Post Content
Sanger Avenue (image via Google Maps)

Sanger Avenue, a West End road that runs from William Ramsay Elementary School to I-395, could be getting some safety and cycling upgrades.

A memo (page 12) from Department of Transportation Deputy Director Hillary Orr to the Transportation Commission included a note that the street could receive some improvements as part of an upcoming paving project.

“City staff is working on providing safety and cycling mobility improvements along Sanger Avenue as part of the upcoming paving project,” Orr wrote. “The focus is on providing additional and safer pedestrian crossings, daylighting intersections due to pedestrian crashes and vehicular angle crashes and providing more buffer space for pedestrians and cyclists under the I-395 bridge near Van Dorn Street.”

Orr said that more information will be shared with the community and a presentation will go to the Traffic and Parking Board sometime this spring.

Image via Google Maps

4 Comments
A pedestrian tries to cross Duke St. at N. Jordan St. (Staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Currently, in Alexandria, drivers have to yield to pedestrians, but a new state-level change has given Alexandria the authority to tell drivers to stop.

According to a memo from Hillary Orr, deputy director of Transportation and Environmental Services, a change to City Code requiring drivers to stop for pedestrians crossing the street is heading to City Council in December.

“In December, City Council will consider a change to City Code requiring motorists to stop for pedestrians crossing or attempting to cross the street,” Orr said. “Currently, City Code requires motorists to yield to pedestrians, which was consistent with State Code.”

But Orr said the state legislature granted more authority to localities to install signs requiring drivers to fully stop at crosswalks. Currently, drivers only have to yield to pedestrians. While the difference between “stop” and “yield” may be technical, Orr said the new language will allow Alexandria to do more to enforce crosswalk infractions.

According to Orr:

In the 2023 legislative session, SB 1069 provided authority to named localities, including Alexandria, to install signs requiring drivers to stop for pedestrians who are crossing or attempting to cross the street. Additionally, the Vision Zero Action Plan identifies the strategy 2A.4 to ‘pursue and support state legislation to require drivers to stop, rather than yield, for pedestrians in the crosswalk.’ Therefore, staff is proposing an update to Section 10-3-924(D) to mirror state legislative language. The proposed change is both consistent with Vision Zero goals and increases the legal standing to enforce crosswalk infractions.

The proposed change is scheduled for review at the Transportation Commission meeting tomorrow (Wednesday).

52 Comments
East Abingdon Drive currently vs with a bike lane (image via City of Alexandria)

A report on Alexandria’s Complete Streets program highlighted work done over the last year and a peek ahead at new bike lanes, sidewalks, trail improvements and more.

The Complete Streets presentation (starting with slide 36) is headed to the Transportation Commission on Wednesday, Oct. 18, alongside a report on the city’s Vision Zero project and Safe Routes to Schools.

The look at what’s ahead included numerous trail and intersection improvements being worked on over the next year.

Among the projects on the docket for FY 2024 is the Old Cameron Run Trail: a planned shared-use path to connect the southern part of the Carlyle neighborhood to southern Old Town.

“This project will help address a major gap in the City’s trail system and provide a key link in the bicycle and pedestrian transportation system,” the project website said. “The goal of this project is to create a more direct and conflict-free connection for people walking and biking between the Eisenhower East and Southwest Quadrant neighborhoods.”

Design for the trail has been ongoing since 2020 and is scheduled to continue into 2025, with construction starting in spring 2025 and lasting until summer 2028.

The look-ahead also includes Mount Vernon Trail improvements at East Abingdon Drive, which could include replacing one lane of the street with bike lanes. The work plan for the upcoming year also included overall Mount Vernon Trail access improvements.

The King/Callahan/Russell Intersection Improvements also made an appearance. The project aims to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety at the intersection near the George Washington Masonic Memorial. The project started last month.

More safety improvements are planned along King Street, with a new sidewalk and bike lanes considered near the Bradlee Shopping Center.

