Advancing active mobility in greater Prince William, Virginia

Category: Bicycling (Page 1 of 7)

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 Input for the Route 234-Clover Hill Road Bowtie Intersection

2017 Concept for a Clover Hill Road/Prince William Parkway “Bowtie” Intersection

Recently, the Prince William County Department of Transportation asked for our feedback on their proposed preliminary design for rebuilding the intersection of the Prince William Parkway (Route 234) and Clover Hill Road near Manassas as an “innovative” bowtie intersection, where all direct left turns are eliminated and instead accommodated via two roundabouts on the minor cross street.   Our reply is posted below.   We will track this upcoming project in the coming years as the design is refined for construction.


Thank you for soliciting Active Prince William’s input on how the redesigned intersection of Clover Hill Road at the Prince William Parkway can best serve people walking and bicycling.

Conventional On-Road Bike Lanes Are Appropriate for Clover Hill Road

Clover Hill Road provides an important low-traffic bicycling connection between the City of Manassas (and adjacent residential neighborhoods within the County) and Manassas Regional Airport and points west, including the Broad Run VRE station and the new Route 28 shared-use path that now extends though Bristow all the way to Nokesville.  On the southwest side of Route 234, Clover Hill Road provides critical bicycling access to a network of low-traffic, bicycling-friendly roads within and near Manassas Regional Airport, including Harry J Parrish Blvd. Wakeman Drive, Observation Drive, Piper Lane, Residency Road, Pennsylvania Avenue, Carolina Drive, and Gateway Blvd.

As such, Clover Hill Road is eminently useful for bicycle commuting to employment sites within and near the airport, to the Broad Run VRE station, and to points west in Bristow.  In addition, Clover Hill Road and the low-traffic roads within and around the airport are used extensively for recreational bicycling on evenings and weekends.

Both City of Manassas roadways that connect to this segment of Clover Hill Road–i.e.. Clover Hill Road from Godwin Drive to Wellington Road and Godwin Drive from Clover Hill Road to Hastings Drive–already have conventional on-road bike lanes.  Thus, in addition to including sidewalks for pedestrians, the entire redesigned segment of Clover Hill Road should include conventional on-road bike lanes in both directions.

Note that VDOT’s website that describes bowtie intersections includes conventional on-road bike lanes on all four legs of that intersection (see the illustration copied below).

Since, as in the above illustration, the proposed design features dedicated right-turn-only lanes on Clover Hill Road at both approaches to the Prince William Parkway, it would be vital to install the bike lanes at both approaches to the Prince William Parkway between the straight-through travel lane on the left and the right-turn-only lane at the curb.

Within the roundabouts, the bike lanes–if any–should be on the far right and could be buffered or physically separated from roadway traffic.  Alternatively, especially if right-of-way is constrained at the roundabouts, the bike lanes could be discontinued within the roundabouts and bicyclists encouraged to navigate the roundabouts as either a driver centered within the travel lane or (using strategically placed curb ramps for access and egress) as a pedestrian using the sidewalk.

However, upon exiting each roundabout, right-turning motorists should be directed to yield to any bicycle traffic ahead and to carefully merge right across the continued bike lane to enter the emerging right-turn-only lane before reaching either the Parkway (along both southbound and northbound Clover Hill Road) or Godwin Drive (along northbound Clover Hill Road).

Please note that these same conflicts between right-turning motorists and straight-through bicyclists presently exist at the current Clover Hill Road/Route 234 Intersection in the absence of any bike lanes and that appropriate traffic engineering measures, involving pavement markings and signage, can optimize the safety of all road users.

Design This Intersection to Safely Accommodate the Future Shared-Use Path Along Route 234

Although this project won’t construct the long-planned missing shared-use path along Route 234, the design of this intersection should not preclude its future construction and should also ensure that pedestrians and bicyclists using that shared-use path can cross Clover Hill Road safely.  As a designated segment of the National Capital Trail Network, a continuous, high-quality shared-use path along Route 234 should be a priority for Prince William County.

