Advancing active mobility in greater Prince William, Virginia

Tag: Active Prince William (Page 1 of 3)

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.

Our Comments on PWC’s Proposed Transit Alternatives Map

Prince William County’s Proposed “Future Transit Alternatives Map” Dated March 17, 2022

On April 15, 2022, Active Prince William submitted the following public comments on the draft “Future Transit Alternatives Map” that defines the public transportation element for the update to Prince William County’s Comprehensive Plan known as “Pathways to 2040”.


1) The Future Transit Alternatives Map needs to identify specific sites for proposed High-Capacity Transit stations that would exist by the year 2040.

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments needs to accept those sites on its map of High Capacity Transit Station Areas and to agree that they qualify as “Regional Activity Centers” (using the MWCOG definition of that term), so Prince William’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan is consistent with the Metropolitan Washington Planning Framework for 2030.

Unless specific station sites are identified, the Mobility Chapter will not be integrated with the Land Use and Housing Chapters.  Identifying the planned locations of future VRE and Metrorail stations is required for the Land Use Chapter (including Land Use Map) to specify where new Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) will be planned within walking distance of High-Capacity Transit Stations.  Identifying the planned locations of future VRE and Metrorail stations is required for the Housing Chapter to plan to meet regional housing targets set with MWCOG.

MWCOG’s Regional Housing Targets

2) The Future Transit Alternatives Map should clarify if all projects shown on the map are planned to be completed by 2040.   If some projects will have a longer time frame, then the projects planned to be completed by 2040 should be identified clearly or included on a separate map.  In particular, the proposed extensions of the Metrorail Orange Line and the VRE Manassas Line are redundant, and both are likely unnecessary with the advent of the I-66 Express Lanes.  The Future Transit Alternatives Map should clearly identify that the existing I-95 and imminent I-66 Express Lanes are “existing” High-Capacity Transitways.

Knowing what projects are expected to be built over the next 20 years is necessary so other Comprehensive Plan policies, action strategies, and projects can be budgeted and synchronized.  Maps showing planned roads and trails should also identify projects planned for completion by 2040, plus other aspirational projects using the same approach for transit projects.

3) The Mobility Chapter should include action strategies to acquire right-of-way for the proposed route of the Orange Line to Gainesville or that project should be removed from the map.  Unless located within the I-66 right of way, the right-of-way for the Orange Line extension may require going through Bull Run Regional Park, Manassas National Battlefield Park, and/or high-value commercial properties.  Fairfax County committed almost $60 million to preserve right-of-way along the I-66 corridor for extending Orange Line to Centerville during expansion to create Express Mobility Partners toll lanes, but Prince William preserved no right-of-way–suggesting a proposal for extending the Orange Line to Gainesville is more of a fantasy than an actual plan.

4) If the proposed route of the Orange Line to Gainesville remains on Future Transit Alternatives Map , then the Land Use Chapter should include plans for town centers with T-5 and T-6 Transect Zones at the station locations.

5) The Mobility Chapter should define the southern terminus of the proposed Blue/Yellow Line in eastern Prince William, and that terminus should subsequently be identified in the Visualize 2045, TransAction, and VTrans plans.

6) The Mobility Chapter should include action strategies to acquire right-of-way for the proposed route of the Blue/Yellow Line to Triangle or of the proposed BRT system.

7) The proposed route of the Blue/Yellow Line to Triangle , or of the proposed BRT system, should be clarified so it will be clear what land parcels will be suitable for Transit-Oriented Development.  In particular, it should be clear if the large Potomac Mills site will have a High-Capacity Transit station at one edge, because portions of that property could end up more than one-half mile from a station.

8) The Quartz development at the intersection of Minnieville Road and Prince William Parkway, and the intersection of Dale Boulevard-Minnieville Road should not be designated as “MultiMobile Hubs” if those sites will not have a High-Capacity Transit station.  Bus stops with commuter lots technically might be “multimobile,” but should not be planned for the same level of development as sites with a High-Capacity Transit station.

