Wednesday, February 10, 2016
 

JOINT STATEMENT on I-66 agreement between Governor McAuliffe and Virginia legislators

by Coalition for Smarter Growth, Southern Environmental Law Center, and Sierra Club – Virginia Chapter

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 10, 2016

CONTACT
Stewart Schwartz, Coalition for Smarter Growth, (703) 599-6437
Trip Pollard, Southern Environmental Law Center, (804) 318-7484

RICHMOND, VA -- Three leading smart growth, conservation, and transportation reform advocacy groups released the following joint statement on the announced agreement between Governor McAuliffe and state legislators on I-66 inside the Beltway:

Our organizations have supported the Governor’s package of transit, HOV, and tolls for I-66 inside the Beltway as a far more effective approach than widening. This package of solutions will move 40,000 more people through the corridor in the peak hours faster and more reliably, and it won the support of Fairfax, Arlington, Falls Church, and the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission.

Therefore, we are deeply disappointed by legislators of both parties who have pressed to undo this effective demand-management and people-moving package in favor of a widen-first approach. In doing so, the legislators have failed to understand the settled science of induced traffic where widened roads in metropolitan areas quickly fill up again. They also failed to understand the benefits of funding transit through the toll revenues, and the effectiveness of the package in moving more people through the corridor during peak hours.

We're grateful to the Governor for fighting for the package of solutions he has championed for I-66 inside the Beltway. Although we are very disappointed that the widening is being accelerated before more effective solutions are given the opportunity to work, the agreement reflects a political compromise. That said, we urge the Governor and local governments to accelerate the funding and implementation of transit and supportive ride-matching and transit marketing necessary to ensure we maximize the number of people using transit and carpooling before the widening takes effect in 2019.

We urge legislators to understand that an economically successful region like ours cannot build our way out of congestion through highway expansion. That widening is just a band-aid with an increasing cost to people’s homes, neighborhoods, schools, parks, and health. 

We have long made the case that investment in transit and smart growth, which can be coupled with road and parking pricing, is the most effective approach to addressing traffic congestion in the near, medium, and long term. Creating a network of walkable, transit-oriented centers and communities allows us to maximize walking, biking, and transit trips, while minimizing driving. It reduces the sprawling development which is the chief contributor to our traffic congestion, and creates the types of communities so in demand today.

Finally, it is important to recognize that Arlington County’s internationally recognized success in coupling transit-oriented development (TOD) with transit investment has done more to reduce regional traffic congestion than any other jurisdiction or any highway expansion in Northern Virginia, while increasing the region’s economic competitiveness. Arlington’s success is a compelling case for why we should continue to maximize our investment in transit and TOD across Northern Virginia rather than widen highways all the way to DC.  

The Coalition for Smarter Growth is the leading organization in the Washington DC region dedicated to making the case for smart growth. Its mission is to promote walkable, inclusive, and transit-oriented communities, and the land use and transportation policies needed to make those communities flourish. Learn more at smartergrowth.net. 

The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC's team of over 60 legal experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use. Learn more at 
SouthernEnvironment.org.

The Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club is 15,000 members strong. We are your friends and neighbors working to build healthy, livable communities, and to conserve and restore our natural environment. Learn more at sierraclub.org/virginia.

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Monday, February 8, 2016
 

Two Weeks After Snowstorm Trails and Sidewalks Still Blocked

Snow on sidewalk adjacent to Langston Hughes MS,
South Lakes HS and Terraset ES.
Photo taken today, 2/8/2016
Even with the mild temperatures of last week the compacted snow and ice piled on area trails and sidewalks is still blocking access in many areas. Today I noticed at least two people walking in the road where snow made walking on the sidewalk or trail impassable. It may be another week or more before it's safe to walk in these areas, and more snow is predicted tomorrow.

According to Chairman Bulova's Facebook page: "Our Board will hold a 'Snowzilla Summit' at our March 1st Board Meeting, and we will invite officials from VDOT and our own County staff. The purpose of the Summit is first to thank them for the good job they did responding to the blizzard of 2016, but also to examine how we want to address some issues that were problematic (such as the need for clearing pedestrian facilities, school bus stops and commuter bus shelters)."

We look forward to the snow summit and are glad that Chairman Bulova identified the need for clearing pedestrian facilities. It will take more than a snow summit to fix the problem. The Board needs to find the resources to ensure people are not forced to walk in the street to access Metro, schools, and other important destinations. We need to identify critical transportation trails that should be cleared. Property owners in these areas need to help. The county can follow the lead of NOVA Parks and Reston Association which have both devoted resources to clearing snow on the W&OD and RA trails. The county needs to work with VDOT to ensure that already cleared trails and sidewalks are not used as snow dumping grounds.

According to the WTOP article about the summit, "Fairfax County residents with feedback or questions they would like addressed at the “snow summit” can email Chairman@fairfaxcounty.gov." If you're concerned about blocked ped and bike access after the latest snow storm, contact Chairman Bulova.

