Advancing active mobility in greater Prince William, Virginia

Category: Environmental Sustainability

Metro DC’s Car Free Day, Thursday, September 22, 2022

 

Car Free Day Metro DC, organized by the Commuter Connections program of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, is back this year on Thursday, September 22, 2022.

Use Transit, Carpool/Vanpool (Car-Lite), Bike, Scooter, Walk, or Telework
Take the pledge, even if you’re already car free.

Car Free Day is a worldwide event that encourages greener methods of travel; meaning ways to get around other than driving alone by car.  Commuter Connections hosts Car Free Day in the Washington, DC region to bring awareness to the many benefits of travel options such as transit, bicycling and walking; and also telework for people who can work from home. Carpooling and vanpooling count too; they’re considered “car-lite” since they are both lighter on the wallet and the environment than driving alone in a car.

Reduce your Carbon Footprint

Using more sustainable ways to get around helps reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions and traffic congestion. The more people who travel using bicycles, buses, trains, carpools and vanpools, the fewer pollutants are released into the atmosphere.

CHOOSE THE TRAVEL METHOD
THAT FITS YOUR MOBILITY BEST

Take the Pledge!

All are welcome to take the Car Free Day pledge whether you’re a Washington DC area resident, commuter, or student.  Once you take the Online Pledge, you’ll be automatically entered into a raffle for all sorts of great prizes. Click any of the links above, and select the travel method that fits your mobility best!

Our Final Comments on the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority’s Six-Year Program Update

On July 11, 2022, Active Prince William joined 10 other advocacy organizations around Northern Virginia to send the following joint letter to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, three days before the Authority’s scheduled adoption of a two-year update to its Six-Year Program.


Coalition for Smarter Growth | Audubon Naturalist Society | Virginia Sierra Club |
Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions | Active Prince William | Sustainable Mobility for Arlington County |
Chesapeake Climate Action Network | Prince William Conservation Alliance |
Southern Environmental Law Center | YIMBYs of Northern Virginia |
Lewinsville Faith in Action

July 11, 2022

Honorable Phyllis Randall, Chair
Northern Virginia Transportation Authority
3040 Williams Drive, Suite 200
Fairfax, VA 22031

Re: Recommendations to further improve the proposed FY 22-27 Six-Year Program and process going forward

Chair Randall and NVTA board members:

The undersigned 11 organizations offer the following comments and recommendations that we urge you to adopt for the proposed FY 22-27 Six-Year Program coming before your vote this week.  In summary:

  1. We support the overall direction taken by the staff and committees in their selections from the candidate project list to fund all transit and most station access and local complete street projects;
  2. However, we remain concerned that the slate of projects recommended for funding – and the original candidate list – show a program still too focused on road expansion;
  3. We ask for important changes to the proposed FY 22-27 funding allocations in Prince William County: fund the Old Centreville Rd Widening project (PWC-035) as an alternative to the proposed destructive Rt 28 bypass (Alt. 2B) along Flat Branch;
  4. For the next 6-year program cycle, NVTA needs to ensure that local jurisdiction project submissions better reflect adopted regional policies for climate change and equity; and
  5. NVTA’s process for the Six-Year Program should facilitate meaningful public involvement from the start, including requiring public hearings prior to local government candidate project submissions.

These points are elaborated on the following pages.

 

1. We support the overall direction taken by the staff and committees in their selections from the candidate project list.

 We applaud the selection and funding of all of the transit projects and most of the station access, local street grid and complete streets projects.

 We appreciate that many of these changes reflect attention to public feedback you received and the importance of these projects for a more sustainable and equitable future.


2. However, we remain concerned that the slate of projects recommended for funding – and the original candidate list – show a program still too focused on road expansion.

65% of the candidate project funding requested was for highway and roadway capacity expansion.

55% of the staff recommended project funding is for highway and roadway capacity expansion.

These amounts are far too much given the other regional needs for safer streets, transit access, electrification, and climate resilience as well as improving our
transit, pedestrian and bicycle networks.

 This emphasis on road expansion also ignores the reality of induced demand, that widening roads is not a medium- or long-term solution for vehicle congestion, as shown in the Coalition for Smarter Growth’s On the Wrong Road in Northern Virginia report using the RMI Shift Calculator.

