Stuck in Traffic

JSblogA huge factor in making housing affordable is access to transportation. If you can’t easily get to and from your job, stores and other public places, transportation costs could actually be a drain on your financial situation and personal time.

The state of Virginia is currently weighing whether to make improvements to Richmond Highway or Route 1, a major north-south thoroughfare that is a key transportation route for our tenants and millions of commuters in the surrounding Northern Virginia area. At a March hearing held by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, I offered my “qualified” support for expanding Route 1—which is among the least safe and the most congested thoroughfare in the state of Virginia.

Several plans under consideration call for widening four-lane stretches of the highway to create a full, six-lane, Route 1 corridor, from Interstate 495, south past Fort Belvoir to Prince William County. Transportation authorities are also considering whether to add bus lanes to Route 1 and/or extend rapid rail transportation along the corridor. Expansion of a 3.5 mile section of Route 1 near Ft. Belvoir is already underway.

Unfortunately, state transportation officials have indicated that Route 1 improvement plans for Hybla Valley aren’t likely to leapfrog 40 other pending road projects in Northern Virginia. Officials say such plans aren’t yet fully fleshed out and lack “readiness” as well as funding.

However, to the extent the Authority undertakes any transportation improvements, I urge them to not just narrowly target traffic congestion but also address safety, long term infrastructure maintenance and quality of life issues.

For instance, overhead power lines should be buried along transportation routes to reduce the chances of power outages and improve skyline aesthetics. Fairfax County regulators failed to do that when they approved a big box store near Hybla Valley on Richmond Highway several years ago. Residents have felt the consequences ever since, as a spate of severe thunderstorms in the ensuing years have caused a series of power outages.

Similarly, conduit or dark fiber should be installed along the highway to facilitate the installation of advanced telecommunications services. The federal government has been doing this in the wake of a December 2012 executive order accelerating the deployment of broadband in interstate highway construction. However, states should do the same, especially in poor communities, which are often under-served by broadband Internet access.

Finally, every effort should be made to insure that any road improvements don’t compromise safety or reduce affordable housing. There are currently no pedestrian bridges or tunnels serving Route 1 in Hybla Valley, where the highway speed limit is 45 mph, for instance. The busy highway also poses challenges for fire trucks and school buses that  need to make turns at intersections or at breaks in the median. There are many crosswalks controlled by traffic lights on Route 1, but surely there are new road designs and technology that can improve the odds for pedestrians, school buses and first responders trying to navigate this busy highway. We should consider those.

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One comment on “Stuck in Traffic
  1. Jube – Great blog post.

    Fairfax County has put together the Embark Route 1 Task Force to start the
    process of replanning the U.S. 1 Corridor and all of these issues should be
    part of it.

    The 44th District averages double the pedestrian fatalities of the Virginia
    average and if U.S. 1 is going to be a thriving, safe and vibrant community
    for the next 30 years and all-of-the-above approach needs to take place.
    Please make sure that you keep tabs on the task force and make sure they
    are considering all of these issues.

    I am excited about the future of U.S. 1.

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