Advancing active mobility in greater Prince William, Virginia

Category: Transportation (Page 1 of 11)

“Taming Our Arterials” Webinar, September 29 @ 7 PM

Multi-lane suburban arterial roads–such as Routes 1, 28, 123, and 234 Business in Prince William County– are dangerous and hostile for pedestrians and bicyclists.  How can we make these roads safer?  That’s the theme of this virtual panel discussion on Thursday, September 29, 2022 at 7 p.m., sponsored by our friends at the Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling, Toole Design Group, and the Coalition for Smarter Growth.

Register in advance on Zoom.

Andy Clarke of Toole Design Group, Fairfax County Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk, Stewart Schwartz of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, and Bill Cuttler of VDOT’s Northern Virginia Construction District will discuss long- and short-term methods that can be used to tame our big roads.  They will discuss some techniques that have been shown to work, and address how to overcome institutional barriers to making these changes.

Event Organizers

Our Comments on NVTA’s Draft Transportation Plan

On September 8, 2022, the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority held a public hearing on its draft five-year update to TransAction, the regional authority’s long-range transportation plan for Northern Virginia.   Active Prince William’s co-chairs, Mark Scheufler and Allen Muchnick, delivered separate oral statements at this hearing, and both statements are posted below.  

A recording of the public hearing, which featured 21 citizen comments, is here.  Mark’s statement begins at 1:10:50 in this recording, while Allen’s statement follows immediately at 1:13:40 .

Additional written statements submitted on September 18, 2022:


Good Evening.  Mark Scheufler, Prince William County.  Thank you for the opportunity to address you tonight.

I am a member of Active Prince William, which is a volunteer group of concerned citizens who advocate for better opportunities, support, and infrastructure for active transportation and healthy lifestyles within Prince William County, Manassas, and Manassas Park.

I have reviewed the list of projects and associated documentation in the TransAction package and continue to be disappointed in the goals and outcomes of this process.

I do not believe a directionless, hodgepodge, all-the-above-list-of-projects approach of expanding capacity to reduce roadway congestion is the best path for the region.  Reform to the NVTA statute is needed.

I compare the Northern Virginia transportation situation as it relates to congestion to be comparable to obesity.  The solution for obesity should not be to loosen the belt for extra capacity which is similar to the 20th century concept that unmanaged road widening is a solution to congestion in urban areas such as Northern Virginia.

Unfortunately the Transaction list includes 117 projects with the word “Widen” in it.

This update to the TransAction along with the NVTA statute will continue to point outer jurisdictions of Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun to submit car-first projects that serve to increase car dependency to future six-year funding programs.

In addition, while excellent projects, the fact that the 24th, 25th and 26th ranked projects (out of 26) in the last six year plan were funded, diminishes the value and purpose of the NVTA and questions whether funding should just go directly to the jurisdictions based on the funding contributed by each jurisdiction.

For Prince William County, with all the traffic information available, the best fully funded project in the last six year plan was a roadway extension through a data center development.  Prince William County probably could have developed better outcomes outside of the NVTA process and restrictions.

In closing, I will submit this testimony via email and provide a list of project additions, subtractions and modifications for consideration as many of my concerns discussed here will not be addressed in this TransAction process.  But I hope NVTA reform can be addressed by the state legislature to create better land use and transportation outcomes for all Northern Virginia residents.  Thank you.


Good Evening.  I’m Allen Muchnick.  I live in the City of Manassas, and I also serve on the board of Active Prince William, an active mobility advocacy group.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority’s transportation planning and programming processes are fundamentally flawed, starting with its statutory mandate to focus on traffic congestion, while ignoring the critical roles of land use and induced demand as well as the environmental, equity, and traffic-safety problems caused by our region’s over-dependence on auto travel.

Northern Virginia’s roadways have been expanded for the past seventy years, yet we still face perpetual traffic congestion, and most NoVA residents will continue to lack viable alternatives to driving alone for most local trips.  Repeating the same activity over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.

Developing an independent Northern Virginia transportation plan that does not reinforce and advance the goals, objectives, and strategies of Visualize 2045–the federally mandated long-range transportation plan for the entire Washington region–is counterproductive and foolish.  An unconstrained and un-prioritized transportation project wish list, whose price tag far exceeds the funding that is expected to become available before 2045, is largely a wasteful exercise.

In June 2022, the TPB committed to a strategy of completing all planned segments of its National Capital Trail Network (NCTN) by 2030.  Yet, no planned National Capital Trail Network segments are identified in the TransAction project list, and it’s likely that many are not even included.

In the TransAction project list, many of the road-widening and interchange proposals do not mention the inclusion of associated pedestrian and bicycling elements, which might be new, upgrades, exact replacements, or preserved preexisting facilities.  For over 18 years, VDOT has operated under a Complete Streets policy adopted by the Commonwealth Transportation Board.  The NVTA also needs to adopt a Complete Streets policy that requires all NVTA-funded projects to incorporate all related pedestrian and bicycling accommodations as safe, direct, and efficient facilities, unless one or more specified exemptions exist.

Another much-needed, yet simple, NVTA reform would require advertised public hearings before the relevant governing body endorses any project for NVTA-related funding, including federal RSTP and CMAQ allocations endorsed by the NVTA.

Thank you for this opportunity to comment orally.  I plan to submit more detailed written comments via email by the September 18 deadline.

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
[email protected]

Renee Grebe
Northern Virginia Conservation Advocate
Audubon Naturalist Society
[email protected]

Douglas Stewart
Transportation Co-Chair
Virginia Sierra Club
[email protected]

Andrea McGimsey
Executive Director
Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions
[email protected]

Mark Scheufler & Allen Muchnick
Co-Chairs
Active Prince William
[email protected]

Chris Slatt
President
Sustainable Mobility for Arlington County
[email protected]

Zander Pellegrino
Northern Virginia Grassroots Organizer
Chesapeake Climate Action Network
[email protected]

Kim Hosen
Executive Director
Prince William Conservation Alliance
[email protected]

Morgan Butler
Senior Attorney
Southern Environmental Law Center
[email protected]

Luca Gattoni-Celli
Founder
YIMBYs of Northern Virginia
[email protected]

Jack Calhoun and John Clewett
Co-Chairs
Lewinsville Faith in Action
[email protected]

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