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Will Richmond Highway traffic get a Mulligan?

There is great anticipation about Mulligan Road, but what effects will it actually have on the Mount Vernon area?

Construction of Mulligan Road, the long delayed connector road between Richmond Highway and Telegraph Road is back on track, with an estimated completion date of late 2013.  There is great anticipation about this new road, but its actual impacts on Mount Vernon and Lee Districts are unclear. I would like to take this space to examine what it will actually accomplish.

In 2001 the US government closed Woodlawn Road, a narrow two-lane road that traversed Fort Belvoir, ostensibly due to security concerns.  This action removed the only direct east-west connection from Richmond Highway to the Telegraph Road/South Kings Highway corridor along an eight-mile stretch from Fairfax County Parkway to the Penn Daw/Kings Crossing intersection.  In conjunction with the increase of traffic in the corridor due to BRAC the removal of this connection has undoubtedly contributed to congestion along Richmond Highway.

Ever since its announcement back in 2002 the new roadway has generated a lot of positive enthusiasm among the citizens of Mount Vernon and Lee Districts.  The road will be an attractive, four-lane divided highway with a parallel pedestrian/bicycle path, underpasses for wildlife to safely cross the road, and significant intersection improvements at both ends.  The road's importance is underscored by the movement to ditch the Mulligan Road name in favor of "Jeff Todd Way," in honor of the longtime community leader who owned the Roy Rogers at the corner where the road will meet Richmond Highway.

In 2006 the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) conducted an Environmental Assessment, which included a detailed analysis of the project's expected traffic impacts.  The study estimated that the new road would be traveled by an average of about 20,000 cars per day by the year 2030, but that the project would not actually reduce the number of trips on Richmond Highway.  According to the study:

"Traffic from the Connector Road will simply 'displace' the pre-Connector Road traffic on other roadways. That is, the Connector Road will distribute traffic from these roadways to other roadways which in turn will distribute traffic to other roadways throughout the region. The result is that the traffic-related impacts of the Connector Road become diluted."

While Mulligan Road/Jeff Todd Way will not actually decrease the number of cars travelling on Richmond Highway, other improvements being undertaken in conjunction with the project will actually have dramatic effects on the area.  At the eastern end of the corridor, the new road will line up directly with Mount Vernon Memorial Highway (Route 235), as opposed to the existing offset intersection with Old Mill Road.  The traffic study projected that this realignment would reduce traffic delays at the intersection by 70% during the AM rush hour and by 54% in the PM rush hour.  At the west end, Telegraph Road will be widened from four lanes beginning just north of the new roadway to its existing four-lane segment that begins at Beulah Street.  This improvement will reduce afternoon delays at the Telegraph/Fairfax County Parkway interchange by 58%.

So in the professional opinions of the traffic engineers who studied the project the overall effect of the new road will result in real improvements to the flow of traffic north and south along Richmond Highway.  What FHWA did not examine was the potential effects of the road on land use patterns and economic activity in the Richmond Highway corridor.  I naturally have some thoughts on that issue since, well, it's my job to have thoughts about Richmond Highway.

In my view the primary impact of Jeff Todd Way (let's just start calling it that!) will be to connect the open up the Kingstowne/Springfield area to the Richmond Highway corridor.  With the new road in place it should take about three minutes to drive to the new Wegman's on Telegraph Road and no more than 10 minutes to travel to the Franconia-Springfield Metro station.  The whole area suddenly becomes a lot more accessible to the outside world.

Another way to look at the new road is that the 30,000 people who live in the 11,000 households located south of Little Hunting Creek and east of Huntley Meadows/Fort Belvoir will be able to quickly and easily drive all the way to Springfield and I-95 without ever travelling on Richmond Highway.  I am confident that this newfound accessibility will dramatically improve the appeal of the Richmond Highway corridor as a desirable place for professionals and families to live.  An influx of this sort of demand will boost the area's buying power and, in turn, lead to more retail, dining, and entertainment businesses wanting to locate along Richmond Highway. 

I will go out on a limb and make a prediction that in 10 years the whole three-mile segment of the Richmond Highway corridor from Buckman Road to Jeff Todd Way will be home to hundreds of attractive, new housing units, many successful stores and restaurants located nearby, and a far better image and reputation than it has today.

