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The proposed Vienna Metro station segment of the I-66 Trail will extend from Nutley Street to Blake Lane (via VDOT)

Thanks to some unanticipated financial wiggle room, Fairfax County’s request for funds to build pedestrian facilities near the Vienna Metro station now has support from the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission.

At a meeting on Thursday (June 2), the regional group of elected officials approved the proposed trail as one of seven projects recommended for I-66 Commuter Choice funding, which comes from toll revenue and supports transit and infrastructure improvements in the corridor.

NVTC staff had recommended in April that the commission leave the trail off its list of projects to submit to the state for consideration. The six projects supported at that time included a continuation of Fairfax Connector’s bus service between the Vienna Metro and the Pentagon.

The projects were seeking $12.4 million in funds, and the group estimated that $14.1 million would be available. Fairfax County is requesting $2.2 million to build a nearly 1-mile I-66 Trail segment between the interstate’s Nutley Street interchange and Blake Lane in Oakton.

NVTC says the project could now be fully funded with $1.4 million that has been freed up by “a pending project closeout” on top of $1 million in “remaining revenue that staff had already identified” for the coming fiscal year 2023-2024, which starts July 1 and ends on June 30, 2023.

“The proposed trail would create a safe, attractive route to Metrorail by bicycle or foot for commuters making their way to destinations in the I-66 Inside the Beltway corridor,” NVTC said in its agenda for yesterday’s meeting.

The trail will consist of 5,000-foot-long cycle track and sidewalk along Country Creek Road/Virginia Center Boulevard and a 10-foot-wide, paved shared-use path along Sutton Road.

According to a staff report, the commission received 17 public comments specifically about the trail from an online survey that was open from April 15 to May 16. All but one expressed support for the project.

“This is the project I’m most supportive of. Anything we can do that makes it easier and more convenient to walk or bike we should do,” one respondent said.

With construction on the cycle track and path not expected to start until late 2024, the Virginia Department of Transportation is planning interim amenities for bicyclists and pedestrians that are scheduled to fall into place this year.

The addition of the Vienna Metro trail brings NVTC’s total funding request up to $15.1 million. The other submitted projects include bus service renewals, bus fare reductions in Prince William, a Virginia Railway Express parking garage in Manassas Park, and a new Ballston Metro entrance in Arlington.

The package will now go to the Commonwealth Transportation Board for possible inclusion in its FY 2023-2028 Six-Year Improvement Program, which will be finalized later this month.

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A Northern Virginia Transportation Commission committee meeting on April 14 (via NVTC/YouTube)

Whenever the planned I-66 Trail is unveiled, it might have some glaring gaps in Fairfax County.

For a second time, the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission has opted not to recommend funding for the county’s planned 1-mile segment of trail from the Vienna Metro station near Nutley Street to Blake Lane in Oakton.

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation had requested $2.2 million in funding for the project, which would add a 5,000-foot-long cycle track along Country Creek Road/Virginia Center Boulevard and a 10-foot-wide paved path along Sutton Road.

It was one of four projects that the county submitted for consideration in the next round of the I-66 Commuter Choice program, which allocates I-66 toll revenue to transportation projects throughout the corridor.

NVTC staff recommended moving forward with six of nine projects proposed for fiscal years 2023-2024, which runs from July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023. The regional group’s program advisory committee met yesterday (Thursday) to discuss the rankings prior to opening a public comment period today (Friday).

With a score of 69 out of 100 points, the only Fairfax County project to make the cut was a request for $1.2 million to support two more years of bus service between the Vienna Metro station and Pentagon. The funding will cover 10 morning and 10 evening peak direction, express trips.

The Vienna Metro trail project received 57 points based on technical merit, cost-effectiveness, and other factors. The county had previously submitted the project for Commuter Choice funding in 2019.

NVTC staff also did not recommend funding for an I-66 Trail segment along Post Forest Drive in Fairfax to the future Monument Drive commuter parking garage, or to enhance bus service from the Stringfellow Road Park-and-Ride in Centreville to the Pentagon.

Those projects had price tags of nearly $4.4 million and nearly $2.9 million, respectively, and received scores of 40 and 47.

How efficiently a project can move people is the leading factor when calculating scores, said Ben Owen, NVTC’s Commuter Choice senior program manager. The top six projects would involve nearly $12.4 million in funds, with a conservative estimate of $14.1 million expected to be available for this year.

The recommended projects are projected to reduce vehicle usage in the region, cut greenhouse gas emissions by 84%, and save commuters 83,000 hours of delay and $2 million annually in fuel costs, according to a presentation to the committee.

People can weigh in on all of the projects, regardless of their technical score, in a survey that’s available in English and Spanish through May 16.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission and Commonwealth Transportation Board are slated to approve the project list in June and begin funding in July.

Photo via NVTC/YouTube

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