Proposed “Future Transit Alternatives” for Eastern Prince William County

9) Plans for town centers with T-5 and T-6 Transect Zones should be included in the Land Use Map for all sites in eastern Prince William where a High-Capacity Transit station is planned.

10) Action strategies in the Mobility Chapter should identify how to obtain local, state, and Federal funding for extension of Metrorail to Prince William, creation of a Bus Rapid Transit system and shuttle/trolley systems, and development of infrastructure for the proposed commuter ferry.

11) The Land Use Map should identify where affordable housing is planned within walking distance of planned High-Capacity Transit stations, in order to meet the MWCOG targets.  Families are cost-burdened if housing costs exceed 30% of Area Median Income, but also cost-burdened if housing and transportation costs combined exceed 42% of Area Median Income.

12) The 2040 Comprehensive Plan should quantify the shortage of affordable housing units for families earning 30%, 50%, and 80% of Area Median Income now, and the projected shortage in 2030 and 2040.  The Land Use Map should identify where new affordable housing will be developed by 2030 and 2040 to eliminate the shortage of affordable housing in those three categories, and those locations for new affordable housing should be planned within walking distance of High-Capacity Transit stations.

13) More-detailed shuttle/trolley routes and boundaries of areas where service is planned should be identified on the Future Transit Alternatives Map.  The Mobility Chapter should include an action strategy to complete and update regularly origin and destination studies for proposed shuttle/trolley routes, in order to integrate the Mobility Chapter with other 2040 Comprehensive Plan chapters and with the Comprehensive Plans in the Cities of Manassas and Manassas Park. Shuttle/trolley routes should be structured to connect Activity Centers as defined by MWCOG and also nodes of existing/planned dense development as shown on the Land Use Map.

14) An action strategy should be included in the Mobility Chapter to identify the year when shuttle/trolley service will become operational, so rezonings and construction plans can be synchronized.

15) If “[s]pecific objectives include adapting to changing mobility trends, improving multi-modal options, increasing the use of public transit, increasing travel time reliability while concurrently striving to decrease the use of vehicle fuels that contribute to climate change,” then the Mobility Chapter needs to add Local and Express Bus Service maps showing areas to be served by bus service and the stages in which that service will be expanded over the next 20 years.  Upgrading local bus service to facilitate access to local jobs, schools, healthcare, retail, and other key destinations for less-advantaged households is at least as essential as extending commuter rail routes that carry white-collar workers out of Prince William. Upgrading low-cost local transit and upgrading bike/pedestrian access offers the greatest opportunity to invest in upgrading equity.  Fairfax Connector Transit Strategic Plan Update offers an understandable format that can be used to support comprehensive plan update effort

16) “High-Capacity Transit”, as identified on this map, should be adequately defined in terms of weekday boardings, peak-period headways, and service hours.  Bus service that operates for fewer than 16 hours on weekdays, has peak-period headways longer than 15 or 20 minutes, or experiences fewer than 500 daily boardings is merely ordinary transit service.

17) The “High-Capacity Transit” lines in the western part of the county, which lack connections to Downtown Manassas, the Manassas Park City Center, the Godwin Drive Technology Corridor, and Sudley Road/Route 234 Business, are missed opportunities.  Recommend coordinating with Omniride which represents the entire Greater Manassas area.

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Active Prince William Advocates Reforms at NoVA Transportation Meeting

Active Prince William Co-Chairs Allen Muchnick and Mark Scheufler submitted the following statements for the Annual Joint Northern Virginia Transportation Public Meeting that was held on December 15, 2021.


Northern Virginia needs a transportation system that moves people and goods effectively, safely, equitably, and sustainably.  Sadly, our region’s pursuit of wider and faster roads over the past 70-plus years has failed to achieve those objectives. 

It’s long past time to stop expanding regional roadways for toll-free travel in single-occupant vehicles and instead focus new homes, jobs, and transportation investments in regional activity centers served by high-capacity public transportation and expeditiously retrofit existing arterial roads for safe and efficient travel by walking, bicycling, and bus transit. 

