Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Route 1 widening includes bike facilities

Funding is now available for widening of Route 1. A 10-foot side path and wide outside lanes are included in the project:
Virginia has secured a $180 million grant from the Defense Department's Office of Economic Adjustment to widen Route 1 in the area of Fort Belvoir to six lanes between Telegraph Road and Mount Vernon Highway. The 3.5-mile widening could begin as early as 2013 and take up to three years to complete.

"Widening Route 1 is critical to ensuring a viable transportation network in the Fort Belvoir area," said Governor McDonnell. "Our nation's wounded warriors, veterans and their families deserve to have reliable and safe access to Fort Belvoir's new Community Hospital. Moreover, every day, commuters are stuck in long traffic queues on Route 1 that has only worsened with the additional traffic generated by BRAC changes bringing more defense personnel to Fort Belvoir. This widening will improve the quality of life for thousands of commuters and visitors."

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and Fairfax County submitted joint grant applications earlier this year requesting funding to accommodate the increased traffic generated by the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) and the new Fort Belvoir Community Hospital which will generate 574,000 trips annually. VDOT estimates the widening will cost $180 million, including $53 million to acquire right of way, $20 million to relocate utilities, $10 million for environmental mitigation and $97 million for construction.

The portion of Route 1 serving Fort Belvoir is only two lanes in each direction, carries 56,000 vehicles a day and has one of the highest highway crash rates in northern Virginia. Between 2006 and 2008 there were 294 crashes on the 3.4-mile section between Telegraph Road and Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, including 13 injuries and one fatality. In 2011 two more fatalities occurred. In addition, Route 1 in this area lacks pedestrian and bicycle access and crosswalks at intersections.
Allen Muchnick of Virginia Bicycling Federation sent the following letter to FHA requesting that the 14-foot outside lanes planned for the Route 1 widening be modified to allow striping of 4-foot bike lanes instead:
Mr. Jack Van Dop
Environmental Specialist
Federal Highway Administration
Eastern Federal Lands Highway Division
21400 Ridgetop Circle
Sterling, VA 20166

Dear Mr. Van Dop:

I'm writing to comment on the proposed design for the above-referenced highway widening project, as described in your agency's brochure for the October 19, 2011 public meeting. Although the official public comment period ended yesterday (10/31/11), I only became aware of this project this afternoon after seeing Governor McDonnell's news release about the $180 million Department of Defense funding award. Thus, I hope you will include this comment as part of the official record of your October 19, 2011 public meeting.

This 3.4-mile segment of US Route 1--between Mount Vernon Memorial Highway and Telegraph Road--is a vital link for local, regional, and long-distance bicycle travel and could serve as a key link in the East Coast Greenway, the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, and/or U.S. Bicycle Route One. Because of its importance for long-distance bicycling, it's critical that this project include exemplary accommodations for all types of bicyclists, including skilled, faster, and longer-distance bicyclists.

The "Current Proposed 148-foot Typical Section" illustrated in the meeting brochure seems amply wide to accommodate all needed pedestrian and bicycle facilities as well as a dedicated transitway in the median, in addition to six roadway travel lanes. However, in view of the high (50+ MPH) motor vehicle speeds on this roadway, the 14-foot wide "Oversized Outside Lane[s] to Accommodate Bicycles" should be designed and striped as dedicated bike lanes and continued on the *left* side of *all* right-turning lanes at the approaches to *all* intersections. To best execute these bike lanes, the middle and inside travel lanes could be striped 6 to 12 inches narrower than illustrated in the meeting brochure, to provide an 11-foot wide outside travel lane plus a 4-foot wide bike lane (to the left of the concrete gutter pans) in lieu of the 14-foot wide "oversized outside lane" illustrated in the meeting brochure.

Thank you for considering this comment. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need more information, and please include my email address and/or other contact information in future project announcements.


Allen Muchnick, board member
Virginia Bicycling Federation
While the widening project will provide bike facilities, it will make the road more dangerous for pedestrians and some bicyclists. The wide road and speeding traffic, in a busy commercial area, are a deadly mix. The speed limit should be lowered and much better bicycle and pedestrian accommodations are needed in this corridor.

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