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Jan
4

Senate and House Agree on Transportation Funding

The U.S. House and Senate have announced an agreement on a 5-year roughly $300 billion surface transportation bill!  This is the first transportation agreement to come out of Congress in 10 years.  Below are some highlights of the aptly-named “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act” or FAST Act:

Fully funds all public transportation programs for five years at growing levels;

Increases overall public transportation funding by 18 percent and dedicated funding for buses and bus facilities by 89 percent over the life of the bill;

Continues current formula funding and creates new, discretionary competitive grants under the bus and bus facilities program;

Provides funding stability for the Transit Cooperative Research Program;

Authorizes increased funding for Amtrak and competitive grants for intercity passenger rail; and

Provides funds for implementation of positive train control (PTC) systems on commuter railroads.

This is an important achievement for our transportation infrastructure, and represents a slight shift in federal priorities towards better funding transit and alternatives to single occupant vehicle oriented projects.

 

Jan
4

Train, Train, Take Me On Out of Here

Seems as if every time someone mentions train travel, and the ease of use it provides, Europe is brought up as the shining example of rail accessibility.  A recent study conducted by a Ph.D. student at the University of Vienna, Austria, illustrates just how accessible Western Europe really is.  Eastern Europe?  Not so much.

The data that Peter Kerpedjiev analyzed for 28 cities is quite telling how car independent a tourist or citizen travelling  in Western Europe can actually be.  Mr. Kerpedjiev’s table of train travel time distances from London illustrates that a person can reach almost all of Western European cities within 24 hours.

In the United States, the network of rail lines is far less extensive. However a resident, business travler, or tourist can reach many of the major eastern and western seaboard cities via train as well.  A quick review of Amtrak’s schedules for trains leaving Washington, D.C. indicates that a train traveller has a lot of options to reach some pretty far away destinations within a 24-hour timeframe.

With the opening of the Acela, D.C. train travelers can reach Boston, MA under 7 hours.  New York, NY under 4 hours.  Destinations along the eastern seaboard as far south as Tampa, FL can be reached within 24 hours, and with the Auto Train option, a traveler can even bring their car along for the ride.

If you are interested in more Western destinations, a D.C. train traveler can reach Pittsburgh, PA in 8 hours; Chicago under 18; Charlotte, NC in 8 hours and Atlanta in 14.  Closer cities such as Philadelphia, PA, Charleston, WV and Richmond, VA are all reachable under 2 hours.

Obviously European train travel is far more extensive, less expensive and allows travelers to cover greater distances in less time than that in the U.S.  But with that said, it is not impossible to reach many U.S. destinations via train should one choose to do so.  With the current state of our roadways, leaving the car behind can be a much more relaxing way to travel these days.

Jan
4

Multi-Modal Improvements Advance on I-66 Outside the Beltway

By Tom Biesiadny

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is undertaking a significant expansion of I-66 from the Beltway (I-495) to Route 15 in Haymarket.  Phase 1 of the project includes two Express Lanes in each direction from the Beltway to Gainesville; significant increases in bus service along the corridor; additional park-and-ride lots; transportation demand management; a parallel trail; and numerous interchanges improvements.   In addition, VDOT is also reserving the median in most places for the future expansion of high-quality transit.   VDOT has been closely coordinating this project with Fairfax County, Prince William County, the City of Fairfax, the Towns of Haymarket and Vienna and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro).

Express Lanes

Just like the Express Lanes on the Beltway and I-495, the I-66 Express Lanes will allow vehicles with three or more people to travel for free.  Vehicles with fewer than three people can also use the lanes, but they will pay a toll.  Toll rates will be managed dynamically to ensure that the speeds are maintained at 55 miles per hour.  The new lanes will be separated from the existing travel lanes by flexible posts, similar to the ones on the Beltway.  Users can enter and exit the lanes at specific places.  Several new ramps will also be constructed to provide access.  Three regular, or general purpose, lanes will be maintained in each direction for those traveling with fewer than three people who don’t want to pay a toll.  There will also be an auxiliary lane between some interchanges in Fairfax County.

Bus Service, Park-and-Ride Lots and Transportation Demand Management

The project will fund significant increases in bus service in the corridor that will take advantage of the new Express Lanes.  The new service will be implemented as “point-to-point” service, such as Haymarket to Tysons and the Stringfellow Park-and-Ride Lot to downtown.  The new bus service will be operated by existing providers, such as the Fairfax Connector and OmniRide; however, the service will likely be branded to provide a consistent image for riders.  To facilitate this new transit service and also support ridesharing, four new park-and-ride lots (three in Prince William County and one in Fairfax County) will be constructed.  Also, an existing park-and-ride lot in Gainesville will be expanded.  In total, approximately 4,000 new parking spaces will be added when the Express Lanes open.  VDOT and the Department of Rail and Public Transportation will also be implementing a number of demand management strategies, such as ridesharing and transit fare incentives, during the construction of the project and beyond.

