Embark Richmond Highway is a multiyear transportation design effort managed by Fairfax County involving land use and transportation planning, design, and construction activities that will result in a bus rapid transit (BRT) system from Huntington to Fort Belvoir along Richmond Highway. The envisioned BRT will operate primarily on dedicated lanes along Richmond Highway initially from the Huntington Metrorail Station to Fort Belvoir. The project will also include a future extension of the Metrorail Yellow Line from Huntington to Hybla Valley.
A 13-member advisory group was appointed by Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay and then Mount vernon District Supervisor Gerry Hyland in the spring of 2015 to support the Embark design effort. The group is made up of Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation (SFDC) members, appointed representatives from the Lee and Mount Vernon Districts, and an at-large representative. The advisory group provides community outreach, local and subject area expertise, and reviews and comments on input and analysis by county staff who are engaged in designing the BRT plan. All advisory group meetings are open to the public. The design planning is projected to take until the end of 2017 to complete, in phases, as follows:
Phase 1: BRT Huntington to Hybla Valley
Phase 2: BRT Hybla Valley to Ft Belvoir
Phase 3: Ft. Belvoir to Woodbridge
Phase 4: Metro Rail Line Extension from Huntington to Hybla Valley
What is a BRT System?
A bus system that operates primarily on dedicated lanes in the Richmond Highway roadway.
Provides frequent, reliable, and attractive bus service to reduce travel times.
Works with traffic signals to extend green time for the buses.
Features intelligent transit system components such as innovative fare collection, real-time bus tracking for mobile devices, etc.
The BRT (bus rapid transit) Advisory Group met Monday evening, June 27, at the Sherwood Hall Library to discuss the future of transportation along Richmond Highway.
Members of the community, Fairfax County planning and revitalization, and transportation staff attended.
Advisory Group participants in the discussion included Mount Vernon Planning Commissioner Earl Flanagan who had a number of comments, including questions about the impact of the draft street and community design proposals on current bus transportation in the Fort Hunt and Mount Vernon areas.
Flanagan expressed his desire for the Advisory Group and county staff to work toward formulating a vision of what the Route 1 corridor and surrounding area should look like over the long term and to work toward building consensus among community groups on the vision.
Flanagan pointed out that what the group is essentially accomplishing is fine tuning an amendment to Fairfax County’s comprehensive plan to support the transportation infrastructure from Huntington to Fort Belvoir and south. In that connection he cautioned that the group was still in the formative stages of designing the transportation plan and that the affected public will have ample opportunities in the near future to have impact on the final plan.
In addition, Mount Vernon Transportation Commissioner Frank Cohn expressed concern that the goal to achieving sufficient density in the Route 1 corridor to justify BRT may lead to additional traffic gridlock.
“We already have heavy traffic on Route 1,” Cohn said. “Encouraging added residential and commercial construction to achieve the desired density level so that we can secure BRT and subsequent extension of the metrorail yellow line may be preceded by traffic gridlock. How can we assure that the widening of Route 1 will precede the rising volume in traffic so that gridlock can be avoided?”
County planning staff said they will be prepared to respond to their comments at the subsequent community meeting scheduled on July 25 at West Potomac High School.
The acting chair of the Advisory Group meeting, Carlos L. Heard, a Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation (SFDC) member, said, “I think the meeting went well, and Fairfax County staff is keeping us on schedule. I am looking forward to the next community meeting on July 25 and to the opportunity to hear more from the public whose participation is vital.”
At the conclusion of the Advisory Group meeting, comments from the public were encouraged. Several dealt with questions about the impact of the design proposals on the immediate community’s environment, traffic, and safety. One local resident expressed concern about the impact of the widening of Route 1 on their church. Another expressed concern about the traffic impact of the design proposals on the local neighborhood. Fairfax County staff advised the community to provide their concerns to the Virginia State Department of Transportation as well as the Fairfax County Embark community meeting scheduled for July 25. County staff said the design proposals for Route 1 widening are very preliminary and there would be ample opportunity for public input in upcoming meetings.
The next community meeting for Embark Richmond Highway will be Monday, July 25, 7-9 p.m. at West Potomac High School, 6500 Quander Road.