A public hearing on plans to widen a short stretch of Pole Road in Fairfax County evolved last week into a full-scale attack on county, state and federal officials coordinating the project.
The public meeting was called to present plans to handle traffic from a 444-unit military housing project being built on Fort Belvoir property at Pole Road and Scaramento Drive. Although the military considered the road work minor, local residents objected strenuoulsy.
More than 200 residents of the Pole Road area accused all the highway officials involved of negligence, inhumanity and poor coordination of plans during the four-hour hearing called by federal highway officials at Woodlawn Elementary School.
"We're not getting any answers, only a list of stated regulations," shouted Dorothy Mensen. "You're leading us down a garden path that ends with a sock in the mouth."
The federal proposal, drafted at the request of Military Traffic Management Command, calls for widening a 3,500-foot stretch of Pole Road from 500 feet west of Dogue Creek to Leaf Road. the two-lane, state-maintained road would be expanded to four lanes in the widened section. An eight-foot-wide bicycle and pedestrian path would be constructed on the north side of the road.
Federal officials assured residents the plans conform to county laws requiring developers to make adjustmentsfor increased traffic, but that did little to placate the crowd.
"They only reason we are seeing you, (highway officials) now is that you want to appease future residents of the military units. We would never see you if it wasn't for the project," complained Jim Roland, a resident of the area for 17 years.
Those at the hearing objected to the plan for several reasons. Some wanted the entire road widened. Some objectedto any widening. Some thought improvements should be made to other roads, especially heavily traveled U.S. Rte.1. Nearly everyone, however, agreed the present proposal was inadequate.
Young parents such as Menson told highway officials that the proposal posed a hazard to children in the area. Two Little League baseball parks border the road and children travel the road to and from school. More safety precautions, parents insisted, would have to be taken.
"Would you want to sacrifice your child's life for one road?" asked Mensen.
Federal highway engineer Ray Pelletier told the residents he sympathized with them, but said traffic was not expected to be heavy enough to warrant installing a pedestrian crossinglight, according to federal rules.
Highway officials estimate that an additional 3,500 cars will travel Pole Road once the housing project is completed. Traffic currently is estimated at between 8,000 and 9,000 cars per day,Pelletier said.
Federal regulations covering traffic signals are fuirly tough, Pelletier told the crowd: "Unfortunately, until hard statistics -- an accident -- are provided, it's unlikely that a light will be provided."
Pelletier did tell the residents, however, that because of their concern, the department would look again at the plan and most likely recommend marked crosswalks with caution lights.
The $1.8 million plan, still subject to minor alterations, is expected to win final approval by the Military Traffic Management Command despite neighborhood objections. Pelletier said traffic conditions and county regulations leave the military no choicebut to widen the road. Construction should, begin early next year, he said.
In addition to the Pole Road project, federal highway officials are considering paving a gap in Sacramento Road to provide direct access to rte. 1, and studying traffic flow at the intersection of Pole and Frye roads.