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Metro Planning: More Than Rail

Residents give input to metro accessibility.

Local residents and businesses participated in a workshop last week on Tuesday night to plan access to the future metro stations at Wiehle Avenue and Reston Parkway. Major points of concern included improved pedestrian crossroads and providing a way to bring people who do not live within walking distance of the stations to them.

“We need dramatic improvements for pedestrian crossings at major intersections, such as the intersection at Reston Parkway and Sunset Hills Road,” said David Vanell, a member of the Reston Metrorail Access Group (RMAG). The group was appointed by Supervisor Catherine Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) as a citizens’ advisory panel to Fairfax County and consultant Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. (VHB).

“How do we get people from outer reaches to the stations?” asked Vanell. Most of the participants, about 70 of them, voiced similar concerns and offered that a well-planned feeder bus system was a part of the answer. Other participants in the workshop suggested a circulator trolley transportation system.

“Beyond the half-mile circle, metro doesn’t serve you without a feeder system,” said Reston resident B.J. Silvey.

Barbara Rovin’s group concluded that both modes of transportation would be desired. “Improving not just a local feeder bus system, but also a circulator,” said Rovin. Her group also suggested designating bike areas on the roads leading to the station. Kathryn Martin’s group thought a trolley or a shuttle should loop around the two stations.

Silvey said elevated crosswalks should be considered to ensure pedestrian safety. “Cars and bodies don’t mix,” he said. Also, he added, red-light cameras should be implemented for enforcement purposes.

“We want to make sure there is more parking [at the stations],” said Colin Mills about his group’s findings. “People will want to drive to the stations,” he said. Mills’ group also concluded there was a need for more vehicular crossings than currently exist across the Dulles Toll Road.

The challenge of planning access for the two stations is that the current plans for those two stations differ, according to Frank Spielberg, a program manager with VHB. “Wiehle Avenue has [plans for] a large parking garage and Reston Parkway has no [plans for a] parking facility,” said Spielberg. “They have very different needs.”

Spielberg said that the goal of the access project is to balance the needs of the pedestrians against the needs of traffic. He said VHB wants to know more than just what the state standards are for providing the community with sufficient access to the stations. “What does the community want,” Spielberg said is what VHB wants to hear before finalizing its plans for the stations.

“RAIL IS COMING and we need to be ready for it,” said Patty Nicoson, executive director of the Dulles Corridor Rail Association. The purpose of Tuesday’s meeting, and the subsequent ones, is to inform the community on the planning process and to receive feedback from it.

“The need for rail and the need for public transportation has really been spelled out,” said Rick Stevens, Dulles Rail Project Coordinator with the Fairfax County Department of Transportation. In order to provide meaningful feedback, community members needed to familiarize themselves with the stations. “We need to understand in more detail what the Wiehle Avenue Station will look like,” said Stevens as he began his presentation on the Wiehle Avenue and Reston Parkway Station Access Management Study. Both stations are located in the median of the Dulles Airport Access Road, just west of the respective roads they are named after. Stevens said he expects that construction on Phase I — an extension of current Metrorail from east of the West Falls Church Station to Wiehle Avenue — of the metro project would begin next spring.

Stevens said the Wiehle Avenue station plans call for a 2,300-car garage. For comparison purposes, the station in Vienna has 3,800 spaces, West Falls Church has 1,900 spaces and Springfield has 6,000 spaces. He added that all of the stations are designed to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

The workshop at Langston Hughes Middle School was the first of four such meetings, coordinated by the Perspectives Group, a public involvement consultant with the metro access project. “This process goes on for some time,” said Paul LeValley, with the Perspectives Group.

Hudgins said she hoped the next meeting would attract more community members, and therefore more input to the planning efforts of the county and VHB.