Broad Run Farms resident June Lane has to drive before she can ride on the W&OD Trail.
“Many of us live in neighborhoods where you can walk and bike around, but it’s not connected,” said Lane, member of the Board of Supervisors-appointed Citizens Advisory Committee. “You go so far, and things stop. … Zip, it all ends, you can’t get to the trail.”
In October 2002, Lane and 19 other committee members began working with consultant Toole Design Group to develop a draft bicycle and pedestrian network to connect neighborhoods, towns and trails. A draft plan is expected to be completed in April. The committee — now with 17 members — along with county staff and staff from Toole Design Group conducted workshops March 4 and 5 to seek public input on the draft plan.
Toole Design Group conducted research on existing roadways and consulted the Citizens Advisory Committee on each step of the draft plan through a $198,000 contract with the county. The Maryland-based company sent out teams to drive the transportation networks in the county, except in neighborhoods that already provide pedestrian and bicycle access. The teams identified the width of roadways, the condition of pavement and the amount of traffic, along with several other factors.
“We’re not just guessing what needs to be done,” said Ann Eberhart Goode, program manager for the Department of Planning. “They laid a clear foundation of information for us.”
WITH THE CONSULTANT’S assistance, the Citizens Advisory Committee identified five major goals to improve the county’s transportation network:
* Establishing connectivity among roads and pathways and among the county’s towns and villages by using sidewalks and trails, improving intersections, paving roadway shoulders for bicycling and adding bicycle lanes.
“We have a wealth of old villages and towns,” Lane said. “You can walk around in those, but how do you connect from one to another?”
* Providing access for various users, including those who bike or walk for exercise and those who bike to work.
* Designing a transportation network that is safe and secure and increasing enforcement of that network.
* Promoting and providing information about the network to public officials, businesses and the community at large.
* Establishing sources of funding to construct and maintain the network.
The five goals are included in the draft Bicycle and Pedestrian Mobility Master Plan, which provides, in addition to the draft network plan, a recommended bicycle and pedestrian network map and four case studies on specific locations in the county. The consultant used feedback from two public meetings in October, reviewed other planning initiatives and analyzed the county’s current level of service to propose route networks for the plan and map.
AT LAST WEEK’S workshops, the consultant identified several improvements, including developing a rural bicycle route system, providing access to the Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail and adding linkage routes to Fairfax and Prince William counties and to other recreational trails. The proposed improvements include:
* A bridge across Route 7 near Cascades Parkway.
* A bridge across Sugarland Run linking Great Falls Forest and Sugarland Run.
* Linkages in Leesburg along the Route 7 Bypass.
* Linkages between Sterling and the Cascades Town Center.
* Linkages between Dulles Town Center and Cascades Town Center.
* Linkages among Potomac and Broad Run Farms and Cascades Town Center.
* Linkages across Northern Virginia Community College – Loudoun Campus.
* A path across Claude Moore Park.
* Linkages between Ashburn neighborhoods and the W&OD Trail.
“Our study primarily focused on the roadway system,” said Robert Patten, transportation planner for Toole Design Group. “Creating trails is going to be a more challenging task. We addressed this issue at a minor level.”
The committee, with the support of the consultant and the county staff, are scheduled to present the draft master plan to the Planning Commission in May and to the Board of Supervisors this summer. Developing a bicycle and pedestrian plan is a goal outlined in the county’s Revised Comprehensive Plan, adopted by the board in July 2001.
IF THE BOARD accepts the plan, the county’s next step may include developing a multi-year strategy and identifying possible funding sources, Eberhart Goode said. With a plan in place, the county may have better access to federal government grants and to private sector money.
“Loudoun is in a really unique position,” Eberhart Goode said, adding that retrofitting some of the county’s roads with bicycle and pedestrian accommodations will be more difficult than adding the facilities into new roadways. “Where roads have to be built to accommodate Loudoun’s growth, we have a chance to design them in a way so they’re multi-modal to accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians. … It’s easier for developers to put them in to make them fit with other [trails], so the end result is a system, not a series of trails that don’t match up.”