Complete Streets work plan for FY 2024 (image via City of Alexandria)

The report also provided a look back at work done in FY 2023, including:

  • 300+ linear feet of new sidewalk
  • 90+ new or upgraded crosswalks
  • 33+ intersections with added safety treatments
  • 100+ bike racks installed citywide
  • 1,800 linear feet of new or improved bike lanes

The report noted that some of that work included filling in missing sidewalk connections near George Washington Middle School and near NOVA Community College. The report said this year also saw the debut of the city’s “first contraflow bike lane” — a bike lane that runs counter to the flow of traffic.

6 Comments
A DASH bus at Southern Towers (staff photo by Vernon Miles)

While the plan is to eventually create a new transit hub in the Landmark Mall redevelopment, the city is looking for grant funding to make the key transfer point more bearable in the near term.

The Transportation Commission is scheduled to vote on Wednesday, Oct. 18, to endorse a grant application to the Department of Rail and Public Transportation for up to $544,000.

A memo from Transportation and Environmental Service Deputy Director Hillary Orr said the hope is for funding to make improvements ahead of the new transit center, which isn’t scheduled to open until 2028.

“The City requests authority to apply for the new category of Passenger Amenities to provide shelters, benches, and real-time signage at the planned transit center in the West End development until a permanent structure is built,” Orr wrote. “Currently, this is a high ridership location and key transfer point with more than 500 boardings per day.”

Orr said the city was awarded $13 million in funding for the new transit center, but that construction funding won’t be available until FY26. While the full transit center won’t open until at least 2028, Orr noted that bus operations could begin using the area as a transfer point sometime in 2024.

“This funding would allow for proper amenities at a major transfer facility serving multiple local bus routes and two future bus rapid transit corridors until a permanent structure is constructed,” Orr wrote.

The temporary improvements would include 12 bus shelters and real-time signage. Once the transit hub is completed, the city said the temporary bus shelters can be relocated.

The total project cost is estimated at $800,000, with the City matching funding up to $256,000 if the grant is approved.

2 Comments
DASH buses (photo via DASHbus/Facebook)

Alexandria is hoping a federal grant could help push Alexandria’s DASH bus network a little closer to full electrification.

A memo from Deputy Director of Transportation Hillary Orr to the Transportation Commission said the city is hoping federal funding can help cover a sizable budget gap looming for electric bus replacement plans.

The DASH bus network has been crawling toward electrification for years despite challenges, from difficulties with hilly terrain to a lack of charging stations. The city’s goal is a fully electric fleet by 2037.

Currently, DASH has 14 electric buses in circulation and 87 “clean diesel” and hybrid buses. The bus network’s plans include replacing ten additional buses and five trolleys that have reached the end of their useful life — but replacing these buses and trolleys with electric alternatives is costly.

“To replace these assets with battery electric buses and trolleys will cost an estimated $19.3 million,” Orr wrote in the memo. “The City currently has budgeted $4,798,900 for the replacement of these buses, leaving a gap of $14.5 million.”

Beyond just the electric bus costs, Orr wrote there is an additional smaller budget gap for new clean diesel buses.

“Additionally, the City was previously awarded $4.4 million in Smart Scale funds for six clean diesel buses,” Orr wrote. “To upgrade these buses to battery electric would cost an additional $3.1 million.”

Orr wrote that DASH and City staff are submitting multiple applications to the Federal Transit Administration’s  (FTA) Low or No Emission Grant Program:

The following projects could be submitted within these applications.

  • Trolley Replacement (up to $6.8 million): Retire and replace five (5) trolleys with electric trolleys.
  • Bus Replacement (up to $12.5 million): Retire and replace ten (10) buses with electric buses.
  • Smart Scale Expansion Buses (up to $7.5 million): Upgrade six (6) Smart Scale clean diesel buses to electric buses.
  • Electric upgrades at DASH Facility (up to $9 million): Build new electrical service, including on-site equipment and infrastructure to support charging need of fleet wide conversion to battery electric buses.
  • Workforce Development (up to $1.6 million): Required 5% of federal request.

In total, Orr wrote that the city is seeking $38 million in grant funding.

“While it is unlikely the full grant request will be awarded, staff determined the best path forward is to propose all needs in a scalable manner by which the FTA can assess and award funds as available,” Orr wrote.

The grants are headed to the Transportation Commission for review at a meeting on Wednesday, March 15.

Photo via DASHbus/Facebook

6 Comments

One year into the city’s permanent dockless mobility program, data shows electric scooter ridership still hasn’t recovered to its pre-pandemic highs.

