Dual-use path slated for portion of W&OD Trail

This artist's rendition shows the separate paths bicyclists and pedestrians will be able to use along a section of the Washington & Old Dominion Regional Trail in Falls Church.

It may be for just a fraction of the 45-mile-long Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) Regional Trail, but within the next year, pedestrians and bicyclists will be able to use separate, parallel sections along the trail in the city of Falls Church.

“It’s kind of exciting,” said Paul Gilbert, executive director of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NOVA Parks), which operates the trail. “We hope eventually to use [dual-use paths] in all urban areas. We’re very hopeful it will do great things.”

The project will build an 11-foot-wide path for cyclists and an 8-foot-wide one for walkers and joggers. The paths will be separated by a 2-foot-wide median. The dual-use-path section will be constructed between Broad Street (Route 7) and just east of Little Falls Street, Gilbert said.

The $3.7 million project still must undergo further engineering and likely will be completed in about a year, Gilbert said.

The project is being funded primarily with $3.2 million from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) and a $500,000 Virginia Department of Transportation grant. Those are not typical trail-funding sources, but the project will help improve traffic flow on local roads as well as adjacent trails, he said.

“The W&OD has transitioned over time from a purely recreational resource to a primary transportation artery in close-in suburbs,” Gilbert said. “People are commuting to work on it. It’s essentially the backbone of trail systems throughout Northern Virginia. If you reduce congestion there, it improves the performance of other trail networks that feed into the W&OD.”

Under its newly adopted six-year plan, NVTA will disburse about $1.3 billion worth of tax revenues for regional congestion-relief projects, said the body’s chairman, Martin Nohe.

While the organization finances many road projects, it also will support ones, such as Vienna’s future parking-garage floor in a commercial condominium building, if they reduce traffic gridlock by encouraging people to get out of their vehicles, he said.

The W&OD dual-use-path project “is a really good example of a non-motorized facility that still has a meaningful impact on congestion in Northern Virginia,” said Nohe, a member of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors. “The trail is something people use as a thoroughfare.”

The W&OD’s dual-use path in Falls Church will feed over a new bridge crossing Route 29, which will be built as part of the project to expand Interstate 66 inside the Beltway, Gilbert said.

The W&OD stretches between Arlington’s Shirlington community and Purcellville and has an annual operating budget of $558,000, plus roughly $500,000 for the repaving of some sections, Gilbert said.

The W&OD crosses 70 intersections, most of which are at-grade. Bridges, separate trail users from motorists, are expensive and require a good deal of land to achieve the gentle approach and descent grades for pedestrians and cyclists, he said.

“Every time we get a grade separation, it’s a wonderful improvement,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert marveled at how the trail, which began as a 6-foot-wide section of asphalt in Falls Church, has been widened to 11 or 12 feet in most sections. Part of the trail near the Vienna Community Center has been widened to 18 feet, but that area does not physically separate bicyclists from pedestrians, he said.

“If the dual trail works, it will become the model for the future,” he said.

(8) comments

CJE

This trail and other trails are dangerous for hikers and runners and slow speed bicyclists due to high speed bicyclists on racing bikes. No way would I ever use the W O and D trail or other local trails.

Allen Muchnick

I'm happy to know there's at least one place where I won't encounter you!

Allen Muchnick

While building a separated slower track for the W&OD Trail through the City of Falls Church has some merit, a far better use of this $3.7 million would be to construct the missing segment of the proposed I-66 Trail through NoVA Park's Bull Run Regional Park at the west end of Fairfax County, especially between Cub Run and Bull Run.

Ample capacity for safe and comfortable bicycling and walking already exists along the W&OD Trail in Falls Church, whereas the lack of an east-west trail through NoVA Park's Bull Run Regional Park will likely serve as a major barrier to walking and bicycling for decades to come.

CJE

What will actually occur - High speed bicycle fanatics on racing bikes will force slow speed and inexperienced bicyclists on city bikes onto the hiker / runner trail. Local Politricksters will say and do nothing, just as they say and so nothing about scofflaw behavior by bicycle fanatics now.

OutsideDaBeltway

Although I now spend more of my time on the WO&D as a runner, I have ridden it end-to-end many times over the years. I am more worried about dogs on 50 foot leashes wandering across both lanes of traffic than I am on "high speed bicycle fanatics" (whatever that means.)

By the way, "fanatics" come in many styles: People that walk 6-abreast taking up the entire path while they chat, parents with kids that cannot control their bikes, buggy-pushing-phone-using-dog-walking multi-taskers that don't respond (or move) when runners or bikers come up from behind, walkers that stop and turn around in the middle of the path without notice or LOOKING!

But glad to hear that improvements are in the works.

Abbey

More reasons to stay off the trails. BTW, when does my cracked sidewalk get repaired of replaced?

Arlingtonian2

The dual-trail project is yet another example of the "Paving Your Parks" policy that pervades Northern Virginia. The project will destroy natural areas, making life even ore difficult for monarch butterflies, honeybees and other pollinators that find refuge ihn the W&OD Regional Park. Gilbert's statement makes it clear that he and the NOVA Board of Directors care little about nature and will happily turn that park into yet another traffic arterial.

Gilbert does not seem to recognize that many people use the W&OD trail outside of peak travel times. They don't appreciate the ever-widening trail and mowed lawns that are displacing the park's natural areas.

Even worse, the dual trails will not improve safety or attract users. Speeding cyclists will choose whichever trail has least traffic. This will endanger pedestrians and children who are trying to avoid the cyclists.

Cyclists and pedestrians will continue to travel side-by-side, impeding traffic flow and creating conditions for collisions and conflicts. The wider the trail, the worse the conflict.

Gilbert should go into the highway building business. He should not be managing public parklands.

TonyD

The Fairfax County section of the W&OD has double paths, and most importantly, one set of path is unpaved (gravel) to offer surface CHOICE for runners as well as mountain bikes, and also to be compatible with horseback riding. I hope the Falls Church portion of the double path will offer the same CHOICE.

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