As a series of road widening projects intended to ease congestion along Route 1 progress, Prince William County’s Department of Transportation is beginning to explore another means of moving people up and down the eastern part of the county.
With $200,000 from the Federal Transit Administration and another $50,000 from the county, transportation staff and the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission are looking to explore expanded bus options along Route 1 from Dale City to Occoquan. At Tuesday night’s Board of County Supervisors meeting, the board approved the transportation department’s grant application to the FTA; the PRTC Commission did the same Thursday evening.
If the grant is awarded, the study would explore potential transit connections between the county’s three board-approved small area plans in North Woodbridge, Dale City and the Landing at Prince William, as well as future small area plans in Triangle and the Woodbridge, Rippon and future Potomac Shores Virginia Railway Express stations. The most recent updates on the long-delayed Potomac Shores station indicated that VRE was expected to award a contract for the station’s construction in 2021.
The final result of the study, says county planning manager Paolo Belita, could bring bus-only lanes or even bus rapid transit -- similar to what has been built in Alexandria and Richmond -- to the corridor.
“For a long time, the county has been focused on roads, and we still are, but we’re trying to shift the focus on transportation as a whole to not just road building but transit,” Belita said. “The goal is to look at connecting from some of our high-density areas … to other transit-related core corridors, connecting the small area plans to some of the transit hubs and VRE stations.”
If all goes to plan, Belita said, the 18-month study would start after approval of the grant early next year and be conducted by the county and PRTC. At the southern end of the county’s Route 1 corridor, road widening between Brady’s Hill and Dumfries Roads is expected to be finished by 2025, according to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority. And the Woodbridge-area widening between Featherstone Road and Mary’s Way is expected to be completed by 2022.
The grant is provided through the FTA’s Transit-Oriented Development Planning Program and aims to support the “integration of land use and transportation,” requiring the partnership of local transit authorities -- in this case, OmniRide -- and the local land use planning authority (the county). And the idea of increased transit along the corridor, though still a long way off, fits in with the current board’s expressed desire to prioritize development in the county’s “activity centers,” as laid out in the Metropolitan Washington Council of Government’s 2019 report on the future of housing in the region, which set a target for the county to add 70,000 new units of housing if it wants to keep up with job growth and demand.
On Nov. 17, when the Board of County Supervisors adopted MWCOG’s regional climate mitigation goals, a number of supervisors discussed the need for increased transit if the county is going to be able to add new housing without drastically increasing auto emissions.
“A great example of [transit-oriented development] can be when you look at Washington, D.C. and some of the development you’ve seen around the rail stations that can be funded by those dollars,” OmniRide Executive Director Bob Schneider said at the PRTC board meeting Thursday. “Transit-oriented development is really, it’s not about parking garages and transit, it’s about that multi-use development that includes transit at its core.”