Friday, July 27, 2007

Tysons survey

Please take the time to fill out the online Tysons survey. The Tysons Task Force has developed a survey seeking public input on choices and priorities for future development. See the Tysons public workshop page for more information on proposed models for development and the three workshops held in July.

There are questions about “How people travel in to and out of Tysons Corner.” Respondents are asked to express their opinions on statements such as: “Routes 7 and 123 should be designed as pedestrian-friendly, urban boulevards like those found in DC, Bethesda, and Arlington even if this will increase travel times for automobiles on Routes 7 and 123.” and “I support improving pedestrian and bicycle connectivity from/to the station areas and the neighborhoods in Tysons, in addition to between the station areas.”

Fill out the form and let the task force know that Tysons should become a bicycle-friendly community, with safe, convenient bicycle routes to the future Metro stations and throughout Tysons as it becomes a mixed-use, more urban place.
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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

ADC Bike Map being updated

Bike maps are available from several Northern Virginia government agencies. Fairfax County is in the process of producing the first every county-sponsored bike map. For a list of bike maps of Northern Virginia, see the FABB Cyclist Resources page. The ADC mapping company has produced a commercial bicycle map of the DC area for many years. The 6th edition was updated 5 years ago.

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments is cooperating with ADC to update the map once again. Comments on changes; additions and deletions, are due to ADC by August 23, 2007. The MWCOG Bicycle/Pedestrian Subcommittee is collecting information to be used for the new map. We plan to review the ADC map and compare routes that we have collected on our Draft Fairfax bike route map and will submit suggested changes. If you have suggestions, please submit them to us or to Michael Farrell of MWCOG.
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Monday, July 23, 2007

Bicycle crossings needed in Beltway HOT Lanes project

VDOT and a private contractor are in the midst of negotiating the final details of the Beltway HOT Lanes project. In May of this year FABB sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Pierce Homer expressing our concerns about the lack of bike facilities as part of the project. On June 1, 2007 WABA sent an alert with similar information, asking Virginia cyclists to contact VDOT and the County Board. Thanks to the many cyclists who sent letters of support.

In Secretary Homer's response he states that: “VDOT understands the importance of integrating bicycle and pedestrian facilities into the project, and is currently evaluating several design alternatives that include bicycle and pedestrian facilities.” We would like to see these plans.

Since that time little information has been forthcoming from VDOT about the project. We met with an engineer who said that bicycle facilities would be very expensive, and that VDOT and the contractor, Fluor/Transurban are negotiating what will be included in the project.

We are concerned that final plans are being developed with little or no public input. VDOT will likely hold public hearings soon. Meeting are being held this week on the 95/395 HOT lanes project. From what we can tell, the meetings were announced on July 18, less than a week before the first meeting, which is being held tonight.

Cyclists must be prepared for the Beltway HOT lanes public hearings. Information about the project is available on the VDOT web site. Documents related to the project are on the contractor sponsored site, The Documents and Resources page contains links to the Final Environmental Impact Statement, April 2006 [Warning: Large pdf; to view download and view locally], among others.

In the Final EIS VDOT claims that “The Existing Trails Map and Countywide Trails Plan [Also large pdf files] were reviewed to ensure that none of the existing or PLANNED trails within the study area would be affected by the project.” From what we've seen, this is not true. No bike lanes will be built as part of the project and the bridges will likely not be wide enough to accommodate them in the future, and yet bike lanes and major trails are planned on several of the crossings.

Delegate James Almand, 47th District, agrees that bike facilities should be part of the project. The Final EIS contains a letter from him (p. A-27) that states in part: "I would support inclusion of separate protected bikeways along the Beltway and safe bike crossings built into construction plans. I would also support walking/running trails to be placed alongside, separate from the bike trails."

As we receive more information about this project we will pass it on.

Update July 25, 2007: Congressman James Oberstar, Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, does not have a high opinion of public private partnership agreements for building highways. From a May 10, 2007 open letter from him and Congressman DeFazio, also of the Transportation Committee: "We write to strongly discourage you from entering into public-private partnership ("PPP") agreements that are not in the long-term public interest in a safe, integrated national transportation system that can meet the needs of the 21st Century...The Committee will work to undo any state PPP agreements that do not fully protect the public interest and the integrity of the national system."