Robust and strategic Vision Zero programs are needed at the statewide, regional, and local levels, and the region should prioritize completion of the National Capital Trail Network.

We appreciate this annual joint transportation meeting and public comment opportunity for Northern Virginia.  However, the conspicuous absence of the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (or TPB) from this annual meeting should be promptly fixed, with or without state legislation.

With the TPB excluded, the public, elected officials, CTB members, and agency staff are not fully and fairly apprised of the TPB’s critical role as the federally designated metropolitan planning organization for the National Capital Region, which includes Planning District 8, and they are not kept aware of the TPB’s many policies (e.g., the TPB Vision, Regional Transportation Priorities Plan, Visualize 2045 Aspirational Initiatives, Equity Emphasis Areas, strategies to achieve regional goals for greenhouse gas reduction and for locating the bulk of new housing in regional activity centers served by high-capacity public transportation), priorities, objectives, studies, planning activities, and transportation project and system evaluation processes.

In addition, the TPB does allocate funds for several transportation programs, including the Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside, the FTA’s Enhanced Mobility Program (Section 5310), the TPB’s Transportation Land-Use Connection (TLC) technical assistance planning grants, the TPB’s new Transit within Reach technical assistance program, the TPB’s new Regional Roadway Safety Program, the Commuter Connections’ suite of transportation demand management programs, the Street Smart Safety Campaign, the TPB’s Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP), etc.

Transparent and impactful public involvement throughout the development of transportation projects is vital for creating better transportation projects.

The CTB and NVTA should require all localities or agencies to hold advertised public hearings on their proposed submissions for funding transportation projects with SMART SCALE, NVTA, CMAQ, RSTP, Revenue Sharing Program, Transportation Alternatives, HSIP, and other non-local funds before the project funding requests are formally submitted by staff and endorsed by the local governing body.  Only if such advertised public hearings are held in advance by agency staff or a local advisory body should the governing body itself be relieved of holding a [second] public hearing and simply endorse the project funding submission(s) as a consent agenda item prior to any public comment opportunity.

The CTB and NVTA should also require localities to hold advertised public hearings that generally comply with VDOT public involvement guidelines before a locally administered transportation project is either advanced beyond a feasibility study or approved for construction.  While VDOT has excellent public participation and environmental review procedures for its own projects. Virginia’s public involvement and environmental review requirements for locally administered projects are far less stringent. Locality transportation staff have long exploited lax VDOT oversight of locally administered projects to minimize input on the scope and design of transportation projects by the public and even elected officials.

Prince William County’s rigged and prematurely aborted feasibility and environmental assessment studies for its proposed Route 28 Bypass along the Flat Branch floodplain are prime examples of a corrupted public process.  The City of Manassas has also repeatedly evaded meaningful public scrutiny of its Sudley Road Third Lane Project along Route 234 Business.


Thank you for the opportunity to address you tonight.   To meet the regional, state, and federal greenhouse gas emission objectives and goals, a structural change in the transportation planning and investment needs to occur.

In addition to improved vehicle emission standards and investing in electric vehicles and infrastructure, vehicle miles traveled or VMT for Single Occupancy Vehicles as a whole needs to decrease even as the Northern Virginia population grows.

At a basic level, this means that we need to stop expanding unmanaged roadway lane miles.  This means Northern Virginia’s section of the Visualize 2045 constrained long-range plan needs to be radically changed. Any government funding for highway expansion is one less dollar going to meeting these urgent climate goals in the transportation sector.

A large number of major roadway projects in Northern Virginia are going to be completed in the next few years that will dramatically increase the VMT in the region.  We need to change the paradigm that Congestion is reduced–not by adding roadway supply to the system–but by reduced Single-Occupant-Vehicle travel demand.  This will require reducing car dependency by developing near high-capacity transit, repurposing roadway space for transit and non-motorized users, and reforming parking requirements and level of service standards, especially in outer jurisdictions.

Route 1 in Fairfax County is an example of a project that we cannot afford to replicate. Instead of repurposing the existing roadway corridor with dedicated bus lanes, we are investing over $1 billion to keep or expand to six lanes of high-speed traffic plus added dedicated bus Lanes to create an unsafe environment for all users in the corridor that will take additional 10 years to complete.

