Active Prince William

Helping to make Prince William, Manassas, and Manassas Park a More Livable, Sustainable Community.

Category: Sidewalks (page 2 of 2)

The City of Manassas is Poised to Revamp Grant Ave with the City’s First Road Diet, Citing Pedestrian Safety Concerns

The City of Manassas is in the planning stages of a redesign of Grant Avenue, a road considered the southern gateway to downtown Manassas. Citing pedestrian safety and safe routes to schools, City staff are considering a road diet from 4 to 3 lanes with improved pedestrian sidewalks and crossings. A public meeting was held on 29 June with additional public engagement in the planning process to come in the future. Implementation of the Grant Ave Streetscape Project will also enable the city to move forward with smart growth re-development on the southern side of the city.

Streetscape Meeting

Manassas Grant Ave Streetscape Meeting

At the public meeting on 29 June, there was considerable staff, consultant, and community support for implementing a four-lane to three-lane road diet to improve walking and bicycling conditions, enhance bus stops, and increase aesthetics without significantly degrading motoring. Mayor Parrish, three current City Council members, and senior City staff were present at the meeting.

Existing Condition Comments

Manassas Grant Ave Streetscape Existing Condition Comments

At the meeting, staff guided interested individuals in using the Streetmix computer program to design alternative cross sections for Grant Ave.  While conventional bike lanes are eminently feasible and should be adequate for many bike riders with a road diet’s traffic-calming influence and a lowered 25 MPH speed limit, it was clear that the current street right of way is constrained, and expanding the sidewalk areas to include planting strips with street trees, urban street lamps, and bus shelters is an important “competing” priority that may preclude adding buffered or separated bicycle lanes.

View near Brent St.

Manassas Grant Ave view near Brent St.

While a simple road diet can often be accomplished using only maintenance funds to repave and re-paint the new lane configuration, expanding the sidewalks and planting strips, undergrounding the currently overhead utilities, and adding bus shelters, urban street lights, street furniture, trees, and other landscaping along Grant Ave will necessitate considerable construction funds.

The Initial planning and design for the project has been funded, but there’s not yet any funding allocated for construction, and thanks to HB 2 and HB 599, which target road capacity expansions, neither the Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) nor the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) are likely to provide any money for a road diet.  If construction will be locally funded, it’s unlikely that the curbs will be moved, so as to greatly reduce construction costs.  At the meeting, Active Prince William advocated for alternatives–including buffered bike lanes–that could fit within the existing roadway.

Example Road Profile

Grant Ave Streetscape Example Road Profile

For more information, visit the City’s project page [http://www.manassascity.org/grantave], where you can sign up for project updates, and view the meeting presentation which provides background information and describes how the meeting was conducted.

How to Submit a Request to Clear Debris from Sidewalks and Trails

If you walk or bike with any frequency in Northern Virginia, I am sure that you have encountered sand, dirt, gravel, grit, broken glass, etc. covering sidewalks and bike trails along our roadways. VDOT has a website for residents to submit service requests that takes only a few minutes to complete. The process is outlined below.

Debris on sidewalk before request was submitted

Photo of debris blocking sidewalk along Old Bridge Rd across from the Old Bridge/Rt 123 Commuter Parking Lot

Sidewalk after clearing by VDOT

Sidewalk after clearing by VDOT within 24 hours of submitted request.

Most roadways and their associated sidewalks and shared-use paths in Northern Virginia are managed by the Virginia Dept of Transportation (VDOT). Exceptions to this rule are where roads are privately owned, such as in some Home Owners Associations, and in some cities, towns, and Counties (such as Arlington County). Most roads in Fairfax and Prince William Counties are owned and maintained by VDOT, not the County governments; therefore, requests to fix problems on the roadways and their associated sidewalks and shared-use paths need to be directed to VDOT on their My VDOT website.

Much of the sand, gravel, grit and debris on our roadsides, curbs, sidewalks, and shared-use paths is left over from the heavy salting, sanding, and plowing that occurred back in January. VDOT does not have a scheduled maintenance program for clearing debris, but they do respond to resident’s requests.

You can easily submit a request on-line for VDOT to clear debris from specific areas that you identify. We recommend that you take a photo of the issue that you want addressed, then visit the My VDOT website.

1. Select the Type of Request

My VDOT Service Request

My VDOT Service Request Initial Page

On the My VDOT website, select “I need something removed from a road”, then on the right, under “What do you need removed?”, select “Remove debris”, then below that, under “Where is it located?” select “On the shoulder or in the ditch”. Once you have done this, click the Continue button.

