Advancing active mobility in greater Prince William, Virginia

Category: Bike Trails (Page 2 of 4)

Our General Comments on Active Mobility and Trails for the Mobility Chapter in the PWC Comp Plan Update

On June 16, 2021, Active Prince William submitted the following general comments on the active mobility and trails element for the Mobility Chapter in Prince William County’s Pathways to 2040 Comprehensive Plan:


Active Prince William’s General Comments on the Active Mobility and Trails Element of the Mobility Chapter in Prince William County’s Pathways to 2040 Comprehensive Plan

1. Active Prince William encourages Prince William County to plan for the expeditious development of a robust, connected, and diverse countywide network of bikeways, walkways, and trails as part of the Mobility Chapter of the Pathways to 2040 Comprehensive Plan.

2. The County should invest in building more “active transportation” infrastructure through 2040 to rebalance the excessive car-centric focus of the past.  A robust, countywide Bicycle and Pedestrian Mobility Plan should be created to identify and prioritize bikeways and walkways that connect all activity centers and provide safe routes to all schools, parks, recreation centers, libraries, transit hubs, shopping centers, and employment sites, so bicycling, walking, and rolling can increasingly replace many short-distance (under 5-mile) motoring trips

3. The Bicycle and Pedestrian Mobility Plan should identify where various types of bikeways, trails, and sidewalks will be completed by 2040.  One goal, synchronized with the Parks, Recreation and Tourism Chapter and the Systemwide Master Plan for county parks, should be to create a connected network of shared-use paths, sidewalks, and bikeways, so all neighborhoods with a density of 4 or more dwelling units/acre are within a 10-minute walk (1/2 mile) of a neighborhood park or school/community-use site.

4. The County should establish a more vigorous and ongoing Active Transportation Program within its Department of Transportation, guided by a comprehensive and strategic Bicycle and Pedestrian Mobility Plan adopted by the Board of County Supervisors. The development of that plan, which could require a year or more of effort and community outreach, should be guided by dedicated in-house transportation planning staff and a diverse citizen task force. An outside consulting firm with strong expertise in active mobility planning (e.g., Toole Design Group or Alta Planning + Design) should be hired to coordinate the development of this Bicycle and Pedestrian Mobility Plan.

5. Formal Complete Streets and Vision Zero policies and action plans–adopted by the Board of County Supervisors following substantial public input–could help guide the County’s development of active mobility infrastructure.

6. The Mobility Chapter should include a table listing specific planned bicycle, pedestrian, and trail facilities, comparable to Table 2 listing the Thoroughfare Plan projects.

7. Appropriate bicycle and pedestrian accommodations should be planned and aggressively implemented, both as an integral component of all roadway widening and reconstruction projects and as standalone projects actively pursued separately from roadway reconstruction, during both scheduled roadway resurfacing and as fully independent projects.

8. A strategic prioritization process should guide the implementation of the standalone bicycle and pedestrian projects. The prioritization process for standalone projects and retrofits should consider many factors, with “opportunity” (such as upcoming roadway resurfacing, grant availability), trip demand, cost effectiveness, equity, and pedestrian safety being key considerations.

9. Bicycling accommodations for collector and arterial road corridors and urban boulevards should not be largely limited to shared-use paths (sidepaths), which are often hillier, more meandering, and less well maintained than the adjacent roadway and frequently interrupted by hazardous motor vehicle cross flows at intersections and driveways. These features make sidepaths much slower and more stressful for bicycling than simply sharing the roadway with vehicular traffic.

10. Whenever feasible, dual bicycling accommodations–both off-roadway (sidepath) and on-roadway (bike lanes, separated bike lanes, paved shoulders, or signed shared roadways)–should be provided to serve the diversity of people who ride bicycles.

11. Roads with Average Annual Daily Traffic (AADT) less than 1,000 vehicles/day generally require no special accommodations for bicycling enthusiasts.

12. Adding paved shoulders (on open-section roadways) or bike lanes (on closed-section roadways with curb and gutter) is appropriate for road cycling enthusiasts and can provide very suitable bicycle accommodations, particularly in the Rural Area.  As traffic speeds and/or volumes increase—and for roads along a designated bike route– the need for (or desirability of) wider paved shoulders or bike lanes or for more separation between the bike lane and the adjacent travel lane (with either a crosshatched buffer or a physical barrier) increases.

