Advancing active mobility in greater Prince William, Virginia

Tag: Northern Virginia Transportation Authority

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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Annual Northern Virginia Joint Transportation Meeting, Wednesday, December 15, 2021 at 7:00 PM

The Virginia Department of Transportation issued the following news release on November 22, 2021:

RELEASE:

CONTACT:

IMMEDIATE

Kathleen Leonard, VDOT | 703-638-9115
Haley Glynn, DRPT | 804-351-6647
Karen Finucan Clarkson, VRE | 571-255-0931
Erica Hawksworth, NVTA | 571-355-4661
Mathew Friedman, NVTC | 571-457-9516

NOVA-184807

Nov. 22, 2021

Learn about Agency Projects, Programs at Northern Virginia Joint Transportation Meeting Dec. 15

Join the Commonwealth of Virginia, Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, Northern Virginia Transportation Commission and Virginia Railway Express for a virtual public meeting

FAIRFAX–The public is invited to a joint virtual meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021 with representatives from the Commonwealth Transportation Board, Virginia Department of Transportation, Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment, Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, Northern Virginia Transportation Commission and Virginia Railway Express, to learn more about the regional collaboration required to keep travelers in Northern Virginia moving.

Per Virginia code §33.2-214.3, these organizations shall conduct a joint public meeting annually for the purposes of presenting to the public, and receiving comments on, transportation projects proposed and conducted by each entity in Planning District 8 (Northern Virginia).

The meeting will include an opportunity to receive public comments following agency presentations on transportation initiatives, including:

  • VDOT’s Multimodal Project Pipeline Program
  • NVTA’s updates to TransAction and the FY2022-2027 Six Year Program; the NVTA Transportation Technology Strategic Plan; and the Regional Multi-Modal Mobility Program (RM3P) in partnership with the Commonwealth of Virginia
  • NVTC’s Commuter Choice program
  • DRPT’s funding opportunities, Six Year Improvement Program and the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority (VPRA)
  • VRE station, and storage- and maintenance-facility projects

The meeting will be held as a virtual/online and attendees must register online. The team of VDOT, DRPT, OIPI, NVTA, NVTC and VRE representatives will make a presentation beginning at 7 p.m. highlighting their transportation programs, regional collaboration and receive public comments about Virginia’s transportation network.

Comments may also be submitted through January 7, 2022 via this online comment form, by voicemail to 703-721-8270, by email to meetingcomments@vdot.virginia.gov (please reference “Northern Virginia Joint Transportation Meeting” in the subject line) or by mail to Ms. Maria Sinner, VDOT, 4975 Alliance Drive, Fairfax, VA 22030.

Meeting materials and presentations will be posted on this page.

About the Agencies

The Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB), the policy board for the Virginia Department of Transportation, Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, and the Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment, allocates public funds to highway, road, bridge, rail, bicycle, pedestrian, public transportation, and transportation demand management projects. Virginia’s SMART SCALE scores projects on factors of safety, congestion reduction, accessibility, land use, environmental quality, and economic development.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) are state agencies reporting to the Secretary of Transportation, focused on the movement of people and goods throughout the Commonwealth. VDOT is responsible for building, maintaining and operating the state’s roads, bridges and tunnels. DRPT’s primary areas of activity are rail, public transportation, and commuter services, working with local, regional, state, and federal governments, as well as private entities to support for projects and programs.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (Authority) is a regional body that is focused on delivering transportation solutions and value for Northern Virginia’s transportation dollars by bringing NoVA jurisdictions and agencies together to plan and program regional multimodal transportation projects focused on relieving congestion.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) advances a robust and reliable public transit network to support communities in Northern Virginia.