Unobstructed right-of-way should be acquired and preserved as part of this project to accommodate the future Route 234 shared-use path, and the project design should ensure that the route and future design of this path would not be blocked or compromised by noise barriers, above-ground or buried utilities, or roadside signage, traffic signals, or street lighting.  Until the county decides whether this path will be constructed on the northeast or southwest side of Route 234, right-of-way should be reserved for the future shared-use path on both sides.

In addition, the intersection design should ensure that the future Route 234 Trail will have a safe, at-grade crossing of Clover Hill Road, presumably coordinated with the same traffic signal that regulates the Route 234 traffic.

Eliminate High-Speed Right-on-Red Turning Movements from Route 234 onto Clover Hill Road

Unlike VDOT’s model bowtie intersection illustrated above, the currently proposed intersection design incorporates two free-flowing, high-speed, right-turning movements, using pork-chop islands, for Route 234 traffic to enter Clover Hill Road.  We believe this currently proposed design feature would seriously endanger both 1) bicyclists and pedestrians crossing Route 234 at Clover Hill Road and 2) the users of the future Route 234 Trail crossing Clover Hill Road.

Vulnerable, non-motorized road and trail users who are crossing either roadway on a green traffic signal should not be endangered by high-speed traffic that is simultaneously turning right-on-red at near-freeway speeds at these pork-chop islands.  While a decision to completely ban all right-turn-on-red movements at this intersection might best be made by expert traffic engineers, we firmly believe that free-flowing right-on-red movements would be dangerous at this intersection and should not be promoted by design features such as pork-chop islands.

Instead, vehicle traffic entering Clover Hill Road from Route 234 should be encouraged to slow to the 25 MPH posted speed and carefully merge into the single travel lane approaching the roundabout, while bicyclists who have just crossed Route 234 on a green signal must merge into the bike lane at the right edge of the roadway.

Again, careful pavement marking and signing would help all road users safely negotiate these conflicts, whereas a design that promotes high-speed right-on-red vehicle traffic would endanger vulnerable road users.

Bicyclists and pedestrians crossing Route 234 at Clover Hill Road on a green traffic signal would primarily be endangered by motorists turning right-on-red from Route 234 at the far side of their crossing.  By contrast, users of the future Route 234 Trail crossing Clover Hill Road on a green traffic signal could encounter both motorists turning right-on-green from Route 234 as well as motorists turning right-on-red from Clover Hill Road.   All such right-turning movements would be safer if the design encourages motorists to slow or stop completely before entering a crosswalk and turning into the path of vulnerable road users.  Partial traffic signal phasing, such as leading pedestrian intervals, could also make these crossings safer.

Clover Hill Road is a local street posted for 25 MPH, and there is no compelling need to promote free-flowing right-turn-on-red vehicle movements onto Clover Hill Road.

The 2019 AADT for all connected local roadways (i.e., Clover Hill Road, Godwin Drive, and Harry J Parrish Blvd) ranges from 2100 to 4700, so Clover Hill Road only needs one travel lane per direction between intersections. The proposed design includes a grassy median along Clover Hill Road, but there’s no compelling need for a grassy median on a road posted for 25 MPH, and that grassy median is about a full-lane wide on the segment approaching Godwin Dr.

Active Prince William also supports the inclusion of a shared-use path along this entire segment of Clover Hill Road; however, such a path would not connect to any existing path along Clover Hill Road, Godwin Drive or Harry J. Parrish Blvd, and it appears that the long-planned path along the Route 234 Bypass won’t be built for the foreseeable future.  Thus, a shared-use path seems less essential, especially on the airport side of Route 234, provided that both sides of Clover Hill Road will have sidewalks and bike lanes.

If spatial or terrain constraints would otherwise preclude the addition of both on-road bike lanes and sidewalks along Clover Hill Road in both directions, consideration should be given to narrowing or eliminating the grassy medians.

Thank you for considering our input.