Parallel Trail

VDOT and Fairfax County have worked closely to develop a trail that will be constructed along I-66 with the project.  The trail will extend from Gallows Road to Bull Run Regional Park.  In general, the trail will be located between the shoulder of the roadway and the soundwalls.  It will be similar to Custis Trail that parallels I-66 inside the Beltway.   In some places, the facility will become bike lanes on existing roadways.  In other cases, the trail will traverse parks.  In places where the trail is within the I-66 right-of-way, there will be periodic breaks in the soundwalls to allow access from adjacent neighborhoods.  The width of the trail will vary, but in most cases, it will be eight to ten feet wide.

Roadways Across I-66

As part of the Express Lanes Project, VDOT will be replacing a number of bridges across I-66.  Other bridges will be upgraded.  Each of the new bridges will contain new pedestrian and bicycle facilities  connected to the networks adjacent to I-66.

Implementation

VDOT will be implementing this project with a private partner.  There are three different project delivery options: design-build; design-build-operate-maintain; and design-build-finance-operate-maintain.  The procurement method is expected to be announced in December 2015.  The project will be constructed in phases.   Construction of the first phase of the project will begin in 2017 and is expected to be completed in 2021.

Tom Biesiadny serves as the Director of the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.

 

Jan
4

Robert E. Simon, Visionary, and the Reston Master Plan

By Patty  Nicoson

Robert E. Simon was born in New York City on April 10, 1914 into a family that had  emigrated from Germany. His father developed a successful real estate BobSimon_HuntersWoodsVisit2management business.  Bob graduated from Harvard University and took over the family business at age 21 when his father died suddenly. After several decades of managing Carnegie Hall, Bob sold  it in 1961 and invested the proceeds to purchase 6,750 acres of land in Fairfax County not too far from the Washington Dulles International Airport, which was then being planned and was soon to be under construction.

Bob’s father had worked on the planning of Radburn, an early attempt to provide an attractive, open space and pedestrian-oriented community that accommodated the car. This influenced Bob’s lifelong interest in planning and in the creation of community.

Planning for Reston began in the early 1960s.  Reston gets its name from Bob’s initials R-E-S ton. In creating Reston, Bob’s major goals were:

That the widest choice of opportunities be made available for the full use of leisure time. A wide range of cultural and recreational facilities were to be made available, as well as an environment of privacy.

That it would be possible for anyone to remain in a single neighborhood throughout his or her life by providing the fullest range of housing styles and prices serving various income levels at the four different stages of a household’s life.

That the importance and dignity of each individual be the focal point for all planning. It was the first open community in Virginia, open to people of all races. The Commonwealth of Virginia had enforced segregation in housing and educational facilities.  Today, Reston is a vibrant, multi-cultural community with an annual festival that celebrates this diversity.

That people be able to live and work in the same community.

That beauty — structural and natural — is a necessity of the good life and should be fostered.  Natural beauty is a hallmark of the Reston community, as is high quality architecture and urban design.

Two community design review boards and a set of covenants governing the appearance of structures have helped the community maintain an appealing physical environment.

The final of the original goals was that since Reston was being developed for private enterprise, in order to be completed as conceived it must also, of course, be a financial success.  It wasn’t for Bob Simon since he was fired by Gulf Reston, but over the decades the concept of mixing uses in a community has come to the fore in planning circles.  The mixed-use Reston Town Center is the forerunner of the walkable urban environment that is now desired by employers, employees and developers, as well as residents.  The Town Center has proven to be an enormous financial success.

Bob Simon’s vision for Reston emphasizes the dignity of its residents and their 20150925 037 Bob Simon Candlelight vigilquality of life. The community was designed as a place where you could live, work, and play because of the mix of uses being provided: housing, retail, office space and other places of employment, worship, parks and other recreational amenities, and schools.

Simon hired the architectural and planning firm of Conklin + Rossant to do the Master Plan for Reston.  In 1962, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the Residential Planned Community (RPC) zoning that made Reston possible by providing the ability to build a mix of uses within an area and the flexibility to respond to market conditions over time.

Construction began on Lake Anne and the Lake Anne Village Center in 1963. In 1964, the first industrial tenant came to Reston and the first residents moved in.

