The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice and Patch in the week of November 12, 2013.
U.S. 1 Version 2.0: Reducing CongestionThis is the third article in my weekly series examining the U.S. 1 Multimodal Alternatives Analysis, our transit choices and why extending the Metro subway Yellow Line is the best alternative. Last week, I focused on how our transit choice for the highway will improve outcomes in our schools. This week I focus on traffic.U.S. 1 has a long history. The road’s current alignment through the 44th District is a consolidation of three or four local roads realigned between 1915 and 1935 into U.S. 1 and widened in the early 1970s. Before the Shirley Highway (now I-395) in 1941, it was the major north-south road in the eastern U.S.. Afterwards, it just became a major north-south road. Today, it remains the primary way in, out and through the 44th District.
U.S. 1’s current configuration presents many problems. First, there are only two ways for the 120,000 people between Fort Belvoir, Huntley Meadows and Alexandria, plus commuters to cross Little Hunting Creek – U.S. 1 and the George Washington Memorial Parkway (GWP) – and no route west between Lockheed Boulevard and the Fairfax County Parkway (or Woodlawn after Mulligan Road opens in about six months ). This creates numerous choke points, like those at Kings Crossing and Buckman Road and at Woodlawn Plantation when U.S. 1 is widened through Fort Belvoir in about four years.Second, our entire transportation network is very car-centric. Cyclists put their lives in their hands and have no good way to get around our area or anywhere south or west. The rate of pedestrian deaths in the 44th District is double the state average.Third, growing congestion has pushed commuter cut-through traffic onto secondary roads such as Fort Hunt Road, Old Mount Vernon Road, Sherwood Hall Lane and the GWP.
The U.S. 1 corridor should become more walkable, “bikeable,” transit-friendly and interconnected so that people can move efficiently. Congestion will only worsen when we add 40,000 new people over the next 30 years, 17,000 new jobs and whatever the U.S. Army throws at us with the next round of base realignments (BRAC) scheduled for 2015.What are the options? New dedicated bus lanes on U.S. 1 would provide some relief, but they will not generate the kind of redevelopment our area really needs. However, new bus lanes may be a bridge to the long-term solution.
I have serious reservations about light rail on a highway with a 45--mile-per-hour speed limit and dozens of stop lights. It is unlikely that light rail would reduce commuter travel times versus car or bus travel. Reducing commuting times makes a transit mode attractive to people. Plus, there are significant engineering questions about whether light rail cars can climb over Beacon Hill given the grade.A Yellow Line Metro extension would not only move the people who are already here, but also the people coming in the future. A Metro extension can also stimulate attractive redevelopment that will create more interconnected local roads, such as more crossings of Little Hunting Creek or other connections between neighborhoods, along U.S. 1 and to help alleviate congestion.
A Yellow Line extension would give tourists better options for visiting Mount Vernon Estate and Woodlawn Plantation. It would give commuters, contractors and others more options to get to Fort Belvoir, the new U.S. Army Museum and points north such as Washington, D.C., and the Dulles Metro Corridor.While extending Metro is the most expensive option, I am hopeful that once this study is complete, it will prove to be the most obvious solution.
A critical piece of the U.S. 1 Multimodal Alternatives Analysis is public input. Please participate in the community discussion.
Next week I will focus on how this study will help improve our environment. If you have any feedback, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It is an honor to serve as your state delegate.