Advancing active mobility in greater Prince William, Virginia

Category: Community Planning (Page 1 of 3)

PWC Seeks Public Feedback on Its Proposed Trails Element for Its Comp Plan Update

Prince William County government emailed the following public notice on November 24, 2021.  Active Prince William encourages all active mobility and trail advocates to carefully review this interactive map for omissions and deficiencies and to submit specific feedback using the built-in comment feature.

An interactive Trails Comment Map is now available as part of the Pathway to 2040 Comprehensive Plan Update to the Non-Motorized section of the Mobility Chapter.

The map is intended to gather comments about the future of the trail system and not about existing trail conditions or maintenance and facilities issues.

Please leave comments about where you think there should be a trail or where there is a gap in the trail and sidewalk system.

The Planning Office, Department of Transportation, and Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism would like as much feedback as possible regarding this topic so please pass this information along to as many people as you like.

Comments will be reviewed and considered for inclusion in the plan update. No identifiable information included in the Comment form will be shown on the map and will only be made available if a FOIA request is submitted.

Interactive Trails Comment Map

Pathway to 2040 Mobility Chapter web page

Our Comments on the Thoroughfare Plan Element of the Mobility Chapter in the PWC Comp Plan Update

On June 16, 2021, Active Prince William submitted the following general and specific comments on the Thoroughfare Plan Element of the Mobility Chapter in Prince William County’s Pathways to 2040 Comprehensive Plan


Comments on the Thoroughfare Plan Element of the Mobility Chapter in Prince William County’s Pathways to 2040 Comprehensive Plan

Active Prince William encourages Prince William County to refine its Thoroughfare Plan to support its climate and equity goals.  Please see the attached granular comments on each item in the Thoroughfare Plan that provide a more realistic plan to achieve by 2040.  Below are a few highlights.

  1. Dedicated bus lane infrastructure (Bus Only/BAT[Business Access and Transit]) should be planned for many major roadway arterials (ex. Route 1, Route 234 Business, Dale Blvd, Route 29)
  2. Roadway segments should be identified as “innovative intersection corridors” to replace previously planned lane-mile expansions (ex. Old Centreville Rd, Pageland Ln, Route 234, Prince William Parkway)
  3. Roadways through activity centers and commercial/mixed-use corridors should be redesignated as Urban Boulevards (UB) and Through Boulevards (UTB) (ex. Route 123 and Route 1 in North Woodbridge)
  4. Road diets should be considered for many roadway segments (ex. Occoquan Rd, Williamson Blvd, Lee Hwy/MNBP)
  5. Road capacity expansion should be configured as a managed lane (Toll, HOV, HOT, Bus, BAT). Adding any new unmanaged roadway capacity in the Washington region is unproductive at this point as it relates to future climate and congestion conditions and will only serve to induce SOV travel and increase VMT per capita.
  6. Major “managed lanes” roadway widenings should be packaged with dedicated bus infrastructure on nearby parallel roadways  (234 Bypass -> 234 Business, I-95 HOT ->Route 1)

Click here for our detailed comments on each roadway element in the Thoroughfare Plan.

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.

Manassas’ Motorist-First Sudley Road Third Lane Project and Its Awful Public Process

The City of Manassas’ upcoming northbound-only Sudley Road Third Lane Project illustrates how the Manassas City Council has, over many years, allowed pro-motoring locality Engineering  and Public Works staff to avoid meaningful public involvement in transportation project development to advance a dismal, anti-pedestrian, largely unnecessary, and counterproductive arterial-road-widening project through a healthcare-focused regionally significant activity center planned for mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly redevelopment (as described on pp. 56-58 in the City’s Comprehensive Plan).

View the City’s project design presentation, which was finally linked from the project webpage on May 28, 2021, one workday before the June 1 project public comment deadline.  View the project area on Google Maps.

The design of this relatively modest $8.4 million project—despite providing some much-needed and long-delayed pedestrian facilities—fails to make Manassas more livable, equitable, or sustainable, because it prioritizes excessively fast travel in motor vehicles over safe, pleasant, and effective non-auto mobility.