###

Our Comments on the Mathis Avenue Improvement Project

On March 31, 2022, Active Prince William submitted the following comments to the City of Manassas regarding its proposed Mathis Avenue Improvement Project:


Re: Mathis Avenue Improvement Project (T-086) Public Meeting Comments

On behalf of Active Prince William, I’m writing to submit the following comments in response to the March 17, public meeting for the above-referenced project.  Our all-volunteer organization seeks improved active mobility and public transportation throughout greater Prince William, to create more livable, equitable, and sustainable communities.

An Improved Public Process for Transportation Project Development

We sincerely appreciate the improved process used to involve the public at the 30% design stage for this capital transportation project, which included both a February 23 virtual public meeting and an in-person meeting held on March 17.  This public involvement process is far better than the one used by City staff for its recent Sudley Road Third Lane Project, which excluded all public input before preliminary engineering was at least 90% complete (including when that project had been re-scoped substantially twice, in December 2017 and in February 2021).  We hope this public comment opportunity reflects a permanent policy change to proactively involve the public in all City transportation projects going forward, ideally starting at the project scoping stage.

The Proposed Design is a Reasonable Interim Aesthetic Improvement but Lacks Essential Pedestrian Amenities for a Vibrant, Mixed-Use Street

As a final condition for a revitalized Mathis Avenue as a mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented street–ideally with robust bus transit service–the proposed design would be a major disappointment.  However, as an interim improvement intended to transform the appearance of this somewhat desolate commercial street and to promote future mixed-use redevelopment at minimal cost, this project does appear to have merit.

In particular, the proposed design provides sidewalks that are too narrow for comfortable two-way walking, are too close to the roadway, and lack street trees and pedestrian-serving street furniture in what should be much wider curbside planting strips and furniture zones.   In addition, the sidewalks are interrupted with frequent curb cuts, where motor vehicle cross flows impede safe and comfortable walking.

However, considering the need for Mathis Avenue to continue serving the existing auto-oriented businesses beside it, especially along the east side of this street, until redevelopment occurs some years in the future, the imperative to minimize right of way takings and to preserve the existing curb cuts is understandable.

To effectively promote the specific forms of redevelopment that the City seeks and to ensure that this redevelopment incorporates the necessary mobility infrastructure to equitably support that redevelopment, the City’s Department of Planning and Community Development should undertake a robust community-based planning process to develop a detailed form-based zoning code for the Mathis Avenue corridor.  Form-base zoning codes are a proven tool to effectively promote the specific forms of redevelopment desired by localities.

Bicycling Accommodations and Roadway Design Speed

The lack of bike lanes (or any alternative bicycle facilities) in this project is disappointing but is also understandable since the existing curbs are not being moved to keep the existing storm sewer infrastructure in place, to minimize costs and commercial property impacts.  However, without bike lanes, the construction of raised medians will degrade bicycling conditions substantially, and those degraded conditions are unlikely to be remedied by a future roadway widening when the corridor is eventually redeveloped.

Presently, motorists can readily safely overtake people riding bicycles on Mathis Avenue by passing in the two-way central left-turn lane.  The raised medians, however, will prevent motorists from overtaking bicycle riders, who typically travel at 10-16 MPH.  Thus, people riding bicycles on Mathis Avenue will serve as slow-moving traffic-calming devices.  This roadway change will make bicycling unpleasant for nearly all riders and will subject people riding bicycles to increased harassment from frustrated motorists who are unable to pass.  Moreover, since Mathis Avenue would probably not be rebuilt with added bike lanes when redevelopment occurs in the future, this degradation of bicycling conditions on Mathis Avenue is likely permanent.

The fact that nearby Portner Avenue is designated as a bicycle route is no reason to degrade bicycling conditions on Mathis Avenue.  While many through bicyclists already prefer to travel on Portner Avenue, only Mathis Avenue serves the businesses and jobs located along Mathis Avenue, and people will someday live on this segment of Mathis Avenue too.

Thus, for both bicycle access and pedestrian safety, this project should strive to reduce the design speed for Mathis Avenue–and ideally the posted speed limit–to 20 MPH or below.   The raised median with street trees—and especially street trees in future curbside planting strips and future taller buildings closer to the roadway—should encourage motorists to drive more slowly on Mathis Avenue, but other design changes are needed too.

