The county Planning Commission has given its approval to the land use applications needed to develop an elementary school on property next to J. Michael Lunsford Middle School along Braddock Road.
The school, known as ES-21, last week received unanimous support from the commission for a two-story, 105,000-square-foot building designed to house 875 students beginning in fall 2014. In addition to the school building there would be parking for about 50 buses and a soccer field and softball field to the west of the school building.
The property would have two access points—a primary one on Bull Run Post Office Road and secondary access through a shared point with Lunsford on Braddock Road.
To accommodate the increased traffic from buses, staff and parents, Loudoun County Public Schools has agreed to build several transportation improvements. They are extending the southbound left turn land on Loudoun County Parkway; installing a traffic signal and crosswalk at Braddock and Bull Run Post Office roads; building a five-foot sidewalk along Braddock Road and the site entrance; and improving Bull Run Post Office Road from Braddock Road to the site entrance and another 100 feet beyond from its existing unpaved condition. The Bull Run Post Office Road improvements will include a southbound right turn lane at the school entrance, a northbound left turn lane, a northbound through lane, and a northbound right turn lane at the intersection with Braddock Road.
Commissioners continued to question why a crosswalk could not be installed across Braddock Road at First Frost Way, which they said is where children will be inclined to cross and maintaining that pedestrians would not likely walk to the main intersection to cross. But the Sarah Howard O’Brien from Loudoun County Public Schools said that the Virginia Department of Transportation would not consider such an improvement.
“The state is hesitant to put a temporary crosswalk, a sometimes crosswalk on a street, particularly a commuter road like Braddock Road where the majority of the time the traffic is a free flow,” she said. “If you put up a crosswalk or signal for crossing children it would only be part of the year. It would be a pattern that the driver is not accustomed to. When that pattern changes, it can lead to accidents. In the case of pedestrians, that can be a very serious situation.”
She said it is not the first time such a situation has been raised around school construction, but that the answer from VDOT is always the same and the main concern is safety.
“This is a facility that needs to open and needs to open quickly,” Commissioner Jeff Salmon (Dulles) said, noting the “existing schools are bursting at the seams. The actual intent is getting this school moved up and opened a year earlier than planned.”