13. The Mobility Chapter should include a policy that when the traffic volumes on roads in the Rural Area rise above 1,000 vehicles/day, VDOT will be asked to retrofit modest (2- to 4-foot wider) paved shoulders during scheduled roadway resurfacing, retaining the original 30-foot prescriptive easement. Such modestly widened roadways could then be striped with two 10-foot travel lanes flanked by two 5-foot paved shoulders for walking and bicycling.

14. When any residential development involving 10 or more homes is permitted beside a road without a sidewalk, the developer should be required to build a sidewalk or a sidepath along the road frontage for that subdivision.

15. On roadways where traffic volumes are forecast to exceed 10,000 vehicles/day over the next 20 years, adding a central two-way left-turn lane as well as paved shoulders or bike lanes should be proposed, as an alternative to widening to four or more travel lanes.

16. Roads planned for “Class II” bikeways should be identified as planned for “sidewalks plus bike lanes,” or just for paved shoulders or bike lanes.

17. The current designation for 14-foot “wide” outside lanes (termed “Class III” bikeways) should be eliminated. All of those roads should be re-designated for bike lanes (aka “Class II” bikeways). If multilane roads are simply striped with 11-foot travel lanes instead of the Interstate-regulation 12-foot travel lanes, a 14-foot outside lane becomes at least 16 feet wide, which is wide enough to allocate as a 5-foot wide bike lane plus an 11-foot travel lane.  Thus, the category of “wide outside lanes” is not only a poor bicycling accommodation; it’s a completely unnecessary category.

18. Signed shared roadways (e.g., relatively low-speed collector roads with shared-lane markings (a.k.a. “sharrows”) or low-traffic residential subdivision streets with way-finding signs) are the only “Class III bikeways” that should remain.

19. Signed shared roadways should be planned only where traffic speeds and volumes are relatively low, and bike lanes are either infeasible or unnecessary due to low traffic speeds and volumes.  This category should be designated as “Sidewalks and Shared Roadways”, rather than as “On-Road Trails.”

20. The Vision Zero strategies appropriate for different areas in Prince William should be identified and incorporated in all transportation planning.  Crashes involving a vehicle with a bike or pedestrian should be reported as a “vehicle-bike crash” or “vehicle-pedestrian” crash, not as “bike crash” or “pedestrian crash”.  Since vehicle speed greatly influences the severity of such crashes, VDOT and the County Department of Transportation should seek to lower the design speeds and posted speed limits on roads within activity centers, and emerging technologies, such as automated speed enforcement, should be used to reduce speeding. Particular attention should also be paid to minimizing risk when designing intersections that permit right turns on red and intersections where people walking or bicycling must cross two or more lanes of free-flow traffic.

21. Since transportation is our largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, and Prince William has committed to reduce these emissions by 2030 to 50% of the 2005 level, the County should quantify the greenhouse gas emission impacts of proposed new transportation projects, including trails, for the county’s Climate Action Plan.

22. For shared-use paths, bike lanes, and sidewalks maintained by the county, rather than VDOT or an HOA, the PW County Departments of Transportation and of Parks, Recreation and Tourism should budget annually for routine maintenance as well as for capital maintenance (e.g., periodic repaving).  That includes removing storm debris, managing winter snow and ice, mowing grass, and removing encroaching vegetation.

23. For Traffic Impact Analyses, the county should report average pedestrian delay at intersections together with reports of average vehicle delay, and calculate bicycle and pedestrian Levels of Service and/or Comfort, comparable to calculating Level of Service for Vehicles.  Intersections should be designed to balance delays for bicyclists/pedestrians as well as delays for vehicles.

City of Manassas Transportation Project Virtual Public Meetings, May 18, 20, and 25

During May 2021, the City of Manassas held three virtual public meetings on various transportation projects:

1) Tuesday, May 18 @ 7 pm–virtual public meeting on the Sudley Road Third Lane project . View the project design presentation on the Sudley Road Third Lane Project from the May 18 meeting.

2)  Thursday, May 20 @ 7pm–virtual public meeting on four sidepath projects (Godwin Dr, Dumfries Rd, Gateway Blvd, and Wellington Rd trail gap) and three sidewalk projects (Portner Ave, Quarry St, and Gateway Blvd).  View the meeting presentation and a 31-minute recording of the Zoom meeting.

3) Tuesday, May 25 @ 7pm–virtual public meeting on the Dean Drive Extension ProjectView the project design presentation on the Dean Drive Extension Project.

