Autumn Evening at Washington Plaza, Lake Anne,

Autumn Evening at Washington Plaza, Lake Anne,
Photo by Rodney Solano, Reston, hat tip Reston Patch

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

SCHOOL'S IN SESSION NEXT WEEK! WATCH OUT FOR KIDS CROSSING STREETS!

This blog is about Reston's future.  That future is personified in the thousands of kids, young and old, who will be returning to school next Tuesday.  PLEASE:
  • Obey school area speed limits--25 MPH--when schools are opening and closing for the day!
  • Obey the school crossing guard's signals at crosswalks near all our elementary, middle, and senior high schools when schools are opening and closing for the day!  
  • STOP for school buses that have stopped to load or unload kids--both directions!  
  • Watch out for kids who are NOT crossing the street where they should!
Reston's future is in your hands!


Metro vote could fall on November-elected supervisors, LoudounTimes.com

Wednesday, Aug. 31 by Crystal Owens 

A newly-elected Board of Supervisors could have the final decision on whether Metrorail extends beyond Dulles International Airport into Loudoun County.

Supervisors have 90 days from the day they receive final engineering plans for Phase 2 of the project from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority to decide whether to pull funding.

And that decision, according to some supervisors, is likely not going to happen until 2012. 

 Click here for the rest of the story. 

This story is correct.  The  financial agreement among the partners states the following:
 "Fairfax and Loudoun each shall notify the Airports Authority whether they approve proceeding with their financing participation for Phase 2 within 90 days of receipt from the Airports Authority of (i) the documents comprising 100% preliminary engineering for Phase 2, (ii) the documents the amount of the cost estimate for Phase 2 at 100% preliminary engineering, and (iii) the documents demonstrating how the cost estimate for Phase 2 at 100% preliminary engineering was developed and computed."
 So both Fairfax and Loudoun Boards could veto any agreement well after the elections in November. 

Planners move closer to deal on financing second phase of Metro line to Dulles, Washington Post

Stakeholders involved in planning the Metro system’s rail line to Dulles International Airport and Loudoun County said Tuesday that they are closer to an agreement on how to build and finance the second phase of the multibillion-dollar project.

The working group of about a dozen representatives from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, Metro, Fairfax and Loudoun counties, and the Virginia Department of Transportation met with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood at his headquarters for an hour to discuss details of the second phase of the rail line that will stretch from Reston Town Center to Dulles Airport and Ashburn. . . . 

Click here for the rest of this article. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project: A Cost-Benefit Analysis, Lauren Donnelly, Policy Perspectives,

This 2009 private cost-benefit analysis of the Dulles Metrorail project provides some insight into the issues surrounding the utility of the new Metrorail line.  Because it was conducted several years ago, it does not include the latest higher projected costs for the line.  There are also some other assumptions that suspect, but it is good to know that someone has taken the time to carry out such an analysis.  Bottom line:  It will take at least five decades for the benefits of the line to outweigh costs. 

Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project:  A Cost-Benefit Analysis,  Lauren Donnelly, Policy Perspectives

Friday, August 19, 2011

Financing issues remain on second phase of rail project, Fairfax Times, August 19, 2011

Fairfax, Loudoun and MWAA boards hope to resolve matter with September vote

The funding partners for the new Dulles corridor Metrorail line have made little progress over the last few weeks in finalizing a new funding agreement for the second phase of the project.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, Fairfax and Loudoun counties and the Commonwealth of Virginia reached tentative agreement last month on the basic framework of a funding agreement that would cut up to $1 billion out of the shared costs of the new rail line. However, the parties are still negotiating key details in a process led by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.

Discussions are now taking place at the staff level, and the group is hoping to have a final document in September that each of the three boards can vote on.

There are essentially six issues that remain unresolved, . . .
Click here for the rest of this article.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Agreement Over Dulles Metro Rail in Question, myfox.com, July 17, 2011



Updated: Wednesday, 17 Aug 2011, 7:05 PM EDT
Published : Wednesday, 17 Aug 2011, 7:05 PM EDT


By SHERRI LY/myfoxdc

WASHINGTON - It looked like the battle was over in the Dulles Metro rail fight. Everyone had agreed to a less costly above-ground station at the airport. But it seems that is not the end of it.

