Thursday, April 18, 2013

Meeting to discuss Fairfax County Parkway Trail closure at Fair Lakes

FFX Co Pkwy Trail at Route 50
FABB recently met with several representatives from VDOT to discuss the closure of the Fairfax County Parkway Trail between Route 50 and Fair Lakes Dr. The trail was closed for over a year with no detour provided. We've written extensively about this trail closure.

The purpose of the meeting was to determine why the trail was closed without a detour and to get some assurances that this type of closure will be avoided in the future. The folks at VDOT explained that their policy when a pedestrian or bicycle facility is closed dictates that "alternate pedestrian routes shall be provided."

We were told that the project was funded using stimulus money and was on a fast track. In order to provide temporary access, additional right of way was needed or several trees would have to be cut down. The detour that we recommended back in August was on private roads and there was some discussion about whether it was possible to route trail traffic through that area.

Our response boiled down to asking that trail closures be treated like a road closure: Avoid if at all possible, provide a detour, close for as short a time as possible, provide advance notification, provide ongoing notification regarding status of the closure, and provide information about alternative routes if a detour is not provided.

Cyclists don't need the huge electronic message signs. NVRPA often uses page-size laminated signs to provide information to W&OD Trail users and those signs work fine. Cyclists travel at much slower speeds than motorists and we can stop to read that type of sign.

We were very encouraged to hear that the folks at VDOT are taking this issue more seriously than in the past and are making provisions for temporary trail access in future projects. This attitude needs to filter down to the crews doing the work because all too often TRAIL CLOSED signs are put up with too little consideration given to the consequences to bicyclists and pedestrians who often don't have reasonable alternatives.

Detour around Fair Lakes construction
recommended by FABB
One very positive outcome of the meeting was an agreement that VDOT would provide wayfinding signage where the Parkway trail detours around the I-66 bridge. We've asked for this signage since 2005. We hope this is a first step in providing much needed wayfinding signage along the full length of the trail, especially in the north section where there is no signage. VDOT also said there are funds to begin making much-needed repairs to the Parkway trail.

The final paving of this Fair Lakes trail section will occur in the very near future. The trail may be closed again briefly for that repaving. Let's hope proper notice is given to trail users. If the trail is closed, this is our recommended detour on the right.
VDOT did the same thing in Prince William County along Sudley Manor Drive. They decided to close the 10 foot wide multi-use asphalt path along the road due to construction of the University Blvd extension. They said it would be closed for a year.
Bruce, I'm glad VDOT appears to be responsive to your concerns raised -- but as Bikedude indicates, the culture of VDOT needs to change state-wide so that anytime they're closing a major cycling/pedestrian artery (like the Wiehle bridge yesterday), their default position is to address cyclist/pedestrian needs. We really need VBF to help on changing the VDOT culture because it will flow from the top to the regions. Or not.

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