Advancing a livable & sustainable greater Prince William, Virginia

Category: Advocacy (Page 1 of 6)

City of Manassas Installs Dangerous and Unnecessary Trail Bollards

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inline image

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

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

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Advocacy for Bicycle-Related Legislation in the 2021 Virginia General Assembly

Active Prince William board member Allen Muchnick delivered the following personal statement to the Prince William Delegation to the Virginia General Assembly on January 9, 2021.   Some of the comments below have not been officially endorsed by either Active Prince William or the Virginia Bicycling Federation.


Statement to the Prince William Delegation to the Virginia General Assembly January 9, 2021, by Allen Muchnick, Manassas Resident

I’m Allen Muchnick, a City of Manassas resident. I’ve been a board member of the Virginia Bicycling Federation since 1994 and co-founded Active Prince William five years ago.

Both organizations seek safer and more pleasant walking and bicycling and improved justice for pedestrians and bicyclists injured by negligent motorists.

Thank you for passing a wide range of long-delayed progressive legislation in 2020.  We sincerely appreciate the just-implemented ban on using handheld electronic communication devices while driving a motor vehicle, requiring motorists to stop—not merely yield—to persons in crosswalks, establishing a traffic infraction for motorists who negligently injure a pedestrian or bicyclist, and authorizing automated speed cameras at schools and highway work zones.

Legislative changes that we support for the 2021 session include 1) expanding the authorization for automated speed cameras to include residential and business districts, 2) allowing localities to impose urban speed limits below 25 MPH in residential and business districts, and 3) lessening contributory negligence limitations for pedestrians and bicyclists injured in traffic crashes.

We also seek three changes to Virginia’s bicycling laws to increase the safety, comfort, and ease of bicycling.   The bicyclist safety stop would allow bicyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs as long as they yield to all closely approaching cross-traffic.   Stop signs are often installed in lieu of yield signs due to the danger of rolling stops by motorists and as a neighborhood traffic-calming measure. Because bicyclists are generally slower and not inside a vehicle, they can more readily observe and yield to cross-traffic without fully stopping. When bicyclists fully stop their balance is unstable, their effort is greater, and they take longer to clear intersections.  Thus, bicycling injuries have been found to decrease after states have implemented the bicyclist safety stop.

Two related changes would allow bicyclists to ride two abreast at all times and prohibit motorists from passing bicyclists within the same travel lane.  Motorists rear-ending or side-swiping bicyclists is a major cause (ca. 40%) of bicycling fatalities.  Bicyclists riding two-abreast are much more visible to following motorists.  Requiring motorists to execute a full lane change before passing a bicyclist is more understandable to drivers and much easier for police to enforce.

Please ensure that state-funded Potomac River crossing expansions at the American Legion Bridge and at the Long Bridge include substantial bicycle and pedestrian elements, that standalone bicycling and walking improvements are fully eligible for all relevant state and regional transportation funding programs, and that the ban on Sunday hunting on public lands is preserved.  

Thank you for your service and best wishes for a productive legislative session.

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The Route 28 Manassas Bypass Is Not the Lowest Cost Or the Least Environmentally Damaging Practicable Alternative (LEDPA) for the Route 28 Corridor

The Alignments of the Four Route 28 Corridor Expansion Alternatives Compared Below

Active Prince William board member Mark Scheufler sent the following comparison of Route 28 corridor alternatives to the Prince William Board of County Supervisors on November 30, 2020.


Dear Prince William Board of County Supervisors:

In advance of the December 7th  virtual public meeting on Route 28, it is timely to correct misinformation about the alternatives to Alignment 2B. The costs of Alternative 4 (Widening Route 28) were overstated by calculating the impacts/costs of widening Route 28 between Blooms Quarry Lane and Liberia Ave that is already six lanes.

Realistic cost estimates are needed not only by the supervisors in Prince William and Fairfax counties, but also by the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.  Those two agencies may determine that cost differences between Alignment 2B and other alternatives are not sufficient to justify the greater environmental damage.

As the Meeting Minutes at the January 16, 2020 Project Update and Alternatives Development Technical Memo Review  state (on pages 2 and 3):

“Stuart ended with a presentation of the cost summary for the alternatives, which showed that Alternative 4 would be almost $100 million more than Alternatives 2A and 2B. MacKenzie indicated that cost would not be a factor that the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) would consider in their evaluation. Rick responded that he understood, but emphasized the need to consider purpose and need in the comparison of the alternatives.

Subsequent to the meeting, Hannah Schul, DEQ, clarified that DEQ makes permitting decisions based on the Least Environmentally Damaging Practicable Alternative (LEDPA). Per the Clean Water Act, a permit cannot be issued if a practicable alternative exists that would have less adverse impacts on the aquatic ecosystem. The LEDPA does take cost into consideration, but an alternative would only be potentially eliminated if costs are clearly exorbitant compared to similar alternatives.”

The analysis summarized in the table below [the complete ROW analysis is here] shows the cost of alternatives along or near existing Route 28 are not exorbitant compared to Alternative 2B.   Alternative 4 includes $37M in ROW impacts along a 1.1-mile section of Route 28 that is already six lanes and should require minimal improvement and no ROW impacts (Blooms Quarry Lane to Liberia Ave).  An additional $54M* in Alternative 4 ROW impacts could be mitigated by increasing the Utility Relocation Costs ($10M).  These modifications would bring the Alternative 4 cost estimate below Alternative 2B.  But implementing the Route 28 STARS recommendation and the Well St Extended recommendation  is the best alternative for the Route 28 corridor to meet transit, revitalization, and climate goals and is the cheapest alternative.  The Well St Extended recommendation was not included in the original set of alternatives because transit, revitalization and climate were not considered part of the project purpose and need.