In 1967, Gulf Reston bought Bob Simon’s development interest. In 1973, Reston’s first office building, the International Center on Sunrise Valley Drive, was dedicated and the nearly 1,000,000 square-foot U.S. geological survey headquarters opened. In 1979, the Reston Community Center opened, funded by a special tax district. Also in 1979, Mobil Land bought Reston, which by then had grown to 30,000 residents and 49 community businesses. In 1996, Reston Land sold its holdings to Westerra, which was renamed Westbrook Communities.

In 1990, the first phase of Reston Town Center opened and was hailed for its innovative urban design of retail, hotel, and office uses served by a grid of privately owned streets in contrast to the suburban shopping malls that had been developed around the country. In 1997, Reston Town Center added more shops, office buildings and high rise residential towers.

Today, Reston is a community of 62,000 residents and 68,000 employees. It is possible to live and work in Reston and more than one third of the residents do so. It is also possible to live in Reston without a vehicle. The plan for Reston with its arterial, collector, and local streets facilitates transit services. The Reston Internal Bus System (RIBS) provides transportation within the community, but it now links the recently opened (July 26, 2014) Metrorail station at Wiehle-Reston East to the town center and the commercial buildings along Sunrise Valley and Sunset Hills Roads.

Phase 2 of the Silver line will have two additional stops at the Reston Town Center and Herndon stations.

 

When Bob Simon returned to live in Reston in 1993, he became very active in the community including serving on the Board of the Reston Association (RA); testifying in support and opposition to development projects; and frequently writing op ed pieces and letters to the editor in the local newspapers.  He also worked to ensure the completetion of a number of major community elements.  He spurred interest and support for the development of the Nature House in south Reston on the 75-acre nature preserve. The RA had for many years run programs and camp activities on the property, but these had been limited by the lack of an all-weather facility. With his active encouragement, residents began a campaign to raise funds for construction of the Nature House.  It has been a great community resource and is used by RA for its many educational programs and community events.

When the Reston Community Center opened in 1979 in the Hunter Mill Village shopping center, Bob Simon recognized that there was a need for an additional facility to serve the north side of Reston. He purchased space in the Lake Anne condominium and rented it to RA. A variety of programs are offered there and its community room is used for activities both public and private.

Bob Simon (and his wife Cheryl) were active participants in the planning process for the redevelopment of the Lake Anne Village Center and were involved in the selection of the development team that won approval to do the redevelopment and expansion of the center.

Fairfax County had amended its Comprehensive Plan in 2001 to reflect the arrival of bus rapid transit and rail in the Dulles corridor.  Recognizing that these planning recommendations were out of date in 2009, Supervisor Cathy Hudgins appointed a task force to update the Reston Master Plan.  Its recommendations were approved by the Fairfax County Board in February 2014.  Bob Simon was an active and effective participant in the four-year process making sure that the plan respected and built on his original principals.  Design excellence and environmental sustainability remained key elements, as well as diversity of housing types for all incomes.  He made sure that the plan language encouraged plazas, the traditional focal point of communities in the transit station areas and village centers as these areas develop and redevelop.

Bob remained active in many of the planning issues affecting the community until his death in September 2015.  He was involved with efforts to secure a performing arts facility, a new recreation facility, and the redevelopment of Reston Town Center north and the Tall Oaks Shopping Center.  Over the years, he had the ear of Reston’s Congressmen and state and local officials and was an effective lobbyist for Reston’s plans and projects.

Bob Simon’s Reston has had a worldwide influence on community planning with visitors coming from around the world to see this special community.  Bob served as a mentor to countless planners, architects, and the residents and students in Reston.  His wisdom, enthusiasm, and dedication to the community of Reston and its people will be sorely missed.

Patty Nicoson serves as President of the Dulles Corridor Rail Association.

Jan
4

Skating Along METRO

Glide your way through winter car-free!

In need of some outdoor exercise that doesn’t require driving your car to the location?  Try taking METRO to one of these six outdoor ice skating rinks shutterstock_94932265conveniently located near a variety of METRO stations.  Hours of operation and fees vary from site to site, particularly during some warm, or extremely cold weather situations.  Best to call in advance.  So, get off the couch, grab your blades and jump on a METRO train to the nearest rink and have some great winter fun!

 

National Gallery of Art Ice Rink (Blue/Orange Lines Smithsonian Mall Exit, or Yellow/Green Lines Archives 7th Street Exit)

The 2015–2016 ice-skating season begins November 14 and continues through March 13, weather permitting. Experience ice-skating in the Sculpture Garden while surrounded by large-scale sculptures by contemporary artists, including Louise Bourgeois, Sol LeWitt, Tony Smith, Roy Lichtenstein, Roxy Paine, and others.  Rental skates are available for a fee.

