For Immediate Release
July 31, 2014
Stewart Schwartz, Coalition for Smarter Growth, 703-599-6437 (cell)
Bruce Wright, Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling, 703-328-9619 (cell)
FAIRFAX, VA — With the opening of the first phase of the Silver Line, news stories and social media are drawing attention to the unsafe conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists on many of the roadways surrounding the stations. While the number of people parking at the new Silver Line stations is much lower than expected, the number of bicyclists has been surprisingly high, with bike racks at the Wiehle-Reston East station filling up quickly, and cyclists voicing the need for more bike lanes to safely reach the stations.
Writing Wednesday on Greater Greater Washington, Ken Archer (Chief Technology Officer for a company in Tysons), described the difficult situation pedestrians face in trying to cross as many as nine lanes of traffic at the intersection of Tysons Boulevard and Galleria Drive, where two sides of the intersection are missing marked crosswalks.
Southeast corner of the Tysons Blvd and Galleria Dr, without marked crosswalks. Photos by Ken Archer.
Map by Ken Archer, showing crosswalks across two of the four sides of the large intersection of roads at Tysons Blvd. and Galleria Dr.
In response to Archer’s concerns, advocates at the Coalition for Smarter Growth and Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling contacted Fairfax County Department of Transportation Director Tom Biesiadny. Biesiadny noted that Fairfax County DOT has prioritized fixes, marking crosswalks on the two sides of the intersection where pedestrians are most likely to cross. He noted that there is currently no development on the southeast side, and that Fairfax County DOT has to first negotiate with VDOT to convert the high-speed double-right intersection (shown in the photo) to a single slower right-turn lane before VDOT will allow the addition of crosswalks. Archer’s photos and Biesiadny’s description of the long process show the challenges of retrofitting auto-dominated suburbs.
“We know Fairfax County is committed to making Tysons and Reston pedestrian and bicycle-friendly urban centers with safe and convenient access to the new Silver Line Metro stations, and we know they have been working hard to implement a number of improvements,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. “Still, we are urging today more funding, including state funding, for accelerated implementation of projects. Investing in the Tysons and Reston local street network and providing safe pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure is a critical investment in safety and also essential to successful economic development along the Silver Line.”
“Where the county makes the investments, we see the results,” said Bruce Wright, Chairman of Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling. “Today, Reston is much more bike-friendly than Tysons, and as a result, many more people are biking to the Wiehle-Reston East Station — more than currently bike to most other Metro stations in the system.”
According to Biesiadny, the county will allocate 85% of the $100 million transportation bond going before voters this fall to pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements, which are urgently needed countywide. The priority of using these local bond funds for pedestrian and bicycle projects is reportedly based on the large share of new regional tax funds being committed to large road and transit infrastructure projects.
The Fairfax County Tysons Comprehensive Plan, Wiehle Ave/Reston Pkwy Station Access Management Study, and Tysons Metrorail Station Access Management Study (TMSAMS), and Four-Year Transportation Plan have identified both near-term bicycle and pedestrian improvements and a long-term plan for an urban grid of streets. Many improvements have been implemented and can be tracked in the Four-Year Transportation Planstatus report for Fairfax County, and by interactive maps for Reston and Tysons.
Completed bicycle and pedestrian in Fairfax County include bike lanes on Gallows Road and the repaving of the Ashgrove Trail just in time for the opening of the Silver Spring Metro Station. Planned projects include the aforementioned effort to tame the double-lane high-speed right turn from Tysons Boulevard to Galleria Drive.
Advocates highlight more work to do for bicycling
However, much still needs to be done to improve bicycling conditions. “The Tysons Bicycle Master Plan, developed in 2011 still hasn’t been adopted, and as a result, very few of the bicycle projects listed in the Tysons Metro Access study have been implemented,” said FABB’s Wright.