The Virginia Railway Express (VRE) has been providing commuter rail service between Central and Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia since 1992. As a participant in the commonwealth’s $3.9 billion Transforming Rail in Virginia program, VRE has many station-improvement and maintenance-and-storage facility projects at various levels of implementation.

ctb.virginia.gov | virginiadot.org | drpt.virginia.gov | thenovaauthority.org | www.novatransit.org | www.vre.org | oipi.virginia.gov

VDOT ensures nondiscrimination and equal employment in all programs and activities in accordance with Title VI and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. If you need more information or special assistance for persons with disabilities or limited English proficiency, contact VDOT Civil Rights at 703-259-1775.

END

Take the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority’s Public Input Survey

Update (8/25/21):  NVTA will conduct a pop-up, in-person outreach session on Thursday, September 2, from 5-8 pm at the Manassas Park VRE Station.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) is now undertaking its periodic (5-year) update of TransAction, its long-range multimodal regional transportation plan for all of Northern Virginia.

According to NVTA, TransAction is intended to guide the development of “safe, equitable, and sustainable transportation projects over a 20-year time frame.

The two-year TransAction update process, which includes several public input opportunities, was launched with a public “open house and listening session” in January 2021 and will conclude with the NVTA board’s adoption of the updated plan in late 2022.

This summer and fall, NVTA is engaging the public “to identify transportation needs and trends”.  most notably through this online public survey. 

After briefly describing TransAction, the survey asks respondents to 1) select the factors that influence their use of various travel modes, 2) rank their top four priorities for transportation improvements, 3)  express their preferences for transportation infrastructure allocations, and 4) supply some demographic information.

Active Prince William encourages its supporters to complete this online public survey, which closes on September 16, 2021, to express their perspectives and support for better walking, bicycling, and public transportation.  The survey is also available in Spanish and Korean.

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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Environmental Coalition Protests Route 28 Bypass Agreement

Active Prince William, Prince William Conservation Alliance, Southern Environmental Law Center, Sierra Club – Virginia Chapter, Coalition for Smarter Growth, Piedmont Environmental Council, Joint Land Use Committee of the Sully District Council of Citizens Associations and West Fairfax County Citizens Association

PRESS RELEASE

For immediate release:
October 8, 2020 

Contact:
Rick Holt, Active Prince Williiam
Charlie Grymes, Prince William Conservation Alliance
Stewart Schwartz, Coalition for Smarter Growth
John (Jay) W. Johnston, for Joint Land Use Committee

Groups call on Northern Virginia Transportation Authority to defer action on Route 28 project

Calls Route 28 process extremely flawed 

The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) is scheduled to approve a project agreement that will advance Alignment 2B for a Route 28 Bypass at their meeting on October 8. “Our coalition of conservation, smart growth, and transportation reform groups is calling on the NVTA to delay action because of the negative environmental, regional travel, and community impacts of the proposed Alignment 2B and because of significant procedural failings that must be addressed,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.

Rick Holt, Chair of Active Prince William noted that “State law, Section 15.2-2232, requires that new roads be consistent with local comprehensive plans, and that local planning commissions make a finding to that effect. However, Alignment 2B of Route 28, which the Prince William Board of Supervisors approved in a controversial 5 to 3 vote, is not in the Comprehensive Plan for either Fairfax County or Prince William County and has not been reviewed and approved by their planning commissions.”

“The entire Route 28 study process has been flawed and frustrated sound alternatives analysis and community input,” said Charlie Grymes, former chair of the Prince William Conservation Alliance.

