The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB) approved a budget of more than $7.1 million for infrastructure improvements in the D.C. area on Feb. 16, with approximately $2.8 million allocated to projects in Fairfax County.
The funds cover projects in Falls Church, the City of Fairfax, towns of Clifton, and Vienna. In the meeting of the TPB, the impact of the projects was detailed by Transportation Planner John Swanson, who noted that the four improvements in Fairfax, as well as four others in Loudoun and Prince William, were narrowed down from 24 applications that totaled more than $27 million in requested funds. According to Swanson, all approved projects are fully funded.
The Falls Church, City of Fairfax, and Vienna projects were selected in part due to their status as a regional activity center, which the TPB describes as “locations that will accommodate the majority of the region’s future growth and play a central role in achieving the Region Forward Vision’s prosperity, sustainability, accessibility, and livability goals.”
In Falls Church, an $800,000 grant will support a Safe Routes to School (SRTS) project for Shrevewood Elementary School.
Noting how just 10 percent of students walk or bike to school, SRTS was first spearheaded by the Virginia Department of Transportation in 2007 to foster safe pedestrian and bike routes to and from schools to encourage physical activity, create more socialization among students and reduce congestion.
The project will specifically allow students to connect with the Washington & Old Dominion Trail, which partially runs along Shreve Road, to commute to school. It will also create new crosswalks and bike accessibility, along with accompanying signage. The project is in an equity emphasis area, which the TPB defines as “Census tracts with higher than average concentration of low-income, minority populations, or both.”
“The Safe Routes to School program will provide safe access for students to walk or bike across Shreve road,” wrote Shrevewood Principal Joshua DeSmyter. “The increased signage added crosswalks, and additional lanes will also support the flow of traffic in front of [the] school building. I know that our entire school community will benefit from the Safe Routes to School Program.”
For the City of Fairfax, $914,745 was allocated for an improvement of the city’s bicycle facilities on University Drive, which runs through the heart of Fairfax and connects the George Mason University campus on one end and terminates at Route 29 at the other.
“This project includes the installation of a road diet with bike lanes and ‘super sharrows’ along University Drive between Layton Hall Drive and South Street, as well as pedestrian crossing improvements at the intersection of Layton Hall Drive and University Drive,” wrote Fairfax City Communications and Marketing Director Matthew Kaiser.
He added that it will also connect new student apartments to Old Town Fairfax and the George Mason campus and build upon ongoing multimodal projects like the Capital BikeShare and an existing pilot program for e-scooters. Route 29 is also currently being upgraded to include protected bike lanes to increase bike accessibility in the area.
“We are very pleased with the TPB grant to the City – for a City of our size, this is a significant investment in strengthening our multi-modal transportation capabilities,” wrote Fairfax Mayor David Meyer.
Clifton will benefit from the budget with a $316,579 grant for its Streetscape project. An additional $434,196 will also be provided by the Commonwealth Transportation Board.
The improvement has been more than a decade in the making; in 2012, Clifton’s master plan included details for a streetscape project to upgrade the walkability of its main street, an area that will stretch about two blocks. Engineering preparations have mostly been finalized, meaning that the project will soon be able to break ground.
The funds are geared toward constructing sidewalks and crosswalks as well as installing new lights and signage. The improvement will also bring the main street into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Swanson remarked during the TPB meeting.
And in Vienna, $800,000 will be distributed for upgrades to the Vienna metro’s bike and pedestrian facilities, a project that Swanson called a “poster child” for the improvements the TPB wants to fund.
The project will enhance pedestrian and bike accessibility to the Vienna metro, as well as link it with the National Capital Trail Network to allow greater bike access to the Vienna metro beyond the Vienna area. The location is also in an equity emphasis area.
“Our staff did a great job working with this group for getting grants,” said Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert. “Any time you can get people off the road, it cuts down on traffic. You can’t walk or bike unless it’s safe, so you want to provide safe paths for everybody. We’re very happy about that,” she said, adding that the project “benefits everybody.”