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Transportation Nation

City of Alexandria Joins Homeowner Battle Against Location of I-95 Ramp

Friday, March 01, 2013

Outside the Overlook community in Alexandria (photo by Martin Di Caro)

(Washington, D.C. - WAMU) For the first time since they began fighting the construction of a highway ramp near their homes, a coalition of eight homeowners’ groups in Fairfax County and Alexandria are getting some official help in their battle with the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Alexandria city leaders are pledging to lobby state transportation officials to reconsider the placement next to the homeowners’ properties of the planned northern terminus of the future I-95 Express Lanes, 30 miles of high-occupancy toll lanes extending from the Edsall Road area in Fairfax County to Garrisonville Road in Stafford County. The $1 billion public-private project is scheduled for completion in December 2014.

Before winning the public support of Alexandria city hall, the group Concerned Residents of Landmark had been rebuffed by public officials in their bid to convince VDOT to stop construction.

One of the group’s leaders, Mary Hasty, whose home in Alexandria’s Overlook community will stand just 75 feet from the completed exit ramp, says time is running out.

“We’re racing against the clock, yes. And my understanding is that VDOT has accelerated the building project of the ramp because they want it to be done so the opposition will stop,” Hasty said.

VDOT will begin pile driving at the site next week, a significant step in the building process, but Hasty remains steadfast.

“Even if they’ve driven the piles, when the public health issue comes to light, they can stop,” she said.

Alexandria Vice Mayor Allison Silberberg says the city has a responsibility to represent its constituents.

“Science is convincing, and they had an outside firm that’s very prestigious do this research and it is very convincing,” Silberberg said. “We are certainly going to make the case from an environmental and health perspective.”

Concerned Residents of Landmark spent more than $70,000 to hire the national law firm of Shrader & Associates to perform a traffic and environmental analysis of the project. Their study found backed up traffic on the exit ramp will spew a cloud of pollution in excess of federal safety standards, the group said.

“My biggest concern with VDOT is that they failed to fulfill their requirements under NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act,” said Hasty, who said VDOT did not perform localized studies of pollution impacts on her community.

VDOT officials dispute the homeowners’ accusations.

“Our studies were approved back in the end of 2011 which met all federal and regulatory requirements and that is why we are proceeding with construction today,” said John Lynch, VDOT’s Northern Virginia megaprojects director.  “Their study used a different modeling technique and so we are trying to see why there is a big difference in the outcome of the two models.”

The Shrader study says 80,000 people in Fairfax County and Alexandria will be affected by pollution from vehicles exiting I-95, especially from particulate matter equivalent to what was spewed by the coal-fired GenOn electric plant that was closed down last year after a long battle with Alexandria.

“This is a health issue.  It’s incumbent on our elected officials to carry this message to Richmond,” said Herb Treger, the vice president of the board of directors of Watergate at Landmark, a community of 4,000 residents that joined Hasty’s coalition. “It’s a government project. Government projects can always be stopped. I worked for the government for 40 years.  I know they can be halted until the proper studies are done,” he added.

In order to determine if the project’s environmental impacts met federal safety standards, VDOT studied the location with the most traffic volume in the project corridor, the Springfield interchange, Lynch said.  That “worst case scenario” conformed to federal standards clearing the way for construction throughout the corridor, Lynch said.

“For the localized ‘hotspot’ analysis there are guidelines from the EPA to choose different locations for your project and typically you choose the worst place,” Lynch said. “It’s a qualitative analysis.  If you do it at the worst case scenario then you assume that it is fine everywhere else.”

VDOT has no plans to stop construction.

“We have no intention of going away,” Treger said.

Follow @MartinDiCaro on Twitter.

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Transportation Nation

Alexandria To Consider Registration For Bicycles

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Alexandria City Hall (photo by cliff via flickr)

(Michael Pope - Washington, D.C., WAMU) Members of the Alexandria City Council are about to consider whether or not bicycle owners should be forced to register their bikes and pay a fee.

