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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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CUE bus (via City of Fairfax)

For a system that’s already free for riders to use, cash prizes might seem too good to be true.

But Fairfax City’s public bus service is offering three $50 Visa gift cards to people who fill out an online survey for its first major rebranding effort since it launched in 1980.

Known as the CUE, or City-University-Energysaver, the service primarily operates in the city but also extends outside city limits, notably to George Mason University and the Vienna/Fairfax-GMU Metro station.

“CUE’s branding has remained largely the same for 40 years and it’s time to change things up,” CUE Transit Manager Ryan Visci told FFXnow by email. “We want to present ourselves as a modern, efficient, and reliable service to encourage new riders to give us a try.”

He noted the project is expected to refresh the service’s logo and branding so the service appeals to more potential riders.

“CUE is looking for input on a new branding project!” the city said on Twitter. “Whether you ride CUE or not, your opinion can help shape the future of public transit in our community.”

Per the survey:

The goal of this project is to evaluate the existing CUE brand and identify improvements to attract new riders, solidify CUE’s identity, and standardize public information while maintaining current customers and partnerships.

The city will also meet with riders to get feedback on March 30 during peak commuting times at the Vienna Metro station and the CUE bus stop at GMU’s Fairfax campus.

Early in the pandemic, ridership was about 25% of 2019 levels, but the service is now at 90-100% of pre-Covid levels, which amounts to around 2,000-2,500 trips per day, according to the city.

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