Arlington plan will define streets for people
Arlington's almost-complete Master Transportation Plan has the capability to reshape the county foremost by recognizing that streets need to serve people on all modes of transportation, not just cars.
For the past several years, Arlington County has been working on a new comprehensive Master Transportation Plan. Arlington first adopted its goals and policies in 2007 and has adopted additional elements over the last 3 years. Now the Plan is approaching completion with the anticipated adoption of the streets element early next year.
Arlington already has a "complete streets" policy, which has animated the development of its Master Transportation Plan. For instance, the pedestrian and bicycle components envision completion of the respective networks, increasing use and safety, and integrating the various modes of transportation.
The streets element, however, may ultimately prove to be the most significant facet of the Plan.
The introduction to the draft streets section places Arlington's complete streets policy front and center:
The street is where every element of transportation must be addressed and accommodated: pedestrians, transit, bicycles, passenger vehicles, trucks, and parking. It is also where many other aspects of public life take place, including displaying civic pride, setting the tone for public life and commerce, providing space for vegetation, and providing storm water management. The street binds and enhances a community so that the public thoroughfares serve it.The draft eschews the acquisition of substantial new right-of-way or road-widening efforts. Instead, it proposes to more efficiently and effectively use the transportation options and resources available. In addition, it aims to enhance the viability of multiple transportation options.
The draft plan also offers several recommendations with respect to "limited access highways" such as Arlington Boulevard, the GW Parkway, and Interstates 66 and 395. These recommendations include several designed to encourage high-occupancy vehicle use, such as increasing the hours HOV restrictions are in effect, increased bus usage, use of "intelligent transportation systems" as well as consideration of variable-occupancy toll lanes and congestion pricing.
By envisioning expanded pedestrian and bicycle access to bridges, the proposal will have the effect of encouraging additional alternatives to commuting by motor vehicle.
The new "typology" of streets will guide the redesign and rebuilding of arterial streets. In particular, the draft proposes six arterial street designations. The plan anticipates that placing arterial streets into these categories will help the County achieve its goal of complete streets by more clearly identifying how particular streets fit into the overall transportation network.
The draft also provides a typology for local streets, with specific design criteria. It contemplates the criteria and appropriateness of pedestrian-oriented streets. Such streets are "characterized by shared use of the entire street area by motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists."
Overall, the draft streets element is clearly driven by the County's previously adopted general policies, including the strong support of a complete streets policy. It is only fitting that the County complete its own Master Transportation Plan with the streets element.
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