Tucked away in the Alexandria city code is a provision, largely ignored, requiring bicycle owners to register with the city and pay a 25-cent registration fee. City Councilman Justin Wilson admits he is in violation of the policy.

"I've tried. I've actually tried," Wilson says. "We don't make it very easy to register your bike."

As it turns out, nobody registers their bicycle because nobody knows about the provision, which dates back to 1963. Wilson says city officials are now looking at the existing policy to determine what kind of changes might be needed to enforce the measure.

During a recent public hearing, Old Town resident Kathryn Papp said mandatory registration would be a good idea.

"Cars are registered and charged a fee. Motorcycles are registered and charged a fee," Papp says. "Almost every vehicle on the roadway is registered and charged a fee."

Papp says registration would also make stolen bicycles easier to recover, and revenues from a small annual fee could go towards building addition bicycle facilities.

City Council members are expected to consider recommendations in the spring.

 

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Transportation Nation

Arlington Backing out of Transit Funding Deal

Thursday, April 26, 2012

(Washington, DC -- Michael Pope, WAMU) Leaders in Arlington County and the City of Alexandria in the Washington, DC suburbs  are moving in different directions along a high-capacity transit corridor on U.S. Route 1, and it's causing some tension among lawmakers in Alexandria.

Two years ago, Arlington asked Alexandria to join an environmental analysis for the Crystal City-Potomac Yard transit corridor. Arlington would pay $2.4 million, and Alexandria would add $1 million. Together, the neighboring jurisdictions would save money by combining efforts. Now, Arlington County is backing out of the deal, leaving Alexandria holding the bag.

"I think in fairness, Arlington should have had the courtesy of saying, 'Let's have a sit-down talk about where we are, what our dilemmas are, what our challengers are,'" says Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille. "That hasn't happened.”

Euille is now calling for a joint meeting between members of the Arlington County Board and Alexandria City Council to discuss the future of the transit corridor. At issue is $40-120 million worth of federal funds, which city officials say would be jeopardized without the study.

"If we are going to continue on this alternative, I think Arlington definitely needs to be on board because they've kind of gotten us to this point, and they can’t just walk away," says Alexandria Council member Frank Fannon.

Alexandria Council member Alicia Hughes agrees.

"I think that it is a show of bad faith on the part of the Arlington County Board to have come to the city of Alexandria and ask us enter something with them, and now that we've done it and it's time to take the next step, lo and behold it's like if you looked under a rock you could not find them," Hughes says.

Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes did not return phone calls, although she issued a written statement along with Mayor Euille saying the two jurisdictions have different strategies. A spokeswoman for the Arlington County government declined to answer questions.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Oil Prices Have Been Good to Exxon, MARTA Eyes Fare Increase, and No More Falcons at JFK Airport

Friday, April 29, 2011

Higher oil prices have been very very good to Exxon -- its first quarter earnings surged 69% (Wall Street Journal). Meanwhile, Democrats say they are determined to end oil companies' tax breaks (The Hill).

The chair of Houston's METRO talks to KUHF about the agency's latest projects-- as well as its efforts to repair its relationship with the Federal Transit Administration.

Bus rapid transit has changed the Chinese city of Guangzhou. (Good)

MARTA is considering a 50-cent fare increase. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

New York's City Council voted to give each community board the chance to opt out of alternate side parking one day a week. (WNYC)

An Alexandria (VA) yacht club won't move its parking lot, so plans for a public park must be scaled back. (WAMU)

The Michigan Department of Transportation takes to YouTube to promote transit. Sample music video lyric: "Some days I actually want to drive my car/so I can sing like a long-haired 80's pop star/but it's nice to have the bus when I want to chat/hanging out, making friends -- what's wrong with that?" (Warning: the music has the ability to lodge itself semi-permanently into one's frontal lobes.)

JFK airport has ended its foray into falconry. (WSJ)

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

In case you missed it on Transportation Nation:

--NYCDOT reveals a diminished East Side bike plan (link)

--BART is considering a last-night train pilot project (link)

--The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge rode to their wedding in style (link)

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