But, most importantly, the public needs to be educated on why these structural changes in transportation planning and investment need to be implemented. We need to move away from “investments in ‘multimodal’ transportation solutions” to “investments in everything but projects that induce SOV travel demand”. We need to start tonight…time is running out.  Thank you for considering this input.

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Our Final Comments on the Proposed Route 234-Brentsville Road Interchange Design

PWC’s Proposed Route 234-Brentsville Road Interchange (a grade-separated interchange with continuous green-T intersections).  To see the details, view the design display boards from the December 8 public hearing.

March 18, 2022 Update:  The County has posted this followup video presentation on the proposed project design, and a virtual followup public meeting is scheduled for March 22 at 6 pm.

Several of our concerns with this project are currently being addressed (although the trail bridge over Rte 234 just east of the interchange is merely being “studied” at present).

However, all trail connections to and from Rte 234 Business and the long-planned future trail along Route 234 North would still require a two-step at-grade crossing of 12 signalized traffic lanes at the rebuilt intersection of Bradley Cemetery Way and Rte 234 Business, and two of the original six at-grade trail crossings of free-flowing highway ramps would remain.  Those remaining design flaws would still create considerable delays and hazards for trail users.


Active Prince William submitted the following public comments to the Prince William County Department of Transportation in response to its December 8, 2021 Design Public Hearing on its proposed Interchange at Route 234 and Brentsville Road.  The public comment period closed on December 18, 2021.


The advertised design of the above-referenced project does not safely and effectively accommodate people bicycling, walking, or using other active transportation modes through the project area.  The design of the advertised non-motorized connections should be revised substantially to provide reasonable access and safety for people who are not traveling inside motor vehicles.

1) The Proposed Design Includes Too Many Dangerous At-Grade Trail Crossings of Free-Flowing, High-Speed Highway Ramps

This interchange is the connection point for Prince William County’s two major east-west cross-county shared-use paths; namely, the asphalt sidepaths along Route 294 (Prince William Parkway) and Route 234 South (Dumfries Road).  While the proposed design does include a circuitous shared-use path, meandering through the center of the interchange, that links both major paths, this advertised path connection would require people walking or bicycling to cross five separate at-grade crossings of high-speed highway ramps without any protection from traffic signals.  This tortuous path connection is not merely long, indirect, slow, and tedious; it is extremely hazardous and will both significantly deter trail use and lead to multiple pedestrian and bicycling injury crashes and eventually to traffic deaths.

Four of the six at-grade trail crossings of free-flowing, high-speed highway ramps that are included in the advertised design

Since this proposed interchange would create near-Interstate-highway-quality, free-flow connections for motor vehicles from all five approaches, it is unconscionable to have any at-grade trail-roadway crossings in this project. 

Rather than connect the two existing major trails via five at-grade highway ramp crossings within the center of the interchange, bicyclists and pedestrians should instead be routed near the eastern and northern perimeters of this interchange via pedestrian/bicycle overpasses of three legs of this intersection; namely, Route 234 South, Route 294, and Route 234 Business.   While all three pedestrian/bicycle overpasses proposed below are clearly warranted for safe and equitable access, they are listed above in priority order.

With that said, the trail approaches to many of the proposed at-grade roadway crossings in the present design are often very short and nearly parallel to the crossed roadway, especially at most of the four at-grade roadway crossings near the intersection of Bradley Cemetery Way and Route 294.  With such closely spaced crosswalks and sharply bent trail approaches, a bicycle rider would need to fully stop well before reaching the crosswalk, dismount, and manually reposition her bicycle to clearly view the approaching cross-traffic, and she will thus require much larger gaps in traffic to safely cross each roadway ramp.  The clustering of some of these crosswalks and the resulting short path segments between them would also likely create conflicts and collisions with any trail users approaching from the opposite direction.  If the final design retains any at-grade roadway crossings, the trail approaches should be as perpendicular to each crossed roadway (or in direct line with each crosswalk) as possible and substantially longer than the crosswalk itself.

