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Development


Three big urban planning efforts that will transform Northern Virginia

As 2016 kicks into gear, big plans are in the works to remake Old Town North in Alexandria, Reston Town Center, and Arlington's Lee Highway. In each jurisdiction, there are equally big questions about where housing will fit into future development.


Photo by Rocky A on Flickr.

All three are happening within the framework of last year's local election campaigns, with lagging economies, rising housing costs, growing poverty in the suburbs, and the question of where our jobs will sleep at night. Will 2015's campaign rhetoric translate into places that are affordable, accessible, and walkable, with amenities that can be enjoyed by all in the community?

Alexandria

Alexandria's Old Town North (OTN) Small Area Plan will be an update to the original, which came out in 1992. The goals of the plan are to create a sense of place with innovative architecture, design, and open space, while respecting existing residential neighborhoods. The plan will maintain views of the river and ensure public access to water activities, and promote walkability and accessibility to open space.

Existing city plans, namely the 1974 master plan and the Plan for the Redevelopment of the Alexandria Waterfront, will inform specific recommendations for the new SAP.


Alexandria's Old Town waterfront. Photo by brownpau on Flickr.

Regarding housing, there are 340 committed, affordable public housing units owned by Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) in Old Town North. There are no market-affordable units nor are there any affordable rental set-aside units from market-rate developers located in this study area.

What to look for: How proactive will the city be in promoting more housing that's affordable and accessible? Which tools will it use to achieve the housing goals identified in the city's housing master plan? What role will density play? Will the OTN community support the redevelopment of Hopkins-Tancil Courts and the Administrative Office Building for ARHA into higher density, mixed income developments? What role will the campaign commitment of the new mayor to slow the pace of development play in the plans for OTN?

Arlington

Summary of what's actually happening in Arlington: Redevelopment is happening along Lee Highway, and the Lee Highway Briefing Book will examine existing conditions and policies that affect the corridor between Rosslyn and East Falls Church.

The purpose of the briefing book is for data collection and research only; no redevelopment is planned at this time, but the hope is to ensure that future growth will be guided by a comprehensive vision for the corridor. The study boundaries will include all land within a quarter mile north and south of Lee Highway.


Lee Highway and Spout Run Parkway. Photo from Arlington County.

Since 2012, a coalition of civic association leaders known as the Lee Highway Alliance (LHA) has been actively engaged in conducting educational forums and walking tours, the ultimate goal being to develop a community-based vision for the corridor. The result has been growing interest and involvement in the work of the LHA.

What to look for: How will the County's need for more housing that's affordable align with the visioning sessions led by the civic associations? As redevelopment occurs, will Arlington be successful in putting housing that's affordable in geographically diverse places? The newly adopted Affordable Housing Master Plan calls for the Lee Highway corridor to be one of those places. What are the challenges to providing additional housing posed by this narrowly defined commercial area abutting established single-family residential neighborhoods?

Fairfax

In Fairfax, Reston Town Center North will redevelop a 49-acre area of irregularly-shaped parcels north of Reston Town Center. The concept plan envisions creating eight block parcels with a grid of streets and a mix of uses "improving the current county services, integrating them into a new mixed-use community with housing, shops, restaurants, and a publicly-accessible central green open space."

This redevelopment takes advantage of a number of large employers and retail and restaurant opportunities located there, as well as proximity to the future Reston Town Center Metro station, creating additional opportunities to live/work/play in this popular and desirable location.


Rendering from Fairfax County.

County leaders are working with the community to refine objectives for the site. In addition to redeveloping the existing county facilities, other possible public uses could include transitional housing for people moving out of the homeless shelter that's there, additional affordable housing, an indoor recreation center or swimming pool, a performing arts center, and community meeting rooms.

Redevelopment plans will move forward in two phases. The first phase calls for the redevelopment of the 6.65 acres just south of Bowman Towne Drive where the library and shelter are currently located. These parcels, known as Blocks 7 and 8 (and which the county owns), are planned for mixed-use development that would include the proposed replacement library and shelter, as well as new affordable housing. The county will be seeking redevelopment partners for these block developments.

