Manassas Journal Messenger | Help with Va. 234, Pinnacle intersection

Every morning, Robert Loyd allows nearly 90 minutes to commute from his home near Lake Jackson to his work in Crystal City: 15 minutes to the VRE station in Manassas, 50 minutes on the train, followed by a 10-minute walk to his office.

But first, he has to get from Pinnacle Ridge Drive onto northbound Va. 234.

“I leave at 6:30 and I have to allow an extra five minutes to be able to get out there,” said Loyd, president of the River Bend Homeowners Association, which is comprised of homes near Pinnacle Ridge Drive.

Loyd, and many of his neighbors, say the Pinnacle Ridge Drive and Va. 234 intersection is unsafe. They have lobbied, unsuccessfully, for a traffic light or a sign that might make the intersection easier to navigate.

Motorists turning left onto southbound Va. 234 can face even more hazards and have much longer waits than Loyd, who turns right to head toward Manassas, residents say.

The issue has slowly risen through several levels of government, with residents now asking for help from officials at the Virginia Department of Transportation.

“We’re looking for a solution other than lip service from VDOT, and that’s all we’ve gotten,” said Joe Featherston, past president of the RBHOA.

“We’ve been through this over and over again without any success,” added Featherston, who lives on Pinnacle Ridge Road.

VDOT officials say the intersection does not merit a traffic signal. And while VDOT engineers agree that it is difficult to see northbound cars on Va. 234, they remark in a recent letter that there does not appear to be a practical solution for the intersection.

The problem at the intersection began when Va. 234 was widened to a four-lane highway and the level of the road was raised. Pinnacle Ridge Drive was ramped up to meet the road, making it harder to see cars on Va. 234 as they come around a slight bend toward Pinnacle Ridge Drive, Featherston said.

Motorists trying to turn left from Pinnacle Ridge Drive onto Va. 234 must decide between waiting for a long time or taking their chances with oncoming vehicles, Featherston said.

“You’ve got to try to dodge the traffic,” Featherston said.

Mary Loyd, wife of Robert Loyd, says she sometimes has to wait 10 to 15 minutes to turn left onto Va. 234 and adds that fender-benders happen when people get frustrated and exit before it is clear.

Another neighbor, Pat Rogers of Summit Ridge Court, says she was behind a school bus for seven minutes one morning as it waited to turn left onto Va. 234.

Rogers said she is usually content to wait.

“I’m retired now, so I don’t have to take chances,” Rogers said.

But Rogers, like many residents in the neighborhood, would like some help.

“I understand traffic lights are hard to come by and they don’t want to impede the traffic flow, but we thought at least if we could get a caution yellow,” Rogers said.

“Anything that will help us get some notice before someone gets hurt,” she said.

During the week of March 14, an accident at the intersection got residents more worried.

Although no one was hurt and specifics of the accident are unclear since there was no accident report, the implications were clear to some residents: the intersection is a safety hazard.

The accident apparently involved a vehicle traveling north on Va. 234 that hit the guardrail on the north side of the intersection, leaving the guardrail severely damaged. VDOT fixed the guardrail within a week, but the accident made residents wonder how safe it was to wait there.

“[The accident] has taken this long-standing concern and really escalated it,” said Supervisor Martin E. Nohe, R-Coles. “I think very clearly it is a very legitimate safety concern in this neighborhood.”

Nohe, who represents the area, has asked VDOT to consider alternate solutions after it became clear a traffic light would not be installed.

But suggestions for a flashing yellow light, or a light on a roadside sign have gone nowhere.

“We’re not looking for tons of money to fix it,” Featherston said. “We’re looking for the ability to warn an unsuspecting northbound motorist that you’ve got crossing traffic.”

A Feb. 9 letter from Jo Anne Sorenson, VDOT Assistant District Engineer for Planning and Development, is the most promising response to the issue so far, according to Featherston.

“Our traffic engineers involved in the previous studies realize that sight distance is not ideal for motorists turning left onto southbound Route 234,” the letter states.

But the letter continues: “There does not appear to be any practical means of improving this situation.”

Despite the apparent rebuff, Featherston says he was encouraged that VDOT was finally directly addressing the problem.

However, Featherston panned VDOT’s suggestion that residents use Falling Creek Drive to get on to Va. 234, since it has better sight distances.

The response from VDOT came after Nohe forwarded the issue to Manassas Sen. Charles J. Colgan, D-29th District.

“I had finally reached a point that I had run out of things I could do,” Nohe said. “I hope that one way or the other we can find a solution for these folks.”


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