website, VDOT is also widening Route 50 from a total of 4-6 lanes between Poland Road and Route 28 in Loudoun County. This will widen approximately 3.7 miles of the highway. VDOT also closes lanes for this construction project from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. in both directions.
Project Manager Larry Tomlinson explains that the decision of when to close lanes is dependent on the type of work crews are performing.
“Some lane closures are at night, some during the day. It depends on the work we’ve been doing. We’ve been closing some left lanes to do work along the median. It just depends on what needs to be done and it’s done kind of sequentially. If you’re working on the outside, you have to close the outside lane and shift people to the middle so you can get in there and do the work,” Tomlinson said.
VDOT decided to do this project to keep up with the population growth in Loudoun County by improving the roadway capacity.
“There’s a lot of construction out in Loudoun County, it’s still going on, and the traffic counts were way up,” Tomlinson said. “That was the two-lane section of the road that we’re widening to three.”
Junior Jason Liu commutes on both Route 50 and Braddock Road to get to the Fairfax campus from Loudoun County.
“I really wished we didn’t have any construction. It’s because of construction that it takes longer to get to campus,” Liu said. “I am off work at 12 and with a 30 minute commute not including traffic lights and with construction, I don’t get to campus until 1:15 and I have not found parking yet. I end up having to park in visitor parking in Rappahannock [Parking Deck].”
According to the Loudoun County “Long-Term Forecasts: Population Distribution Map Series” report, most of the county’s growth is concentrated in the Eastern part of the county located near Dulles International Airport.
“Loudoun County is ranked the 17th fastest growing County in the United States between 2010 and 2012,” the report stated.
Recent completions of the long-term project include opening up three lanes going eastbound from Poland Road to Route 28 on Aug. 28 of this year.
“We opened the three lanes in the eastbound direction and it’s helped with the morning commute quite a bit,” Tomlinson said.
But VDOT dealt with multiple setbacks during the early phases of the project. Tomlinson said this included getting the property for the lane expansion and installing miles of communication utilities lines, as well as unpredictable weather in winter 2013.
“The last winter was pretty rough as far as the weather…well the pavement parking was being done but there was a lot of salt and sand. The traffic just ate up the pavement markings, the paint,” Tomlinson said. “In the early phases of the project we had temporary asphalt so we would widen the road to temporarily shift traffic over so we could do work on one side or the other. The interface between the old asphalt and the new temporary asphalt caused a lot of problems with the potholes this past winter.”
According to Tomlinson, VDOT has gotten complaints from people about the construction, but it has lessened since the three lanes opened going eastbound.
“We’ve gotten complaints off-and-on throughout the entire project, which is pretty much normal for a project on a major corridor,” Tomlinson said.
Carrington Story, a Mason senior, takes Braddock Road for his commute from Nokesville in Prince William County to the Fairfax campus. He said that the slow driving and lane closures due to the repaving project adds about 20 minutes to his commute.
“There are alternate routes, but they add 15 to 30 miles on top of the trip, and aren’t worth it,” Story said.
The construction on Route 50 started in October of 2011 and according to Tomlinson, it is on schedule to be complete by November of 2015.
Photo Credits: Amy Rose