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Faces of Fairfax - M.J. Erskine

M.J. Erskine

Vienna-resident M.J. Erskine paused at the Bike to Work Day 2015 pit stop in her town and told FABB that she rode her bike as a primary means of transportation. M.J. said that she doesn’t like driving and is happy to be able to ride her bike around Vienna, Tysons, and Falls Church.

In response to FABB’s question about what she would like to see changed to make it easier and safer to ride in Fairfax County, M.J. said that more connected bike lanes would help.

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Sunday, February 7, 2016
 

Dr Gridlock on the Importance of Urban Trails

In the Sunday Post Dr Gridlock devotes an entire column on the importance of trails as part of our transportation network: We need to accept urban trails as part of the commuter network. While the focus of the article is the clearing of bike commuter trails on National Park Service land, it applies to all of our regional major paved trails. We are very grateful that NovaParks and Reston Association have devoted resources to clearing snow from the W&OD Trail and over 50 miles of RA trails. They have set an example for Fairfax Co to do the same for our major transportation trails.

Update: See GGW's David Alpert's opinion piece also in the Sunday Post: Walkers were left out in the cold after the 'Snozilla' blizzard.

Snow blocking trail access to
Wiehe-Reston East Metro station
Many of us have been struggling with large amounts of snow on trails, sidewalks and at intersections after the most recent snow storm. While it was an historic storm, these same trails and sidewalks are blocked after almost every storm in the area. The compacted piles of snow take weeks to melt. In my area, bicycle and pedestrian access to the Wiehle Metro station is still blocked by snow and ice around the station, most of it dumped there by VDOT snow clearing crews.

From the Dr Gridlock article:

Times have changed, and trails in urban areas are commuter routes for many. In recognition of that, the park service in the capital region is considering a change in its policy that would incorporate the trails into the post-storm cleanup plans.
Snow dumped on Wiehle Ave trail by
VDOT contractor on an already passable road

That’s a welcome idea to Gregory Billing, the executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. You may see fewer people out on bikes in the winter, but cold weather doesn’t stop people from commuting via bicycle. Ice and snow on the trail does stop them.

If a cyclist can’t use a bike lane on a city street, the commuter can shift to a regular lane. Commuters who use trails, such as the popular Mount Vernon Trail along the Virginia side of the Potomac River, are in a tougher spot. “Often, there are no safe alternatives for miles,” Billing said.
We have written to our local House representative and others urging them to coordinate with VDOT to prioritize snow clearing efforts to provide safe access to Metro stations, schools, and along major commuting trails. Chairman Bulova plans to hold a snow summit and cyclists and pedestrians need to make sure the county gets the message that we deserve safe passage on major access routes.

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Saturday, February 6, 2016
 

FABB Coming to Mt. Vernon District

Come join us on Wednesday, February 17th, at 7:30 pm for our monthly meeting, which is being held for the first time in Mt. Vernon District at the Mt. Vernon Government Center Community Meeting Room, 2511 Parkers Lane, Mt. Vernon, VA, 22306.

Biking near Ft. Belvoir in Mt. Vernon District.
(Photo courtesy of Ft. Belvoir) 
The meeting will feature a presentation by Adam Lind, Fairfax County’s Bicycle Program Manager, on the implementation of the county’s Bicycle Master Plan in the district. In addition, other speakers will provide reports on bicycling-related developments and events. There also will be an open discussion period to allow Mt. Vernon residents to raise issues about improving local bicycle access and safety.

The Mt. Vernon Government Center Community Meeting Room is accessible by Metro using Huntington Station (Yellow Line) and Bus #161 or #162.

February’s meeting is part of FABB's effort to better serve and represent cyclists and other supporters throughout the county. During 2016 FABB plans to hold monthly meetings in all of the county’s districts. If you would like to assist in setting up the program for the meeting in your district, please contact Steve Ward at srward1057@gmail.com.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016
 

FCPS Employee Celebrates 500 Bike to Work Trips

Biking in the COOOOLD
Evie Ifantides works for Fairfax County Public Schools at an office on Waples Mill Rd just north of Route 50. She lives in Fairfax City. Evie started biking to work in 2012 and since then has logged 500 round trips (well, 499.5 the last I heard and given the weather, it may be another day or so before she gets in another ride).

Evie has written a positive, inspirational story about her decision to get to work by bike. She did some riding over the years but it wasn't until a colleague suggested she bike to work that she started riding in earnest.

What I like most about Evie's story is her outlook. She doesn't focus on obstacles or problems she encounters but on all of the positive aspects of riding to work and interacting with her environment and the people she meets along the way. Here's an extract from her story:

Learning to clean my bike
with WABA Women and Bicycl
In March of 2011 I began participation in a cohort leadership program with my employer, Fairfax County Public Schools. In October of 2011, our teacher laid out some prizes/trinkets for answering questions. I must have answered a question correctly and I went up to the table and picked the bike lock as my prize. Not sure why - I did not really need one since I was not biking.