Moreover, the chronic lack of timely and impactful public involvement throughout the multi-year development of this City-led transportation project has squandered a valuable opportunity to help transform the City’s Sudley Medical character area into an attractive, mixed-use, walkable, healthcare-focused activity center, by ignoring or undermining the objectives, focus priorities, and design principles outlined on pages 56-58 in the Land Use chapter of the Manassas 2040 Comprehensive Plan.

An Abysmal Public Process

Although this project has been listed with a nutshell description in the City’s Capital Improvement Program (as project #T-015) since 2000, staff work apparently did not begin in earnest until the fall of 2015, when the project was submitted for the Commonwealth Transportation Board’s first round of SMART Scale (HB 2) funding (for FY 2017).  On November 23, 2015, the Manassas City Council adopted a pair of resolutions to support the City’s transportation funding applications, but there was no prior public speaking opportunity.

Ideally, City staff should have begun engaging the community to discuss the scope of this long-planned transportation project at least six to 12 months before applying for any outside funding.  However, the City had no transportation planner at that time, and the City departments responsible for Community Development and Planning and for Public Works and Engineering were siloed at separate locations.

In short, no community meeting or public hearing was ever held to discuss the scope, nature, or particulars of this project until City staff finally held a virtual public information meeting on Tuesday, May 18, 2021, when preliminary engineering was more than 90% complete.  Had the City held such community conversations early and throughout project development, the scope and proposed design of this project would likely have been substantially better.

Originally, the southern terminus of this project was Dorsey Circle, the roadway widening was limited to the short segment between Rolling Road and Godwin Drive, and the scope included undergrounding the NOVEC electric wires on the east side of Sudley Road.  However, in mid-2017, staff determined that the electrical undergrounding would cost more than extending the road widening farther south, to add a third northbound lane to Sudley Road between Grant Avenue and Stonewall Road.

The northbound roadway between Stonewall Road and Rolling Road has long had an essentially continuous right-turn-only lane, as well as two straight-through-only travel lanes, and was never proposed for any additional widening (or sidewalk improvements).

Google Streetview of Northbound Sudley Road across fron Novant/UVA Hospital.  Except to allow through traffic in the rightmost lane, the Third Lane Project will not alter this road segment. The narrow, 4-foot sidewalk is only 2 feet from the roadway and without shade, street lights, or street furniture (except at this single, mid-block bus stop).  The current continuous right-turn-only lane helps buffer the sidewalk from high-speed traffic and also provides bicycle access for traffic-tolerant bicyclists.  The proposed Sudley Road Third Lane Project would essentially extend this pedestrian-hostile street design with three northbound travel lanes the full distance from Grant Avenue to Godwin Drive.

On December 11, 2017, City staff placed a change-of-scope request for this project on the consent agenda for the Manassas City Council.  The project was re-scoped to create a continuous third northbound lane from Grant Avenue to Godwin Dr and to abandon all electric wire undergrounding.  Again, there was no public comment opportunity, community meeting, or public hearing to discuss the re-scoped project, and the Council’s resolution approving the re-scoping falsely stated in part: “WHEREAS, the public involvement process is complete and all resulting comments have been addressed, as needed;”

In February 2021, the project was quietly re-scoped again to add two extra turn lanes on Sudley Road at Godwin Drive for Prince William County’s proposed four-lane Route 28 Bypass in the Flat Branch floodplain.  To accommodate the proposed Bypass, Prince William County has transferred $1.03 million in surplus federal highway (RSTP) funds from a recently completed highway project to the City’s Sudley Road project (see pp. 39-43 here).  This time, not only was there no public comment opportunity, community meeting, or public hearing to discuss these project changes; the changes were not even mentioned on a City Council agenda.  Instead, the fund transfer was discussed and approved at the February 11, 2021 meeting of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, with no public comment opportunity.