The deal that was all but done is now hanging in the balance. The parties can’t seem to agree on just what was agreed to in the compromise. . . .
Click here for the rest of this article.  

Airports agency terms itself ally of toll road users, Washington Examiner, August 17, 2011

By:Examiner Staff Writer

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is now calling itself the champion of Dulles Toll Road commuters, who may end up paying $18 for a round trip on the toll road by 2023. 

The authority, which enraged local and state officials when it voted to build an underground station at Washington Dulles International Airport in April even though it cost taxpayers an extra $330 million, now says it has done all it can to cut costs on the nearly $7 billion rail project and is begging state and federal governments for more money.
 
What You Could Pay
Estimated one-way tolls for Dulles Toll Road if state and federal governments don't contribute additional funding for Dulles rail project
2012    $2.25
2013    $4.64
2018    $6.95
2023    $9.01
2028   $11.07
2033   $13.13
2038   $15.19
2043   $17.25
Source: Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Airports Authority to counties: Step it up on Dulles Rail, WTOP.com, August 17, 2011

Adam Tuss, wtop.com


WASHINGTON -- The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority sent a message loudly and clearly Wednesday about the cost-cutting process with the Dulles Rail Project: We've done our part, now it's time to do yours.

"We have given up more than anyone else on this," MWAA boardmember Robert Brown said at a meeting of the Dulles Corridor Committee. . .

. . . Speaking with reporters after the meeting, Mame Reiley, who heads the Dulles Corridor Committee, echoed Brown's sentiments.

"U.S. Secretary (Ray Lahood) talked about this being one of the most important projects in the United States. We're saying to him, we agree, so show us the money.". . .
Click here for the rest of this WTOP story.

Fairway Redevelopment To Go Before Supervisors on Sept. 27, Reston Patch, August 17, 2011

Public hearing next step for citizens to speak on issue. 

 by Karen Goff   Email the author

The Fairway Apartments redevelopment plan is scheduled to be presented to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Sept. 27 at 4 p.m.

The county planning commission in late July recommended for approval JBG's plans for several five-story residential buildings and 131 townhouses on the site of the 40-year-old Fairway Apartments.

The Board of Supervisors vote will be the next step in the process. The public is invited to speak before the BOS. To register to speak click here. . . .
  Click here for the rest of this article. 

Commentary: The View from Over Here on JBG's Fairway Apartments Proposal, John Lovaas, Reston Patch, Aug. 16, 2011

 The final approval for JBG’s proposed redevelopment of the Fairway Apartment neighborhood along North Shore Drive may not be as in the bag as JBG thinks.

Here is the bad news, but also some good news.

The Hunter Mill District political appointee on the Fairfax County Planning Commission, Frank de la Fe, recently moved that the Commission recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the latest JBG proposal to replace 346 nice and affordable Fairways Apartments on North Shore Drive with over 800 high-end units, largely apartment condos.

I am unaware of any redeeming traits in this proposal, but de la Fe pointed out one. . . .
Click here for the rest of Mr. Lovaas' commentary.  

Lawmakers blast airports authority over Dulles Metro, Washington Examiner, August 16, 2011

So far, this Examiner article is the only media coverage of yesterday's  Virginia House Transportation Committee's hearing on MWAA's handling of Dulles Metrorail.   The paucity of news coverage is unfortunate because MWAA is spending billions of dollars of area taxpayer and Dulles Toll Road riders money on Metrorail in a highly politicized and opaque insider process as the state transportation committee criticized yesterday. 
The head of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority took what one observer called a "shellacking" Tuesday from Virginia lawmakers upset with the authority's handling of the Dulles Metro rail project.
  The state House Transportation Committee dished out question after question to authority chairman Charles Snelling about the way the authority made its decisions regarding the nearly $7 billion project, charging that the unelected MWAA board lacked transparency and disregarded public opinion. 

