The Fairfax County Parkway Scam
The first sign of trouble was that there were no signs. After waiting a quarter century to build the last segment of the Fairfax County Parkway (7100), surely they would put up signs when it was done to direct through traffic onto the new highway.
As long as I can remember, signs on route 7100 indicated it ended where it passed underneath Rolling Rd. and turned into the Franconia-Springfield Parkway (7900). You had to perform a number of random turns from there to connect to a separate section of 7100 near Fort Belvoir. It’s been a perennial point of confusion—there were two separate stretches of road labeled as route 7100 that didn’t connect directly to one another. There was a gaping hole, only a couple miles long, and to get around it you had to travel miles out of your way on confusing local roads without clear direction.
The Rolling Rd. interchange was always intended to be the spot at which the two 7100’s would eventually connect; in fact, all of the Rolling Rd. exit signs had ‘7100’ and ‘Fairfax County Parkway’ wording on them, it was just covered up. Those signs were a rare example of forward thinking; they would not need to be replaced when the highway was finally done, they would simply need to have their temporary adhesive coverings removed. The mythical future south-bound traveler on 7100 would need to bear right at the interchange to stay on the highway and proceed toward Ford Belvoir and U.S. 1.
‘Surely this can’t be right,’ I thought, as I approached the 7100 south (née Rolling Rd.) interchange. The signs that should have said 7100 south still didn’t; in fact, the signs still said that 7100 was ending. To much fanfare and local media coverage, the highway had supposedly been finished and opened over a week ago! According to the Washington Post, the ribbon cutting and opening of the last segment of 7100 was scheduled for September 13. There was still work to do on the ‘trubutary’ roads around it, said the Post, but the main thoroughfare would be open. I had decided to go this way today mainly to try out the new connector. ‘Maybe,’ I thought, ‘they just haven’t updated the signs yet.’
Sadly, no. The signs were painfully accurate. When I got on Rolling Rd., I found that not only was the new segment of 7100 south not open to traffic, but Rolling Rd. had been closed too and detoured onto other nearby streets. Highway workers were out (on a Saturday!) working to finish and connect the parkway, but they weren’t done yet. The Virginia Dept. of Transportation, Fairfax County, and the Post lied to us. Worse, the authorities had not bothered to provide any kind of 7100 detour to lead us through to the finished parts of the highway to the south.
In a testament to logical consistency, I learned that the northbound lanes actually were open. I came back that way, and it was nice (although the Post understated the situation; the main lanes were basically done but a lot of the connecting roads looked like they were just started a week ago). The southbound lanes, however, were missing giant hunks of pavement at the Fullerton Rd. interchange and again where it should split with Rolling Rd. If those lanes were ‘open to traffic’ at any point, they were ‘open’ by being detoured onto the northbound lanes or somewhere else. More likely, the darn thing still hasn’t really been opened at all. The road doesn’t count as ‘open’ until it carries two-way traffic, you know, like a highway does.
One thing was completely done, however . . . there were some nice, big, obnoxious signs declaring that the incomplete mess of a highway was “Putting america to work: Project funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.”
I’m not bothered, in truth, by the fact that the road isn’t done. I’m bothered by the fact they said it was when it isn’t. Tell the truth, people!