Cobbdale residents heard candidates talk about their campaign issues at the Henry Masonic Lodge on Oak Street Wednesday night. Along with the and , they discussed traffic, an issue that had only been glossed over in previous debates.
Candidates talked about rallying with regional forces to secure more funding from the state, building a bypass around the city and using traffic calming measures to mitigate problems within the city limits.
Hosted by the Cobbdale Civic Association, the candidates night was a last chance to meet school board, council and mayoral runners in one go. A resident took the opportunity to ask what the candidates could do to alleviate traffic problems throughout the city. This problem is especially apparent in Cobbdale, which is nestled between Interstate 66 and Fairfax Boulevard and, as one resident pointed out, becomes an alternative freeway when there's an accident on I-66.
"Our traffic problems can't be solved," council candidate David Meyer told the packed lodge basement. "They can only be managed."
Candidates pointed out that Fairfax City is surrounded by a quickly growing and developing Fairfax County. The county doubled its population to over 1 million since 1970, according to the U.S. Census. Located in the heart of the county, Fairfax City has little say in traffic-riling development projects just outside the city limits.
"We don't have and never will have the resources to deal with the traffic problem," council candidate Steve Stombres said. He suggested turning to regional powers to try to curb traffic outside the city limits, as well as continuing to petition Richmond for funding for transportation issues.
Council candidate Gary Perryman said a bypass could help divert much of the county traffic from the city limits.
"We could widen all our roads by six lanes and it wouldn't matter. Those cars would just get funneled once they hit Fairfax County," Perryman said.
The eight-lane bypass would give drivers on I-66 and Braddock Road an opportunity to escape bumper-to-bumper conditions without cutting through the city.
Mayoral candidate Jerry O'Dell warned against the bypass. "If you build a bypass you might get what you got with I-66 [in its infancy]. A bunch of ghost towns."
"There's no silver bullet," mayoral candidate Scott Silverthorne said, adding that the city should consider more traffic calming measures to alleviate the problem within the city limits.
Council candidate Catherine Read suggested traffic changes to mitigate speed in Fairfax City. She and candidate Michael DeMarco emphasized the need for accessibility within the city limits to give residents the option to catch a bus, walk or bike to their destinations.
Council candidate Dan Drummond said Fairfax City cares for its own roads. He talked in favor of a commercial tax that pays for large transportation projects. This tax helped fund a project that looks to widen Fairfax Boulevard between Bevan Drive and Jermantown Road.
The city is also working on a transportation study for Old Town Fairfax, said council candidate Eleanor Schmidt.
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