Hours

Monday–Thursday
10am-9pm

Friday 10am-11pm

Saturday 11am-11pm

Sunday 11am-9pm

 

Please note the ice rink will be closed when it rains or when the temperature dips below 20°F. For the current status, please call (202) 216-9397.  Admission fee required.  The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden is located on the National Mall at 7th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, is bounded by Constitution Avenue and Madison Drive and by 7th and 9th Streets NW.

 

Canal Park Ice Rink (Green Line Navy Yard/Ballpark New Jersey Ave. Exit; Circulator Bus as well)

Canal Park is a stunning new public park on the site of the historic Washington Canal in the heart of DC’s Capitol Riverfront neighborhood. With its dancing fountains in summer, vibrant ice rink in winter, and LEED Gold-certified water reuse systems, Canal Park is a sustainable and green neighborhood gathering place, and a destination for the entire city.

Canal Park is located in the vibrant Capitol Riverfront neighborhood at 2nd & M St. SE, one block from the Navy Yard/Ballpark Metro (New Jersey Ave. Exit).  Street address is: 202 M Street, SE Washington, DC 20003.  Fee for admission.

Hours

Monday & Tuesday
12pm-7pm
Wednesday, Thursday & Friday 12pm-9pm
Saturday 11am-10pm
Sunday 11am-7pm

 

Pentagon Row Ice Rink (Blue/Yellow Lines
Pentagon City Exit)

The plaza at Pentagon Row underwent major renovations to create a year-round experience for guests, and now boasts an ice rink that is 50% larger with an outdoor dual-sided stone fireplace for lounging during skating breaks. Pentagon Row’s 6,840 square foot ice rink is now the largest outdoor rink in Northern Virginia, and the second largest in the state.

Located at Pentagon Row Fashion Mall at 1201 Joyce Street, Arlington, VA.  Phone: 703-418-6666.  Fee for admission.

Hours

Sunday 10am – 7pm or 10pm*

Monday 12pm-10pm

Tuesday 12pm-10pm

Wednesday 12pm-10pm

Thursday 12pm-7pm or 10pm*

Friday 12pm-11pm

Saturday 10am-11pm

*If there are Ice Rentals we will close at 7pm and reopen at 9pm

 

Tysons Corner Ice Rink (Silver Line Tysons Corner Exit)

Glide your way into Winter on the beautiful new Tysons Corner Center Ice Rink! Open daily, with extended holiday hours, it offers not only public skating, but learn-to-skate lessons, birthday parties, weekly cartoon skates and Saturday Night Rock ‘n Skate.  Just over 6,000 square feet, the rink is also perfect for private parties and corporate outings.  The Skate Shop (2nd floor, next to Lord & Taylor) has over 500 pairs of skates in stock, from Toddler size 8 to a Men’s size 14, with figure, hockey and double-bladed skates available.

The Tysons Corner Center Ice Rink is located on the plaza between Lord & Taylor and Hyatt Regency. Address for the Tysons Corner Center Ice Rink; 1961 Chain Bridge Rd., McLean, VA 22102.  Phone: 703-356-1240.  Fee for admission.

Hours

Monday-Tuesday 3pm-7pm
Wednesday-Thursday
3pm-9pm
Friday 3pm-11pm
Saturday 11am-11pm
Sunday 11am-7pm

 

Reston Town Center Ice Rink (Silver Line Whiele Avenue/Reston Exit)

Reston Town Center Ice Skating Pavilion is open seasonally from early November-mid-March, offering public skating every day and extended hours for all holidays. The skate shop is stocked with over 500 pairs of skates ranging from size 8 toddler through men’s size 13, in both figure and hockey styles. For the beginner skaters, try the double bladed, flat edge skates to walk across the ice until you’re ready to glide into a single bladed skate, available in size Youth 8-13.

Located in the heart of Reston Town Center at 1818 Discovery Street, Reston, VA.  Phone: 703-709-6300.  Fee for admission.

Hours

Monday 11am-7pm

Tuesday 11am-7pm

Wednesday 11am-10pm

Thursday 11am-10pm

Friday 11am-11pm

Saturday 11am-11pm

Sunday 11am-7pm

 

Rockville Town Square Ice Rink (Red Line Rockville Exit)

The ice rink at Rockville Town Square is the largest outdoor ice skating rink between Baltimore and Washington DC.  It is the largest in all of Montgomery County.  The rink is 7,200 square feet.

Located in the heart of Rockville, MD at the Rockville Town Square. 131 Gibbs Street, Rockville, MD. Phone: 301-545-1999.  Fee for admission.

Hours

Monday-Thursday12pm-10 pm

Friday 12pm-11pm

Saturday 10am-11pm

Sunday 10am-10pm

Extended hours on holidays