City of Manassas Installs Dangerous and Unnecessary Trail Bollards

March 15, 2021 Update:  We have  been informed by the City’s Director of Public Works that many of the bollards shown below have been removed.  The City is now installing a single rigid bollard on the trail centerline, with additional bollards placed six feet apart at some locations.  In addition, reflective tape will be installed near the top and the bottom of each bollard.  While these changes significantly reduce the severity of the trail-bollard hazard, the users of these paths will still remain at some risk for serious and permanently debilitating and even fatal injuries from crashing into the remaining bollards.  We urge all public agencies to heed the AASHTO guidance and FHWA recommendation (both cited below) to end the routine use of even single rigid bollards as its default design treatment to discourage motor vehicle incursions on shared-use paths.

Active Prince William board member Allen Muchnick, a City of Manassas resident, sent the following notice to multiple City of Manassas officials on February 7, 2021:


I was pleased to see the lead article in the January 2021 issue of City Connection newsletter, featuring several newly built asphalt shared-use paths around Manassas.  I commend City staff for working inter-departmentally to quickly fund, design, and build these valuable neighborhood connections.

However, my initial joy over these new connections was soon marred by disappointment and dread upon seeing the four photos of dangerous, unnecessary, and closely placed rigid trail bollards on Slides 20 and 21 of the Manassas Public Works annual report.

While intended to prevent both intentional and accidental intrusions by motor vehicles–and occasionally needed to prevent costly damage to fragile infrastructure, such as foot bridges–hard, rigid bollards installed within the traveled way of shared-use paths have been widely recognized for decades as a substantial hazard for people riding bicycles, causing many severe and permanent injuries and even deaths.   An extensive bicyclist critique of trail bollards is posted here.

For that reason, nationally recognized guidance for the design and construction of shared-use paths have long cautioned against installing hard, rigid bollards on shared-use paths.   A variety of simple and cost-effective alternative design treatments—starting with signs prohibiting entry by motor vehicles—are quite effective at preventing motor vehicle intrusions and vastly safer than trail bollards.

Although NOVA Parks’ 45-mile Washington and Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail includes scores of at-grade road crossings, NOVA Parks removed all of its former bollards and fences along that trail more than 20 years ago, in recognition of the significant danger that such obstructions pose to trail users.  NOVA Parks has not seen any need to reinstall trail bollards since.

Where the risks and consequences of unwanted motor vehicle entry is significant and demonstrated, trail bollards should be installed only on the centerline of two-way shared-use paths, and flexible bollards should be used if feasible.  If multiple bollards must be used, they should be used in sets of three (never two or four, to reduce head-on collisions) and spaced at least five feet apart to allow safe passage by bicycle trailers.

The Federal Highway Administration has long warned against installing bollards on recreational trails.  The first bullet point states:  “Even “properly” installed bollards constitute a serious and potentially fatal safety hazard to unwary trail users. In addition, no bollard layout that admits bicycles, tricycles, and bicycle trailers can exclude single-track motor vehicles such as motorcycles and mopeds. For these reasons, bollards should never be a default treatment, and should not be used unless there is a documented history of intrusion by unauthorized cars, trucks, or other unauthorized vehicles.”

Similarly, the AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities (4th Edition, 2012) contains extensive guidance on trail bollards on pages 5-46 and 5-47, including these paragraphs:

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Since the above-referenced newly installed trail bollards are a well-recognized defective and unreasonably dangerous property condition for people riding bicycles, scooters, skate boards, and other devices, I ask that these trail bollards be removed immediately from the paths at Kinsley Mill Park, Tudor Lane, Oakenshaw Park, and Bartow Street and that none be installed along the still-unfinished path along the southern perimeter of the Metz Middle School property.

I’m confident the City of Manassas would never install a rigid bollard within a few feet of any vehicular travel lane, although such obstructions would mostly endanger vehicle exteriors, not human bodies.  So, how can it be considered acceptable to expose non-encapsulated people traveling on balanced bicycles (or simply walking) to such dangerous obstructions?

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Tearing Down Houses and Paving Over Wetlands for a New Highway – What Is the Alternative?

Route 28 Alternatives Studied in the 2018-2020 Environmental Assessment

Prince William County (PWC) needs a Department of Mobility, not a Department of Highway Paving. Since the Shirley Highway reached the Occoquan River in 1949, we have paved and paved, at great expense to the environment and taxpayers. Has traffic congestion been eliminated? The answer to this is ‘no’. Expanding highways is not the answer to creating livable communities with sustainable transportation.

Under the last Board of County Supervisors, the scheme was to keep building new roads and widening old roads. Everyone knew it would not “fix” the highways, but land speculators could get rezonings for building new subdivisions if the county would plan to pave more roads. Expanding roads will not solve congestion; that is a lesson learned from several decades of previous road projects in the region and across the country.  However, if the county’s land use planning remains isolated from transportation planning, we will just keep repeating the old mistake. A citizen-led Multi-Modal Transportation Advisory Commission, similar to those in Fairfax and Arlington Counties and the City of Alexandria, could increase transparency and citizen involvement in determining how PWC will grow and its residents, workers, and visitors will travel.