The Manassas City Council, as the policy-setting body for the City, has both the authority and a public duty to ensure early, continuous, robust, and impactful public involvement in the development of all City-led transportation projects going forward.

A Wasteful, Motorist-First, Pedestrian-Hostile,-and Bicyclist-Unfriendly Street Design

1) Sudley Road already has more than ample capacity for motor vehicles and lacks a traffic congestion problem that warrants a third northbound travel lane. 

This two-way Sudley Road segment carries only 28,000 vehicles/day, a volume well accommodated with only four travel lanes, especially with dedicated left and right turn lanes at every intersection.  By contrast,  nearby Sudley Road in Prince William County carries 38,000 vehicles/day north of Godwin Drive and 50,000 vehicles/day north of Sudley Manor Drive.  For comparison, Grant Avenue by Georgetown South, which the City seeks to squeeze into only two travel lanes, carries 16,000 vehicles/day, and southbound Sudley Road has only two travel lanes and no dedicated right-turn lanes south of Digges Road.

This project’s 2015 SMART Scale application scored very low for congestion-reduction benefits (see page 8 of the referenced application); over 90% of the project’s SMART Scale score (1.7 out of 1.9) was for “transportation-efficient land use” due to its location within a healthcare-focused mixed-use activity center that could be made more walkable and accessible via non-auto travel modes.  In other words, SMART Scale funding was awarded because this project is located where enhanced walkabiity and non-vehicle access is important, not to address any traffic-congestion “deficiency”.

During the development of the City’s Transportation Master Plan (TMP) in 2019, existing arterial roadways and intersections throughout the City were analyzed by a traffic engineering consultant for traffic congestion, both at present and in the year 2040.   As documented on pp. 11-13 of the TMP, Sudley Road has no existing traffic congestion problem between Grant Avenue and Godwin Drive, especially in the northbound direction.  Furthermore, a similar analysis of roadway and intersection performance in 2040–in the absence of any currently non-programed transportation improvements–failed to identify any future traffic congestion problems along this segment of Sudley Road (see pp. 22-23 of the TMP).

Simply put, the repeatedly claims by City staff that this is project is “needed” to relieve traffic congestion and would “improve the capacity of northbound Sudley Road to accommodate vehicular traffic needs” is shear nonsense.

2) The proposed design is blatantly hostile to pedestrians.  The project is designed to move motor vehicles at or above 45 MPH and would shift much of that fast traffic close to a narrow, poorly buffered sidewalk.

Each travel lane would be 12-feet wide, the standard for Interstate highways.  Only one pedestrian crossing signal and marked crosswalk to cross Sudley Road is provided at each signalized intersection, and no mid-block pedestrian crossings or Sudley Road crossings at non-signalized  intersections are accommodated.   At many intersections, pedestrian-unfriendly free-flowing right turns are provided for vehicles entering Sudley Road from side streets.  Higher vehicle speeds greatly increase the incidence and severity of traffic crashes, especially for pedestrians and other vulnerable road users.

This project will provide only narrow 4- or 5-foot sidewalks that are separated from the roadway with just a two-foot grass strip.  Such narrow sidewalks poorly serve two-way foot traffic.  Northbound Sudley Road lacks tree shade, urban street furniture, or pedestrian-scale street lights and offers only widely and irregularly spaced highway-style street lights.  The design also lacks bus stops and bus shelters, except to preserve one mid-block bus shelter opposite the hospital.  This project will not add or upgrade street trees, street lighting, street furniture, or bus stops.  Those were not considerations.

The added lanes on Sudley Road at Grant Avenue, Rolling Road, and especially Godwin Drive would make crossing Sudley Road longer and more treacherous than if those lanes were not added.

3)  The project design lacks promised and planned bicycle facilities which are both needed and eminently feasible.