2. Enter the Location

My VDOT Service Request

My VDOT Service Request Location Page

On the Location page, you will enter information about where the debris needs removal from. You can either zoom in on the map and click the location to drop a pin, or you can enter an address.  Once you have provided an accurate location, click the Continue button.

3. Add Details and a Photo

My VDOT Service Request

My VDOT Service Request Details Page

On the Details page enter any other information VDOT maintenance crews should know about the issue, such as details about the debris, or if it is blocking or impeding use of the road/sidewalk/trail. Enter a description, and be sure to mention if the debris needs clearing from a sidewalk or trail (shared-use path). Under the “Do you have an image or file to share?” section click the Choose File button to add the photo that you took of the debris, then click the Continue button.

4. Enter Contact Information

On the last page, enter your name and email address, and check the boxes if you want to be notified about status updates or create an account (both optional). You can receive status updates via email or text messages (if you provide a mobile phone number).

My VDOT Service Request

My VDOT Service Request Contact Page

You can also check the status of your submitted service requests by returning to the MyVDOT website and logging on if you created an account, or by entering a service request number.

MyVDOT Service Request Status

MyVDOT Service Request Status

NOTE: Residents can also submit service requests to VDOT for trail and sidewalk repairs, and road issues like pot holes and sign repair. The first webpage  has options for other types of requests under “How can we help you?”

Pedestrian Access Issues Come to the Forefront at Prince William County Snowzilla Response Meeting

People who walk, bike, and take the bus to work in Prince William County have been significantly impacted  long after the recent storm, due to huge piles of snow blocking crosswalks, sidewalks, bike trails, and bus stops. Many crosswalks and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant access ramps are still blocked almost 2 weeks after the event.

PRTC bus shelter 4 days after the storm passed.

Packed PRTC bus shelter 4 days after the storm passed, 27 Jan 2016.

Active Prince William members attended the  County’s “Snowzilla Plowing, Plans And Problems” Community Meeting, convened by  Occoquan District Supervisor Ruth Anderson, on Saturday,  Feb 6, 2016, to point out the lack of pedestrian access on the our sidewalks, crosswalks, and trails. VDOT NOVA, Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC), Prince William County Fire and Police, and others including Deputy County Executive Susan Roltsch and VA Delegate Richard Anderson were in attendance to answer questions about the snow storm response.

The video below is the WJLA Channel 8 News story about the meeting, focusing on the pedestrian access issues. Rob Delach and Rick Holt, of ActivePW were in attendance.

Those most impacted by the blocked sidewalks, crosswalks,  and bike paths are predominantly low income and disadvantaged populations in our County. VDOT owns, maintains and is responsible for snow removal on most of the roads in Prince William County, but it is their policy not to clear snow from sidewalks or bus stops along its roadways. To compound this problem, Prince William County residents are not required to clear sidewalks adjacent to their properties, unless they live in the towns of Occoquan, Quantico, or Dumfries, or the Cities of Manassas and Manassas Park.  The end result is that few sidewalks in Prince William County are fully passable, almost 2 weeks after the storm.

Snow pile blocking PW Parkway bike path on 6 February 2016. Photo courtesy of Rick Holt.

Snow pile blocking PW Parkway bike path on 6 February 2016. Courtesy of Rick Holt.

VDOT and PWC do not have funding to clear the sidewalks themselves, so it seems that low or no cost options need to be considered, here are two.

Low or No Cost Snow Removal Pedestrian Access Solutions for PWC.

  1. Establish a County Ordinance that requires businesses and residents clear sidewalks that are adjacent to their property.  This will help most with residential streets to improve sidewalks for children to get to bus stops and walk to school more quickly after a storm. Gaps will still exist along major roadways. Local ordinances are in place in the towns within Prince William County as well as Manassas and Manassas Park. In fact, 83% of local jurisdictions across the US have ordinances requiring sidewalk snow removal by residents.
  2. Promote a volunteer network of residents to clear snow for those who are not able to do so themselves, and to clear key access points such as crosswalks and access ramps at intersections.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Law requires local Departments of Transportation (DOTs) to provide snow removal on pedestrian facilities constructed with Federal funds, saying that “reasonable snow removal efforts” must be taken for pedestrian facilities on federal funded roadways.  VDOT has patently ignored this stipulation. But the problem is far worse than VDOT just not following the federal law, they actively plow huge snowbanks onto the pedestrian crossings and sidewalks, forcing pedestrians to walk in the only place they can, in the roadway. Due to the size of the snow piles, they effectively render those facilities useless for weeks after a large snow storm. For the recent event, now almost 2 weeks after the storm, most crosswalks and ramps are still under several feet of snow.

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