So, what is Plan B, if “build roads, build new houses, create new congestion, build roads, build new houses…” does not work? The County’s Strategic Plan is clear – build live-work-play communities that locate housing together with stores and offices, so people can walk, and bike, more rather than drive everywhere for daily living.  Invest in increasing the number of jobs within Prince William, rather than fund more roads that incentivize long commutes. We need smart growth planning.

The twenty-four jurisdictions in the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments agreed on a clear solution on September 11, 2019. PWC joined in setting regional housing targets, with new development concentrated in “Activity Centers.” Each will offer high-capacity public transportation, but walkability within the community will be key. PWC’s six Activity Centers were designated in 2013, based on assumptions about expansion of Virginia Railway Express. Those assumptions turned out to be incorrect. Developing the 2040 PWC Comprehensive Plan creates a great opportunity to re-assess where high-capacity transit really will be provided, vs. drawn as a line on a map and then ignored.

Sadly, on August 4 the supervisors are considering a proposal that would repeat the mistakes of the past.  They could approve Alignment 2B of the Route 28 Bypass/Godwin Drive Extension, to build a new commuter highway through the flood-prone Flat Branch stream valley. At least fifty-four homes would  be destroyed, and many more would be degraded by increased traffic noise and air pollution.

A community with affordable housing, including a trailer park, would be disrupted so commuters from Fauquier and other counties can temporarily drive a bit faster through PWC. Over six acres of wetlands would be filled in, impacting the natural environment and resilience to climate change. A noise wall would be constructed from Sudley Road to Bull Run, blocking all potential bike/pedestrian access across the highway barrier except at a Lomond Drive intersection.

The traffic analysis report (check the tables on pp. 23-24, and p. 40 for Godwin Dr and for Rte 28 in Fairfax County) indicates that the Alternative 2B commuter Bypass road would create clogged, “failing” intersections on existing Godwin Drive, at all four new Godwin Dr Extension intersections, and along Centreville Rd in Fairfax County (between the north end of the Bypass and I-66). If this Bypass is approved, a future “Fix Godwin Drive” campaign will require even more funding – hundreds of millions for more highway paving. New flyover ramps might have to be added to the interchange of Route 28 and Prince William Parkway/Route 234 Bypass, and Godwin Dr between Nokesville Road and Sudley Road would need widening and intersection improvements . This is not a smart growth approach.

There are better alternatives (including these recent VDOT STARS [Strategic, Targeted, Affordable Roadway Solutions] Study recommendations for Centreville Rd in Yorkshire) but the county’s current Department of Highway Paving will be promoting Alignment 2B on August 4. To stop repeating mistakes and to start applying lessons already learned, the new supervisors need to vote no on Alternative 2B and pursue new innovative solutions.

Residents of Prince William County need a government that uses smart growth principles to guide future land use and transportation decisions. Prince William County residents want livable communities that are great places to work, live, play, and raise a family. Prince William County residents want a sustainable environment that provides a resilient approach to the effects of climate change.

Please call, or email, BOCS Chair Ann Wheeler and your magisterial district supervisor, asking them to vote NO, on August 4, on the proposed Route 28 Bypass/Godwin Drive Extension (Alternative 2B), to pursue innovative smart growth solutions to our mobility issues, and to create a citizen-led Multi-Modal Transportation Advisory Commission that would provide the public and supervisors with thoughtful information and ideas regarding land use and transportation planning decisions.   

Email the BOCS with this easy Sierra Club action alert page

More information about the proposed Route 28 Bypass

Active Prince William Policy Positions for Active, Equitable, and Sustainable Mobility in Prince William County, Manassas, and Manassas Park (Revised 1/20/2020)

Proposed Prince William County Trails Network from 2007

1) Establish Citizen Transportation Advisory Commissions for Prince William County, Manassas, and Manassas Park.

2) Provide Meaningful and Robust Public Participation Processes for the Coming Comprehensive Plan Updates for the County and Cities.

3) Expand and Enhance Public Transportation as an Effective Travel Choice:

a) Add midday, evening, and reverse-commute VRE trips, possibly as shortened runs to/from Alexandria and/or Springfield/Franconia.

b) Add local and commuter bus service along Rte 28 and Sudley Rd, ideally in dedicated lanes.

c) Extend Richmond Hwy BRT south through Prince William County along the Rte 1 corridor to Quantico.