 

3. We ask for these important changes to the proposed FY 22-27 funding allocations in Prince William County:

Support a better, less destructive Route 28 project in Prince William County by funding the Old Centreville Road Widening project (PWC-035) as an alternative to the Route 28 bypass (Alternative 2B) along Flat Branch. The four-laning of Old Centreville Road combined with VDOT’s recommended Centreville Road/Route 28 STARS improvement package could effectively serve as a “Modified Alternative 4” for Route 28.

   This alternative project would avoid the adverse impacts to affordable homes in a low-income minority and immigrant community from the 28 Bypass project and would be compatible with walkable, transit-accessible economic development and neighborhood livability efforts in the existing Route 28 corridor.

To accommodate this project, shift funding from other NVTA recommended Prince William projects.


4. For the next Six-Year Program cycle, NVTA needs to ensure that local jurisdiction project submissions better reflect adopted regional policies

NVTA needs to require that local jurisdiction project submissions better reflect adopted regional policies to provide alternatives to driving and reduce car dependence, support transit-oriented land use, and achieve our equity and climate goals.

Equity in transportation, a core value of NVTA, must address the disproportionate impact of unsafe streets, proximity to traffic and pollution, and high personal transportation costs that auto-dependence causes for low- and moderate-income residents and workers. The Region Forward vision plan recognizes this in its goal to lower combined transportation and housing costs and to also improve access to travel options and allow more residents to live in walkable regional activity centers with good transit. These measures also reduce travel demand on roads and highways helping those who must commute or access important services by car. NVTA needs to ensure that its member jurisdictions consider who benefits and who is harmed by transportation projects.

The region’s Metropolitan Planning Organization, the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB), just adopted a greenhouse gas reduction target of 50% for the on-road transportation sector. NVTA’s project selections should be tied to achieving those reductions. TPB’s climate change study showed that the region will need to reduce vehicle miles traveled of passenger vehicles by 15 to 20% below 2030 baseline forecasts, as well as rapidly adopt electric vehicles.

Tackling climate change in transportation also provides more travel options, greater proximity to jobs and services, lasting congestion management, and addresses inequities for households and workers regarding street safety, air quality, walkable amenities, personal transportation costs, housing options, and access to transit and job locations. With new car payments now over $700 per month and gas at $5 per gallon, the need in Northern Virginia for more walkable, bikeable, transit-friendly, mixed-use and compact communities with affordable housing is greater than ever.

Reducing per capita VMT – the need to drive for daily needs – by expanding transportation options, transit-oriented land use, and transportation demand management is also essential to meeting NVTA’s goal of reducing congestion.

 

5. NVTA’s process for the Six-Year Program should facilitate meaningful public involvement from the start, including local government candidate project submissions.

Since project priorities are advanced early on by local governments, NVTA must ensure that there are accessible public engagement opportunities early on.

NVTA should require that localities hold an advertised public hearing for NVTA project funding requests before the local governing body adopts its resolution of support for the application and before the projects are submitted to NVTA for funding consideration.

   Currently some jurisdictions generate staff reports and the elected body approves the project submissions as a consent agenda item with no public hearing.
   Public comments on proposed NVTA project submissions would be more  meaningful and help inform the local government before each set of projects is submitted to the NVTA for the Six-Year Program update.

In addition, NVTA coordinates the submissions for federal CMAQ and RSTP funds and for state SmartScale by Northern Virginia localities and should require similar transparency and public involvement before local governing bodies endorse those submissions.

Thank you for listening to stakeholders as you have carried out this process.

Sincerely,

Stewart Schwartz
Executive Director
Coalition for Smarter Growth
stewart@smartergrowth.net

Renee Grebe
Northern Virginia Conservation Advocate
Audubon Naturalist Society
renee.grebe@anshome.org

Douglas Stewart
Transportation Co-Chair
Virginia Sierra Club
douglasbstewart@gmail.com

Andrea McGimsey
Executive Director
Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions
andrea@faithforclimate.org

Mark Scheufler & Allen Muchnick
Co-Chairs
Active Prince William
Active.PrinceWilliam@gmail.com

Chris Slatt
President
Sustainable Mobility for Arlington County
Hello@susmo.org

Zander Pellegrino
Northern Virginia Grassroots Organizer
Chesapeake Climate Action Network
zander@chesapeakeclimate.org

Kim Hosen
Executive Director
Prince William Conservation Alliance
khosen@pwconserve.org