"They have to make some substantive changes in how they make their decisions," said Del. Joe May, R-Leesburg, chairman of the committee. . . .
Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://washingtonexaminer.com/local/2011/08/va-lawmakers-blast-airports-authority-over-dulles-metro#ixzz1VIdhZ7i4

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Reston 2020 Calls for Second Residential-Intensive Traffic Analysis of the TOD Areas, August 8, 2011

The following is the text of a letter sent to Reston Task Force Chairman Patti Nicoson on August 8 thanking her for proposing that a second residential-intensive traffic analysis of Reston TOD areas be conducted and emphasizing why this would be important to the smart development of these areas.  The letter is a follow-up to the July 26 Task Force meeting and the August 2 Steering Committee meeting in which Ms. Nicoson proposed this idea.  

We have deferred posting the letter, although widely distributed, until Ms. Nicoson had a chance to return from a vacation and read it.   

UPDATE:  We have learned from County staff that it is "looking at funding for a second scenario for testing." 

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ms. Patti Nicoson, Chairman
Reston Master Plan Special Study Task Force


Dear Ms. Nicoson,

On behalf of RCA’s Reston 2020 Committee, I want to thank you for raising the idea of carrying out two traffic scenario analyses for Reston’s TOD areas, one more residential intensive, at the last Steering Committee meeting.  We were discouraged that some members of the Steering Committee thought it was unnecessary and that County staff said they didn’t have the money to pursue a second study.   Reston 2020 believes a second traffic scenario study, specifically a residential-intensive scenario, is vital to making an informed decision about future development in Reston’s TOD areas, and I would encourage you to pursue the idea to a positive decision in future Steering Committee and Task Force meetings. 

The key reason that Reston 2020 believes that a second traffic analysis is essential to the Task Force effort is that decades of studies about transit-oriented development have indicated that balanced or even residential-centric TOD areas better realize the potential of these areas to:
  •           Maximize public transit use.
  •       Ease traffic congestion.
  •       Ease environmental impacts.
  •       Ease the need for road infrastructure investment.
    I won’t elaborate on these conclusions in great detail because the recent RCA Reston 2020 analysis, “Reston TOD Planning:  More Balance, Less Density Needed,” provides sufficient detail on both a national basis (CTOD’s typology of nearly 4,000 TOD areas) and the specific experience with Metrorail (WMATA’s 2005 survey of Metro users).   Both CTOD’s national analysis and the local WMATA survey indicate that TOD areas with a relatively high residential component see much greater public transit use than TOD areas dominated by commercial development with the attendant positive impacts on traffic, environment, and infrastructure costs.  The paper also provides an alternative scenario (“GMU High plus 50% residential”) for consideration by the Task Force and testing by the County staff. 
      
    Independent of Reston 2020’s analysis, Task Force member Fred Costello, an engineer highly adept at quantitative analysis, conducted his own review of the impact of the then-current County scenario and RCA Reston 2020’s proposal.  That analysis, “Reston TOD Traffic & Profit Comparisons between DPZ & Reston 2020 Plans,” is posted on the Reston 2020 blog.  Using a traffic index he created that measures prospective traffic against current traffic levels, he judged that the County proposal would generate 80% more traffic than currently exists while the Reston 2020 proposal—which offers about 10% less density than the County proposal, but with a strong emphasis on residential development—would generate only about 11% more traffic.  That’s more than a seven-fold difference in traffic increase in Reston’s TOD areas, a difference that certainly warrants more thorough investigation in a second comparative County traffic analysis.   