The county and Inova will jointly pursue rezoning of the remaining parcels, and then negotiate a full development agreement for swapping land at the conclusion of the rezoning, building the common infrastructure, and establishing easements. Future development of individual blocks would require separate, subsequent rezoning actions.

What to look for: Will the recent collapse of the Lake Anne redevelopment plan inform the county's thinking with regard to selecting a development partner? Will the county use this opportunity to address stated goals in the Housing Blueprint, especially regarding permanent supportive housing and housing for families at lower income levels?

A version of this post is also up on the Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance's website.

Roads


A lot more people will ride Metro (and not drive) if the FBI makes a smart choice on where to move

Our region has been discussing where the FBI will move for years. A new analysis shows the choice is between a good option (Greenbelt), a mostly-good option (Springfield), and a pretty terrible option (Landover). Let's hope the federal government makes the right call.


Photo by Tim Evanson on Flickr.

The FBI wants to leave its aging headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue, and many in the District would not be sad to see it go. The FBI, like other security-related agencies, wants a high-security fortress with impenetrable walls and what amounts to a moat. That's not ideal in downtown DC, where shops, restaurants, condominiums, and top-tier office space are all in high demand. The block-size dead zone that is the Hoover Building in its current state is bad enough.

The current FBI site does have it's upsides: it's near every single Metro line and countless buses, and since it's in the center of the region it's not very far from anyone. A new site near the Beltway, like the three finalists, all will force longer commutes on at least some people, and push more people to drive, increasing traffic.

How much traffic, however, depends very much on how close the site is to Metro. Build a new headquarters next to a Metro station and near bus lines, and many people will use it; force people to take a shuttle bus, and many fewer will bother.

The more people ride Metro, the better for all of us

Even residents who have no ties to the FBI should care deeply about this important decision. Metro is struggling from low ridership that is squeezing its budget, thanks to maintenance woes, cuts in federal transit benefits, management failures, safety fears, and much more. Our region needs a healthy Metro system to move the hordes of commuters that traverse the region every day.

One of the best ways to strengthen Metro is to use "reverse commute" capacity. Trains are the same size and number going both in and out of downtown, of course; if they're full going in but empty going out, that's a lot of wasted capacity. Large employment centers at outer stations, like at Medical Center, Suitland, and now with the Silver Line, Tysons Corner, drive that reverse traffic. Plus, research has shown that people feel much more willing to use the train if the office is very close to a transit station; a short to medium drive, walk, or bike ride is more palatable from home to the train than on the other end.

No shuttle at Greenbelt; a long shuttle at Landover

According to the recently-released Environmental Impact Statement, an FBI headquarters at Greenbelt could mean up to 47% of workers, or 5,170 people a day, could ride Metro, and they would mostly be using the extra space on reverse peak direction Green Line trains. There would only be 3,600 parking spaces, meaning at most only 3,600 more cars on the Beltway and other roads.

A site in Springfield, Virginia, is almost as good; the station is 0.3 miles from the potential site, and the General Services Administration estimates there would need to be a shuttle, though many people would not need it; this is similar to the distances at Suitland, where there is a bus but many people walk. The EIS predicts 4,070 riders, or 37% of workers, take Metro, and also 3,600 spaces.

Landover, meanwhile, is far, far worse. That site is 1.9 miles from Metro, much too far for walking and forcing everyone to ride a shuttle (which would also take longer, naturally). The EIS estimates only 19% of people ride Metro and a need for 7,300 parking spaces, or about double the added traffic.

These Metro mode share estimates do seem too high—all of them, but definitely Landover. According to public ridership data from WMATA, the Suitland and New Carrollton office parks are getting about 10% of workers riding Metro. It strains credulity that 19% of FBI workers would ride a shuttle to a site 2 miles from the station when 10% don't do the same for a much shorter half mile trip.


Suitland. Photo by Elvert Barnes on Flickr.

Will everyone who can't park take Metro?