The advertised design includes four closely spaced at-grade path crossings of free-flowing highway ramps near Route 294

The proposed shared-use path junction for the sidepath along Brentsville Road, near the southern end of the intersection, is also poorly designed.  The approach of the Brentsville Road sidepath to the Ramp C crossing is far too close and nearly parallel, not perpendicular, to Ramp C.  In addition, the Brentsville Road sidepath joins the longer path leading to Route 234 South at a sharp 90-degree angle, rather than making gentle Y-shaped connections much farther east of Ramp C.  The latter design flaw is replicated at the path junction near Bradley Cemetery Way and Route 234 Business.  Published AASHTO and VDOT guidance describe how to design appropriate path connections for people riding bicycles at 15 to 20 MPH.

The sidepath along Brentsville Road is poorly designed at its northern end near the Ramp C crossing.

 

2) Separating Shared-Use Paths from High-Speed, Free-Flowing Vehicle Traffic is a Long-Standing Practice in Northern Virginia

The practice of designing and building high-quality shared-use paths along and/or across limited-access highways without any at-grade road crossings has at least a 40-year history in Northern Virginia.  When the Virginia Department of Transportation designed and built I-66 in Arlington circa 1980, it established a continuous 10-foot asphalt path immediately adjacent to that highway with zero at-grade roadway crossings for the more than four miles between N Scott St in Rosslyn and the City of Falls Church at N Van Buren St and Route 29.

The 45-mile Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail, which runs from Shirlington to Purcellville, is Northern Virginia’s preeminent active transportation and recreation facility, largely because it has zero at-grade crossings of fast or busy roadways that are not protected with traffic signals.

In Arlington, the W&OD Trail benefits from both local roadway overpasses of the adjacent I-66 to cross under N. Ohio St and N. Patrick Henry Dr and stream underpasses for the adjacent Four Mile Run to cross under N. Sycamore St, N. Wilson Blvd, N. Carlin Springs Rd, and Arlington Blvd.  As a result, the W&OD Trail has zero at-grade roadway crossings for the nearly four miles between Columbia Pike and the Falls Church line at N Van Buren St.

For at least the past 30 years, NOVA Parks (formerly NVRPA) has required all builders of new or widened roads across its W&OD Trail to include a grade-separated crossing for the trail.  As a result, the W&OD Trail west of Four Mile Run now includes more than two dozen separate trail overpasses or underpasses at Route 29 in East Falls Church, Route 7 in Falls Church, I-495, American Dream Way, Reston Parkway, Town Center Parkway, Fairfax County Parkway, Herndon Parkway East, Center St in Herndon, Herndon Parkway West, Church Road, Atlantic Blvd, Route 28/Sully Road, Pacific Blvd, Loudoun County Parkway, Ashburn Village Blvd, Claiborne Parkway, Belmont Ridge Road, Battlefield Parkway SE, Route 15, Plaza St SE, Route 7/Harry Bryd Hwy, the Route 9/Route 7 Interchange, and the Route 287/Route 7 Interchange.  Many of those grade-separated roadways have lower traffic speeds and/or volumes than Routes 234 and 294.

Currently, the I-66 Outside the Beltway Express Lanes Project is in the process of building 11 miles of shared-use paths adjacent to I-66 in Fairfax County, as well as safe bicycle and pedestrian facilities on nearly all of the roads that cross I-66.  These new bicycle and pedestrian connections have been carefully and creatively designed to avoid at-grade roadway crossings, especially crossings with free-flowing, high-speed traffic.