In a meeting of the Transportation Commission earlier this month, Sean Martin, shared mobility coordinator, told the Commission that electric scooter and bike ridership has crawled its way back from the lows of 2020 but is still around 65,000 riders shy of pre-pandemic levels.

Scooters were one of the big conversation pieces in Alexandria in 2019. During that first year of scooters operating in Alexandria as part of a pilot program, there were 248,711 trips on electric scooters.

Then, as with many things, that high ridership was cut dramatically by the pandemic. In 2020, there were 98,663 electric scooter trips in Alexandria.

It got a little better in 2021, with 141,191 total trips. In 2022 it continued to rise, hitting 174,009 total trips, but it’s still a far cry from the ubiquity of that first year.

Dockless ridership trends (image via City of Alexandria)

Martin said a permanent program for scooters was approved in 2021 with the first permits approved in April 2022.

“We’re wrapping up the first year of permanent dockless mobility in Alexandria,” Martin said.

There are currently 1,200 electronic scooters in Alexandria, the maximum allowed under the current city ordinance, and 500 e-bicycles — lower than the 800 bicycle cap.

Martin said there are currently five operators permitted in Alexandria:

  • Bird
  • Helbiz (withdrew in December)
  • Lime
  • Superpedestrian (doing business as Link)
  • Veo

Martin said one of the newest technologies in dealing with the scooters is better tracking. The city has been using the tracking to identify whether scooter companies are complying with equity requirements that compel scooter companies to place some scooters outside of wealthier, tourist-hub neighborhoods like Old Town and Del Ray.

Martin said the tracking initially showed that 71.7% of scooters in Alexandria were being used in “non-equity zones” like Old Town. Since the city alerted those electronic scooter companies, though, that’s dropped to around 59%.

The city, meanwhile, is looking for more opportunities to expand electronic scooter opportunities in the West End, like additional dockless corrals for bikes and scooters.

One of the newest changes is a proposed “slow zone” for scooters around the Robinson Landing neighborhood of Old Town. Martin said a “zero mph zone” was considered, but the concern is riders might think the scooter was broken and end up abandoning them inside the slow zone.

15 Comments

Currently, electric scooters are only allowed on city streets. While some say that rule makes sense for a place like Old Town, there has been discussion in city meetings recently that it might not be the best policy for the rest of the city.

At a Transportation Commission meeting last week, commissioners and city staff discussed giving the scooters-on-streets policy a second look.

“There are safety concerns on both sides,” said Hillary Orr, deputy director of Transportation and Environmental Services. “There are safety concerns for scooters riding on sidewalks and safety concerns for scooters not being allowed to ride on sidewalks. That’s something City Council included in a final plan and that’s in the city code.”

Whereas bicycles are allowed on sidewalks outside of certain areas, like King Street, electric scooters are prohibited from all sidewalks in Alexandria.

The area has seen multiple crashes in the region where scooter drivers were killed by car drivers. In Alexandria, a scooter driver was killed by a car driver in August. At the same time, a study from 2020 found that most scooter injuries occur on sidewalks.

“We did have a pretty robust discussion of whether scooters should be allowed to ride on sidewalks outside of Old Town,” said Commissioner Bruce Marsh. That’s something I think Council should revisit… whether it’s safer for scooters to ride on a street like Duke Street, where I’d argue it’s not safe [as compared to] a sidewalk.”

8 Comments

The City of Alexandria is looking at adding protected bike lanes (page 21) to Eisenhower Avenue and South Pickett Street in the Van Dorn neighborhood.

A report to the Transportation Commission last week reviewed some of the plans for adding protected bike lanes around the city. The plan, as recommended in the Complete Streets Five-Year Plan reviewed in June, includes adding these new bike lanes sometime in the next five years.

Protected bike lanes are facilities that are fully separated from vehicular traffic with a physical divider, like a curb, bollards or planters.

The protected bike lanes would run on:

  • South Pickett Street (from Duke Street to Edsall Road)
  • Eisenhower Avenue (from South Van Dorn Street to Holmes Run Parkway)

While that stretch of Eisenhower has traditionally been industrial areas and small clusters of local businesses, the area is gradually urbanizing with large swaths of new residential development planned.

