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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 sewer project could affect an area near the Vienna Metro station along I-66 (via Fairfax County)

A sewer infrastructure project in the Vienna Metro station area is in the works, anticipating future needs in northern Fairfax County.

The Accotink Gravity Sewer Improvements Project will upgrade existing facilities that are projected to be insufficient, county staff say.

“In order to prepare the sewer system for the future needs, we really need to go forward with this project,” said Department of Public Works and Environmental Services project manager Thomas Grala during a virtual meeting for the public about the project on Tuesday (May 24).

According to a presentation, the county’s current total sewer capacity is approximately 90 million gallons per day, but by 2045, the area will need to accommodate a projected 120 million gallons per day, a 33% increase.

The Accotink Gravity project’s design phase could begin this summer and finish in the spring of 2023. The design phase will finalize the exact route of the sewer. Construction could begin in the fall of 2023 and end two years later.

Additional public meetings, including those with smaller groups such as homeowners’ associations and businesses, are expected in the future.

The existing Accotink gravity sewer starts by James Madison High School, passes through Nottoway Park, continues to Nutley Street, goes underneath I-66, and passes south under routes 29 and 50.

“It’s been working fine and many people walk along these routes…as pathways,” said Andrew Casolini, a project manager with Whitman, Requardt & Associates, a firm headquartered in Baltimore that the county selected to partner with on the work.

He noted during the public meeting that the system was initially installed in 1963 and upgraded in 1978.

The new project is estimated to cost approximately $37 million and would be covered by existing user fees and availability charges.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors recently agreed to raise sewer fees by about $38 on average starting July 1, and those annual rates are slated to continue increasing.

Meanwhile, the board is also considering switching an existing “growth-pays-for growth” policy, where developers’ costs would be shared by residents and other property owners.

Grala said the project is one of a series of upcoming efforts, such as a $110 million project in Tysons to create a new 5.5-mile-long pipeline for future growth that could be completed by the summer of 2026.

Photo via Fairfax County

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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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