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Fairfax County Split Over Route 1 Progress

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A sign marking a junction with U.S. Route 1 in Fairfax County.
William F. Yurasko (http://www.flickr.com/photos/wfyurasko/3711698304/)
A sign marking a junction with U.S. Route 1 in Fairfax County.

Is U.S. Route 1 improving? A new survey of 900 residents shows that the vast majority of respondents think the road, which many call Richmond Highway in Northern Virginia, is getting better — by a 2-to-1 margin.

"If you ask 10 people what they want on Richmond Highway, you are going to get 20 different answers," says David Ben, director of communications for the Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation, a public-private partnership designed to promote economic development along the Route 1 corridor. "But that's a good thing. It demonstrates there's high demand for what can go on here."

High demand, but not necessarily agreement. Businessman Kahan Dhillon says revitalization on Richmond Highway is "lagging behind, and has been for decades."

Dhillon and others are concerned about what they call the lethargic pace of change on the traffic-clogged corridor, especially compared to other corridors that have seen more action in recent years.

"Well, you know, you look at Tysons Corner, Merrifield, Springfield, you see dirt moving," Dhillon says. "You see light rail. You see new streets being paved. And we are in a state of affairs where we are only getting further constrained as each day passes."

Dhillon says they would like to see mixed-use urban development rather than the Walmart that recently opened, or the Costco that's expected to open soon. Instead of big box stores with large suburban parking lots, they would like to see mixed-use development and light rail. But Ben says that's what the market is calling for.

"We have big box, suburban model stores, but we also have high-density, mixed-use developments," says Ben. "We're seeing a little bit of demand for each of those at the moment."

In the coming years, residents and county leaders in this part of Fairfax County are going to need to make a decision about what kind of community they want to live in, a suburban enclave with large parking lots, or an urban landscape with transit. For now, residents here are getting a bit of both.

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