  • The 50+ families who would be displaced from a rare spot of affordable housing were not provided adequate notification and an opportunity to respond.
  • The promised federal Environmental Study and Alternatives Analysis (originally proposed as an Environmental Impact Statement) was never completed and was prematurely abandoned, so the pros and cons of the alternatives were never adequately documented, much less presented for public review and comment.
  • The critical Purpose and Need Statement for the Route 28 Environmental Study was never disclosed to the public prior to a October 9, 2019 public meeting. Not only was the Purpose and Need Statement never released for public comment, it was evidently never released for review and comment by relevant local, state, or federal agencies.
  • No public hearings were ever held for this project prior to the July 14, 2020 public hearing before the Prince William Board of County Supervisors to proceed with the preliminary engineering for Alignment 2B.
  • None of the written reports for the Route 28 Environmental Study, including the Traffic Technical Report, were posted for public review prior to July 7, 2020, only one week prior to the July 14, 2020 public hearing. These reports and their findings were never discussed at any prior public meetings for this project.
  • Despite the Fairfax County location of “Option 2B,” the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has held no public hearing on either amending the adopted Comprehensive Plan, or approving the proposed route for the new Route 28 bypass “Option 2B” through Fairfax County.
  • The May 2019 Traffic Technical Report from the Environmental Study shows Alignment 2B would produce the most failing intersections of the four alternatives studied. Furthermore, compared to the No Build Alternative in 2040, building the Bypass would increase traffic volumes on Route 28 in Fairfax County on the north side of the Bypass by as much as 26%.
  • Study findings showed that the “least environmentally damaging practicable alternative” that meets the purpose and need is Alignment 4 along the existing Route 28 north of Manassas, and the Prince William Board of County Supervisors voted 8 to 0 on August 4 to adopt this alternative
  • In an unusual in-person presentation by the Chair and Executive Director of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority on September 8, the Prince William supervisors were warned that NVTA would revoke the planned $89 million for the Route 28 project unless Alignment 2B was chosen, and funding might be allocated instead to projects in Loudoun County or other jurisdictions
  • The Prince William Board then held a second vote, switching to Alternative 2B on a 5 to 3 vote, without allowing additional public t
  • Informed advocates repeatedly offered an improved version of Alternative 4, along an extension of Well Street through Yorkshire, that would minimize impacts on Route 28 businesses, greatly lower project costs, and could create dedicated bus/HOV lanes and a network of street connections to support economic revitalization. This concept would also create the potential for Route 28 bus rapid transit, but county staff refused to consider this alternative, while pressing their preference for Alternative 2B

“Alignment 2B would displace over 50 families from their homes. It would add noise and pollution to “equity emphasis” neighborhoods and plow through the floodplain/wetlands of Flat Branch, which feeds into Bull Run and the Occoquan Reservoir, a critical drinking water supply,” said Grymes. “Alignment 2B would fuel more sprawling development and traffic coming from as far away as Fauquier and Culpeper, rather than address existing traffic coming from central Prince William via Liberia Avenue.”

“Just this one project, which is opposed by the local elected supervisor, would consume over 56% of the 2019 Prince William County road bond funding, limiting the ability to build other high-priority projects which are desired by local supervisors in other parts of the county,” said Holt.

“We developed and offered a carefully thought out alternative, but the Prince William staff have repeatedly declined to consider it,” said Mark Scheufler, a local resident and transportation engineer who developed the modified Alternative 4 dubbed “Well Street Extended”.

“We are deeply concerned about the rush by Fairfax County and the NVTAuthority to push through Alternative 2B, which is not on the county’s comprehensive plan, and to do so without public hearings in Fairfax or analysis of the severe harm it could cause to Bull Run and the Occoquan watershed,” said Joseph Johnston, speaking for the Joint Land Use Committee of the Sully District Council of Citizens Associations (“SDC”) and West Fairfax County Citizens Association (“WFCCA”) joint land use committee (the “Joint Committee”). “We are calling on the county to delay approval of Alternative 2B until after such time as any associated Comprehensive Plan amendments can be investigated and evaluated, including the transportation and environmental impacts of the “Option 2B” proposal with its new bridge, new bypass and new interchange located in the downzoned R-C district, upstream from the Occoquan Reservoir, and until after full opportunity for participation by Fairfax County citizens and advocacy groups in open public hearings, and a vote by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, on those amendments.

“We remain deeply frustrated and concerned that massive expenditures of tax dollars are being based on such flawed processes without full, fair, and transparent consideration of alternatives,” said Schwartz. “With our nation in a long-term funding crisis, we cannot afford the failure to consider more cost-effective alternatives, and to husband our resources for the most important priorities.”

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