Friday, December 13, 2013

Comment on County Transportation Priorities

Currently, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation is conducting a Countywide Dialogue on Transportation, which is designed to assist the Board of Supervisors in identifying transportation priorities among currently unfunded projects that can be addressed through Fiscal Year 2020.  The following analysis, submitted by RCA Board member Dick Rogers to the Reston Association’s Transportation Advisory Committee, makes recommendations regarding Reston’s transportation priorities.

Summary: I think that in order to keep public confidence in the redevelopment process in Reston, the county should commit itself to completing at least one major project in Reston by 2020 (Soapstone Crossing) and get a good start on a second (Town Center tunnel crossing).  The Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) has to think in somewhat different terms regarding Reston than the "cost-benefit" criteria it seems to be using, which gives priority to current rather than anticipated problems.

Ongoing process.  The mid-October handouts from FCDOT at the Hunter Mill TAC meeting spoke of a fairly crisp process, with a target of 4 Dec to distribute a summary of recommendations to the Board of Supervisors, a 10 Dec review by the Board of the priority lists, and a Jan 2014 Board adoption of the priorities.  It appears that the meeting of the BOS Transportation committee this week was cancelled, so presumably there is still plenty of time to comment.

Reston specific projects: Of the 65 potential roadway/public transit projects identified, a number are high-dollar projects specific to Reston.  In particular, these are:
  • the Soapstone Crossing
  • the Town Center Drive/Dulles Toll Road underpass
  • a South Lakes/DTR crossing
  • the Fairfax County Pkwy/Sunrise Valley overpass/intersection.

These are all priorities in the new Master Plan.

In addition, other projects relative to Reston are identified, particularly the widening of Fairfax County Parkway from Route 50 north.

Some potential projects are not included, such as the Route 7 widening from Reston Avenue to the DTR, an extension of Pinecrest Drive across USGS to the Town Center station (identified as particularly useful for relieving Reston Parkway traffic, according to the DOT staff), and widening Reston Parkway.

Evaluation criteria.  FCDOT has made plain that the likely available money ($1.2 billion) will cover only part of the extensive list.   It has proposed a variety of evaluation criteria.  These include support for redevelopment and revitalization.  However, the specific quantitative criteria they are using do not necessarily favor Reston.  These are reduction in travel times, reduction in congestion, and improved air quality.

Under these criteria, the Reston projects score low.  For example, the Town Center underpass gets a cost-to-benefit rating of 2.7.  However, many of the Fairfax County Parkway/Route 28 widening projects are rated at 10-12.  I think the reason for this is that the criteria rate current traffic levels rather than those anticipated when Metro opens (Soapstone Crossing) and when additional development occurs.

The saving grace is that FCDOT Director Tom Biesiadny made the point at both the Hunter Mill TAC and the November public meeting that "spread the wealth" is an important consideration.  For sound political reasons, all sections of the county will get a slice of the pie.

Recommendation: Given this background, I think RA or RA TAC should offer an opinion.  We should support the idea of FCDOT undertaking at least one, if not two, major projects in Reston by 2020.  My first choice would be the Soapstone Crossing, because design work is ongoing and it is unfunded at this point.  In addition to helping relieve congestion at the Wiehle station, it would provide a major alternative to both Wiehle Avenue and Reston Parkway, now very congested.

A second priority would be to begin design work and construction of the Town Center Drive underpass.  This will benefit access to Town Center station and enhance development potential in Town Center and south Town Center station areas.

Other major projects could wait till Reston redevelopment advances and be addressed in the next five year planning cycle.


The reason I support these two projects is that they would provide a county commitment to support the redevelopment of Reston.  There is considerable public comment about the impact of redevelopment on transportation in Reston and a lack of public conviction that the country will follow through with the promises in the master Plan.  RA has a particular interest in ensuring the connectivity between North and south Reston be, at a minimum, not further impaired.

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