Copy of Page 4_ Grant Ave rendering.jpg

The project will reduce Grant Avenue to one lane in each direction with dedicated left-hand turn lanes between Wellington Road and Lee Avenue in Manassas.

Manassas residents voiced concerns at a town hall last week about a plan to shrink Grant Avenue from Wellington Road to Lee Avenue downtown.

Approved by the city council in the fiscal year 2019 Capital Improvement Plan, work on the $4.5 million “road diet” is set to begin later this year, but some are hoping to put a stop to the project. The project is timed to coincide with utility replacement work along Grant Avenue and the construction of the city’s new public safety building, set to begin in earnest next month. 

Planners say the goal is to slow vehicle speeds without creating backups, making roads safer for those on foot and bicycles and behind the wheel. By shrinking the road to one lane in each direction, adding high-visibility crosswalks and building a median, pedestrians will have less distance to travel across the road and slower cars around them.

Meanwhile, by adding dedicated turn lanes, cars will leave the flow of traffic when making left-hand turns, as opposed to slowing down left-lane traffic and causing the cars behind them to either slow down or change lanes. Manassas Community Development Director Liz Via-Gossman said those kinds of maneuvers are common causes of accidents. The plan is to also include a dedicated OmniRide bus pull-off.

But at the city’s town hall last week, many residents expressed doubt that the changes would work. While most who spoke said they don’t live near the project site but travel through it and don’t want to be delayed, residents from the adjacent Georgetown South neighborhood raised their own objections. Mayor Hal Parrish reiterated his support for the project at the meeting.

Two traffic studies were conducted ahead of the city CIP approval, with both saying the project would not have a significant impact on traffic along Grant Avenue. But at the town hall meeting, many speakers said the city should have tested the impact on traffic using temporary barriers. Vice Mayor Pam Sebesky, a supporter of the plan, also said the project should be demonstrated before work begins. 

“I’ve got to get up and leave really early because of the traffic,” said Jairo Castillo, a long-time Georgetown South resident. “I think that the people who did these [traffic] studies don’t live in the city of Manassas or maybe they don’t travel these roads in the times that we leave or the time we need to come back.”

There have also been lingering complaints from some in Georgetown South about the way the city has prepared residents for the project. Meg Carroll, who heads the Georgetown South Community Council, said the city council should have had a Spanish-language interpreter at the town hall and said the city has provided limited Spanish-language material on the project for the heavily Hispanic neighborhood.

“I brought a lot of people here from Georgetown South tonight and they cannot understand what [Deputy City Manager Bryan] Foster talked about,” Carroll said, inviting Castillo up to translate for her. “The Manassas city government lacks transparency to its entire population.”

Via-Gossman said the city held three meetings during the planning and engineering process in Georgetown South and notified residents about them. In hindsight, she said, planners should have staged a demonstration of the new traffic flow earlier in the process, but that those aren’t typically done once the design stage is finished. At this point, she said, the utility and public works building construction will already be altering the flow of traffic starting this month, and a separate demonstration couldn’t actually mimic what conditions will look like once the streetscape project is complete.

According to Planning and Zoning Manager Matt Arcieri, one of the issues the project tries to address can be seen anecdotally: people with limited crosswalk access traversing the road on foot to get to the Grant Avenue Shopping Center or one of the two nearby schools.

A Virginia Department of Transportation study analyzing previous “road diets” in Northern Virginia released in April concluded that similar projects have had the intended effect of making roads safer for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. Meanwhile, localities “had generally positive views about their road diet projects. … Most survey respondents indicated that, in their opinions, road diets had met the primary goals of the projects.” 

But judging by the town hall meeting, held at the Manassas Regional Airport, many drivers remain skeptical, calling for the city to first demonstrate the changes before making them permanent. Foster estimated that such a test period would cost the city $30,000 for signage and barricades.

“The cost of $30,000 to make sure we are spending $4.5 million correctly is nothing,” said city resident Bob Potter. “It’s nothing and it’s prudent.”

Jared Foretek covers the Manassas area and regional news across Northern Virginia. Reach him at jforetek@insidenova.com

Reporter

Jared Foretek covers the Manassas area and regional news across Northern Virginia. Reach him at jforetek@insidenova.com

(8) comments

Stoptheinsanity

I like how the rendering only shows white people. That's because this county has been sold out to developers and people that die studies. More of the same gentrification of non white neighborhoods. Saying it's for safety is just pathetic. Say what it is officials don't want Hispanics to have a quality of life in this county. All the rednecks and rebel flags from 40 years ago are now the same dumb idiots in charge. Wake up Prince William County. We need to defund local politicians and planners not police.

Citizen52

Manassas City is a different government entity than Prince William County.

AlfredP

city of manassas and pwc are two different entities. pwc as been sold out to developers for years. quality of live for all people starts with taking personal responsibility for ones own life and decisions thereof. 40 years ago the schools and quality of life in pwc and the city was a lot better.

JimiWeaver4

As a life long resident of the Town & now the City of Manassas this is the 1st time I’ve vehemently disagreed with one of the Council’s decisions for the “improvement” of Manassas. This is the stupidest, most fiscally irresponsible project that I’ve seen in 60 years. You don’t spend $4.5 million (btw last year it was $8 million) to remove two already constructed lanes from a road and call it an improvement. A bike lane and improved sidewalks can be be done for much less without removing lanes in either direction. The Council must have lost their minds to spend money that we don’t have, on what is essentially a “prettification” project that doesn’t give the citizens of Manassas any real benefit for the expenditure. This boondoggle needs to be stopped.

Allen Muchnick

To my knowledge, the Manassas City Council has not yet approved the construction of this road diet (which, BTW, would operate just fine), and a majority of Council members may yet end up killing the road diet.

However, the City Council has to date been ineffective at getting City staff to hold meaningful and timely true public hearings for *any* City transportation projects.

City staff have so far failed miserably to sell the road diet concept to City residents, and the City Council may kill the road diet, simply because City staff have stubbornly refused to implement an interim, reversible road diet trial with just a few cans of paint and perhaps a few signs.

AlfredP

seems to me, most of the traffic issues are due to traffic lights at certain intersections -- like Grant and 234. And timing of lights is really poor. The city has gotten a taste to spend big when it doesn't have to.

I believe it is poor planning to choke off traffic with lane reductions, especially after all those houses were built out towards the old racetrack. It will be difficult to get to and from the VRE. Also with the new Fire station beyond this, any thought given to access to the city during high traffic hours?

American

I think, anyone who has driven between Center street towards Harris Pavilion to see 2 radar postings, 15 feet from Grant Ave, HOW FAST can you go in 15 feet? Says a lot about someone in the planning department in Manassas. How about the red light at Sudley and Centerville road that was taken out 4 years ago from a car accident, yet to be replaced. "A study is being done about replacing it with a round-about." STILL waiting.......

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