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Fairfax City refines concept for bicycle facilities on University Drive

University Drive in Fairfax City (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Fairfax City is starting to refine its plans to add bicycle facilities on University Drive.

The project will “implement bicycle facilities on University Drive between Layton Hall Drive and South Street, with shared lane markings through the center of Old Town and bicycle lanes to the north,” according to the city’s website.

It will serve as a link to other multimodal projects currently underway in the area, such as the partially built George Snyder Trail, Chloe Ritter, the city’s multimodal transportation planner, told the Fairfax City Council at a meeting on Oct. 24.

“It connects to the bike lanes that are already existing on University Drive, south of Old Town. It connects to The Flats — the apartments that recently opened,” Ritter explained. “It really brings together a lot of the multimodal projects that we’ve been working on in connecting everything together.”

In addition to the bicycle facilities, the city hired consulting firm Kimley-Horn to evaluate possible changes to the University Drive and Layton Hall Drive intersection.

“The measures of evaluation that we looked at were bicycle and pedestrian safety, vehicle safety traffic operations, transit operations, property impacts implementation, and cost,” Megan Waring, a transportation engineer for the consultant, said at the council meeting.

She said ultimately, the firm recommends a two-way stop and a removal of the northbound, right-turn lane at the intersection, which will be condensed. Waring said that change allows for a pedestrian island that will improve safety.

“It allows us to have bike lanes as we’re coming up and down University, as we have kind of that steep incline or decline, depending on which way you’re traveling,” she said.

The recommended concept for the University Drive and Layton Hall Drive intersection creates a two-way stop and eliminates a right-turn lane (via City of Fairfax)

Tightening the intersection would also enable it to accommodate an added crosswalk, giving it a total of four. The crosswalks will also be closer to the intersection.

“So, we’re moving the people, the bikes, and the cars all to a location that’s more centralized, so that all users are able to see each other and make safe passage through the intersection itself,” Waring said.

The recommendations also call for adding a median refuge island, a protected space in the center of the street that facilitates bicycle and pedestrian crossings.

Waring said, together, the recommendations would reduce bicycle and vehicle conflicts, improve pedestrian crossings and maintain transit and vehicle operations.

“We have minimal property impacts and utility impacts since we’re actually shrinking the intersection and not expanding it,” Waring told the council. “And this design does allow for a signal to be implemented in the future if that becomes warranted by future conditions.”

For the actual bicycle lanes, the firm recommends adding lane markings that indicate cyclists will be sharing the outside travel lanes from South Street to North Street with drivers. The change won’t require a reduction to the number of vehicle lanes.

From North Street to Whitehead Street, the recommendation calls for a transition to bike lanes past Old Town Plaza and the library garage entrances.

“This is also where you’re going to see the introduction of that center left-turn lane to allow access to all the properties as you’re going through University,” Waring said. For clarity and safety, green markings would be added in the bike lanes through intersections and major conflict points.

Whitehead Street to Layton Hall Drive would have bicycle lanes in each direction and a striped center median, allowing for a pedestrian refuge crossing at the bottom of the intersection.

The project has been underway for about two years after the city adopted plans for Old Town and Northfax that envision a “multimodal spine” on University Drive, staff said. A preliminary design was presented to the community in 2021.

The city has $1.1 million in funding for the project, mostly from a Virginia Department of Transportation grant.

The next steps include sharing the concept with VDOT for review, and public engagement online and through an open house on Dec. 6. Next year, there will be a public hearing, followed by work to relocate utilities and construction by 2025.