Morgan Butler
Senior Attorney
Southern Environmental Law Center
mbutler@selcva.org

Luca Gattoni-Celli
Founder
YIMBYs of Northern Virginia
potentiaeromanorum@gmail.com

Jack Calhoun and John Clewett
Co-Chairs
Lewinsville Faith in Action
clewettj@gmail.com

Our Recommendations for Upcoming NVTA Transportation Funding Applications from PWC

On July 19, 2021, Active Prince William sent the following email message to the Prince William County Planning Commission, which will soon be briefed by County transportation staff on the transportation projects that the County is considering for submission to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) in Fall 2021 for  potential regional funding .  Various local transportation and elected officials, including the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, were copied on this message.

 


Active Prince William supports the integration of land use, housing, and transportation planning.  Having the Transportation Department brief the Commission on planned grant applications is a start.  That step should be followed by a formal public hearing and a vote of the Planning Commission.

New mobility infrastructure should substantially enhance the transit and bike/pedestrian network, rather than simply expand the road network and add a desolate side path.  Traditional “business as usual” planning for the next decade will sabotage the county’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to 50% of the 2005 levels.  The transportation sector generates the greatest amount of greenhouse gas emissions in Prince William now.  The only way to meet the 2030 target is to reduce the carbon spewing from tailpipes in Prince William, and that requires a new approach to planning for multimodal *mobility* and access, rather than just paving more roads for drive-alone motorists.

In 2030, most cars will still be fueled by gasoline.  Virtually every project that paves more lane miles will increase Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) and greenhouse gas emissions from those cars.  To understand the impact of various proposed projects, the Planning Commission should identify the projected increase in VMT associated with each transportation project, and use that data when determining which projects to recommend to the BOCS.

The Planning Commission recommendations to the BOCS should be guided by the Strategic Plan.  The Strategic Plan calls for the County to develop in a sustainable way.  As you know, new transit and bike/pedestrian projects have the potential to reduce or minimize VMT and associated greenhouse gas emissions.  To be sustainable, the County must abandon the old school approach of just building more roads–and acknowledge that more roads have not reduced traffic congestion.

For the upcoming NVTA grant program, Active Prince William recommends submitting the following projects to the next NVTA funding round (FY26/FY27). As you can see, none of these projects’ main intent is to add lane miles.  All projects support Transit, Active Transportation, and/or Intersection/Interchange improvements.

  • Route 1/Potomac Mills BRT (TRANSIT) – NVTA 38/39
  • Dale Blvd Improvements (TRANSIT) – NVTA 241
  • VRE Second platforms – Manassas Line (TRANSIT) – NVTA 300
  • I-95 Ped/Bike Crossings (TRAILS/ACTIVE TRANSPORTATION) – NVTA 300/242/49/241
  • Balls Ford Road/I-66 Trail Improvements (TRAILS/ACTIVE TRANSPORTATION)  – NVTA 50
  • Route 123 Improvements (INTERCHANGE/INTERSECTION IMPROVEMENT) – NVTA 242
  • Wellington Rd/Sudley Manor/VA234 Interchange Improvements (INTERCHANGE/INTERSECTION IMPROVEMENT) – NVTA 222
  • Minnieville Rd/PW Parkway Interchange (INTERCHANGE/INTERSECTION IMPROVEMENT) – NVTA 279
  • Pageland Ln/Sanders Ln Safety Improvements (INTERCHANGE/INTERSECTION IMPROVEMENT) – NVTA 227
  • Route 28 STARS (INTERCHANGE/INTERSECTION IMPROVEMENT) – NVTA 29/32

Many of these projects do not match exactly with the NVTA Transaction description but the NVTA has set a precedent by funding innovative intersection improvements at University Boulevard and Prince William Parkway even though NVTA Transaction clearly requires “Construct Interchange at Prince William Parkway and University Boulevard.” (NVTA 324).  Active Prince William agrees with this approach as the intent of the projects is to improve the specified transportation segment.

Below is the list of projects that were not funded in the previous NVTA funding round (FY24-FY25).   As you can, see most of these projects’ main intent is to add lane miles that will induce new VMT and future congestion.  We need to stop advancing projects that continue to increase car dependency and have long-term adverse impacts on the climate and county budget.

