By Paul Stoddard
Since I began working as the City’s transportation planner in the spring of 2013, I have received many requests from City residents for expanded travel options. People have asked for better ways to get around the City as pedestrians and as bicyclists. People have also asked for better transit service as a way of connecting to other regional destinations. At the same time, residents have stated they want to maintain or improve current levels of automobile mobility.
While residents are asking for increased mobility, there are concerns about travel safety – there were six requests for residential traffic calming in 2013 and another already in 2014. Additionally, there are concerns about automobile parking. The first concern is that there is insufficient parking in the commercial areas. Related to that is the concern that commercial parking is overflowing into neighboring residential areas.
Previous News-Press Commentaries by Mayor David Tarter and Council Member Dan Sze noted the importance of developing the City’s transportation network to provide a multimodal transportation network. They specifically noted the importance of creating a walkable, pedestrian friendly environment. The remainder of this commentary describes ongoing efforts to deliver on resident requests for increased travel options and safety.
At the policy level, staff is working with Boards and Commissions, civic groups, and residents to develop the Mobility for all Modes plan. The plan will map out the City’s transportation priorities through the year 2030. The plan is not an implementation plan. Rather, it is a prioritized list of the City’s transportation needs. For example, the draft plan calls for establishing pedestrian-friendly design standards and adopting a bicycle facilities plan, but it does not specify what those standards should be or where the bicycle facilities should be located. The Mobility for all Modes sets a vision for the City’s transportation network and establishes milestones for achieving that vision. More information is available on the plan website: www.fallschurchva.gov/Ch7. In March, staff will prepare an online survey to gather feedback on the draft plan. The next community meeting is scheduled for March 15.
At the budgetary level, staff is working with the Planning Commission to prepare the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) for the next five years. The CIP maps out (among other things) transportation funding through the year 2019. With additional funding for transportation recently made available by the Commonwealth, now is a good time to invest in the City’s transportation network. The draft CIP strikes a balance between maintenance of existing infrastructure and investment in new infrastructure. Priority investments include projects along South Washington Street consistent with the South Washington Street Small Area Plan and installation of Bus Shelters consistent with the Bus Stop and Bus Shelter Master Plan. The next Planning Commission work session on the CIP is scheduled for February 18, and the Planning Commission is scheduled to recommend a CIP to the City Council on March 3.
At the project level, staff is advancing several projects to increase mobility for all modes in the City’s transportation network. The list of projects includes: Bicycle Wayfinding along Park Avenue and Maple Avenue – expected completion March 2014; Traffic Light at Pennsylvania Avenue and W. Broad Street – expected completion June 2014; N. Roosevelt Street intersection and sidewalk changes – expected completion summer 2015; Intermodal Plaza on South Washington Street – expected completion fall 2015; 20 Bus Shelters along Broad Street and Washington Street – expected construction starting summer 2015.
The Bicycle Wayfinding project will help connect the City’s commercial areas to the W&OD Trail. The Citizens Advisory Committee on Transportation (CACT) initiated the project after analyzing results from a survey of trail users. The Economic Development Authority (EDA) funded the project to promote connections to the City’s commercial area – more than 1,200 people pass through the City on the W&OD Trail every day. The Planning Commission endorsed the project for its safety and economic benefits.
In October 2013, the City adopted a Bus Stop and Bus Shelter master plan. The Plan identifies a standard shelter design to be used throughout the City. The Plan also identifies priority stops at which to install shelters. Design and engineering for the first 20 shelters is scheduled for 2014, with construction beginning in the summer of 2015.
There are many ongoing transportation efforts that will increase mobility, accessibility, and safety for all modes of travel. The list of efforts includes new policies, budget prioritization and project implementation. If you have questions about these efforts or want to know how to get involved in planning for the City’s transportation needs, please email me at [email protected] or call me at 703-248-5041.
Paul Stoddard is a Senior Planner with the City of Falls Church.