    Not to carry out a second comparative traffic analysis of Reston’s TOD areas is, in our view, penny wise and pound foolish.  If the County cannot spend the hundred thousand dollars or so to do a second traffic analysis now, it is implicitly committing itself to hundreds of millions of dollars in roadway improvements in the next two decades or absolute gridlock in Reston’s TOD areas.  The former creates another unnecessary burden for Virginia and Fairfax taxpayers.  The latter will serve neither the community nor developers who want businesses to lease their commercial spaces in Reston.  This single-minded determination to pursue only one scenario is occurring at a time when the County Board of Supervisors is quibbling with MWAA and the US Department of Transportation about paying for construction of an $86 million Metrorail station at Rt. 28.  Fairfax County and, more specifically, its taxpaying residents should not be the “cash cow” for unnecessary transportation capital expenditures, especially when the County has the opportunity to assess an alternative approach to meeting its citizens’ needs that may cost tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars less.  For the County or the Task Force to stick its head in the sand and refuse to conduct a second traffic analysis at this important juncture would be a major disservice to Restonians, developers, and all County taxpayers. 

    The hundreds of millions of dollars needed to be invested in Reston’s TOD areas is exemplified in the traffic scenario test parameters laid out by the County’s Department of Transportation at the July 26, 2011, Task Force meeting.    As seen on p. 7 of the DOT presentation, DOT will assume that a number of major transportation improvements have been made by 2030, including:
    ·         Widening of Route 28 to ten lanes including an HOV lane in each direction
    ·         Widening of the Fairfax County Parkway to six lanes including an HOV lane in each direction
    ·         An overpass across the Dulles Toll Road near the County line (Rock Hill Road Overpass)
    ·         An overpass across the Dulles Toll Road west of Wiehle Avenue (Soapstone Overpass)
    ·         An underpass under the Dulles Toll Road west of Reston Parkway (Town Center Parkway/Edmund Halley Drive Underpass)
    ·         Widening of Centreville Road to six lanes per County Transportation Plan
    ·         The extension of Sunrise Valley Drive south of Frying Pan Road, completion of improvements to West Ox    Road and Reston Parkway, and widening/improvement of Fox Mill Road, Monroe Street, and Frying Pan Road
    And this list doesn’t include other local road improvements, creation of a “grid of streets” (possibly privately) in each TOD area, public transit improvements, TDM strategies, etc., either mentioned in the presentation or otherwise needed to make the stated improvements work.  

    While these projects are all listed on the latest (V. 34) Fairfax County Transportation Plan map, no completion dates are affixed to any of them and only two are funded or expected to be funded in the next few years, and some are likely to be dropped from the plan.  The only funded projects according to MWCOG’s CLRP and TIPS database are the Fairfax County Parkway project (at $100 million by 2035) and the Rt. 28 widening (at $296 million by 2025), both funded by VDOT as is the case normally in Virginia.  We doubt the state is enthusiastic about further major capital expenditures on Fairfax’s road network and doubt the County has the ability or will to build these projects on its own, given the authority to do so.. 

    The uncertainty about future road infrastructure investment suggests that the current scenario is highly optimistic in assuming all this infrastructure will be in place by 2030.  We think it is unrealistic to assume these facilities will all be built, especially as Virginia and the County continue to face today’s difficult economic climate.  Our key concern is that the infrastructure assumptions in the scenario will end up justifying unconstrained commercial development in Reston without regard to basic TOD principles highlighting residential-commercial balance, County TOD policy, or the needs of the Reston community and County taxpayers—and then be dropped from the County’s Transportation Plan.   On the other hand, an analysis of the alternative RCA Reston 2020 has offered may show that much of this road infrastructure investment is not needed to improve traffic conditions in Reston’s TOD areas.  We strongly believe it would be even better to provide a projection of the costs to build road infrastructures under both scenarios to achieve a specified traffic goal (a level “C” traffic delay at key intersections, say)  so that the Task Force could see the projected cost-benefit of the alternatives.   Then the Task Force could make a well-informed decision about development in Reston’s TOD areas. 

    We know that the Tysons Task Force actually conducted three major traffic scenario evaluations to better understand traffic issues there.  Here is how one participant characterized that effort: 
      
    On three occasions over a period of three years, FC DOT modeled the proposed Tysons road network comprising the grid-of-streets (GOS), the HOT lanes, two more Beltway crossings, 3-2 new interchanges on the Dulles Toll Road and widening the Toll road by 2 lanes in each direction.  The model also assumed Gallows was widened to 6 lanes and Rt. 7 to 8 lanes. . . In addition, the model included 4 new over-passes inside Tysons (to eliminate signalized intersections) and the bus circulators. 