Why the discrepancy? The methodology assumes strict limits on parking based on the National Capital Planning Commission's policies. NCPC limits parking to one space per three employees at federal facilities outside DC but within 2,000 feet of a Metro station, and one space per 1.5 employees farther from Metro. That's a very progressive policy that pushes federal agencies to help their employees get to work in ways other than solo driving.

The EIS assumes anyone who can't park will ride Metro, except for a carpool/vanpool rate based on similar federal installations of 10-11%. But will the FBI obey? The National Institutes of Health, right at a Metro station, has been resisting NCPC's policy; the FBI surely has even greater clout if it wanted to build massive amounts of parking. And even if it didn't, it seems doubtful that the lack of parking, while a strong motivating force, would push 19% of employees onto Metro and then a long shuttle ride.

Regardless, it's clear that a choice for Greenbelt or Springfield would help the FBI have a positive impact on Metro's health and minimize the traffic effects, while Landover would do the opposite. Because there are more jobs on the west side of the region than the east, the Beltway and other roads similarly have extra capacity going east, which is one of several reasons why adding jobs to Prince George's County also will strengthen our region.

The federal government may ignore all of the impacts on other commuters and our region's transportation systems when making the decision about a site, but drivers, Metro riders, and just all taxpayers whose dollars help fund the roads and rails should hope the choice is a wise one.

Transit


Rapid buses or light rail are coming to Leesburg Pike

Imagine faster, more reliable transit zipping along its own lane without cars down Leesburg Pike between Tysons and Alexandria, connecting thousands of people to jobs, schools, shopping and entertainment. Planners in Northern Virginia are taking a serious look at how to make that happen.


Image from Envision Route 7.

Also called Route 7, Leesburg Pike is a major state road that stretches from Winchester to Alexandria in Virginia. Retail stores and job centers are growing more common along the route, particularly where it hits Tysons Corner. That's brought more congestion, which makes the stretch of Leesburg Pike between Tysons and Alexandria an ideal place for new transit.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, which plans and funds transit in the area, has launched Envision Route 7, a study that will look at potential new transit options.

Northern Virginia is expected to see a lot of population and job growth between now and 2040. Route 7, with its old commercial centers, is a place that can handle the growth. Places all along the route like Tysons, Falls Church, Seven Corners, Bailey's Crossroads and the West End of Alexandria are trying to attract more companies and jobs and also make commuting easier. At the same time, they are taking significant steps to improve walking, biking and become more transit-friendly. This new proposed transit service plays a vital role to accomplish these goals.

There are a few options for transit along Route 7

NVTC has proposed three new transit service options. They are:

  • Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), which is a faster bus with rail-like features like big stations. It operates on the street, either in the center median or along the curb, and sometimes in its own lane with no cars.

  • Light Rail Transit (LRT), which, like BRT, can operate on the street, either in the center median or along the curb. Most often, LRT has its own lane with no cars. One issue with LRT is that it needs a power source, usually from an overhead electric wire. Also, LRT can carry more people than BRT, but it's correspondingly more expensive.

  • Better bus service, which planners frequently refer to as "Enhanced Bus." That would simply mean additional buses that would replace Metro's 28A and 28x currently serving Route 7

Whatever option ultimately goes in will be a more modern, frequent, and faster way of traveling along Route 7 than what's currently there. Overall, the goal is for it to take a lot less time to get from Tysons Corner to Alexandria along Route 7 than it does now.

For example, the study is looking at the new transit service having daily and weekend service every 10-minutes at peak hours and every 15-minutes during the off-peak, and operating 18 to 22 hours per day. To increase transit's efficiency, there would be kiosks to pay for trips in advance and allow boarding from all-doors, not just the front one.

The actual route new transit takes is TBD

The route the new service will travel is not completely decided yet. In fact, new bus or rail may not travel exclusively along Route 7. There are three different options for the new transit's specific route, each depending on which service (specifically BRT or LRT).

This interactive map shows different potential paths. One of the following routes will be selected:

  • Tysons to the Van Dorn Street Metro station via East Falls Church Metro station. This would work for either BRT or LRT. This route would go from Tysons Corner down Route 7, turn in the City of Falls Church on Lee Highway toward the East Falls Church Metro station, and then continue on to Van Dorn Street station.

