I-66 Transit/Transportation Demand Management Study

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) described their current thinking last week regarding transit on I-66 – and unfortunately, the state agency has failed to consider the impacts of building new transit facilities on land use in PW County.

The basic problem in Prince William is that we live HERE, but work THERE.  That’s why we need a big transportation network to move back and forth twice a day.

It appears that DRPT is focused only on how to build new transit capacity to perpetuate that pattern.

A supply-side only construction program, where we keep expanding the capacity of I-66/Route 29 further west and never create walk-to-transit communities, is doomed to become congested.  In another 20 years, once developers sprawl new subdivisions into Culpeper/Warren counties, there will be new public meetings calling for yet another new infusion of tax dollars to “fix” the commute.

Better approach: locate all new transit capabilities so they stimulate mixed use communities, places where jobs and residences and retail are all co-located in “centers.”  We need more jobs in western Prince William, at least as much as we need better transportation to jobs in Fairfax, Arlington, and DC.

Best location to locate all new transit capabilities so they stimulate mixed use communities: Innovation, where tax dollars have already created a university campus, multi-jurisdictional recreation center, and a soon-to-be-opened multi-jurisdictional performing arts center.  Drive by on Route 234 Bypass, and you’ll even see the “University Town Center” signs.

Worst location for new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) facility: Cushing Road, behind 7-11 at corner of Balls Ford and Route 234 Bypass.  Unfortunately, DRPT recommended BRT could be added to the planned park-and-ride lot at Cushing Road, and omitted Innovation completely (“outside the boundaries of the study”).

DRPT also recommended as potential BRT locations the Wheeler property at end of Ashton Road, two parcels on either side of I-66 at Route 15, and the Latsios property – but not the land on south side of I-66 opposite Latsios, where the Gainesville VRE station might be located.

DRPT is stuck in the 1950’s mindset, thinking their job is just to move commuters better/faster/cheaper to Tysons/Ballston/DC.  The DRPT job is to minimize congestion and improve the quality of life in Virginia.  That requires the state agency to consider land use as well as transportation planning.

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