    Once the road network was defined, it was modeled against various land use scenarios with densities that ranged from 92 MSF to 136 MSF.  Each of these modeling scenarios produced a wealth of data that characterized the performance of all roads inside and outside Tysons. 

    The data retrieved from the model provided, for all modes of transportation:

    -          Peak AM and PM trips counts
    -          Daily trips counts
    -          Volume/capacity (V/C) ratios
    -          Time to travel between any two points in Tysons
    -          Mode splits
    -          Work trips versus non-work trips
    -          The origins of trips terminating in Tysons
    -          The destination of trips originating in Tysons
    The goal of these modeling runs was to determine how much density Tysons could handle once
    all of the planned road improvements had been made.  It turns out that number is 84 MSF. . . 

     We believe the citizens of Reston deserve the County’s investment in at least two scenarios of less detail than those conducted for Tysons Corner, given the likely impact of future development on the community. 

    For the record, the latest County 20-year cost estimate for the Tysons-wide streets is $810 million and another $443 million for Tysons’ grid of streets.  By comparison, what Reston 2020 has proposed to DPZ and you have suggested in the Steering Committee is a modest and vital investment in understanding how we can best make Reston’s TOD areas work for everyone.   If we can save hundreds of millions of dollars in road infrastructure investment, improve the environment, mitigate traffic congestion growth, and maximize use of Metro by choosing a better development track while still allowing a more than doubling of Reston’s TOD density over two decades, we ought to do so.  

    Reston 2020 believes that the County owes it to Reston to conduct a second traffic analysis scenario using a high-residential scenario, such as the one Reston 2020 provided.  Again, we appreciate your raising the issue at the last Steering Committee and we strongly encourage you and your colleagues on the Task Force to insist on a comparative scenario analysis by the County with a high-residential component.   There is no need to rush to an ill-informed judgment on a matter as vital as the future course of development in Reston’s TOD areas.


    Respectfully submitted,

    Terry Maynard
    On behalf of the
    RCA Reston 2020 Committee



    Distribution:
    Reston Task Force
    Fairfax County Board of Supervisors
    Fairfax County Planning Commission
    Fairfax County Executive
    FC Department of Planning & Zoning
    FC Department of Transportation
    RCA Board of Directors
    RA Board of Directors
    ARCH Board of Directors
    RCA Reston 2020 Committee
    State Senator Janet Howell
    State Delegate Ken Plum
    Fairfax County Federation of Civic Associations Board of Directors
    Local media representatives

    Monday, August 15, 2011

    Editorial: Don’t burden Fairfax with excessive Metrorail costs, Washington Post, August 13, 2011

    IN STRIKING A DEAL last month to shave almost $1 billion from the cost of building Metrorail’s Silver Line extension to Dulles International Airport and points west, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood probably saved the project. But some of those savings were in fact cost transfers, meaning someone got stuck holding at least a portion of the bag. In this case, the main “someone” is Fairfax County, and the “bag” contains a bill for about $160 million. . . .
     Click here for the rest of the WaPo editorial.  

    MWAA Presentation re US DOT Phase 2 Funding Proposal, July 11, 2011

    As reflected in the presentation below, MWAA continues to reject any responsibility for the excess costs of Dulles Metrorail line.  The presentation focuses on the small role of the state and federal government in financing the rail line, and states that nothing in the DOT initiative will lower future toll rates.  It virtually begs DOT for federal TIFIA (low-interest) financing to cover the huge cost escalation in Phase 2 of the construction effort while claiming much larger savings from building an aboveground station at Dulles than has ever been previously reported ($552 million; most reports put the savings at about $330 million).

    The brief lays out future toll rates under different financing arrangements, but the TIFIA-based rates are based on a higher construction cost for no apparent reason.  All of the projected toll rate costs in 2043 (the farthest outyear projected) range between $15.41-$17.92--although the construction cost differs among the alternative scenarios.