A Comparison of Four Route 28 Corridor Alternatives (click on the image above to enlarge for reading)

Alternative 2B is not the Least Environmentally Damaging Practicable Alternative (LEDPA) and may not receive permits to move forward.  Creating a regional park along this alignment is the best use of the land in the flood plan.

*8300 CENTREVILLE RD, 8130 OAK ST, 7901 CENTREVILLE RD

If you need any clarification, please let me know.

Thanks,

Mark Scheufler

PWC Resident

Building the Route 28 Bypass Should Not Be a Legislative Priority for the Manassas City Council

Active Prince William board member Allen Muchnick, a City of Manassas resident, sent the following message to the Manassas City Council on November 29, 2020.


Dear Mayor Parrish and Manassas City Council Members:

I’m writing to comment on Mr. Pate’s draft “Legislative Priorities – 2021” document, which I don’t believe has yet been available for public comment or officially adopted by City Council.

In particular, under the rubric “Transformative Mobility”, the document calls for “improvements to VA-28 corridor in the VDOT Six-Year Improvement Program including construction of the VA-28 Manassas Bypass…”   Oddly, the Route 28 Bypass is the only transportation project mentioned in this document.

Supporting the Route 28 Bypass in this document is pointless and ill advised.  The reference to this Bypass should be stricken for the following reasons:

1)  Not Transformative.  The proposed Route 28 Bypass does not represent “transformative mobility”.  Rather, this counterproductive and destructive project would merely perpetuate the decades-long, repeatedly failed practice of expanding limited-access highways in urbanized areas for toll-free travel in single-occupant vehicles.  The Bypass would induce new vehicle trips and auto-dependent sprawl development, thereby perpetuating car-dependency and traffic ongestion, while failing to effectively promote more efficient and equitable multiple-occupant travel (i.e. public transportation and/or ridesharing) or revitalize the aging communities along the Route 28 corridor, including Mathis Avenue, with transit-oriented redevelopment.

Motorists living west or south of Manassas already have a western Manassas bypass along Route 234.   Why do those same motorists now need a second western Manassas bypass along Route 28?  Fairfax and Prince William Counties are planning to at least double the number of unmanaged travel lanes throughout the Route 28 corridor between Route 234 and I-66.   How does that doubling of motor vehicle capacity help Northern Virginia meet the greenhouse gas reduction targets (50% below the 2005 level by 2030 and 80% below the 2005 level by 2050) that the MWCOG Board and the TPB have both adopted?

2)  Missed Opportunities.  As a railroad town served by VRE and Amtrak , Manassas should instead champion funding and cooperative agreements to improve VRE, Amtrak, and OmniRide service, more state and federal funds for pedestrian retrofits, and statutory changes (e.g., automated speed cameras, local authority for sub-25 MPH speed limits) needed to make Manassas more safely walkable.

3)  This Funding Request is Unnecessary and Inappropriate.  The Route 28 Bypass, estimated to cost $300 million, is already fully funded for completion, with an $89 million NVTA allocation plus $200 million from the 2019 Prince William County Transportation Bond Referendum.   Furthermore, since Prince William County has opted to abandon the federal Environmental Assessment for this project, the Bypass has become ineligible to receive federal or VDOT funds.  Finally, a state or federal carve-out or earmark for this project would undermine recent progress by the CTB (with SMART SCALE) and NVTA in funding transportation projects competitively, based on objective evaluations that prioritize cost effectiveness at reducing traffic congestion.

4)  This Funding Request is Premature and Misplaced.   When preliminary engineering for the Route 28 Bypass project is completed, no earlier than fall 2022, Prince William County will apply for a Clean Water Act Section 404 wetlands construction permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.   Until that permit is granted and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality also signs off on this project, any further funding for the Bypass project is premature.  Meanwhile, the Centreville Road (Route 28) STARS Safety and Operational Improvements Study, championed by Delegate Roem, has recommended a modest $38 million package of intersection, raised median, and pedestrian improvements to Route 28 itself that would clearly benefit  Manassas residents, yet this package still awaits an allocation of funds, possibly from SMART SCALE.

5)  This Bypass Would Not Benefit Manassas or Manassas Motorists Significantly.  Bypass proponents claim that the Bypass would reduce traffic congestion for Route 28 auto commuters and would lower traffic volumes in downtown Manassas.  Neither claim, however, is substantiated by the May 2019 Traffic Technical Report conducted for the Route 28 Corridor Environmental Assessment.   Table 3.1.1 on page 23 of this document shows that building the Bypass would increase traffic volumes in 2040 along Centreville Road segments (#s 19-22) north of the Bypass in Fairfax County by 16% to 26%, compared to the “No-Build” Alternative in 2040.  Meanwhile, traffic volumes on Center Street in downtown Manassas (e.g., from Grant Avenue to Zebedee Street, Segment #s 8 and 9) would grow from 23,230 ADT in 2018 to 28,845 to 35,332 ADT in 2040 if the Bypass is built.   At the same time, building the Bypass would roughly double the traffic in 2040 along Godwin Drive between Nokesville Road and Sudley Road, compared to the “No-Build” Alternative in 2040 (Segment #s 3-6 at the top of page 24), and generate failing intersections (LOS F during the PM peak) along Godwin Dr at Wellington and Sudley Roads (and probably elsewhere; Table 3.3.1 on page 40, intersection #s 16 and 17).  Thus, building this Bypass would necessitate several costly intersection expansions along Godwin Drive in Manassas, as well as the widening of Godwin Drive to six travel lanes between Nokesville Road and Sudley Road.

Sadly, the call to fund and build the Route 28 Bypass in this Legislative Priorities document reflects the lack of proactive and meaningful public involvement in discussing and setting transportation improvement priorities for the City of Manassas.  I hope the City Council will address this deficiency in 2021.

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