Advocates have highlighted that several key projects that would fix current problem areas either have no completion date (No. 26: Old Courthouse Road Bike Infrastructure), or are not expected to be completed until 2017 (Vesper Trail). Gosnell Road from Old Courthouse Road to Route 7 and Westpark Drive from Route 7 to International Drive is a major potential bike route, but no improvements are planned.
“Route 7 and Route 123 remain a particularly serious problem in the Tysons plan. Despite repeated requests for these roads to be converted to true urban boulevards that allow for safe crossing along with protected bicycle lanes and good sidewalks, these roads remain virtual highways through the heart of Tysons.” said Stewart Schwartz. “A final section of Route 123 is even planned for widening to 8 lanes, as is unfortunately the case with the other segments of Routes 7 and 123 through Tysons.”
Sidewalk obstacles and road/sidewalk design unsuited for shared use with bicyclists plague pedestrians and bicyclists in the Tysons area. “We need protected bike facilities along Route 7 and 123,” said Wright.
Wright offered a number of other recommendations, including adoption of the Tysons Bike Plan, expediting specific projects like the Vesper Trail and Old Courthouse Road bike facilities, a near term and interim measure to paint “sharrows” on Tysons roads to alert drivers to the presence of bicyclists, wayfinding signs for bike routes, more bike lockers and racks, and strengthened coordination between the County, VDOT, the Tysons Partnership (which can serve as a future Transportation Management Association for Tyson), Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling (FABB), local employers, and existing bicycle commuters.
“Fairfax County has a good plan for transforming Tysons and Reston, but now that the stations are open, pedestrian and bike projects need to be expedited to provide safe routes to transit. Otherwise people will get frustrated and get back in their cars, or worse, we’ll start seeing injuries and fatalities.”
Tonight, the Fairfax Planning Commission Tysons Committee will be discussing amendments to the transportation components of potential amendments to the Tysons Comprehensive Plan at 7:00 pm at the County Government Center in the Board Auditorium. In addition, as reported in the Washington Post, “the county master plan for cycling access is expected to go before the Planning Commission in October,” according to Charlie Strunk, Fairfax County’s bicycle coordinator. The Board of Supervisors is expected to consider it later that month.
“Given the demand to use transit and to live in walkable, bikeable communities with safe routes to schools, stores and transit, we believe that local streets and pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure investments ARE an economic development tool and should receive high priority. We hope more Fairfax and Virginia residents will get involved with their local elected officials and transportation departments, to make it happen,” concluded Schwartz.
Details on tonight’s Fairfax County Planning Commission meeting:
Planning Commission Tysons Committee Meeting
Thursday, July 31, 2014
7:00 – 9:30 pm
Fairfax County Government Center, Board Auditorium – Conference Room
12000 Government Center Pkwy, Fairfax, VA 22035
At the July 17 Tysons Committee meeting, Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) staff made a presentation on the proposed edits for Phase 2 (Transportation). To help advance the conversation on the proposed edits, the committee scheduled a meeting on Thursday, July 31 at 7:00 pm. Please visit the Tysons Comprehensive Plan Amendment website for more information and to download documents. (http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has authorized Plan amendments for Tysons that will reconcile the Plan text and maps with the studies and planning activities that have been completed to date. The first phase will cover implementation, land use (including the Plan’s initial development level for office uses), and urban design. The second phase will cover transportation. The third phase will cover parks, public facilities, and other updates as may be determined during the amendment process. Public input sessions for the phases are proposed in 2014. At the conclusion of Phase 3, a complete Plan amendment will be advertised for public hearing.
The Coalition for Smarter Growth is the leading organization in the Washington DC region dedicated to making the case for smart growth. Its mission is to promote walkable, inclusive, and transit-oriented communities, and the land use and transportation policies and investments needed to make those communities flourish.
Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling is group of concerned cyclists dedicated to making bicycling an integral part of the transportation network of Fairfax County, VA. Though education and advocacy FABB fosters bicycling safety, accessibility, and popularity county-wide.