    The most important fact this brief omits is that the projected cost of the ENTIRE Dulles Metrorail line in 2004 was $2.7 billion.  We are spending that on Phase 1 alone, bringing Metrorail to Wiehle Avenue.  And this brief discusses additional costs of $2.7-$3.1 billion for Phase 2--a doubling or more of the original cost projection.  Explain that, MWAA.

    MWAA Discussion Presentation With USDOT--July 11-2011

    Sustainable Reston Organizing Online Petition Against Fairway Redevelopment, Reston Patch, August 15, 2011

    Group details reasons why plan is not good for the community, and urges community to sign.

    By Karen Goff  Email the author

    How do you feel about the proposed redevelopment at Reston's Fairway Apartments?
    Sustainable Reston, a project of the Fairfax Coalition for Smarter Growth, is against the JBG Companies' plan, which, after two years of trying, was recommended for approval by the Fairfax County Planning Commission last month.

    The plan, for several five-story buildings, underground parking and 131 townhouses, still has to go to before the county Board of Supervisors and then back to the Reston Association's Design Review Board.

    Sustainable Reston wants citizens to sign a petition detailing why this is a bad idea and how JBG should rethink and redesign. Among the reasons: increasing housing units by 230 percent, reducing affordable housing, increasing pollution and creating tangled traffic.

    "The proposed development is a knife in the back of true Transit Oriented Development, . . .
     Click here for the rest of this article...and then SIGN THE PETITION TO STOP FAIRWAY APARTMENTS REDEVELOPMENT!

    Sustainable Reston's initiative follows and closely parallels the unanimous resolution of the Reston Citizens Association (RCA) Board of Directors opposing the approval of the Fairway apartments re-development. 

    Saturday, August 13, 2011

    Making Reston Metro station areas less pedestrian and bike friendly, Bruce Wright, FABB, August 11. 2011

    Fairfax County DOT recently presented the results of a traffic mitigation study conducted by Cambridge Systematics (at the July 26 Reston Task Force meeting). According to the Fairfax Times article Reston rail panel focuses gaze on traffic mitigation, "Discussion focused on possible improvements to five intersections: Wiehle Avenue and Sunrise Valley Drive; Wiehle Avenue and Sunset Hills Road; Reston Parkway and Sunrise Valley Drive; Reston Parkway and Sunset Hills; and Fairfax County Parkway and Sunrise Valley.". .

    The planned improvements call for several "free turn lanes" where motorists can turn right without stopping. An example is the southbound lane on Wiehle Ave at the the Sunrise Valley Dr intersection. Motorists rarely stop for pedestrians at this location, which is a adjacent to the future rail station entrance. A second free turn lane for westbound Sunrise Valley Dr traffic is being recommended at this intersection. If implemented it would be nearly impossible for pedestrians and cyclists who are on the adjacent sidepath to cross Wiehle Ave. These are definitely not improvements for pedestrians and cyclists (emphasis added).

    A similar treatment is proposed for the Wiehle Ave/Sunset Hills intersection . . . .
    Click here for the rest of this FABB blog post.  

    For almost as long as the Reston Task Force (RTF) has been in existence, the substance of its talks has largely ignored or given lip service to the notion of reducing dependence on the automobile in the three transit-oriented development (TOD) station areas.  The single significant exception to this thinking has been the work done by the RTF's Planning Principles Sub-Committee.  

    The road improvements suggested by the County's Department of Transportation above are necessitated largely because the County's Department of Planning and Zoning insists on focusing new development plans on commercial rather than residential development in Reston's TOD areas despite the tremendous imbalance between residential and commercial development that already exists there.  

    This line of thinking continues despite the fact that RCA's Reston 2020 Committee has provided both substantial research evidence that more residential development will reduce auto use, and an alternative residential-intensive proposal that would obviate the need for "free turns" and other major road expansion projects because people would walk and bike to Metro in these areas in far greater proportions.  We share FABB's frustration with the course of the Task Force's discussion, yet we remain hopeful that the County will do a second traffic analysis study using Reston 2020's or a similar residential intensive proposal for testing purposes.  We believe the results will show the merits of greater residential development.



