Advancing active mobility in greater Prince William, Virginia

Category: Environmental Sustainability

Our Recommendations for Upcoming NVTA Transportation Funding Applications from PWC

On July 19, 2021, Active Prince William sent the following email message to the Prince William County Planning Commission, which will soon be briefed by County transportation staff on the transportation projects that the County is considering for submission to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) in Fall 2021 for  potential regional funding .  Various local transportation and elected officials, including the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, were copied on this message.

 


Active Prince William supports the integration of land use, housing, and transportation planning.  Having the Transportation Department brief the Commission on planned grant applications is a start.  That step should be followed by a formal public hearing and a vote of the Planning Commission.

New mobility infrastructure should substantially enhance the transit and bike/pedestrian network, rather than simply expand the road network and add a desolate side path.  Traditional “business as usual” planning for the next decade will sabotage the county’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to 50% of the 2005 levels.  The transportation sector generates the greatest amount of greenhouse gas emissions in Prince William now.  The only way to meet the 2030 target is to reduce the carbon spewing from tailpipes in Prince William, and that requires a new approach to planning for multimodal *mobility* and access, rather than just paving more roads for drive-alone motorists.

In 2030, most cars will still be fueled by gasoline.  Virtually every project that paves more lane miles will increase Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) and greenhouse gas emissions from those cars.  To understand the impact of various proposed projects, the Planning Commission should identify the projected increase in VMT associated with each transportation project, and use that data when determining which projects to recommend to the BOCS.

The Planning Commission recommendations to the BOCS should be guided by the Strategic Plan.  The Strategic Plan calls for the County to develop in a sustainable way.  As you know, new transit and bike/pedestrian projects have the potential to reduce or minimize VMT and associated greenhouse gas emissions.  To be sustainable, the County must abandon the old school approach of just building more roads–and acknowledge that more roads have not reduced traffic congestion.

For the upcoming NVTA grant program, Active Prince William recommends submitting the following projects to the next NVTA funding round (FY26/FY27). As you can see, none of these projects’ main intent is to add lane miles.  All projects support Transit, Active Transportation, and/or Intersection/Interchange improvements.

  • Route 1/Potomac Mills BRT (TRANSIT) – NVTA 38/39
  • Dale Blvd Improvements (TRANSIT) – NVTA 241
  • VRE Second platforms – Manassas Line (TRANSIT) – NVTA 300
  • I-95 Ped/Bike Crossings (TRAILS/ACTIVE TRANSPORTATION) – NVTA 300/242/49/241
  • Balls Ford Road/I-66 Trail Improvements (TRAILS/ACTIVE TRANSPORTATION)  – NVTA 50
  • Route 123 Improvements (INTERCHANGE/INTERSECTION IMPROVEMENT) – NVTA 242
  • Wellington Rd/Sudley Manor/VA234 Interchange Improvements (INTERCHANGE/INTERSECTION IMPROVEMENT) – NVTA 222
  • Minnieville Rd/PW Parkway Interchange (INTERCHANGE/INTERSECTION IMPROVEMENT) – NVTA 279
  • Pageland Ln/Sanders Ln Safety Improvements (INTERCHANGE/INTERSECTION IMPROVEMENT) – NVTA 227
  • Route 28 STARS (INTERCHANGE/INTERSECTION IMPROVEMENT) – NVTA 29/32

Many of these projects do not match exactly with the NVTA Transaction description but the NVTA has set a precedent by funding innovative intersection improvements at University Boulevard and Prince William Parkway even though NVTA Transaction clearly requires “Construct Interchange at Prince William Parkway and University Boulevard.” (NVTA 324).  Active Prince William agrees with this approach as the intent of the projects is to improve the specified transportation segment.

Below is the list of projects that were not funded in the previous NVTA funding round (FY24-FY25).   As you can, see most of these projects’ main intent is to add lane miles that will induce new VMT and future congestion.  We need to stop advancing projects that continue to increase car dependency and have long-term adverse impacts on the climate and county budget.

  • Van Buren Road North Extension: Route 234 to Cardinal Drive (NEW ROADWAY)
  • Construct Route 28 Corridor Roadway Improvements (NEW ROADWAY/BYPASS)
  • University Boulevard Extension: Devlin Road to Wellington Road (NEW ROADWAY)
  • Wellington Road Widening: University Boulevard to Devlin Road (ROAD WIDENING)
  • Devlin Road Widening: Linton Hall Road to Relocated Balls Ford Road (ROAD WIDENING)
  • Route 234 and Sudley Manor Drive Interchange (INTERCHANGE/INTERSECTION IMPROVEMENT)
  • Prince William Parkway at Clover Hill Road Innovative Intersection (INTERCHANGE/INTERSECTION IMPROVEMENT)
  • Prince William Parkway at Old Bridge Road Intersection Improvements (INTERCHANGE/INTERSECTION IMPROVEMENT) | Funded via Smart Scale

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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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Active Prince William Comments on Regional Climate Action Goal

The above slide, from a presentation to the National Capital  Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB) set for October 21, 2020, lists potential strategies to half the D.C. Region’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from 2005 levels over the next ten years. The next step will be to draft and adopt a 2030 GHG Emissions Action Plan.

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On October 16, 2020, Active Prince William Chair, Rick Holt, sent the following statement to Prince William County’s representatives on the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB)–Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Ann Wheeler and Neabsco District Supervisor Victor Angry.   The TPB is scheduled to adopt an ambitious interim 10-year goal to address climate change, by reducing the D.C. region’s emissions of greenhouse gases 50% from their baseline, 2005 level by the year 2030.

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On October 14, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) Board of Directors pledged to lower our region’s greenhouse gas emissions to 50% below their 2005 baseline level by 2030, as an interim target towards the 2050 goal of an 80% reduction.  We appreciate the COG Board focusing on environmental and climate change issues that affect the quality of life of residents of the Metro D.C. area.

A key step in achieving that goal is to reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT).  The regional housing targets adopted by the COG Board on September 11, 2019 provide a clear path to minimizing VMT–build 75% of new dwelling units in Activity Centers, within walking distance of high capacity transit nodes.

Prince William County has six designated Regional Activity Centers, based on existing and proposed Virginia Railway Express stations. The Board of County Supervisors may wish to add two more–at Dumfries/Triangle and Yorkshire–if their upcoming Small Area Plans include the creation of a Bus Rapid Transit system comparable to the Pulse in Richmond.

We look forward to you–our representatives on the Transportation Planning Board—actively engaging the other supervisors in how Prince William can meet the interim target in 2030 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  In addition to increasing the energy efficiency of buildings and adding solar panels wherever cost-effective, we will need to integrate our land use and transportation planning with our climate change goals in the revised Strategic Plan and 2040 Comprehensive Plan.  On a smaller scale, we ask that you ensure, in the public hearings for proposed Comprehensive Plan Amendments and rezonings, that staff reports identify the impact on Vehicle Miles Traveled, so climate change can be factored into your decisions.

We think you might also find the recent report on carbon emissions, Driving Down Emissions, published this week by Transportation for America to be of interest.   To highlight a passage from the executive summary:  Simply put, we’ll never achieve ambitious climate targets or create more livable and equitable communities if we don’t find ways to allow people to get around outside of a car.  We look forward to working with you and the other members of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors in support of creating livable communities with sustainable transportation options.

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