Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Bike recommendations from I-66 Multimodal Study

Last night we attended the public information meeting on the I-66 Multimodal Study Inside the Beltway. It was a pleasant ride from Reston using a combination of local streets and the W&OD Trail. The temperature was in the 60's and there was a light rain; much better than fighting rush hour traffic through the Tysons/Vienna area and it probably took about the same time to get there.

At the meeting the various contractors involved in the study displayed panels highlighting different aspects of the study. Toole Design Group is conducting the bicycle and pedestrian portion of the study and they showed maps of the top bicycle recommendations developed so far:

Specific Issues
  1. Lynn Street Improvements
  2. Scott Street Bridge
  3. Clarendon Circle
  4. Fairfax Drive/Kirkwood Intersection
  5. Fairfax Drive/Custis Trail/Bluemont Junction Trail Transition
  6. Custis Trail Underpass near Kennebec Street/Bon Air Park
  7. Bicycle Access to West Falls church Metrorail Station
  8. Pimmit Hills Connection on Route 7/Leesburg Pike
  9. Gallows Road Bike Lanes
General Issues
  1. Trail Width and Pavement Condition
  2. Regional Wayfinding
  3. Trail Lighting
The last three "Specific Issues" are located in Fairfax and are much-needed improvements. Unlike the other bike recommendations they are not related to the W&OD Trail or the Custis Trail, in part because the Custis Trail ends in Arlington at the junction with the W&OD Trail, which at East Falls Church diverges from I-66. We recommended that the Custis Trail be extended to the Beltway (the limit of this study) and beyond.

Route 50 at the Beltway is included in the study area. We recommended that bicycle access be provided along Route 50 to connect the residential and commercial areas in Merrifield and Dunn Loring with areas east of the Beltway along Route 50. This stretch of Route 50 is a nightmare for bicyclists and pedestrians due to the character of the road and the number of exit and entrance ramps.

Bicycling and pedestrian access were mentioned numerous times during the presentation. Whether the models being used to assess various "mobility options" will be able to look at other factors besides Level of Service (LOS) for road traffic is another story. Generally the models look at what impact any change in the system has on LOS, which many communities are finding is not a good measure of a livable, bicycle and pedestrian friendly place. LOS is the subject of a recent article entitled The Transportation Planning Rule Every City Should Reform
"LOS is one of the most widely-used traffic analysis tools in the U.S. and has a profound impact on how street space is allocated in U.S. cities," writes Jason Henderson, geography professor at San Francisco State University, in the November issue of the Journal of Transport Geography.

As Henderson argues, it's about time cities addressed the problem, and San Francisco is doing just that. It's currently in the process of drafting a new sustainable transportation metric that will replace LOS and promote livability. Still, the fight is far from over.

"Every city I've ever come across has some use of [LOS]," says Henderson, who has conducted an extensive review of LOS and is writing a book on the politics of mobility in San Francisco. "LOS and the privilege of the car is the incumbent. The way the political process is set up is you have to disprove the incumbent."
The draft I-66 Multimodal Study results will be published any day now on the project website.

We were interviewed by NBC4 reporter Jane Watrel but we haven't seen any coverage of the event yet. We'll post a link here if there is.

Vienna Patch covered the meeting: VDOT Study Could Offer Ideas for Better Travel on I-66

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