Although the 2019 Manassas Transportation Master Plan calls for on-road bike lanes on Sudley Road (see maps on pp. 60-61 of the TMP), and project staff had promised to study the feasibility of adding a shared-use path (see page 62 here), the proposed design lacks bicycle accommodations.  Furthermore, the project would eliminate the existing, continuous right-turn lanes that currently do accommodate traffic-tolerant northbound bicyclists.   According to the Bicycle Network Recommendations Prioritization Matrix, conducted in 2019 as part of the development of the City’s Transportation Master Plan (Appendix E),  installing bike lanes on this segment of Sudley Road (Grant Avenue to Godwin Drive) was tied as the most impactful bicycle network improvement identified for the plan.

Turning Lemons Into Lemonade

Since this project will likely be constructed with minimal design changes, two priority modifications merit immediate consideration.  These two alterations would alter the current design by only  changing some proposed pavement markings and roadway signs:

1) In lieu of the unnecessary and pedestrian-hostile third northbound travel lane, stripe and sign a continuous right-hand lane dedicated to right turns, buses, bicycles, and perhaps motor scooters.  

2) Reduce the widths of the three 12-foot northbound travel lanes to 11 feet (or 10.5 feet if necessary) and reallocate 5 feet of roadway space to install bike lanes between the right-hand lane (described in #1 above) and the two straight-through travel lanes.  To make ordinary striped bike lanes on Sudley Road reasonably safe, all right-turning traffic must be channelized in a right-turn-only lane to the right of the bike lane, and the vehicular design speed should be lowered toward 35 MPH, by narrowing the straight-through travel lanes and not expanding their number.

Of course, only a barrier-separated (“protected”) bike lane or an off-roadway shared-use path would provide a low-stress bikeway on Sudley Road serving the “interested, but concerned” “aged-eight-to-eighty” bicycling public.   In addition, if striping similar bike lanes along southbound Sudley Road is not presently feasible beyond Digges Road, shared-lane markings (aka sharrows) might be a necessary, if less desirable, southbound alternative.  However, neither a shared-use path nor a separated bike lane is politically or practically feasible under the current project, and the perfect should not be the enemy of the good.

How You Can Help

Public comments on the design of the Sudley Road Third Lane Project can be submitted at this link.  The previously announced deadline for submitting  those comments is Tuesday, June 1, 2021, but we have requested a two-week extension of that deadline.

There is no deadline to contact the Manassas Mayor and City Council to express your concerns with the project design and/or the awful public process.  The Mayor and City Council are ultimately responsible for setting policies for the City, and they need to hear from their constituents that pedestrian-hostile street designs and the lack of early, robust, and proactive public involvement during the development and funding of City transportation projects are no longer acceptable.

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Revitalize Yorkshire When Widening Centreville Road

By Rick Holt, Chairman, Active Prince William

Centreville Road in Yorkshire

Active Prince William applauds the Prince William Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) for rejecting the Route 28 2B alignment on August 4 (see Agenda Item #10B, starting at 4:18 on the recorded video).  We further agree that doing nothing to fix Route 28 through Yorkshire is not an option; however, widening Centreville Road itself by adding two general-purpose travel lanes would disrupt many businesses.

VDOT’s Centreville Road (Route 28) STARS (Strategic Targeted Affordable Roadway Solutions) Study, championed by Delegate Roem, recently recommended a $38 million package of intersection, raised median, and pedestrian improvements that–in the absence of general roadway widening–1) would significantly reduce intersection delays and expand vehicle capacity and pedestrian access along Route 28 and 2) was ripe to receive VDOT SMART SCALE funding for design and construction in spring 2021. 

Unfortunately, proceeding with widening Route 28 itself through Yorkshire could make the sensible and cost-effective STARS Study recommendations infeasible.  Therefore, we encourage the BOCS to explore an alternative approach, integrated with a new land-use plan (Small Area Plan) for economic development and revitalization along this corridor. Alternative 4 could be modified to include a new multimodal street just to the west, so highway investment could stimulate transit-oriented, mixed-use redevelopment of the properties between and fronting the existing and future sections of Centreville Road.  Integrated planning could foster the creation of a vibrant new livable community with affordable housing at a key gateway to Prince William County. 

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