Joan Morris 703-259-1799

Jennifer McCord 703-259-1779


Sept. 22, 2011

Losing travel lanes but gaining safety, mobility for cyclists and motorists

RESTON — Next month, Soapstone Drive in Reston will become the second route in northern Virginia to go on a “road diet,” as crews re-stripe a mile and a half of the road to reduce through lanes and add turn and bike lanes. The new configurations should improve safety and mobility for cyclists and pedestrians, reduce speeds, and reduce crashes by about 30 percent, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

“Here on Soapstone, we’re able to take advantage of a regularly-scheduled repaving project to change the markings at a very low cost to benefit motorists, cyclists and pedestrians,” said Randy Dittberner, VDOT regional traffic engineer. “We appreciate the input from the community at our public meeting over the summer, and the support from Fairfax County for this project.”

The Soapstone Drive road diet will result in new pavement markings along several segments:

Lawyers Road to Glade Drive (0.4 mile) – An 18-foot lane in each direction will be restriped to a 12-foot lane and 6-foot bike lane in each direction.

Existing Soapstone Drive (left) and existing and proposed markings.

Glade Drive to South Lakes Drive (0.6 mile) – Two 12-foot lanes in each direction will be restriped to an 11-foot through lane and 5-foot bike lane in each direction, and an 11-foot left turn lanes. In addition, 7 feet of paved parking will be available on the northbound side, while existing gravel parking will remain on the southbound side. Crews will add about 2 feet of pavement on the southbound side to accommodate the new configuration. The markings in this segment will accommodate a future sidewalk on the east side of Soapstone, planned for construction by Fairfax County in 2013.

Existing Soapstone Drive (left) and existing and proposed markings.

South Lakes Drive to Sunrise Valley Drive (0.9 mile) – Two 11-foot through lanes in each direction will be restriped to an 11.5-foot through lane and 5-foot bike lane in each direction, and a 12-foot left-turn lanes.

Existing Soapstone Drive (left) and existing and proposed markings.

The new pavement markings will be installed following the road’s paving, scheduled to start in late October and take about three weeks. Soapstone Drive south of Lawyers Road will also be repaved, but with no changes or new markings.

Road diets have been implemented across the country. A good candidate for a road diet project carries up to 20,000 vehicles per day. Soapstone Drive carries between 2,000 and 7,000 vehicles per day through the three segments, and can easily handle traffic volumes, even during rush hour, with just a few seconds more delay in the new configuration.

Studies of other road diets predict that crashes will drop by at least 30 percent once the road is re-striped. From 2006 to 2009, there were 39 crashes on Soapstone between Lawyers and Sunrise Valley, and VDOT engineers estimate up to 15 of those could have been avoided.  

Lawyers Road Diet Success
A similar project was completed during the routine paving of nearby Lawyers Road in 2009, reducing the road from four through lanes to two between Reston Parkway and Myrtle Lane, and restriping to include a continuous, two-way, left-turn lane down the center and a 5-foot bike lane in each direction.

Analysis of the new traffic pattern on Lawyers revealed average speeds dropped by 1 mph, vehicles traveling over 50 mph declined from 13 percent to only 1 percent of traffic, and after one year crashes had dropped by 80 percent.

A survey of 851 local motorists, residents and cyclists taken a year after the Lawyers Road diet was implemented also showed that:
    • 69 percent said the road felt safer
    • 47 percent said they cycled more on Lawyers
    • 69 percent said their car trips did not take any longer with the new configuration
    • 74 percent said the project improved Lawyers Road

See before-and-after photos of the 2009 Lawyers Road diet on VDOT’s Flickr page here.

Information in VDOT news releases was accurate at the time the release was published. For the most current information about projects or programs, please visit the project or program Web pages. You may find those by searching by keyword in the search Virginia DOT box above.

Page last modified: Oct. 17, 2012