Update 2 July 25, 2007: On June 5, 2006 the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors sent a letter to Secretary of Transportation Pierce Homer in support of including bike/ped crossings on ALL of the existing crossings of the Beltway as part of the HOT lanes project. They said: "Because the Capital Beltway currently acts as a barrier to non-motorized transportation options, pedestrians and bicycles must be accommodated at all crossings of the Beltway, and connections to adjacent existing and planned trails need to be completed as part of the project."

Update 3 July 25, 2007: On June 7, 2007 Providence District Supervisor Linda Smyth held a seminar on the HOT lanes projects. VDOT and Fluor/Transurban staff discussed the project and answered questions. If it's a really slow night and you want to learn more about the project, check out the video of the seminar on YouTube. The question and answer session begins about 57 minutes into the session.

With the information above and more information expected to be posted soon, we'll try to put together a separate FABB HOT lanes information page in the near future.
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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Tysons workshops

We attended the Monday night public workshop on the Tysons test land use scenarios. Being on the task force, we facilitated one of the break-out sessions. The sessions were centered around a number of questions about road improvements, pedestrian and bicycle access, public facilities, housing, etc. During the summary session, all of the groups mentioned the importance of pedestrian and bicycle access. Most groups said they would assign a large portion of public and private funds to building new facilities for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Thanks to all bicyclists who attended the sessions. We can make a difference. There is one more session tonight, for the Providence District at Marshall HS, 7731 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22043. We hope cyclists attend to discuss the need for better bicycle facilities in Tysons.

Please consider filling out the questionnaire available on the Tysons task force web site. Let the task force know that you want Routes 7 and 123 to be more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly, and that you want more resources devoted to creating better bicycle facilities in Tysons. The questionnaire must be submitted by August 3.
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Sunday, July 8, 2007

Battle of Chantilly tour

After our ride in the Chantilly area last weekend, a local advocate decided to create another tour, one that highlights many of the Civil War sites in the area. The Battle of Chantilly, or Ox Hill, the Confederate name for the battle, was fought near the Fairfax Government Center and Fair Oaks Mall, at the intersection of West Ox Rd and Monument Dr. About 1500 troops were killed during the battle, the only Civil War battle fought in heavy rain.

The Union troops were retreating from their defeat at the Second Battle of Bull Run, and the Confederates hoped to cut them off before they returned to safe Union territory. We started our ride at the site of one of the skirmishes during the battle at Stringfellow Rd and Route 50, the site of town of Chantilly at the time of the battle. We continued along many quiet, low traffic roads, past several local parks and historic sites. We'll post a map of the route in the near future.

The Cross Farmhouse.The Old Stone Church, which
served as a Civil War hospital
after the First Battle of Bull Run
St. Johns Episciopal Church, with some
Civil War era headstones in the cemetery.
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Sunday, July 1, 2007

Chantilly tour

FABB was contacted recently a bicycle advocate in the Chantilly area who pointed out needed bicycle improvements in the area, especially crossings of Route 28. To get a better understanding of the issues, a ride was planned. That's us on the right in front of the Mitchell-Weeks House which is now the site of a Quizno's restaurant.

We discovered some very good riding routes used by local cyclists and generally became more familiar with the riding conditions in this area. We also saw many people riding inexpensive mountain bikes on sidewalks; using their bicycles for a basic mode of transportation.

The not so good riding routes included two crossings of Route 28. The Westfields Blvd cloverleaf was completed a while back with no on-road bicycle accommodations. There is a paved trail on the south side, but it is nearly impossible to use for regular commuting. When headed west, a cyclists would have to cross to the south side of the road, cross the entrance/exit ramps, yielding to motorists at each crossing, then cross back over to the north side. On-road riding is more efficient and we think, safer. One solution would be to narrow the travel lanes and create either a wide curb lane or bike lanes.

The second crossing is being designed by VDOT similar to the Gallows Rd/Rt 50 intersection. As you can see there is currently an at-grade crossing of Route 28. Now is the time for VDOT to provide proper on-road bicycle facilities. A meeting is scheduled with VDOT staff to see what can be done to allow cyclists to safely and efficiently navigate the intersection in the future.

We hope to continue our explorations of the Chantilly/Centreville area in the future, possibly with a tour of civil war sites. Fairfax County is the home of a great deal of historical sites that most people pass daily on their way to work. Wouldn't it be great to have a number of marked, mapped bike routes of historical sites?
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