As part of our final project in our cohort, we had to present on a topic that if implemented would create a positive impact in our work environment. In March of 2012 my cohort friend, Richard Michelback, presented his vision about FCPS personnel biking to work. He was inspiring! I had that Specialized bike in the shed but it needed a lot of help. I mentioned Richard’s vision to my dear friend and neighbor, Carolyn, and she said that she had a bike I could use and basically have. A grey Gary Fisher - in a matter of minutes - that bike arrived at my home.

That same week, I was sitting at the Fairfax City Parks and Recreation Advisory Board meeting next to cycle enthusiast, Frank Linton. He was there along with a George Mason student discussing the possibility of a bike route from the Vienna Metro to George Mason University. (I am happy to report that there is a pretty safe bike route that GMU students can now take) The meeting lasted till 10 p.m. and as we were leaving I asked Frank if he was able to map out a couple of possible routes for me to bike to work. He immediately said YES and on Saturday, March 17, at 10:30 a.m. he came to my home and we took one route to my work location, at Fairfax Ridge and another route back to my house. The four mile route takes about thirty minutes.

I also had to find a bike rack at work. Who knew that there was one at the Fairfax Ridge. One of my colleagues and building supervisor, Dianna DiPasquale, helped me find one – in the parking garage. It was behind barbed wire and we got it out and placed in the garage by the steps.

My first ride was going to be that Wednesday, March 21, 2012 … It was cold and very foggy and I decided not to ride. I emailed Richard and Frank and both said that it was smart not to have biked that day. Richard also added that he would be willing to come to my house and bike with me the first time on Thursday. He also asked me if I had any lights - hmmmm I did not. I went to our local bike shop, Oasis Bikes, which unfortunately is no longer there, got the lights and they gave me a 10% discount because I mentioned Frank’s name.

So I got the lights and the next morning at 6:45 am – Richard drove to my house from his home in McLean. He put all the lights on and we started riding. It was still dark and still a little foggy but I felt really good being with Richard at my side. I showed him the way. His project to get FCPS staff to ride to work was becoming a reality one person at a time.

We arrived at the Fairfax Ridge somewhere around 7:25 am and I locked my bike using Deeb’s lock … It was anti-climactic but to me it was a HUGE deal. I thanked Richard, we took the obligatory picture, and I came in to work. Richard rode back to my house and then he was off to work. In May, I met a colleague, Katie Baxter-Gagen at Van Dyck park in Fairfax City and we participated in the bike to work day …

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Monday, February 1, 2016
 

I-66 Message Sent to I-66 Parallel Trail Supporters

Kudos to all the supporters who spoke up to make biking and walking an integral part of the I-66 Outside the Beltway improvements. You certainly made an impact. In its revised Tier II Environmental Assessment, the Virginia Department of Transportation stated that,
“Based on substantial public interest a corridor-wide bikeway and pedestrian plan was developed.”
Click on image to view map
Your help is needed to continue offering a strong voice and guidance in support of the I-66 bicycle plan. Please let VDOT know you support the bike plan and provide your feedback on trail placement, access points and other concerns you may have.

Comments can be submitted until February 4th (Deadline was extended to Feb. 9). Please direct them to Ms. Susan Shaw, PE, by email to Transform66@VDOT.Virginia.gov, via the online comment form on the project's website, or join the discussion. Reference "I-66 Tier 2 Revised EA" in the subject line.

The revised Tier II Environmental Assessment was recently released for public review and comment with updated language integrating the bicycle and pedestrian improvements approved as part of the I-66 Prefferred Alternative.

According to the revised EA, the I-66 project will include a major regional trail along the I-66 corridor outside the beltway (click on image to see map) as well as new bicycle and pedestrian facilities on all rebuilt bridges. The report states that including these improvements will increase access to public transportation, travel choices, connectivity and safety throughout the I-66 corridor.

Specific design requirements for the bicycle infrastructure was also recently released as part of the I-66 Request for Proposals, which included the draft Technical Requirements.

Here are some key things you should know from these documents:
  • The regional trail will be a combination of a parallel trail constructed within the I-66 right-of-way as part of the project, and improvements to adjacent roads and trails that will be built separately in coordination with local jurisdictions.
  • Bike and pedestrian improvements at I-66 crossings are included where bridges are being reconstructed.
  • All new facilities crossing I-66 or associated ramps shall be grade-separated unless otherwise approved by VDOT.
  • Where proposed noise barriers are to be located near homes, the parallel trail will be on the I-66 side of the noise barrier.
  • There are 13 access points proposed for the parallel trail, along with the suggestion that access generally be at half-mile increments.
  • Park-and-ride facilities will include bike and pedestrian connections to nearby facilities, and covered bike racks for a minimum of 75 bicycles.
  • Mile marker and wayfinding signs shall be incorporated in the design.
  • Existing trails impacted by the project shall be replaced.
For more information on efforts to include bike facilities in the I-66 project, visit FABB's I-66 page.

Thank you for your support,

Sonya Breehey
FABB Board Member

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