  • Van Buren Road North Extension: Route 234 to Cardinal Drive (NEW ROADWAY)
  • Construct Route 28 Corridor Roadway Improvements (NEW ROADWAY/BYPASS)
  • University Boulevard Extension: Devlin Road to Wellington Road (NEW ROADWAY)
  • Wellington Road Widening: University Boulevard to Devlin Road (ROAD WIDENING)
  • Devlin Road Widening: Linton Hall Road to Relocated Balls Ford Road (ROAD WIDENING)
  • Route 234 and Sudley Manor Drive Interchange (INTERCHANGE/INTERSECTION IMPROVEMENT)
  • Prince William Parkway at Clover Hill Road Innovative Intersection (INTERCHANGE/INTERSECTION IMPROVEMENT)
  • Prince William Parkway at Old Bridge Road Intersection Improvements (INTERCHANGE/INTERSECTION IMPROVEMENT) | Funded via Smart Scale

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Building the Route 28 Bypass Should Not Be a Legislative Priority for the Manassas City Council

Active Prince William board member Allen Muchnick, a City of Manassas resident, sent the following message to the Manassas City Council on November 29, 2020.


Dear Mayor Parrish and Manassas City Council Members:

I’m writing to comment on Mr. Pate’s draft “Legislative Priorities – 2021” document, which I don’t believe has yet been available for public comment or officially adopted by City Council.

In particular, under the rubric “Transformative Mobility”, the document calls for “improvements to VA-28 corridor in the VDOT Six-Year Improvement Program including construction of the VA-28 Manassas Bypass…”   Oddly, the Route 28 Bypass is the only transportation project mentioned in this document.

Supporting the Route 28 Bypass in this document is pointless and ill advised.  The reference to this Bypass should be stricken for the following reasons:

1)  Not Transformative.  The proposed Route 28 Bypass does not represent “transformative mobility”.  Rather, this counterproductive and destructive project would merely perpetuate the decades-long, repeatedly failed practice of expanding limited-access highways in urbanized areas for toll-free travel in single-occupant vehicles.  The Bypass would induce new vehicle trips and auto-dependent sprawl development, thereby perpetuating car-dependency and traffic ongestion, while failing to effectively promote more efficient and equitable multiple-occupant travel (i.e. public transportation and/or ridesharing) or revitalize the aging communities along the Route 28 corridor, including Mathis Avenue, with transit-oriented redevelopment.

Motorists living west or south of Manassas already have a western Manassas bypass along Route 234.   Why do those same motorists now need a second western Manassas bypass along Route 28?  Fairfax and Prince William Counties are planning to at least double the number of unmanaged travel lanes throughout the Route 28 corridor between Route 234 and I-66.   How does that doubling of motor vehicle capacity help Northern Virginia meet the greenhouse gas reduction targets (50% below the 2005 level by 2030 and 80% below the 2005 level by 2050) that the MWCOG Board and the TPB have both adopted?

2)  Missed Opportunities.  As a railroad town served by VRE and Amtrak , Manassas should instead champion funding and cooperative agreements to improve VRE, Amtrak, and OmniRide service, more state and federal funds for pedestrian retrofits, and statutory changes (e.g., automated speed cameras, local authority for sub-25 MPH speed limits) needed to make Manassas more safely walkable.

3)  This Funding Request is Unnecessary and Inappropriate.  The Route 28 Bypass, estimated to cost $300 million, is already fully funded for completion, with an $89 million NVTA allocation plus $200 million from the 2019 Prince William County Transportation Bond Referendum.   Furthermore, since Prince William County has opted to abandon the federal Environmental Assessment for this project, the Bypass has become ineligible to receive federal or VDOT funds.  Finally, a state or federal carve-out or earmark for this project would undermine recent progress by the CTB (with SMART SCALE) and NVTA in funding transportation projects competitively, based on objective evaluations that prioritize cost effectiveness at reducing traffic congestion.

4)  This Funding Request is Premature and Misplaced.   When preliminary engineering for the Route 28 Bypass project is completed, no earlier than fall 2022, Prince William County will apply for a Clean Water Act Section 404 wetlands construction permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.   Until that permit is granted and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality also signs off on this project, any further funding for the Bypass project is premature.  Meanwhile, the Centreville Road (Route 28) STARS Safety and Operational Improvements Study, championed by Delegate Roem, has recommended a modest $38 million package of intersection, raised median, and pedestrian improvements to Route 28 itself that would clearly benefit  Manassas residents, yet this package still awaits an allocation of funds, possibly from SMART SCALE.

