Life on the Detour

Not as bad as expected …

Originally published 6/8/16

Savvy commuters have long been fond of their secret route to avoid the Route 123 morning and evening grind. But things were disrupted on May 31 when the final phase of Follin Lane reconstruction project began.

The intersection with Echols Street needed upgrading of the storm conduits to cope with the additional run-off from Follin’s new curb and gutter system. Without the deep ditches to drink in the raindrops, about three times as much water will now head, during storms, down to the Wolftrap Creek in Wildwood Park. Without the upgrade, the intersection would flood.

To handle the gaping hole in the route, a detour from Echols was created down Mashie Street, and made a crossing on Hine Street over the partially paved Follin. For the first two days, it was a bit confusing for all. Mashie and Hine residents had never before seen the routine Echols Street rush hour traffic.

But several things combined to ease the situation. For one, Navy Federal Credit Union, Vienna’s largest employer, beseeched its employees to find other routes if at all possible.

A second factor was that Vienna sent over a police presence on Wednesday to keep the traffic calm. A trailer-mounted radar display monitored speed, and officers brandishing hand-held radar guns made sure the point was clear. The officers reported no speeding, but did pass out a few tickets for expired safety inspections. Most of the delays on that day was from lost motorists asking for directions.

But probably the most effective measure came from a Mashie Street resident, computer IT specialist Cindy Speck, who suggested that it was pointless to direct the detour traffic in both directions. “Why not open Hine traffic all the way to Echols Street, and just let the commuters take their choice?” she asked.

Speck’s amazingly simple but logical suggestion was passed on by Town Councilman Pasha Majdi, who was monitoring the situation at the site, and by the next day, freshly painted signs were installed at the appropriate locations. On Friday, there was zero morning rush hour traffic on Mashie and the evening rush hour was cut to less than half. The 2-way traffic on the narrow street disappeared altogether.

Meanwhile, construction of the sidewalk from Maple Avenue to Echols Street will be finished Friday. This stretch had always been a No Pedestrian zone.