Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wiehle Ave Metro development approved by Board

Fairfax County owns the land on which the Reston East Park & Ride lot is located. This lot is adjacent to the planned Wiehle Ave Metro station on the new Silver line.

As we noted in an earlier posting, a major mixed-use development is being proposed on this site, which is very close to the W&OD Trail.

At the Board of Supervisors public hearing on this development we made the following comments:
Good afternoon Chairman Bulova and members of the Board,

My name is Bruce Wright and I live within a mile of the proposed development. While in general I support this application, bicycle access to the site is not well-planned and some facilities recommended by the Reston Metro Access Group are missing.

While several pedestrian circulation diagrams are included in the application, bicycle circulation has not been properly planned. Bicycle access and pedestrian access issues are different but developers and others often assume that the same facilities serve both users.

I met with the applicant and when I asked how cyclists would access the 150 Metro bicycle parking spaces I was told they would get off their bikes and walk on the sidewalk with pedestrians. That likely won't happen. In this and future applications around Metro stations I suggest that bicycle as well as pedestrian circulation be planned and facilities be provided to reduce bicycle/pedestrian conflicts and provide safe passage for cyclists.

According to the RMAG report, a shared bus/bike lane is recommended on Comstock Metro Center Drive from the W&OD Trail to the station entrance. Bike lanes are recommended on Reston Station Blvd through the site. The trail along Wiehle Ave is recommended to be 10 feet not 8 feet. According to the report: "The sidewalks along Wiehle Ave between the station entrance and the connection to the W&OD Trail should be wider than in other areas to accommodate larger numbers of bicyclists." From what I have seen, these recommendations are not being met.

The RMAG recommendations were developed by VHB and finalized by the RMAG which included VDOT and county DOT staff. If there were reservations about the recommendations, they should have been expressed at that time. If we can't get good bicycle access at this Metro site, adjacent to the W&OD Trail, it's not a good sign.

I also think that providing 1 bicycle parking space per 20 residential units is insufficient. Arlington Co uses 1 space per 5 units and in Tysons we are using 1 space per 10 units. Since the county currently has no guidelines for bicycle parking, I believe that more detailed guidance about number, placement and type of bicycle parking is needed within the residential and commercial buildings.

Thank you.
In response to my comments about insufficient access to the site, the applicant said that an 8-foot asphalt trail along Wiehle Ave is sufficient for bicyclists and pedestrians. He also said that "we have made our lanes somewhat larger to try to facilitate bicycle access. Our curb lanes in front of the project will be 14-feet not 12-feet to give a little additional room for bicycle access. Ultimately I think the creation of bicycle lanes is something that can occur with development to the north and east of us occurs and provides additional right of way. The site is somewhat constrained by the available right of way willingness or ability of MWAA to condemn additional right of way."

Having wide curb lanes through the site will help bicyclists, but the 8-foot shared path from the W&OD to the site is not sufficient for bicycle and pedestrian access, especially during rush hour, and the county should have forced the developer to adhere to the RMAG recommendations.

Regarding bicycle facilities, Supervisor Hudgins did add two additional development conditions before the Board approved the project:
• Where feasible, the applicant will provide additional bicycle racks and storage in the commercial garage or in buildings for use by the patrons of the private development by demand. Locations for these facilities shall be determined jointly by the applicant and the County’s Department of Transportation at the time of site plan submittals for the proposed phases of development.

• A minimum of one male or female shower facility shall be provided in each office building.
While the two conditions are welcome, they are much less than what is required in Arlington Co. Without bicycle parking guidelines, the county is forced to negotiate with each developer and has no real leverage in these negotiations. The phrase "where feasible" in the first bullet will likely mean "never" and is vague and difficult to track and subject to employees having to demand additional facilities.

For every 50,000 square feet of commercial development Arlington requires "one (1) shower per gender shall be installed, up to a maximum of three (3) showers per gender. Also, a minimum of one (1) clothes storage locker per gender shall be installed for every required employee bicycle parking space." The guidelines go on to give specifications for lockers including size and placement. In Fairfax it's up to the whim of the developer to decide the kind and location of these facilities. While we think the county is getting close to a first draft of the bike parking guidelines, they can't some soon enough.

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