Manassas Journal Messenger | Traffic delays getting longer

Dear Lane Ranger: I live near Lake Ridge and work in Manassas, usually come home around 4 to 4:30 p.m., and I encounter no traffic delays on the Prince William Parkway. However, on Tuesdays, I am at the intersection of Hoadly Road and the county parkway at about 6:30 p.m., heading eastbound towards Lake Ridge, and the delays have been getting progressively longer each week for at least a month. The prior week, I timed the wait to get through the light and it took seven minutes. This week, the traffic was backed up at least two to three miles, with no apparent cause other than the signal, and no delays after passing through the intersection. I have asked a couple of other people that travel through here on other days, and they encounter delays also.

What seems to be happening is that the volume of traffic westbound on the parkway, waiting to turn left onto Hoadly Road is so heavy that their light stays green a long time, along with a green for the westbound parkway traffic. After accommodating all the left-turn traffic, the green light for the eastbound parkway is shortened. I watched the traffic going in every direction, and all the waiting vehicles get through on the first green except those eastbound. If something can be done to shorten the wait here, it would be greatly appreciated. — Bronwyn Ziegler of Lake Ridge

Dear Bronwyn: You are not the only person who asked me about this backup, and I’ve sat in it too. The Virginia Department of Transportation looked at the intersection Oct. 14 and found you needed more green time. They added 10 seconds to your eastbound green time that morning, said spokesman Ryan Hall.

The timing of the signal is coordinated with other intersections on the parkway and operates on a 180-second cycle from 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

I spoke with Supervisor Mary K. Hill, R-Coles, and she said the opening of Ridgefield Road is a factor because its traffic from Dale City is now feeding onto the parkway. That adds red light time for parkway traffic for its traffic to enter the parkway, and it has to be synchronized with other signals including Hoadly Road.

Something to watch: As we add lights on the parkway the green time for through-traffic gets cut into.

Dear Lane Ranger: Can you please advise if there are any plans to install a traffic light at the intersection of Joplin Road and Va. 234 (at Samsky’s) There seems to be much more traffic now that the road has been widened to four lanes farther north of this intersection. I haven’t seen any signs that construction is going to begin. There have been times, especially between 4 to 4:30 p.m., when I have waited as long as 10 minutes to get out onto Va. 234 from Joplin. Also, on many occasions between 7:45 and 8 a.m., I have observed long lines of traffic on both Joplin and Aden Roads trying to get out in either direction. It seems to me that it would be most beneficial to install a traffic light at the Joplin Road and Va. 234 intersection. — M.K. Smith

Dear M.K.: The section from Snowfall Road to Eclipse Drive will go to bid some time this fall with construction starting in the spring.

The intersections of Joplin and Aden roads are within a couple hundred feet of each other. This entire slice will stay as an access road, renumbered, with two signalized intersections onto the realigned Va. 234 to be completed by 2006, said VDOT engineer Helen Cuervo.

A temporary light is possible, and VDOT will assess the situation at both intersections later this month, she said.

The criteria for putting in a signal does include making sure drivers on side streets have the opportunity to get on main roads, she said.

However, VDOT senior engineer Derek Schuler wrote Manassas Sen. Charles J. Colgan, D-29th District, in June after Colgan requested VDOT consider putting a light at Aden Road. Schuler told him the crash history in the last three years does not reveal a problem to justify temporary signalization.

The Lane Ranger thinks VDOT’s latest review will see the increased traffic coming from the widened Va. 234. This sounds like a problem that will take the input of engineers, county supervisors, surrounding community and drivers to figure out if a temporary light should go in, if the wait times are as long as you say.

Wait times are becoming a way of life for Prince William. Remember the county has so many chokepoints and problem areas, it is also a question of resources.

There are nearly 40 intersections under review, design, construction or recently reviewed for signals. Putting in a light costs about $100,000.

Dear Lane Ranger: I was wondering how long it takes you to answer e-mails. I wrote you in May about the intersection of Bulloch Drive and Va. 234 that has a dangerous problem that occurs constantly when exiting from the Parkridge Shopping Center, located north of Interstate 66 with the Hoyts movie theater.

What occurs is this: There are four lanes to exit at a traffic light, with one left-turn-only, one through-lane, and two right-turn lanes. At the light, there are two large signs designating the extreme right turn lane as an exit only to I-66 west. Unfortunately, practically everyone in that turn lane uses it as a regular right turn onto Va. 234. This is causing an extremely dangerous situation because these right lane violators then have to immediately merge into the correct lane on Va. 234, cutting off everyone in it.

This has happened to me every single time, whatever time of day; but it’s exacerbated when a movie has let out.

I do have a possible suggestion as to a fix. Install small poles to segregate the two right turn lanes, this would prevent people from cutting in traffic from the incorrect turn lane. — Kate Ballard

Dear Kate: I thought we had published an answer, but I cannot find the paper, so we can publish it again, or maybe this is for the first time.

VDOT was on top of this in June. Here’s the answer:

Yes, VDOT uses flex posts, or plastic poles, and they were considered an option. A review determined they could not be installed because they’d conflict with other turning movements, said VDOT spokesman Ryan Hall.

Traffic in the left-most right turn lane, which will legitimately stay on Va. 234 south, is prohibited from right turns on red. That makes it an advantage to get in the wrong lane because cars that go in the right-most right turn lane can turn on red and merge to the left, Hall said.

To cut down on the problem, VDOT will make the restriction apply to both lanes and restripe the dashed lines for turning movements within the intersection, he said.

I hope that helps, Kate. I find Va. 234 near I-66 difficult to navigate, but I love the shopping center. It is easy to navigate once I’m in it.

Nearby, the intersection of Va. 234 with the I-66 eastbound off ramp has a traffic light under design.

Please send questions or comments on transportation to: Lane Ranger c/o Potomac News, P.O. Box 2470, Woodbridge, VA 22195; fax: (703) 878-8099; e-mail to: [email protected]; or by phone: (703) 878-8062.

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