Comments on Chain Bridge Road-Eaton Place Intersection Improvements

On February 27, 2023, I posted the following comments to the City of Fairfax page soliciting comments comments on proposed Chain Bridge Road/Eaton Place Intersection Improvements

Thank you for hosting the open house on February 22.

I submitted handwritten comments on the paper feedback form, but I would like to elaborate on them here, so others may see them. I wish to emphasize the importance of this intersection to a much larger bicycle network, and to ask for changes to the design that would make it more useful to cyclists.

In summer 2023, VDOT plans to open the shared-use trail adjacent to I-66. That trail will feature an exit at Route 123, which will thus connect the City of Fairfax to a trail stretching from Bull Run Regional Park to Gallows Road, and from there to other trails running all the way to Washington, D.C., and Mount Vernon.

To make the most of this opportunity, cyclists need a safe route between the I-66 trail and the rest of the City of Fairfax, as well as George Mason University to the south. The City of Fairfax’s Recommended Bicycle Network of June 22, 2021, shows that the closest connection would be to extend the shared use path to Eaton Place. Once on Eaton, cyclists could turn onto the University Drive extension and cross Route 50 at University. Thus, the Chain Bridge Road/Eaton Place intersection could become a vital link in a much larger bicycle network, and it should be evaluated as such.

As a first step, the City should proceed with plans for a shared-use path as far south as Eaton Place.

The next step is to refine the design of the intersection to allow easy movements for bicycles between the shared use trail and Eaton Place.

Because the shared use trail stops at Eaton, southbound bicyclists will need to turn left (east) onto Eaton Place. That will mean waiting for an east-west green light, so cyclists can safely cross the eight-lane Chain Bridge Road. The diagram distributed at the February 22, 2023, open house, however, does not provide a place for cyclists to queue while waiting for that green. A green painted bike box could provide this space. (Bike Boxes | National Association of City Transportation Officials)

In the opposite direction, westbound bicyclists on Eaton need to make a right turn onto the shared use trail. The current design makes this difficult. It requires bicyclists to ride in the left lane of Eaton in order to proceed straight through the intersection, and then slow to make a sharp turn onto the trail. With both hands on the brakes in order to make this turn, the cyclists will be unable to signal to any drivers behind them.

A safer alternative would be to convert part of the east side service road not to sidewalk (as shown on the February 22 diagram), but rather to another 10-foot-wide path. This would allow cyclists to ride in the right lane of Eaton and turn right onto the path there and ride along the access road to the signal where the future Synder trail will cross Chain Bridge Road. That crossing should be redesigned so that cyclists riding westbound on the Snyder trail can make an easy right onto the shared-use trail heading to I-66, rather than bumping through three pedestrian crosswalks as shown on the diagram.

Eventually, I hope that bike lanes will be added to Eaton Place, as shown on the City of Fairfax’s Recommended Bicycle Network of June 22, 2021. If this happens, it will be all the more important that cyclists be able to turn from the bike lanes onto a wide path to get to the service road.

I note that some previous comments on this plan call for a shared-use trail to be built on the east side of 123, from the Snyder Trail signal to Eaton. That might work too, but it could be challenging to design a safe left turn from that trail onto Eaton eastbound.

In its 2017 Multimodal Transportation Plan, the City of Fairfax envisioned “ a city with options for residents to easily, safely, and efficiently move within and between neighborhoods either by walking, bicycling, taking public transportation, or driving.” It identified connections to the I-66 trail as part of that effort (MM Action To meet those goals, the Route 123/Eaton Place interchange must be evaluated and designed to allows bicyclists to travel safely between the I-66 trail and the crossing of Route 50 at University Drive.

Thank you for your consideration.