Fairfax County neighbors fighting against plan to expand Richmond Highway

Residents in Fairfax County’s Gum Springs community are fighting back against a plan to expand the Richmond Highway.

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Some say it’s a busy highway as it is now and adding more lanes is going to be unsafe.

"You have the simple fact that it is a massive road, but you’re going to have to try and get across so you have that concern," Gum Springs resident Ron Chase said. "How dangerous is that road going to be? How safe are you making it for people to get from point A to point B?

Chase, who is President of the Gum Springs Museum and Cultural Center, says he also worries how it will impact local businesses along the highway.

"You have the concern that you’re going to have businesses that will be eliminated that will not come back, businesses that have been here for years." Chase said. "And it’s being done all under the guise of the future."

The Virginia Department of Transportation says their goal is to improve safety and reduce traffic congestion.

VDOT leading the road widening project and will coordinate with the Fairfax County Department of Transportation, which is leading a bus rapid transit project, both to improve the Richmond Highway Corridor in Fairfax County.

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Below are some of the safety improvements for the project as part of widening provided by VDOT:

Some of the safety improvements for the VDOT-led Richmond Highway Corridor Improvements project as part of the widening include:
-Adding an additional through lane in each direction thereby reducing the congestion that can lead to crashes
-Providing ADA-compliant and consistent bicycle and pedestrian accommodations along the entire project length
-Providing crosswalks at signalized intersections wherever possible
-Providing additional signal at Wyngate Manor Court to reduce the distance between pedestrian crossings

-Providing pedestrian underpasses at the bridges over Dogue Creek and Little Hunting Creek to serve as alternative for crossing to the opposite side of Richmond Highway

 The project will stretch for three miles and will expand the highway from four to six lanes, adding bus lanes, bike lanes and sidewalks.

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Queeniee Cox, president of the Gum Springs Civic Association says while there are some parts of the project they’re onboard with, there are still concerns, being that Gum Springs is a community founded by a former slave and is the oldest African-American community in Fairfax County.

"13 lanes will also separate and divide this historic community that’s been in existence since 1833 socially and culturally," Cox said. "If we were to allow VDOT and Fairfax county to implement those number of lanes it will eliminate and destroy this Black community. This has been happening all over the country, black communities are being eliminated and their heritage has been discarded for vehicles and that’s not right."

In a statement responding to concerns about the total number of lanes at certain intersections, VDOT says "VDOT and Fairfax County are conducting further study that will be completed later this year to further assess the impact on safety, congestion and operations on Richmond Highway and affected side streets if separate turn lanes are removed from design plans."

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Cox did say Gum Springs residents have had community meetings with VDOT and FCDOT to address some of their concerns. While they were able to work with them on some issues, Cox says something in the works she doesn’t want to see is a pedestrian underpass.

"What you can’t see above ground is going to be underground now," Cox said. "So you will have criminal activities, illegal activities, homelessness, people using it as temporary shelters, graffiti, lighting and it’s going to flood."

The project is expected to cost $415 million and construction could begin in early 2025.