To the Editor:
Although a goal of the Beauregard Small Area Plan Draft is to create a modern transit-oriented community, most of the attention has been focused on a traffic ellipse that is not part of the proposed Bus Rapid Transit corridor. The Draft Plan barely mentions the Mark Center Station, the prospect of VDOT approving the I-395 High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) ramp or proposals for a transit station at Southern Towers. These changes are significant and should be addressed in the Draft Plan.
Mark Center Station was designed primarily for BRAC employees and not designed as a regional transportation station. Construction of the HOV ramp will increase demand for transit bus service along the I-95 corridor serving Lorton, Lake Ridge and Woodbridge to Mark Center Station. As a result it will likely need to be expanded as development in the area increases. Although VDOT will fund construction of the HOV ramp ($80 million), no additional funding was provided to redesign or expand Mark Center Station
Southern Towers is currently a major transfer station. WAMATA and DASH buses serve the plan area providing transit service to Pentagon Metro. It is also a transfer station for commuters traveling to other nearby destinations. With the proposed increase in population in the plan area, realignment of streets, and a proposed Bus Rapid Transit system, it will be necessary to modernize and redesign the current transit operation and service at Southern Towers.
The impact of growth on transit both at Southern Towers and at Mark Center have not been factored into the planning. The Draft Plan should address the design of the transit proposed at Southern Towers and arrangements for funding the transit improvements. Constructing a major transit station will put Mark Center on the regional transit map, increase ridership and build on the qualities that make living in this area attractive.
This brings us to the ellipse. Among other things, the Draft Plan requires construction of a $35 million traffic ellipse (a traffic circle) at Seminary Road and North Beauregard. It also requires construction of the ellipse be completed prior to issuance of a certificate of occupancy for 2,400,000 square feet of development. The Implementation Plan assumes construction of the ellipse between years 2018-2020.
The ellipse is not currently part of Corridor C and is not critical to the initial phasing of redevelopment and creating a transit oriented community. Therefore conditions for redevelopment in the Beauregard Corridor should not be contingent on construction of the ellipse, but be linked to meeting the transit needs of current and new residents. Initial funding (public/private) should be included in the plan to ensure the infrastructure for transit in the Plan area is in place as a condition of obtaining an occupancy certificate for new or replacement apartments.
Priority should be given to ensuring all transitway improvements including bus stations are completed prior to issuing a certificate of occupancy for the various phases of new construction. Since the ellipse is not part of the transitway plan, this would send a signal Alexandria places a higher priority on transit improvements in the Beauregard Corridor.