  • Tysons to King Street Metro station via East Falls Church Metro station (BRT only); The route would essentially be the same as above, except continue on Route 7 directly to the King Street Metro station.

  • Tysons to Van Dorn Street Metro station (BRT only), staying on Route 7 until Beauregard Street before heading to the Van Dorn Metro station. This route would bypass the East Falls Church Metro Station.

One of the routes could take the transit directly through the City of Falls Church along Route 7 (it's called Broad Street there) in the direction of Seven Corners. This is a residential street. Because Broad Street has only two lanes in each direction, it would be difficult to have transit in a car-free lane. Another uncertainty would be whether this community would ask for additional stops along this segment. Currently, no stops are proposed for this segment.

On the other side of Route 7, between Janneys Lane and King Street Metro Station, the road narrows again with only one lane in each direction, again making it difficult for transit to be in a car-free lane. Similarly, the community could ask for additional stops, which would slow down the travel time of transit.

For these reasons, it would not be surprising if the new transit service route traveled down Route 7, headed toward the East Falls Church Metro Station, returned to Route 7 in Seven Corners and then turn down Beauregard Street toward the Van Dorn Metro Station

What about transit stops and stations?

The number and location of stops also depend on which new service (again BRT or LRT) and route are chosen. The possibilities are:

  • 15 transit stops if BRT or LRT is the chosen service and the route is between Tysons Corner and Van Dorn Street Metro station via East Falls Church Metrorail station. Possible stops include Spring Hill Metro, Gallows Rd, Route 50, Beauregard Street, Mark Center, Duke Street, etc.

  • 13 transit stops if BRT is the chosen service and the route is between Tysons Corner and King Street Metro via East Falls Church Metrorail station. Possible stops include Spring Hill Metro, Gallows Rd, Route 50, Park Center and Quaker Lane

  • 14 transit stops if BRT is the chosen service and the route is between Tysons Corner and Van Dorn Street Metro station (but bypasses the East Falls Church Metro). The stops would be the same as the first one but without East Falls Church.

What's happening now?

The NVTC is making all this information and more available to the public. At this point, no decisions over the type of transit or the route or the stops are final. Everything is still under discussion. In fact, NVTC is holding forums this month to discuss everything about the project, including the transit service and the route. The last forum is on November 18.

But they will also have key ridership information and a better idea of the cost of the new transit service. That is a good thing. Not only should the transit service be good, reliable and robust, who will ride it and how much it costs are important factors in its success.


Development


New developments at Reston Town Center North are closer to breaking ground

Plans are underway for redeveloping the library and homeless shelter that sit on the 50-acre plot north of Reston Town Center. These sites are the first part of a project that aims to build a new street grid with a central park, mixed-use buildings with housing, and a rec center.


The Reston Regional Library will soon get a makeover. Photo from the Reston Association.

To refresh your memory, the boundaries of the fifty-acre area are Reston Hospital on Town Center Parkway to the west, Fountain Drive to the east, Baron Cameron Avenue to the north, and New Dominion Parkway to the south.

The current area will be divided into nine blocks, with a central park of more than two acres. The county will handle redeveloping six of the segments and Inova will develop blocks 2, 4 and 6 separately, which currently has an assisted living facility and a freestanding emergency room.

The only proposed plans to date are the ones from the county for its lots.

The first phase (blocks 7 and 8) will affect the Reston Regional Library and the Embry Rucker Shelter. The Public-Private Partnerships Branch of the Fairfax's Department of Public Works and Environmental Services rolled out a general use plan for the blocks at a meeting last week. The estimated (and optimistic) timeline is to complete the project by 2023.


Rendering from Fairfax County.

Reston Regional Library will be bigger

The proposed replacement library will be 9,000 square feet larger than the existing one, making it one of the largest in the region's library system. In September, residents voiced concerns that the library would get smaller.