According to a report filed at the Transportation Commission:

Staff have taken steps aimed to streamline decision-making regarding bicycle lane design and implementation. The adoption of the Curbside Prioritization Framework in the Alexandria Mobility Plan (AMP) helps staff identify where bike lanes would be a high priority. As part of this framework, bike lanes, among other items included in City plans, were identified as the highest priority use in all land use contexts.

The report said protected bike lanes are an important strategy for meeting the needs of riders of all ages and abilities.

Bike lanes have not always been fondly received in Alexandria: bike lanes were paired with a road diet on Seminary Road that stirred up some local controversy in 2019.

Image via Google Maps

14 Comments
A VRE train crosses a bridge over King Street (Staff photo by Jay Westcott)

A new authority responsible for promoting railways in Virginia said the only real solution to a degraded bridge over King Street is full replacement.

The Virginia Passenger Rail Authority (VPRA) made its recommendation to the Transportation Commission earlier this month. The CSX bridge over King Street is nearly 120 years old and is notorious for causing closures and shutdowns.

The bridge has repeatedly closed after issues ranging from rail debris falling onto the street to repeated strikes by trucks and other vehicles.

At the Transportation Commission, Todd Hopkins — part of a group from the VPRA — said the bridge is also subject to occasional crashes with trucks and that the bridge does not meet current height requirements.

“Bridge strikes do occur by high trucks that try to pass through there,” Hopkins said. “When a bridge strike takes place, a safety inspection has to occur. All traffic gets shut down for at least a couple of hours. That leads to operational delays.”

Hopkins said a study weighed four options, ranging from various types of repairs and lifts to the bridge to full replacement.

King Street bridge repair or replacement options (image via Transportation Commission)

The presentation noted that there are five criteria for screening bridge repair or replacement options, which include: adding 50 years of functional life to the bridge, minimizing rail operations, and meeting current railroad requirements and roadway clearance requirements. A full replacement was the only option that hit all five criteria.

VPRA Planning Manager Naomi Klein said bridge replacement met all criteria and is the recommended design option.

A report from the VPRA said the replacement would include increasing the bridge height and possible width under the bridge. Replacement would also reduce maintenance requirements and minimize rail service interruptions.

Klein said a feasibility study is scheduled to be completed sometime in the next month to be published early next year. After that, the VPRA will review public feedback and complete the environmental clearance process before progressing with a preferred design option.

Once a design is chosen, construction is scheduled to start in the second quarter of 2024 and continue until midway through 2026.

The Transportation Commission also voted to include a note along with the report saying the city should add more signage to the bridge in the meantime with more visible warnings to truck drivers about the bridge height.

14 Comments
Tentative location for Landmark pedestrian bridge (image via City of Alexandria)

The City of Alexandria is looking into building a pedestrian bridge over I-395 to connect the Landmark Mall site to neighborhoods west of the highway.

Last week, the Transportation Commission reviewed a potential grant application to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to provide funding to study the potential bridge.

The idea is to give West End residents better access to the large new development — including a new hospital and mixed-use district — currently under construction.

“The City is seeking technical assistance funding from the DOT to study the feasibility of a bicycle and pedestrian bridge over I-395 to connect the Landmark Mall site to the neighborhoods west of I-395,” a city memo said. “This will provide safe and direct access to jobs and amenities that will be available once West End Alexandria has been redeveloped.”

At the meeting, staff said without the bridge the only pedestrian access to the Landmark site for residents west of I-395 would be to either go down to Duke Street or cross on the Holmes Run Trail, which is currently still impassable following damage from a storm in 2019.

The bridge is recommended in several planning studies focused around the site, though members of the Transportation Commission said one of the challenges will be finding the right spot for the bridge in an area that’s a patchwork of private development. Transportation Commission member Melissa McMahon noted that the final bridge location could be more dependent on agreements with private land owners than any optimal connection.

The total cost of the study is $300,000, with a $240,000 grant request to the Department of Transportation and $60,000 in local matching funds. The Council is set to review the application at a meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 28. City staff said grant recipients are announced in early 2023 and, if approved, the study would start in 2024 and take about a year.

9 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list