February 04, 2010

Alexandria Transportation Committee meeting - February 3

Last night was the monthly meeting of the Alexandria Transportation Commission, my second attendence of such meetings. Here's a breakdown of what was discussed:

The city is submitting a funding request for an FTA Livability grant...$8.5 million to go towards the Potomac Yard Transitway.

WMATA appararently has approved two "reimbursable projects" for Alexandria. One is a $1.8 million project at the Eisenhower Ave Metro (not sure what this one entails), while the other is a $4.2 million project at the King St Metro (more on this one below).

The first main item of the meeting was preliminary results of the "Old Town Area Parking Study". This study inventoried the parking supply and studied utilization in the Old Town area...the first comprehensive parking study in Old Town since 1992-93 (word is the 92-93 study is posted online somewhere). The study area covered roughly 85 blocks stretching from the river to Metro, and about 3 blocks either side of King St. It was done in part due to a "longstanding perception that parking supply in Old Town is inadequate", but also in part as the first step in a citywide parking study (the next area planned for study is Del Ray), as parking has become a focus point of the city's Transportation Master Plan.

The study focused on three parking sources: on-street parking, public parking garages/lots, and private parking garages/lots that are open to the public. Those garages/lots that are strictly private were not included. Parking utilization was checked during six 2-hour periods at various times and covering both weekdays and weekends.

The study found that there are 8,332 "publicly accessible" parking spaces within the study area. Just over half of them are on-street spaces, while most of the rest are in garages. Only about 400 spaces are in surface lots.

For utilization, the study found a fairly definitive boundary between high and low utilization for the on-street parking, centered on Alfred St. Overall, the garages and lots are underutilized, though a few locations down near the waterfront saw high utilization. While the overall numbers show good parking supply, the details show a decent range of utilization levels within individual locations. Also, there was concern expressed by one commission member about how church parking, especially during funerals, can drastically affect parking availability at times.

Staff noted that there are specific recommendations that can be pursued, but they only gave general recommendations last night, in part because they want to develop public outreach on the plan and build concensus for the recommendations. That said, here are a few of the recommendations:

- Replace coin-operated meters with multi-space meters which would also read credit-cards. On a related note, a question was asked about leaving existing meters in place for bike parking (similar to what's been done in a few other places in the region).

- Establish new on-street and off-street parking rates as well as adjust meter hours of operation.

- Implement a wayfinding plan.

- Though the powerpoint didn't specifically mention it, I asked and received confirmation from city staff that implementing performance parking WAS a recommendation.

Next on the agenda was the city's inputs to the Regional CLRP and TIP, which are due to MWCOG by March 1st. Given how soon the deadline is, there isn't much time (and no more regularly scheduled meetings) for the Commission to make its recommendations to City Council...an issue that they hope to remedy for next year. This may or may not be due to what I at least perceived as a disconnect between the city's CIP process and COG's TIP/CLRP process, which are at opposite times of the year. Of note in the city's project submissions are:

- Funding to study the Holmes Run Bike Trail from I-395 to Ripley St. This is the stretch that is right up along the spillway and is in drastic need of improvement.

- Two items that were covered at last month's Pedestrian and Bicycle Citizen's Group meeting: the bike/ped underpass of Eisenhower at Cameron Run, and the Eisenhower Ave Complete Streets project.

- An "extension of Clermont Ave" near Eisenhower. Not sure what this one entails.

- Constructing Potomac Ave between Route 1 and Four Mile Run. This four lane boulevard will serve as a parallel alternative to Route 1 in the Potomac Yards vicinity, and will be the buffer between the Potomac Yards redevelopment and the CSX and Metro tracks.

- King St/Beauregard St intersection improvement. More on this later.

- An extension of Mill Rd (not sure what this one is either).

- Constructing transit centers at King St/Braddock Rd and at Landmark Mall. There was some question about the latter given the long-term redevelopment proposals for that area.

- The Potomac Yard Metro Station (focus of a meeting tonight).

- The Potomac Yard Transitway.

- Replacing the Royal St WMATA bus garage.

Next was a short discussion of the King St/Beauregard St improvement project, also covered at last month's bike/ped meeting. Commission members are generally supportive of the project, and supported a planned City Council resolution approving the project. Support wasn't completely unanimous. One Commission member expressed concerns about the project, while the Mayor indicated he was against (couldn't hear what the mayor said, though). And there was one meeting attendee, a resident of that area, who was visibly and vocally against the project.

Alexandria's Long Range Plan was mentioned at the previous month's Commission meeting. There was a suggestion for staff to clarify the project descriptions, while a Commission member mentioned concern about a "fuzziness" between the projects and available/projected funding that may dilute public support for the overall plan.

Next on the agenda was the ongoing I-395/Seminary Rd and related Beauregard Corridor studies. The next meeting on the interchange proper is February 17. With all the discussion on BRAC and the movement of BRAC jobs to Mark Center and the resultant expected congestion, there is concern within the Commission that BRAC is overshadowing the issues and planning along the broader Beauregard corridor. There was also mention of two nearby redevelopment plans in Fairfax County, specifically Landmark Plaza, and how they would impact the Beauregard Corridor.

Also of note are two letters to VDOT, one from Alexandria and the other from Fairfax County, regarding the Interchange Justification Report and planned improvements for the I-395/Seminary Rd interchange. In a nutshell, the two entities are on opposite sides of the coin. Fairfax County prefers Alt D because of its direct connections between the HOV lanes and the BRAC site, while Alexandria opposes that alternative due to its impacts on the Winkler Botanical Preserve. Meanwhile, Alexandria supports Alts A1 and A2, while Fairfax County thinks they are problematic due to lack of HOV lane access. Time will tell how this one pans out.

The last item was the King Street Metro Station improvements. This $4.2 million project aims to reconfigure the bus drop off area to improve circulation and pedestrian access. The basic gist of the planned improvements is that it reconfigures the bus drop off, adds a shuttle parking area, moves the taxi spaces to Diagonal Rd, relocates the kiss-and-ride (and allows for vehicle recirculation within the kiss-and-ride area), moves the bike lockers closer to the station entrance, and widens the sidewalk between the station and the pedestrian tunnel under Duke St.

Curiously, there's public concern that it doesn't do enough for pedestrians, meanwhile I dropped a bombshell about supporting not just bicycle access to the station, but THROUGH the station area...my rationale being that connecting the existing bike/ped trail tha parallels Metro (between Braddock Rd and Commonwealth Ave) down to Duke St will require figuring out a way to get it through the King St Metro station area.

Two other ideas were mentioned. One was a tunnel that was looked at connecting the King St Metro station with the Amtrak/VRE Union Station, but deemed too expensive for this plan (but possible for a future project). Second was an idea to improve pedestrian circulation by building a lower level and routing the buses and vehicles to the lower level. This of course would drastically increase the cost, but it relates to a rumor that WMATA wants to develop the station area with mixed-use development.

That was it for this meeting. Next up: tonight's Potomac Yard Design Advisory Committee.

1 comment:

Rainmaker said...

Thanks for all the detail on this!