The mixed-use building, which will house the library on the ground floor (and perhaps a second level if needed), is expected to have underground parking and also 4,000 square feet for "village model" services such as meeting rooms and space for nonprofit organizations. Additional library redesign suggestions include: enclosed tutoring spaces, separate child and teen areas, a computer lab and flex-use space.


Brainstorming session from the November 4th community meeting. Photo by the author.

The area's homeless shelter will reach more people

The proposed replacement shelter will increase capacity from 70 beds to 90, and will include a new hypothermia center. Per the county meeting handout, "an additional 28,000 square feet [of space] is being considered for use by nonprofits or other entities that are under contract to provide County services."

Residents at the November community meeting recommended making the facility a 24-hour shelter with new daytime and youth programming. One idea I liked was the addition of an onsite thrift shop. Attendees of one breakout group pointed out that shelter residents would need transportation to and from the Reston Metro station.

Some residents thought it might better to locate the new shelter in the other blocks of the redevelopment. This would provide a better co-location with other social services in the area to assist individuals and families improve their quality of living through the Fairfax County Human Services Department and North County Health Center.

The project will include housing, some of it below market rate

The redevelopment will also include retail, office space, and housing. Right now, it looks like there will be between 360 and 420 market-rate housing units, around 50 affordable units, and about 30 supportive housing units, which will transition people out of the shelter..

The amount of office space will likely range from 270,000 to 340,000 square feet depending on the final design plan.

The affordable housing units will be split between residents who make 50% of the area median income (33%) and 65% of the AMI (67%). While the number of apartments might not seem huge, it is a good first step in an area of Reston where new condos can start at $2,040.

Here are some details on the next phase

While it wasn't the main focus of the November community meeting, Fairfax County solicited residents for ideas for the overall development.

A common theme among the four breakout groups of attendees was the need better and safer way to get around by walking. One attendee even recommended that vehicle traffic be put underground. Another wanted to add an underpass to connect the complex to Trader Joe's on the other side of the busy Baron Cameron Avenue.

Other suggestions included a performing arts center, flex space for startups, and rooftop decks. Attendees said they don't want skyscrapers on the property.

Part of Phase 2 will be a 90,000 square foot RECenter developed by the Fairfax County Park Authority; however, there is currently no timeline for this project. Andrew Miller, Project Coordinator from the Public-Private Partnerships Branch of the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services, said the county hopes to be in the final design phase of the project by 2018. Rezoning, the RFP process and development agreements will proceed the design and permit process. Once into construction, the county estimates a 36- to 42-month timeframe.

You can submit questions via email to restontowncenternorth@fairfaxcounty.gov, and you can follow this development at fairfaxcounty.gov/dpwes/restontowncenternorth.

Bicycling


Capital Bikeshare is coming to Reston!

Reston is getting its first Capital Bikeshare stations, including spots at both the Wiehle and the coming Reston Town Center Metro stops. The network will make it a lot easier to get between the area's transportation hubs and its employment, retail, and community spaces.


The bike room at the Wiehle Metro Station. Photo by FCDOT.

Bikeshare facilities are a staple transportation option in parts of DC and other parts of the region, but there aren't any in Reston right now. Fairfax County's transportation department plans is contracting with CaBit to install thirteen stations at locations that include Plaza America, the Bluemont Transit Center, the Reston Regional Library and Reston Hospital. Between all the stations, 130 bikes will be available to rent.

The system will connect residents and visitors to employment, transportation, and shopping districts. In the specific case of getting between Wiehle and Reston Metro stations, which are a mile apart, bikeshare will provide an easy link.


The CaBi stations Fairfax's transportation department has proposed for Reston. Image from FCDOT.

At a recent community meeting, Fairfax Transportation Department Bicycle Program Coordinator Adam Lind said the hope is to have the stations in place by late 2016 or early 2017. That's contingent, though, on the Fairfax County DOT tapping its Federal Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) funds for all the capital construction.

The Transportation Alternatives Program provides federal funding to projects other than traditional highway construction. Eligible projects include bicycle and pedestrian facilities, complete streets and safe routes to schools. The funding is typically split 80 percent Federal and 20 percent State or local match from the sponsoring organization. Related to CaBi in Reston, TAP funds would help with building the concrete station pads and purchase the bicycles.

