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Fairfax Supervisors OK $100M Transportation Bond Referendum

by Karen Goff June 18, 2014 at 4:30 pm 8 Comments

Traffic on Wiehle Avenue/Credit: Reston 2020The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday  authorized a $100 million transportation bond referendum for this fall.

This means the county can petition the Circuit Court to order the referendum. It will be on the Nov. 4 general election ballot if so ordered.  Fairfax County voters will be asked to vote “yes” or “no” on the proposed bond that will improve roads, sidewalks, bike lanes, and trails.

If approved by voters, the money will be spent as follows:

  • Spot road improvements to increase roadway capacity, reduce congestion, improve safety, and improve transit access ($16 million)
  • Pedestrian improvements to improve capacity, enhance safety and complete missing pedestrian links that connect neighborhoods, and improve access to schools, Metrorail stations and activity centers ($77.5 million)
  • Bicycle improvements that include developing new bicycle facilities, constructing trails, adding bicycle parking and enhancing accessibility ($6.5 million)

Several Reston projects are high on the priority list for the county, but funding has not yet been secured. Those include:

  • Dulles Toll Road /South Lakes Drive Overpass — $82 million.  Construct a four-lane overpass over Toll Road from Sunrise Valley to Sunset Hills.  Identified ed in Reston Comprehensive Plan Draft as significant way to alleviate traffic. Contingent on development.
  • Dulles Toll Road/Town Center Parkway Underpass — $157 million. $6.1 million already in place as part of Silver Line Phase 2 funding. Construct four-lane divided roadway under Town Center Parkway from Sunrise Valley to Sunset Hills. Identified in Comprehensive Plan amendment as significant way to alleviate traffic. Contingent on development.
  • Dulles Toll Road/Soapstone Overpass — $91.75 million.  Construct a four-lane roadway over toll road from Sunrise Valley to Sunset Hills. Includes pedestrian and bike access. Identified in Comprehensive Master Plan Draft as major way to alleviate traffic.

The $100 million bond is one of many funding sources that will be used to pay for more than $1.4 billion in transportation priorities during the next six years, the county officials say. Due to the flexibility of bond funds, projects like spot roadway, pedestrian and bicycle projects can be funded and implemented efficiently and expeditiously, said Fairfax County Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova. The projects proposed for bond funding were identified through extensive public outreach and engagement in the Countywide Dialogue on Transportation.

The county has the highest credit rating possible for any government: triple-A from Moody’s Investors Service Inc.; from Standard & Poor’s Corp.; and from Fitch Ratings. Currently, Fairfax County is one of only eight states, 37 counties, and 32 cities to hold a triple-A rating from all three rating agencies. For this reason, Fairfax County’s bonds sell at relatively low interest rates compared to other tax-free bonds, a county spokesman said.

  • meberger

    What about sidewalks? We desperately need continuous sidewalks on North Shore Drive, which will be a major route to Metro.

  • Terry Maynard

    Although this article is correct that the three overpasses are very high priorities on the County’s $1.4 billion prioritized list, NONE of the money from this bond referendum (if approved by court and the voters) will go to begin work on them. In fact, the three crossovers are ranked 12-14 in the County’s list of more than 200 prioritized transportation projects & first among the costly roadway extensions . At the same time, the County calls for only $15MM to be spent on them in the current 6-year CIP cycle–presumably for feasibility and other needed studies.

    Here is what the referendum says the bond money will be used for:

    “If approved, the money is intended to provide:
    –Spot road improvements to increase roadway capacity, reduce congestion, improve safety, and improve transit access ($16 million)
    –Pedestrian improvements to improve capacity, enhance safety and complete missing pedestrian links that connect neighborhoods, and improve access to schools, Metrorail stations and activity centers ($77.5 million)
    –Bicycle improvements that include developing new bicycle facilities, constructing trails, adding bicycle parking and enhancing accessibility ($6.5 million)”

    The FC announcement is available here: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/bond/

    As you can see, $84 million will be spent on pedestrian and bicycling improvements.

    As the link on the above webpage shows, most of the money for the $1.4B in transportation improvements will come from state and regional sources. In general, they don’t fund pedestrian and bicycling investments; hence, the need for an FC GO bond. More worrisome is that the “regional” sources appear focused primarily on transit issues, not roadways, at this time.

    We obviously need it all!

    • Bruce Wright

      Terry, Thanks for correcting the info in the article. As you know, most of the $1.4 billion in county transportation funding is not focused on transit. From the link to the $1.4 billion list of projects above you’ll see that there’s $195 million for interchanges, $115 million for roadway extensions which includes the Soapstone and Town Center Parkway Toll Road crossings, $66 million for spot improvements, $381 million for roadway widenings, and $326 million for transit, and $200 million for ped and bike which is mostly sidewalk construction in areas where roads were built without sidewalks in the past. Very little is going toward new bike facilities.

      When you say it’s “worrisome” that regional sources are focused on transit, if you’re referring to the NVTA projects, yes, the Corridor 1 (Dulles corridor) projects are mostly “transit” although by transit the county includes building massive parking garages at the Route 28 and Herndon-Monroe Metro stations. In Corridor 2, the Route 28 corridor, there are plenty of road widening projects, close to $100 million.

      The last thing I want to see in Reston is wider roads and more turn lanes.

      http://www.thenovaauthority.org/projects.html

      • Terry Maynard

        The last thing I want to see–and it appears that we are headed there under the current Reston Master Plan for the station areas–is four and five minute backups at EACH of the stoplights on Reston Pkwy & Wiehle between Sunset Hills & Sunrise Valley drives during peak periods. At least that is what FCDOT forecasts for the recently approved plan.

        • Bruce Wright

          People will find other ways to get around Reston if backups are five minutes at those intersections. I would rather sit in a bus and be able to check email or read a book rather than sit in my car being frustrated. Another option is bikesharing to get people to and from the Metro stations. On Wed. June 25 Fairfax Co is presenting the results of the study to determine if bikesharing is feasible in Reston. The meeting is at 6:30pm at Dogwood Elementary School. For those of us who get around by bike, our biggest challenge is red light runners who make a right on red without stopping. That behavior has become rampant with almost no enforcement, and it’s an extreme danger to pedestrians and cyclists who try to cross those intersections.

    • Karen Goff

      Terry – That’s been clarified. Thanks.

      • Terry Maynard

        Thanks. I note the changes.
        This bond is the first mini-step in a multi-decade process to improve Reston, Tysons, and other FC transportation guided by FC’s priority list.
        Those of us at RCA and Reston 2020 who are trying to help the community gets its share of improvements–of all types–in a timely manner will continue to push those needs as Reston grows.
        FWIW: To the best of our knowledge, RCA’s Transportation Working Group (TWG) was the first to recommend a DTR/South Lakes Drive overpass in May 2010. Not even RMAG proposed it. It is now a high priority on the County’s planned roadway extensions.
        Once in awhile, community group’s can make (the beginning of) a difference although I may not live long enough to see the South Lakes overpass built. (I certainly doubt I’ll be riding my bike or walking over it.)

  • Oliver Ales

    It is only Congress who has the power to borrow money on the credit of the United States. Reference Article 1, Section 8 of the US Constitution.

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