Shorter curb-return radii at corners and narrower sidewalk curb cuts would help reduce motor vehicle speeds, and electronic speed-feedback signs paired with posted speed limit signs (dynamic speed displays) would warn speeding motorists to slow down.  In addition, shared-lane markings (aka “sharrows”) centered in each travel lane would inform both motorists and bicycle riders that this is a shared roadway.

More Visible and Shorter Crosswalks

One notable design feature that should be changed is the proposed use of brick-colored stamped asphalt crosswalks.  While intended to impart historic charm, brown-colored crosswalks are far less conspicuous to motorists than modern high-visibility and reflective thermoplastic crosswalk markings.  The primary purpose of marked crosswalks is to alert motorists to the likely presence of crossing pedestrians, encouraging drivers to slow down, look for, prepare to yield to, and stop for pedestrians who may be crossing the roadway.  A faux-brick aesthetic is far less important than the safety of people who are walking across the street.

In addition, the final design of each intersection should pay particular attention to shortening the length of all crosswalks to the extent feasible and to install two separate curb ramps for the crosswalk landings at each corner.  The present design includes a single combined curb ramp at the southeast corner of Mathis Avenue and Sudley Road and at all four corners of Mathis Avenue and Liberia Avenue, the two on the north side not being rebuilt.

Designing shorter curb-return radii at all intersection corners, as suggested above to reduce the roadway design speed, would also reduce the crosswalk lengths at those intersections.

Consider Short Left-Turn Lanes at Reb Yank Drive and Carriage Lane

The advertised design does not include any space in the center of the roadway (beyond the intersection itself) to store vehicles waiting to turn left at Reb Yank Drive (from both directions) or southbound at Carriage Lane.  While shortening the raised medians to add short left-turn pockets at those three locations could increase travel speeds along Mathis Avenue and could also remove the proposed median refuges for crossing pedestrians at those unsignalized intersections, it may be prudent to add those left-turn pockets to smooth traffic flow, reduce traffic congestion, and lower the incidence of rear-end collisions at those locations.  However, if traffic studies have already documented that those left-turn pockets are unnecessary, then please retain them.

Thank you for considering our comments as you finalize the design of this project.

While Better, the Revised Design of the Route 234-Brentsville Road Interchange in Still Badly Flawed

Prince William County DOT’s currently proposed circuitous trail routing through the Interchange, assuming that a direct trail bridge connecting the existing Route 294 and Route 234 Trails is included in this project

Our proposed trail connections through the planned interchange to reach Route 234 Business (red line) and the future trail along the Route 234 Bypass (blue line).  A trail (red line) running along the north side of Route 234 would pass underneath both new roadway overpasses. The three light blue circles show where box culverts could allow the trail to be routed beneath highway ramps.  The areas shown in yellow are existing roadways that are planned to be removed.  This design eliminates all at-grade trail-roadway crossings, except to reach Route 234 Business.  However, by building a shared-use path along the west side of Route 234 Business (connecting to Godwin Dr), trail users would be required to cross only 5-lanes of stopped traffic at just the western leg of the signalized intersection of Bradley Cemetery Way and Route 234 Business, not 12-lanes of stopped traffic plus one lane of free-flowing right-turning traffic at two separate legs of that intersection.

This post follows up on the comments we previously submitted in response to the December 8, 2021 Design Public Hearing for Prince William County DOT’s Route 234-Brentsville Road Interchange Project.

On March 18, 2022, the County released this followup video presentation on the proposed project design.   County DOT staff are willing to at least partly addresses three concerns with the proposed trail connections that were raised at the Design Public Hearing:

1) In response to public comments from Active Prince William and others, the County is now studying the cost feasibility of a new, dedicated trail bridge over Rte 234, just east of the interchange, to directly connect the existing trails along Route 234 and Route 294.   If this trail bridge can be added without the project exceeding it’s $55 million budget, it will be included in this project.   Otherwise, it probably won’t.