If FCDOTuses a combination of local and federal funds, the stations might arrive sooner. Splitting funding would allow the county to start building the concrete pads with local funds, which typically has a faster approval. The TAP funds would be used to purchase the equipment. Also, some of the sites will require coordination and approval from private landowners, like the proposed station at Reston Hospital.

There is already a potential built-in user base. It was surprising to learn that there are currently around 1300 Capital Bikeshare members in Fairfax County. The county is also considering expanding to the Herndon Metro station. And the system has the potential to grow through systems in Tysons, Merrifield and even Falls Church.

I asked if there was any concern about placing at a site currently under redevelopment, like Reston Town Center North, only to have it soon removed. Lind explained that the concrete pads that are the foundation of the stations can be relocated as needed depending on construction or usage patterns. A fun fact: the pads are 41 feet in length (You'll thank me on trivia night.)

One person at the meeting commented about the current state of the trail infrastructure, which ranges from good to fair. He asked it there would be any improvements. Lind mentioned that they are working to get money from funds already set aside for area Metro improvements.

The next steps include ridership and financial analyses along with the final bike site designations. Updates will be posted to the bikeshare website. You can also submit questions or concerns to Lind at Adam.Lind@fairfaxcounty.gov.

Roads


Virginia candidates wrongly criticize plans to toll I-66

Many candidates in Virginia's election next week are criticizing plans to add tolls along with a new lane to I-66 inside the Beltway. But, and this is going to shock you, many of the things they are saying are wrong.


Photo by William F. Yurasko on Flickr.

VDOT's plan would change I-66 inside the Beltway from HOV-2, where there are two lanes reserved (during rush hours) only for cars with two people, to HOT-3, where users would pay a toll unless there are three people in the car.

The plan would also improve bus transit in the area and enhance the bicycle and pedestrian system.

Some examples of what candidates are saying, from Dr. Gridlock, are below:

  • Oct. 19 posting by Loudoun County Republican Jeanine Martin on the Bull Elephant blog: "Governor McAuliffe and the Democrats propose transforming one HOV-2 lane along I-66 into a $17 toll lane. And the tolls won't be used for road improvements; commuters would pay for bike paths and subsidizing mass transit. People in Loudoun would be paying for bike paths in Arlington and their Metro."
  • From the campaign Web site of House Del. Dave LaRock (R-Loudoun): "The revenue from this tolling plan isn't slated to improve I-66 or relieve the massive traffic congestion that Northern Virginia struggles with. Governor McAuliffe's proposed tolls are going to 'multimodal transportation' projects—that means Metro subsidies and bike paths among other things." The message includes links to Bike Arlington to illustrate "the kind of effort Arlington County goes to to force people onto 'car diets' and spend taxpayer money to promote biking!"
  • Manassas Mayor Harry J. "Hal" Parrish II (R), candidate for state Senate in the 29th District, has a 30-second ad in which he says: "The Richmond politicians are at it again. They want us to pay $17 just to drive on I-66 inside the Beltway Elect me, and we'll put a stop sign on any new toll on a road that you already paid for."
  • House Majority Whip Jackson Miller (R-Manassas) said this in an Oct. 1 statement issued by GOP leaders in the General Assembly: "Asking commuters from Prince William, Manassas, Fairfax and Loudoun to pay such an outrageous amount for the privilege of sitting in the same unmoving lanes of traffic so Arlington can have nice new bike paths is unconscionable. Drivers who use both I-66 and the Dulles Toll Road could be stuck with $9,000 per year in fees. Governor McAuliffe's plan is a nonstarter."
Martin claims that the tolls won't be used for road improvements, and that is mostly true. What is not true is that they would pay for bike lanes and subsidizing mass transit.

In the report, toll revenue (about $12 million) would be used to offset operating costs for the HOT lanes ($1-$2 million), and the revenue may be used to fund operation costs of transit and bike and pedestrian programs if there is sufficient revenue. And even that is "dependent upon jurisdiction-level constraints on modal application."