4) Build Complete Streets, especially a Primary Bikeway Network that Crosses Major Barriers (e.g., rivers, freeways, land parcels):

a) Build a continuous “I-66 Trail”, largely along Balls Ford Rd and across Bull Run into Fairfax County.

b) Build a quality bike/ped crossing of I-66 at or near Sudley Rd/Bus 234.  In short term, ensure space for paths beneath all new I-66 overpasses of Sudley Rd.

c) Retrofit quality bike/ped crossings of I-95, especially at/near Prince Wm Pkwy/Horner Rd and at/near Dale Blvd/Opitz Blvd, but also at/near Rte 123, 234, & Joplin Rd.

d) Complete a continuous trail along Rte 234, from Rte 1 to I-66, including the totally missing segment between Brentsville Rd and I-66.

e) Include quality bike/ped access along and across Flat Branch and Bull Run in the proposed Godwin Dr Extension (Rte 28 environmental assessment).

f) Improve US Bike Route 1, a Maine-to Florida bikeway:  Retrofit paved shoulders along Aden Rd (Joplin Rd to Fleetwood Dr) and Fleetwood Dr (Aden Rd to Fauquier line), fix the Hoadly Rd bike lanes, and sign all of USBR1 in PWC.  Plan and create a paved shared-use path along the perimeter of Quantico Marine Corps Base as a long-term project.

g)  Improve bike/ped crossings of Bull Run and the Occoquan River, including at Old Centreville Rd/Ordway Rd, Rte 28, Yates Ford Rd, I-66 Trail (connect Balls Ford Rd to Bull Run Dr), and Rte 1.

h) Improve bike/ped access along the Rte 29 corridor (Bull Run to Fauquier line).

i)  Establish continuous ped/bike access along Old Bridge Rd.

j)  Plan and develop a bikeway and trail network in Manassas Park.

5)  Develop Livable, Walkable, and Vibrant Transit-Oriented Communities:

a) Plan to revive aging suburban retail corridors and malls for higher-density, mixed-use, bus-transit-oriented redevelopment (e.g., Manassas Mall and the Sudley Rd corridor, Rte 28 in Yorkshire, Rte 1, Dale Blvd, Old Bridge Rd).

b) Remove or scale back all or part of numerous proposed road widenings from the Comprehensive Plan, including Brady’s Hill Rd, Carver Rd, Catharpin Rd, Dale Blvd, Dumfries Rd, Farm Creek Dr, Featherstone Rd, Gideon Dr, Godwin Dr Extension, Gordon Blvd, Groveton Rd, Gum Springs Rd, Horner Rd, Lucasville Rd, Manassas Battlefield Bypass, Neabsco Rd, Old Centreville Rd, PW Pkwy, Signal Hill Rd, Station Rd, Sudley Manor Dr, Sudley Rd, Rte 15, Rte 29, Rte 55, and Wellington Rd.

c)  Innovation Town Center: Plan and develop a robust pedestrian and bicycle network, including a high-quality connection to the north side of the expanded Broad Run VRE Station.

6)  Operate a Vibrant Safe Routes to School Program:

a)  All new public schools, including the 13th high school, should be walkable and bikeable and include quality bicycle parking accommodations.

7)  Make Walking and Bicycling Safer:

a) Improve pedestrian crossings of multilane arterials (e.g., add missing pedestrian crossing signals, Leading Pedestrian Intervals, conspicuously  marked crosswalks, sidewalk bulb outs, and/or streetlights; remove Right-Turn-Only Lanes).

b) Retrofit missing sidewalks along arterial roadways and on walk routes to schools and transit.

c) Provide a signed detour when pedestrian or bicycle facilities are closed for construction or maintenance activities.

8)  Build a Comprehensive Recreational Trails Network:

a) Complete the East Coast Greenway/Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail shared-use path through PWC, generally between Rte 1 and the Potomac River.

9)  Improve VRE Bicycle Access:

a)  Provide covered bicycle parking and rental bicycle storage lockers at every VRE station in Prince William County, Manassas, and Manassas Park.

b)  Improve bike/ped connections to VRE stations from all directions, including the expanded Broad Run station (including the Broad Run Trail), to improve bike/ped access to VRE from Bristow, the Landing at Cannon Branch, and Innovation Town Center.

c)  Expand VRE bike-on-rail access (long capped at 34 bikes on 17 daily trains).

10)  Provide Ubiquitous, Quality Bicycle Parking Accommodations.

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