    Wednesday, August 10, 2011

    Controversial Reston redevelopment proposal clears major hurdle, Fairfax Times, August 5, 2011

    County planning commission clears way for approval



    The sixth time was the charm for a company proposing a major redevelopment proposal for Reston's Fairway Apartments.

    The development proposal received a positive vote on July 28 from the Fairfax County Planning Commission, which voted to recommend approval of the project to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. The Board of Supervisors will next meet in September. . . .
    Click here for the rest of this article, including comments from local citizens and Supervisor Hudgins on the loss of affordable housing in Reston.

    Reston Taxpayers Can Tell County Supervisors How to Spend Surplus, Reston Patch, August 10, 2011


    Public hearing next month to talk about $60 million. 

    By Bobbi Bowman Email the author

    Fairfax County taxpayers can tell the Board of Supervisors at September hearings how they would like to spend an extra $60 million that has flowed into county coffers.

    Where did the money come from? The county collected more in taxes than anticipated and spent less than had been budgeted to run the county. . . .
    This article looks for Restonians' views on how to spend the $60 million carryover from this year's budget.  There are many good ways this could be spent--including maybe a $100 thousand or so on a second traffic analysis scenario for Reston's TOD areas so we could see how a residential-intensive development pattern would affect traffic in comparison with the baseline commercial-intensive scenario now proposed.  

    The greatest Reston capital infrastructure need right now, however, is to fund the Soapstone extension overpass across the Dulles Corridor to the Wiehle Avenue Metrorail parking garage area.  This would alleviate the coming gridlock at Sunrise Valley and Wiehle and the turn from Wiehle into and out of the the new garage area being built by Comstock.  The Reston Metrorail Advisory Group (RMAG) consultant put the cost of this overpass across the Dulles Corridor at $42 million in 2008, but it's probably more costly now.  Even if the money were committed right now (and none has been so far), the County would be hard pressed to deliver the overpass before the completion of Phase 1 of the Metrorail to Wiehle in 2013.  

    Click here for the rest of this article. 

    Do You Want a Reston License Plate? Reston Patch, August 10, 2011

    Posted by Carolyn Lawson Low
     
    The Reston Citizens Association is aiming to collect  450 registrations, the number of registrations the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles requires in order to produce the Reston specialty auto license plates.



    Contact Dan McGuire at 703-620-9879. You can access the form using the DMV link below. Please fill in the registration form for each vehicle with accompanying payment.

    THIS IS IMPORTANT: PLEASE DO NOT SEND THE FORM TO THE DMV! Instead, please send it to RCA at:

          Reston Citizens Association
          PO Box 2851
          Reston, VA 20195 


    Your form and payment will be safeguarded by RCA and turned over to the Department of Motor Vehicles once the required 450 registrations are received.

    Please contact RCA's Dan McGuire at 703/620-9879 if you have questions.

    Click here for the VA DMV Application

    Monday, August 8, 2011

    Commentary: The View From Over Here -- On NIMBYism & the Reston Task Force, John Lovaas, Reston Patch, August 8, 2011

     In the last couple of years in particular, it seems we can’t have a conversation about future development in Reston without the term “NIMBY” being flung about. . .

    . . . In a Reston context, the term is routinely applied to residents expressing doubts about quantum leaps in development density.

    Unfortunately, the term is often used without regard to the basis or logic for a question or a suggsted alternative.  Recent cases of misuse of the pejorative “NIMBY” include directing it at residents who pointed out that, based on official data, development levels proposed cannot be supported by either existing infrastructure or that planned for the next 30 years or more. . . .
    For the rest of this commentary, click here.   And thanks, John, for the pointer to the Reston 2020 blog.