It's likely to happen, but it's all a bit of a shell game, and even if tolling can pay for the capital and operating costs of the tolling, it's not expected to be sufficient to cover the transit operations as well, let alone bike and pedestrian projects, Transportation Demand Management, and Integrated Corridor Management.

Approximately $29 million in capital expenditures are required to implement tolling and it has been assumed that toll revenue will, at a minimum, completely offset the cost of operating the tolling system. Approximately $5 million in capital expenditures are necessary to implement the transit program included in the package, with an ongoing $23 million per year operating cost. Later in this section, priorities are offered for bicycle/pedestrian, TDM, and ICM improvements. The full complement of these improvements, included in all packages, is estimated to cost as follows: bicycle and pedestrian, $42 million capital; TDM, $5 million per year operating cost; and ICM, $6 million capital, $1 million per year operating cost....A conservative estimate of $24 million in annual revenue was calculated, determined solely by multiplying the tolls assumed in the model to maintain the LOS C/D level of traffic on I-66 by the number of non-HOV 3+ vehicles forecast to use the facility.
But the toll revenue would be about half as much, the study concluded, if tolling were only done during peak periods—as is now being proposed.

It's also not entirely true there won't be any road improvements since there will be dynamic merge/junction control, traveler information improvements and a future widening study. Also, this plan dates back to 2012, which means it's not really Governor McAuliffe's.

When LaRock says that money from the tolling isn't slated to relieve traffic congestion, he's wrong, and he's ignoring the other goals of the project. By paying for tolling, transit, TDM, ICM and bike/ped projects, the complete multi-modal package is expected to bring down congestion as a percentage of vehicle miles traveled (though total congestion will go up, as there will be more users) when compared to the baseline.

In other words, more people will deal with congestion, but each person will have fewer congested miles.

But despite what Miller says, the tolls will not pay for nice new bike paths in Arlington. Most off those paths are already in the plans, and they will likely be paid for by the same sources they were going to be paid for otherwise. But there will not be a straight payment from toll revenue to Arlington bike paths. People will be tolled and revenue gained (theoretically) and then bike paths will be built. But one does not do the other. In fact, in alternatives without tolling, the same bike/ped projects are still recommended.

In addition, right now no one pays these tolls because no one can. If you want to drive on I-66 inside the beltway in an single-occupancy vehicle, you can forget about it. Under the VDOT plan, you'd have the option of paying the toll. As Dr. Gridlock writes, if you don't want to pay them, "You could just keep doing what you're doing." If you're already "sitting in the same unmoving lanes," you won't have to pay because you must already be an HOV user.

I've probably covered this before, since it's three years old, but just to rehash it, many of the bicycle and pedestrian enhancements in the report come from existing plans in the area and others come from stakeholder inputs or identified needs.

The report includes 60 bike/ped projects which include trail improvements to the Mt.Vernon, Custis, Four Mile Run, W&OD, Route 110, Washington Blvd and Arlington Blvd Trails; connector trails; bike facilities added to the Route 27 bridge over Route 110 and the Meade Bridge; bikeshare expansion and parking additions along the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor and in Falls Church; Rosslyn Circle improvements, including a tunnel; bike lanes; and bike parking at Metro Stations. The list is too long to go into, so if curious, you should check it out starting on page 3-76 of the report.


Image from VDOT.

They assigned a benefit for each of these projects and those that rated the highest were (and some others just of interest):

