New Series: Traffic Rants - Today: Stupid Flow in Reston, VA

If for no other reason than to give me a way to vent stress and frustration after commuting, I've decided to start a new series of posts that look at traffic conditions that really irk me. No, I'm not talking about rants on the guy who tried to whip around me at the Yield sign this morning, or the guy who pulled out of the line of merged traffic into the lane ending so as to advance himself 3-4 positions further ahead. Don't get me wrong, those things really tick me off (people are arrogant, short-sighted, and rude when they drive - my view is that most people don't look more than 2" in front of their faces when they get behind the wheel). Instead, I'd like to focus on traffic patterns and flows that could/should be addressed by civil engineers.

Today's target of opportunity is the intersection of the Dulles Toll Road (267) with Reston Parkway.

At first blush, you might think, how could a controlled highway overpass be a problem for traffic flows? Well, the problem is this: drivers who exit westbound 267 onto northbound Reston Pkwy oftentimes want to head west on Sunset Hills Drive, which is the first cross-street north of the toll road. At this point in the road, Reston Pkwy has 2 through lanes widening on the right to add a third temporary through lane, plus a right turn lane, plus 2 left turn lanes. Traffic merging in from the toll road will enter in the right-most through lane that is temporarily created.

At this junction, a significant percentage of morning commuter traffic will attempt to merge all the way across to the left turn lanes within a short one block span. Additionally, some existing northbound traffic is inevitably also trying to get into the right turn lane. What we have is a situation where the civil engineers require traffic to cross heavily trafficked through lanes in order to get into turn lanes.

The first problem that needs to be addressed is that of westbound toll road traffic trying to merge and then cut across 2 through lanes in heavy traffic to hit the left turn lanes. The first part of the solution is to implement a barrier of some sort, with signage and penalties, to prevent this cross-cutting traffic. Second, traffic should be directed to exit at Fairfax County Parkway, where drivers can then merge and take a right turn onto Sunset Hills Drive.

As far as I can tell, there is no reason why traffic would be required to drive westbound on Sunset Hills Drive. It might be more convenient to take a right turn into a parking lot on that road, rather than wait to turn left across traffic, but such a problem could be address through traffic lights, and implementing such a change would improve a significant traffic nit on a major thoroughfare. Moreover, I'm constantly surprised that there are not more major accidents due to this behavior. It seems to be an accident waiting to happen with a high probability for severe injuries.

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