Operated by the National Park Service’s George Washington Memorial Parkway unit, the 18-mile Mount Vernon Trail between Rosslyn and the Mount Vernon Estate is another premier shared-use path in Northern Virgina.  Because it follows the Potomac River, the Mount Vernon Trail has always had few at-grade road crossings.  Nevertheless, many millions of dollars have been invested over the years to remove busy at-grade highway ramp crossings near Reagan National Airport, and—with no highway ramp interruptions—to connect the Mount Vernon Trail to Rosslyn, the Pentagon, and Crystal City and to cross the Potomac River on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

In recent years, the Virginia Department of Transportation has been building a network of pedestrian and bicycle overpasses of I-495 and the Dulles Toll Road in the Tysons area, including along Route 7 across the Dulles Toll Road, Trap Road over the Dulles Toll Road in Vienna,  the Jones Branch Connector over I-495 south of the Dulles Toll Road in McLean, and the Tysons One/Old Meadow Road overpass of I-495 near Pimmit Hills.

Bicycling and walking are viable transportation and very popular recreation modes in communities with high-qualify shared use paths, and the absence of at-grade highway ramp crossings is a key contributor to the safety, use, and enjoyment of those paths.  Prince William County will never create the types of high-quality paved trails enjoyed in most other Northern Virginia localities if it continues to build shared-use paths with hazardous at-grade crossings of highway ramps.

 

3) Install a Pedestrian/Bicycle Bridge over Route 234 on the East/South Side of the Interchange to Create a Safe and Direct Connection between the Route 234 and Route 294 Paths

The Route 234 and Route 294 sidepaths–the two major existing bike/ped facilities within the project area—could be linked very safely and directly by building a pedestrian/bicycle bridge between these two trails on the east/south side of the interchange in the vicinity of the Meadows Farms Garden Center.  Because the elevation on the south side of Route 234 is considerably higher than the roadway, no long bridge approach should be needed on that side of the overpass.

Our proposed direct connection of the existing Route 294 and Route 234 shared-use paths via a pedestrian/bicycle overpass of Route 234 on the east side of the interchange near the Meadows Farms Garden Center

 

4) Incorporate Safe and Direct Connections to and from Route 234 Business (Dumfries Road) and the Planned Trail along Route 234 North

Even if the direct pedestrian/bicycle bridge requested above is built, safe and efficient bicycling and walking connections would still be needed to and from all five legs of this interchange; namely Route 294 (Prince William Parkway), Route 234 South (Dumfries Road), Route 234 North (Prince William Parkway), Brentsville Road (Route 649), and Route 234 Business (Dumfries Road).

Although the current Prince William County Comprehensive Plan calls for building a major shared-use path along Route 234 North, the current project design does not depict this future trail or its connections to the four other legs of this interchange.  The current design should be modified to identify the right-of-way and connections for the future Route 234 North shared-use path within the project limits.

Presently, Route 234 Business (Dumfries Road) provides bicycle and pedestrian access to the project area from most of the City of Manassas, the Bradley Square development, and the Godwin Drive corridor.  Bicyclists and pedestrians now readily use Route 234 Business to access Brentsville Rd, the Route 234 South sidepath, and the Route 294 sidepath via the roadways and crosswalks at the two nearby existing Route 234 intersections (and alternatively via Bradley Cemetery Way if desired).

The proposed design, however, would severely degrade this walking and bicycling access to and from Route 234 Business by expanding the limited-access control perimeter and by creating a large new signalized intersection at Route 234 Business and Bradley Cemetery Way.  To access any other leg of the interchange, bicyclists and pedestrians from Route 234 Business (and also the future shared-use path along Route 234 North) would apparently need to 1) cross two separate legs of a large, signalized Route 234 Business/Bradley Cemetery Way intersection—spanning a total of 12 vehicle lanes—2) cross a free-flowing lane of right-turning traffic from northbound Brentsville Road, and 3) finally cross either one or four-additional high-speed highway ramps within the center of the interchange, depending upon one’s destination.  This proposed pedestrian and bicycle access is neither safe nor effective and is a significant degradation of the existing conditions.

The advertised design would require at least a four-stage maneuver for pedestrians and bicyclists using Route 234 Business (or the future shared-use path along Route 234 North) to access any other leg of this interchange: 1) cross five lanes of stopped traffic at Route 234 Business, 2) cross seven lanes of stopped traffic at Bradley Cemetery Way, 3) cross one-lane of free-flowing right-turning traffic from northbound Brentsville Road, and 4) cross either one or four additional highway ramps—located elsewhere inside the interchange–with free-flowing, high-speed traffic, depending upon one’s final destination.

