Active Prince William

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

Tag: PRTC

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.

Commuting to the Mark Center Just Got A Whole Lot Easier

Mark Center Army Photo

View of the Mark Center Building. – from Wikipedia.org

New commuting options to the Mark Center are available with the opening of the new I-395 high occupancy vehicle (HOV) ramp to Seminary Rd earlier this month from locations in Dale City, Woodbridge, and Lake Ridge. Commuter bus provider PRTC announced today that it will begin a new commuter bus service to the Mark Center, and casual carpooling, called slugging, commenced from the Horner Rd Commuter Lot shortly after the HOV ramp was opened.

Federal employees and contractors assigned to work at the Federal Mark Center Building now have additional commuting options. The new ramp that connects the I-395 HOV lanes with Seminary Rd opened on January 11th, creating a smoother, more efficient connection to the Mark Center, and has enabled casual carpooling and now commuter bus service to commence.

mark-center-routes

PRTC Mark Center Commuter Bus Routes – from PRTC website

The Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC) has been preparing an express bus service to the Mark Center in anticipation of the opening of the I-395 HOV ramp. There are 2 routes, one that travels through Dale City along Dale Blvd and one that starts in Lake Ridge traveling down Old Bridge Rd. The map below from PRTC illustrates the 2 routes. More detailed information including schedules is available on the PRTC web site here.

Horner_Rd_New_slug_line_to_Mark_Center

New Mark Center slugline location in the Horner Rd Commuter Lot. – map courtesy of www.sluglines.com

Slugging is an ad hoc form of carpooling or ride-sharing that began back in the DC area in the 1970’s. Slugging is informal, mutually beneficial to the parties involved, and best of all, free-of-charge. Most of the sluglines originate at commuter lots that are also served by PRTC buses, providing an important backup for riders. Since the conversion of HOV lanes to high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes along I-95/I-395 in late 2014, the driver of a vehicle in the HOT lanes with 2 or more passengers (HOV3) can use an E-Z Pass Flex switched to HOV-ON mode that enables use of the HOT lanes toll-free.

The slugline in the Horner Rd Commuter Lot is located in the parking row just East of the Crystal City slugline. See the map on the right for the detailed location.

The evening slugline to return from the Mark Center forms on the North side of the building as noted in the map below.

MarkCenter_sluglineJPG

Location of Mark Center evening slugline. – provided courtesy of www.sluglines.com

Background: The Mark Center Building, located along I-395 with access to Seminary Rd in Alexandria, VA, was built to consolidate Dept of Defense staff from various locations in Roslyn, Crystal City, and other locations in DC and N. Virginia into a secure, non-commercial facility.  Due to its isolated location from previously existing mass transit, from the opening of the Mark Center in 2011 until this month, there were few commuting options to the Mark Center for Prince William County residents.

Seminary Rd HOV Access Ramp - undercontruction

I-395 HOV Ramp to Seminary Rd under construction – from Google Streetview.

MarkCenter ramp contruction

I-395 HOV Ramp to Seminary Rd under construction – from Google Streetview.