Manassas is one step closer to completing its 3.6-mile Wellington Road bike and pedestrian path after receiving a $675,092 grant from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. In the same round of funding, Prince William County received a $1.36 million grant to build a sidewalk along a busy area of Old Bridge Road.
The Manassas grant provides funding for the final 0.35-mile section of the bike path, which is the only major east-west connection for pedestrians and cyclists from Godwin Drive to Liberia Avenue and will provide a safe passage over two railroad crossings.
Along with the grant funding, the city will provide $168,773 of Northern Virginia Transportation Authority funds and developer contributions to complete the project, which planners hope can be done within two years. The first piece of the trail was built when Wellington was developed in the 1980s, and the penultimate section of the path was completed in 2012.
“It’s a capital project that we’ve been talking about for years,” said Matt Arcieri, the city’s planning and zoning manager. “Not having that gap is a pretty significant part of the trail.”
The 3.6-mile trail was featured in the city’s 2007 Bicycle Master Plan and, when completed, would connect the Prince William Parkway, Metz Middle School, Jennie Dean Elementary, Jennie Dean Park and the Virginia Railway Express station.
“It’s been ranked through the years pretty high by the citizens and by the planning commission as a piece to finish and a priority trail connection,” Arcieri said.
In Woodbridge, Prince William County plans to use its $1.36 million to build a sidewalk along Old Bridge Road between Oakwood to Forest Hill roads. The county is already scheduled to complete a sidewalk from Tackett’s Mill to Forest Hills Road this year, but the 700-foot sidewalk funded through the grant was selected because of its proximity to two “Equity Emphasis Areas,” a term the Council of Governments uses for areas with a high concentration of low-income residents who may not have access to a car.
John Swanson, the COG program manager, said the county had already seen what planners call a “desire path” (a foot path eroding the land) where the sidewalk will go, so it’s confident there’s a need. The council is an independent, nonprofit organization that works with elected officials throughout the Washington area on issues affecting the region.
“Part of our policy framework is increasing opportunities for folks to walk and to bike in this region … and to get access to opportunities for people who live in disadvantaged communities and are transit dependent,” Swanson said. “A county like Prince William has an enormous need for better pedestrian and bike improvements … it’s really dangerous conditions out there so this is a project that seems really to warrant the extra attention.”
The grants themselves are funded through the Federal Highway Administration's Transportation Alternatives Program and given to local governments in Virginia every two years. This round, Swanson said, the council received 24 applications and funded seven projects for about $5.5 million.