2) In response to safety concerns raised by many about the four proposed closely spaced at-grade trail crossings of free-flowing highway ramps near Route 294 and Bradley Cemetery Way in the northeast corner of this project, those hazardous at-grade trail crossings may not be built, at least if the added trail bridge discussed above is actually built.    However, this change would produce a long, circuitous trail route between the western legs (Route 234 Bypass and Route 234 Business) and eastern legs (the existing trails along Routes 234 and 294) of this interchange (shown in the top image above).

3) In response to objections that the design completely omits the long-planned trail along the Route 234 Bypass that should join the existing trails along Route 234 and Route 294,  the design team has identified a future location for this trail along the northwestern edge of the interchange (see the blue line in the second image above).

However, all trail connections to and from Route 234 Business and the long-planned future trail along the Route 234 Bypass (aka Route 234 North) would still require a two-stage at-grade crossing of 12 signalized traffic lanes plus one free-flowing right-turn lane at the rebuilt intersection of Bradley Cemetery Way and Rte 234 Business plus a second at-grade trail crossing of a free-flowing highway ramp at the south side of the interchange (at the on-ramp from Brentsville Road) .  Those remaining design flaws would still create considerable delays and hazards for trail users.

Under Prince William DOT’s revised design for this interchange, this slow and hazardous crossing of 13 traffic lanes at two legs of the signalized intersection of Bradley Cemetery Way and Route 234 Business would remain.  All trail access and egress from either Route 234 Business or the future trail along the Route 234 Bypass would need to use this routing to join either of the existing trails along Route 234 and Route 294 or Brentsville Road.

As a followup proposal, we suggest routing the long-planned trail along the Route 234 Bypass along the north side of Route 234 (per the second image from the top), connecting that trail to both the existing Route 294 Trail to the east and to a new shared-use path along the west side of Route 234 Business (where the existing pavement, depicted in yellow, is planned for removal).   This trail (depicted with a red line in that image) would pass underneath both new roadway overpasses being built to carry Brentsville Road and Route 294 over Route 234 and could also pass underneath three single-lane interchange ramps inside box culverts (see the light blue circles).

Under our proposal, the long-planned trail along the Route 234 Bypass would run along the north side of Route 234 and pass under both planned roadway bridges.

 

Three short box culverts could be used to route our proposed trail along the north side of the Route 234 Bypass beneath three one-lane interchange ramps.  Only one such box culvert would be needed for the connection to Route 234 Business.

Our proposed design eliminates all at-grade trail-roadway crossings, except to reach Route 234 Business.  However, by building a shared-use path along the west side of Route 234 Business (connecting to Godwin Dr), where only a sidewalk is currently planned, trail users would be required to cross only 5-lanes of stopped traffic at just the western leg of the signalized intersection of Bradley Cemetery Way and Route 234 Business, not 12-lanes of stopped traffic plus one lane of free-flowing right-turning traffic at two separate legs of that intersection.

Our proposal could also lower the cost of this project by eliminating the need to include a 14-foot wide shared-use path on the proposed Brentsville Road bridge.

Active Prince William believes that first-class, safe and direct trail connections for all five legs of this interchange can and should be provided within this project’s existing budget of $55 million.

Tour of Prince William Bicycling Event, July 23, 2022

Participate in the

2022 Tour of Prince William

to benefit the 501(c)(3) Prince William Trails and Streams Coalition and the 501(c)(3) Prince William Historic Preservation Foundation

When:  Saturday, July 23, 2022

Start time:  7:00 – 9:00 a.m. (no mass start)

Starting Location:  Brentsville Courthouse Historic Center
12229 Bristow Road, Bristow, VA 20136

Courses:  20-mile and 62-mile (metric century) rides

Cost:  $40 by May 31, $45 by June 30, $50 by July 22, and $55 in person July 23.

Course Description:  The courses introduce bicycle riders to the wide variety that is Prince William County.  Wind through urban, suburban, exurban, rural, forested, town, flat, and hilly areas.  Bicycle riders will visit two of Prince William County’s historic properties.

Registration opens April 11, 2022, and additional information is available now at www.tourofprincewilliam.org

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