The current design should be modified to add an elevated trail on a berm along the north side of Bradley Cemetery Way, with pedestrian/bicycle bridges over both Route 234 Business and Route 294.  Such an elevated trail would connect the existing Route 294 path with the west side of Route 234 Business and the long-planned future trail along Route 234 North.  Placing this trail connection on a berm along the north side of Bradley Cemetery Way should lower construction costs and improve walking and bicycling conditions by minimizing grade changes along this trail connector between the pedestrian bridges over Route 294 and Route 234 Business.  Integrating these safe and direct grade-separated trail connections as part of the current project should provide them at far lower cost than if constructed later as one or more standalone projects.

Rough alignment of our proposed grade-separated trail connections along the northern perimeter of the interchange, with two relatively short pedestrian/bicycle overpasses of Route 234 Business on the west (connected to future shared-use paths along Route 234 Business and Route 234 North) and Route 294 on the east (connected to the existing Route 294 shared-use path).  Between Route 234 Business and Route 294, the connecting path could be built on a berm along the north side of Bradley Cemetery Way.

 

5) Reduce Interchange Construction Costs by Eliminating Unnecessary Trail and Roadway Features

To offset the cost of adding up to three pedestrian/bicycle bridges, the current design could be modified to eliminate unnecessary features.

If all three pedestrian/bicycle bridges recommended above are built over the eastern and northern edges of this interchange, all currently designed pedestrian/bicycle infrastructure within the center of this interchange would be unnecessary and could be eliminated, including the currently proposed 14-foot-wide shared-use path on the western interchange bridge.

The cost of the western interchange bridge should be further reduced by eliminating the advertised continuous green-T intersection at the exit ramp from southbound Route 234 and by eliminating one of the two northbound travel lanes from Brentsville Road on the western interchange bridge.  Traffic volumes on Brentsville Road, which had an AADT of only 2800 in 2019, will never warrant two northbound lanes through this interchange.  Eliminating one unnecessary travel lane (and potentially also the shared-use path) would reduce the cost of this roadway bridge considerably.  A traffic signal, stop sign, or a roundabout could replace the proposed continuous green-T intersection.

 

To reduce project costs, one northbound lane from Brentsville Road could be eliminated on the western overpass.  This second northbound lane is not warranted by current or future Brentsville Road traffic volumes and was only designed to accommodate an unnecessary continuous green-T intersection for traffic exiting southbound Route 234.  If the advertised design is modified to add all three pedestrian/bicycle overpasses recommended above, the 14-foot wide shared-use path could also be eliminated from this overpass.  The width of the advertised western overpass could thus be reduced 39%, from 67 feet to 41 feet.

Reducing northbound Brentsville Road to a single lane though the interchange would also reduce the widths of the roadway north of the western overpass and the width of the signalized intersection of Brentsville Rd/Route 234 Business at Bradley Cemetery Way.

The Route 234 Business/Dumfries Road roadway is already needlessly wide south of Godwin Drive.  According to VDOT’s 2019 traffic count data, this roadway segment has an AADT of only 8600.  Presently, the Route 234 Business roadway south of Godwin Drive is five lanes wide, whereas only three lanes of roadway (one travel lane per direction plus space for a left-turn lane in the center) would adequately accommodate a future doubling of this Route 234 Business Traffic (i.e., to an AADT of 17,200).

Rebuilding Route 234 Business between Godwin Drive and Bradley Cemetery Way as a three-lane roadway, instead of as a five-lane roadway, would allow the addition of both a shared-use path and a sidewalk within the existing right-of-way along this key road segment.  Moreover, the shared-use path (and not the sidewalk) should be located along the west side of Route 234 Business to align with the west-side path just built within the City of Manassas between Hastings Drive and Donner Drive.

Thank you for considering these comments.  We look forward to seeing a substantially modified final design for the shared-use path connections that will eliminate all at-grade roadway crossings and accommodate safe and reasonably direct pedestrian and bicycle access to and from all five legs of this key interchange.