  • Widen the Mount Vernon shared-use trail between the Roosevelt Island Bridge over the George Washington Memorial Parkway and the Four Mile Run Trail
  • Construct a trail to link the sidewalk along the south side of the Roosevelt Bridge directly to the Mount Vernon Trail
  • Renovate Custis trail sections with asphalt cracking and washout, and, where feasible, widen the Custis Trail to 12 feet.
  • Construct a 10-foot wide sidepath from City of Fairfax to existing Arlington Boulevard trail in Arlington (may include some use of existing frontage roads)
  • Improve the Arlington Boulevard trail from Taft Street to Fort Myer Drive and from Pershing to Queen.
  • Construct sidepath on west side of Arlington Boulevard from Washington Boulevard to North Fairfax Drive
  • Rehabilitate Arlington Boulevard Trail from Glebe Road to Park Drive
  • Construct a short segment of Mount Vernon trail between North Randolph Street and the Fairfax line, following an existing sanitary sewer easement near Pimmit Run. Extend the Mount Vernon Trail from its current terminus at Theodore Roosevelt Island using existing trails, bicycle lanes, and proposed bicycle lanes in Arlington.
  • Build bicycle/pedestrian crossing of Beltway from George C. Marshall Drive to Tysons Executive Court
The highest priority projects were Capital Bikeshare expansion and bike parking in they R-B Corridor and near select Metro Stations.

A version of this post originally ran on TheWashCycle.

Roads


A new bridge over the Dulles Toll Road will mean more Metro access and development in Reston

Soon, Reston is going to have another bridge that crosses over the Dulles Toll Road. Called the Soapstone Connector, the bridge will make it easier to get to the Wiehle Metro station, and will pave the way for new mixed-use developments nearby.


Image from Google Maps.

In 2008, Reston and Fairfax County decided there would need to be more ways to access the future station than those that currently exist. The plan is to extend Soapstone Drive across the Toll Road, linking two popular commuter routes: Sunrise Valley Drive and Sunset Hills Road.

Fairfax's transportation department did a feasibility study in 2012, and it's currently collecting data and considering options for exactly how and where they'll build the bridge. A final decision on the design isn't expected until an environmental assessment is finished this time next year, and estimates are that construction could start as early as 2018 depending on funding and other factors.


A Fairfax County DOT project information board used at the Monday 26th feedback meeting. Photo by the author.

A bridge will make Metro more accessible, which will attract development

According to Fairfax's transportation department, the project's purpose is to provide more options for multiple types of transportation to travel north and south around Wiehle Avenue, which should cut Wiehle's and Reston Parkway's congestion.

One specific goal is to make it easy for buses to travel across the Toll Road and to the Wiehle-Reston Metro station without having to travel on Wiehle. The county also hopes to make it easier and safer for people to walk or bike to the Metro station.

A number of developments, both current and planned for the future, benefit from there being a new way to cross over the Toll Road and get to Metro.

On the Sunrise Valley side of the Toll Road, there is the Reston National Golf Course and the association enclave. The golf course owners want to redevelop all or a portion of their land. The developing "Reston Heights" complex is also a short distance to the west.

On the Sunset Hills side, the Soapstone Connector bridge will provide additional transportation options for the burgeoning multi-use development, Reston Station.

The new road may also provide easier access to the Plaza America shopping center to the west. In the future, perhaps there could be a connection to the W&OD bike trail on the other side of Sunset Hills.

Residents have concerns about traffic and bike trails

Fairfax held a public information meeting on the project on Monday night. Attendees voiced concerns about the project's impact on an increasingly busy road network. One gentleman called the project a "necessary enhancement," but also said he was worried the studies did not consider the effect on the surrounding neighborhoods.

A FCDOT contractor replied that community comments would steer the county's approach to mitigating these indirect impacts.

Many voiced worries about traffic as well, asking why the bridge would only have three vehicle lanes. There was also mention of 22,000 planned residential units being built near the area.


A Fairfax County DOT project information board used at the Monday 26th feedback meeting. Photo by the author.

A FCDOT representative informed the group that there is a current Reston Network Analysis underway to "evaluate the conceptual grids of streets and road elements at gateways to the Reston Transit Station Areas."

One Restonian wondered the same thing I'm wondering: will there be any connection to the W&OD trail?

Unfortunately, this project will not be developing another access point to the trail across Sunset Hills Road. However, there is a new crosswalk at the intersection of Metro Center Drive, Sunset Hills, and Issac Newton Square.

Citizens may submit their comments and questions regarding this phase of the project to Audra K. Bandy at audra.bandy@fairfaxcounty.gov through November 6th.

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