The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of March 18, 2014.
U.S. 1 Version 2.0: Second Public Hearing Next Week!
On Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at 6:00 p.m., the second public hearing regarding the U.S. 1 Multimodal Transit Alternative Analysis Study will take place at the South County Government Center.The study was funded by a $2 million budget amendment secured by Senator Toddy Puller and I last session and is being administered by Virginia’s Department of Rail and Public Transit. It is probably the most important study for the future of our area to ever take place.The purpose of the study is to consider all factors clearly define the key transportation needs for our community, consider a range of multimodal transportation solutions to address the needs, and arrive at a recommended program of transportation improvements and accompanying land uses to lay the groundwork for development in our area through the year 2035.
The meeting will include the unveiling of four potential transit options for the U.S. 1 Corridor: (1) Dedicated Curbside Enhanced Buses, (2) Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in Dedicated Median, (3) Light Rail in Dedicated Median, and (4) a Hybrid Metrorail-BRT plan that extends the Yellow Line to Hybla Valley and Dedicated Median BRT to the Occoquan. Each alternative has its advantages and disadvantages. The study will also propose new bicycle and pedestrian improvements.The March 26 public hearing begins the public input process before running these scenarios through final evaluations to determine a locally preferred alternative (“LPA”) in anticipation of applying for federal grant funding and seeking additional funding from the state.Senator Toddy Puller, Senator Adam Ebbin and I are also currently working on securing an additional $4 million in the current budget to fund environmental studies and preliminary engineering to lay the groundwork for the actual construction of the LPA. Along with our efforts, Supervisors Gerry Hyland and Jeff McKay have elevated the priority of widening U.S. 1 from Costco to Fort Belvoir on the County’s request list for the Northern Virginia Transportation Administration’s funding list. We are poised to finally see movement.These decisions largely revolve around two issues. First, is how much density is appropriate. Second, is funding the project.The least expensive and least disruptive is dedicated curbside lanes for “enhanced” busing ($12/rider). The most expensive to construct and operate is light rail in the median ($21/rider). A Yellow Line Extension to Hybla Valley with median bus rapid transit (BRT) south is the third most expensive to construct and operate and involves significant land use changes on Beacon Hill and in Hybla Valley ($18/rider).It might seem difficult to envision our community 20 years from now. I will be on the verge of retirement (knock on wood) while my four children between 1st and 7th grades will be wrapping up college, thinking about getting married and where to settle down. We will have five presidential elections during that time and probably half of the people living here will have moved or passed away. However, as I explained in my previous four-column series, the mode of transit on U.S. 1 has far-reaching consequences for schools, traffic, jobs, the environment, affordable housing, property values and the quality of life here in our part of Fairfax County.On March 26, the presentation will include graphics to help people visualize what enhanced density on Beacon Hill and Hybla Valley will actually look like. Presenters will also provide depictions of different road and transit configurations, including bicycle facilities.No matter what we do, by 2035, at least 17,000 new jobs and 30,000 more people will be living within half a mile of U.S. 1 whether we like it or not. New rounds of the Defense Department’s Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) are likely to happen and could bring even more people, traffic and economic activity to the corridor.We can either address these challenges head-on in advance -- prepare -- or struggle to deal with them after they occur. I choose the former. Good transportation and land use planning requires a long lead time.I hope we will see a standing-room-only turnout at this meeting. If you have suggestions or questions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.It is an honor to serve as your state delegate.