5)  This Bypass Would Not Benefit Manassas or Manassas Motorists Significantly.  Bypass proponents claim that the Bypass would reduce traffic congestion for Route 28 auto commuters and would lower traffic volumes in downtown Manassas.  Neither claim, however, is substantiated by the May 2019 Traffic Technical Report conducted for the Route 28 Corridor Environmental Assessment.   Table 3.1.1 on page 23 of this document shows that building the Bypass would increase traffic volumes in 2040 along Centreville Road segments (#s 19-22) north of the Bypass in Fairfax County by 16% to 26%, compared to the “No-Build” Alternative in 2040.  Meanwhile, traffic volumes on Center Street in downtown Manassas (e.g., from Grant Avenue to Zebedee Street, Segment #s 8 and 9) would grow from 23,230 ADT in 2018 to 28,845 to 35,332 ADT in 2040 if the Bypass is built.   At the same time, building the Bypass would roughly double the traffic in 2040 along Godwin Drive between Nokesville Road and Sudley Road, compared to the “No-Build” Alternative in 2040 (Segment #s 3-6 at the top of page 24), and generate failing intersections (LOS F during the PM peak) along Godwin Dr at Wellington and Sudley Roads (and probably elsewhere; Table 3.3.1 on page 40, intersection #s 16 and 17).  Thus, building this Bypass would necessitate several costly intersection expansions along Godwin Drive in Manassas, as well as the widening of Godwin Drive to six travel lanes between Nokesville Road and Sudley Road.

Sadly, the call to fund and build the Route 28 Bypass in this Legislative Priorities document reflects the lack of proactive and meaningful public involvement in discussing and setting transportation improvement priorities for the City of Manassas.  I hope the City Council will address this deficiency in 2021.

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Active Prince William Comments on Regional Climate Action Goal

The above slide, from a presentation to the National Capital  Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB) set for October 21, 2020, lists potential strategies to half the D.C. Region’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from 2005 levels over the next ten years. The next step will be to draft and adopt a 2030 GHG Emissions Action Plan.

***

On October 16, 2020, Active Prince William Chair, Rick Holt, sent the following statement to Prince William County’s representatives on the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB)–Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Ann Wheeler and Neabsco District Supervisor Victor Angry.   The TPB is scheduled to adopt an ambitious interim 10-year goal to address climate change, by reducing the D.C. region’s emissions of greenhouse gases 50% from their baseline, 2005 level by the year 2030.

***

On October 14, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) Board of Directors pledged to lower our region’s greenhouse gas emissions to 50% below their 2005 baseline level by 2030, as an interim target towards the 2050 goal of an 80% reduction.  We appreciate the COG Board focusing on environmental and climate change issues that affect the quality of life of residents of the Metro D.C. area.

A key step in achieving that goal is to reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT).  The regional housing targets adopted by the COG Board on September 11, 2019 provide a clear path to minimizing VMT–build 75% of new dwelling units in Activity Centers, within walking distance of high capacity transit nodes.

Prince William County has six designated Regional Activity Centers, based on existing and proposed Virginia Railway Express stations. The Board of County Supervisors may wish to add two more–at Dumfries/Triangle and Yorkshire–if their upcoming Small Area Plans include the creation of a Bus Rapid Transit system comparable to the Pulse in Richmond.

We look forward to you–our representatives on the Transportation Planning Board—actively engaging the other supervisors in how Prince William can meet the interim target in 2030 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  In addition to increasing the energy efficiency of buildings and adding solar panels wherever cost-effective, we will need to integrate our land use and transportation planning with our climate change goals in the revised Strategic Plan and 2040 Comprehensive Plan.  On a smaller scale, we ask that you ensure, in the public hearings for proposed Comprehensive Plan Amendments and rezonings, that staff reports identify the impact on Vehicle Miles Traveled, so climate change can be factored into your decisions.

We think you might also find the recent report on carbon emissions, Driving Down Emissions, published this week by Transportation for America to be of interest.   To highlight a passage from the executive summary:  Simply put, we’ll never achieve ambitious climate targets or create more livable and equitable communities if we don’t find ways to allow people to get around outside of a car.  We look forward to working with you and the other members of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors in support of creating livable communities with sustainable transportation options.

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