A final caveat to all of the above is the potential effects of the planned widening of Richmond Highway between the new connector road and Telegraph Road from four to six lanes.  The traffic study of that project is currently being undertaken and results should be known in the not-too-distant future.  I will certainly be writing on that topic when more information is known.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

David Versel May 21, 2012 at 12:46 PM
@Native Virginian: I am not sure where you are getting your information about the stables "losing" its current lease to Arcadia. As far as I am aware, the stables' lease is valid until 2016 and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which owns Woodlawn, has not announced any plans one way or another about the stables, Arcadia, or anything else. If you have different information than I do, I would love to know what you know. @everyone: I realize that Woodlawn Stables is a longstanding and very dear part of our fabric here, and we at SFDC are very sensitive to its importance to many people in the community. As such, emotions are running extremely high on this matter. However, just because people feel strongly about this issue, everyone has a responsibility to be honest and not to spread misinformation. We cannot have an effective and open discussion about Woodlawn (or any other property) if inaccurate information is being passed around. I will offer my all time favorite quote, from longtime Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan: "You are entitled to your own opinions. You are not, however, entitled to your own facts." Let's do our best to stick to the facts and form our opinions from there. This matter is too important to be wrecked by rumors and innuendo.
Shelley May 23, 2012 at 10:53 PM
Mr. Versel: While it’s true that there is always a chance of possible misinformation being passed on in forums like these, I think it is unfair to generalize and admonish commenters by suggesting that this type of information is being passed on because commenters “feel strongly” or “emotions are running high” about Woodlawn Stables. Certainly, one can feel very passionate about their cause and still stay factual. As one of the co-founders of Save Woodlawn Stables and one of the commenters being categorized as “everyone”, I want to say that I, and SWS, have strived greatly to put out factual information, and have encouraged our thousands of supporters to do the same. I stand behind every word I say and have the evidence to prove it. If I am wrong, then I will gladly retract it if one can prove otherwise. Regardless of how strongly we feel about this issue, we have remained fair, respectful and civil while expressing our concerns with how this elevated bypass will do irreparable damage to the Stables, the historically designated resources on the property, and to the Woodlawn estate as a National Historic Landmark. Most of all, we have remained very forthcoming and transparent, reaching out and working very closely on solutions to the issues with fellow preservationist, neighborhood and civic associations, state and county officials, Federal Highways Administration, Fairfax County and state elected representatives and Members of Congress...
Shelley May 23, 2012 at 10:58 PM
...I, myself, have even reached out to Ms. Hellman, Director of Woodlawn, who commented above and still hope that she may contact our organization so that we may also work together, or at least be able to better understand each organization's viewpoint and concerns. For anyone that wants to question our facts or opinion, feel free to read our position paper and other information at www.savewoodlawnstables.org Again, thank you for reporting on these important traffic issues, we hope that our fellow citizens will join us at the public meeting on June 5, 2012, 6:00 p.m., In the Hayfield High School cafeteria. Shelley Castle Save Woodlawn Stables
skillywag May 25, 2012 at 07:28 PM
While I understand concern about misinformation being spread about this issue, let's take a look at where this "misinformation" may have come from, shall we? After looking through a lot of the information out there I began to wonder why the Trust would possibly support this bypass option that would destroy historic buildings on George Washington's land for the sake of a hundred feet into a field of unkempt weeds if they widened in place . And lookey what I found, not only publicly available, but on their own website. http://www.preservationnation.org/resources/training/plt/PLT-Woodlawn-Final-Report.pdf http://www.preservationnation.org/who-we-are/annual-report-and-tax-returns/NTHP_AR10.pdf (pg 21 of doc). The net of these documents is that the Trust has had plans to get rid of the stables since at least 2010 to replace it with Arcadia farming group and the bypass option gives them an easy out. As to what many have said in these comments, Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s Micahel Babin and Arcadia are seeking to take over the property that is currently occupied and used by Woodlawn Stables. The plantation encompasses about 120 acres, Woodlawn leases 66 of those acres, they plan to lease 100 acres to Arcadia. Well, you do the math. There certainly seems to be some ulterior motives on the part of the Trust to say the very least. I call it shady underdealings, but that's just me.
skillywag May 25, 2012 at 07:29 PM
Some particularly telling excerpts (of the docs in the comment above: http://www.preservationnation.org/resources/training/plt/PLT-Woodlawn-Final-Report.pdf http://www.preservationnation.org/who-we-are/annual-report-and-tax-returns/NTHP_AR10.pdf (pg 21 of doc)): "Woodlawn would offer an exclusive lease agreement for the 66 acres across Hwy 1 to Arcadia/Star with the stipulation that the property be used for organic farming and a cooking school. If the stable tenant is not amenable to having the lease bought out, Arcadia/Star would have the option to sublet all or part of the land from the stable tenant." "Once a lease agreement can be established on the 66 acres across the highway, the cash flow into Woodlawn will automatically generate positive outcomes." - I'm shocked to see this all comes down to money for an entity whose role is supposed to be to protect our national and cultural historic treasures. Why are they not trying to keep both Arcadia and the Stables and still generate cash flow? My point being, before we start accusing people of making up their own facts, let's do a little digging as to what the facts actually are. I think as relatively intelligent adults we can draw some conclusions from the publicly available facts.

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