On December 27, 2021, we submitted the following additional comment:

Building 12-foot-wide travel and turn lanes on Brentsville Road, Route 234 Business, and Bradley Cemetery Way is clearly excessive, since 11-foot-wide lanes are more than adequate for those local, lower-speed roadways.  Designing 11-foot travel lanes on the Brentsville Road bridge over Route 234 would further lower the cost of building that overpass.  With 8-foot-wide paved shoulders included on that overpass, 12-foot-wide travel lanes are most definitely wider than needed.

A narrower Route 234 Business on the north side of Bradley Cemetery Way would also reduce the cost of a pedestrian and bicycle overpass at that location and would shorten pedestrian crossing times if at-grade crosswalks are still included at Route 234 Business and/or Bradley Cemetery Way in the final design.

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Environmental and Social Injustice in Prince William County–In 2021. Yes, 2021.

Proposed Route 28 Bypass Alignment (as of February 2021)

Remember the bad old days, when government officials routed new highways through minority neighborhoods and displaced low-wealth families for the benefit of more-wealthy White drivers?

Well, it’s happening right now in Prince William County.

To construct the Route 28 Bypass/Godwin Drive Extended, County supervisors would tear down more than 50 homes in a low-income and heavily Hispanic neighborhood.  At least three families in the Bull Run Mobile Home Park would have to move.  The entire mobile home park could close and be replaced by a mixed-use development with much higher rents/mortgage payments.

The losers:  those living in a rare affordable community in Northern Virginia.  The beneficiaries:  commuters from Fauquier, Culpeper, Stafford, and beyond driving to high-paying jobs in Fairfax and DC.

Racial Characteristics of Census Tracks Surrounding the Route 28 Bypass Alignment (pink line).

Building the Route 28 Bypass would cost at least $300 million, not counting the widening of the adjoining stretch of Godwin Drive in the City of Manassas, estimated in 2019 to cost more than $40 million.   Prince William taxpayers would provide $200 million in funding through a County bond issue.  It’s a government subsidy for exurban drive-alone commuters, few of whom would be traveling to jobs in the County or increasing the local commercial tax base.

The Route 28 Bypass would poorly serve commuters.  The Bypass would significantly worsen traffic congestion and travel times on Route 28 in Centreville,  compared to its “No-Build Alternative”, and includes no accommodations for efficient bus transit or managed lanes, such as high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) or high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes, to reduce single-occupant vehicle (SOV) trips.

The equity issue is most relevant today.  The neighborhoods being destroyed are designated Equity Emphasis Areas.  They have been stable, affordable communities for Hispanic residents.  Carving up communities occupied by minority groups, for the benefit of those fortunate to have high-paying jobs closer to DC, is a modern version of environmental injustice.

Oh, and the commuter road would blast through Bull Run Regional Park and the Flat Branch stream valley.  If the noisy and polluting Route 28 Bypass highway barrier isn’t built, the Flat Branch stream valley could become a wonderful linear park and natural habitat that significantly enhances the livability and bike/ped connectivity of its adjacent neighborhoods.  After Prince William voters approved the road-expansion bonds in 2019, County officials cancelled an Environmental Assessment, to avoid examining alternative routes with fewer environmental and social impacts

There’s a chance to stop this environmental and social injustice.  Prince William County supervisors will approve a capital budget by June, 2022 which could include funding for the Route 28 Bypass–or they could instead allocate $200+ million in local funds over the next twenty years to other projects, such as affordable housing, and not repeat the injustices of the 1950s.

For the County’s sales job, see https://route28bypass.com.  For the rest of the story, see the Active Prince William website at http://www.activepw.org.

Active Prince William is a group of concerned citizens who advocate for better opportunities, support, and infrastructure for active mobility, better public transportation, and healthy lifestyles within Prince William County, Manassas, and Manassas Park.  We are working to help make Prince William County and Greater Manassas a more livable, healthy, equitable, and sustainable community.   Follow us at http://www.activepw.org/ , @Active_PW on Twitter, and ActivePW on Facebook.

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