    Thursday, August 4, 2011

    Planning Commissioner Frank de la Fe's Response to Letter by Marion Stillson, July 201, 2011

    From: <frankdelafe@comcast.net>
    Date: Wed, Jul 20, 2011 at 5:58 PM
    Subject: Re: Fairways Apartments Public Hearing
    To: Marion Stillson <mbs@point0.net>


    Marion-

    My remark regarding all of Reston as a transit oriented area , as I stated at the meeting, was based on the fact that from its earliest days Reston had transit (Reston Commuter bus and Common Ground service) throughout its neighborhoods. I know that folks like to put their own spin on things, however, I did state that the formal County TOD came nearly four decades after Reston had been using public transit. As anybody who has availed themselves of RIBS, regular and commuter services over the years, Reston has been transit oriented from its earliest days.

    Thanks for all your good work on behalf of all of us in Reston.

    Frank de la Fe
    Mr. de la Fe continues to miss and/or obfuscate the point.  High density residential development outside the half-mile perimeter from Metro stations, such as that the Planning Commission has approved at Fairway Apartments, will generate disproportionately more traffic, congestion, environmental damage, etc., than lower density development in those areas.  In contrast, high density development within TOD, especially residential development, leads to greater use of public transit--specifically the Metro--and reduces traffic growth.  Moreover, every community and major development in Fairfax County--almost all low density suburban development--has been served by some form of bus service over the last four decades or more.  

    Notes on the RTF Steering Committee Meeting, August 2, 2011


                                           3 August 2011
                                           R. Rogers
        

    STEERING COMMITTEE MEETING: 2 AUGUST 2011

         Summary: The Committee blessed a new DPZ map for the transportation “test.” It significantly increased density in Town Center. FC DOT transportations analysts continued to explain the test process.  There was some anxiety from developers about what the results might foreshadow.  The RMPTF now goes into August hibernation with no activity till September.

         Attendance: Poor. At one point there were as many TF members in the audience (5) as at the table.

         Admin: Patti Nicoson, RTF Chairman, noted that COMSTOCK plans to break ground on a residential building next spring and have it ready by 2014.  She also noted interest by SPRINT in some sort of joint project with the county re the Wiehle station.

         New Map: DPZ put forth yet another new map for the transportation test (“Staff Allocation of Absorbtion (sic) by 2020 dated 8/2/11). The most significant change was upgrading the FARs of Boston Property land to 4 and of the south station area (including Brookfield E-5) to 3.  (Comment: Apparently this was the result of the Goudie-Otteni approach to DPZ--see last SC com notes).

         Apparently to balance this, North Town Center, previously at a FAR of 1.6 was left off the map.  David Sattlier, the INOVA front man, attended (a first I think) and protested but said he would take thus up offline. Heidi M. gave various justifications for the changes that were not particularly impressive.

         At the end of the meeting the SC decided to not mess with the map any more but turn it over to DOT. Judy pew raised the issue of submitting the “test” beforehand to the full TF, but she was dismissed.

         Doug Pew objected to the doubling of the Brookfield FAR, saying the south side road net, depending on two key Sunrise Valley intersections, would be overwhelmed.

         Transportation Discussion: The bulk lf the meeting was a discussion with Dan Southworth (senior analyst at FC DOT who apparently will do most of the work on Reston) and branch chief Leonard Wolfenstein about the transportation test.

         They began by saying all mitigation strategies need to be incorporated in the plan. Heidi weighted in to reinforce this by saying that “some” just thought more aggressive Transportation Demand Management would suffice. She stressed that a bigger tool box would be needed.

         The FC DOTers said the transportation test would include:
    • intersection improvements at the nodes cited at last week’s RMPTF.
    • an overpass on Sunrise Valley at Fairfax County Parkway.
    • Soapstone and Town Center crossings (I had earlier raised this given the absence of any realistic plan for financing for these.  But I was told “they are in the existing county plan”.)
    • taking into account “sensitivity to higher toll rates on the toll road”: I had earlier stressed the need to take this into account in view of MWAA projections that traffic could decrease by half by 2023 and they would still make money).
    • the various suggestions in the Vision Com report for transportation improvement.

         Goal of Test: Several of the developers worried about the goal of the test.  (Comment: Their comments indicated concern that the test results will undermine their goal of higher density).

         This led to a discussion of what FC DOT thinks is acceptable congestion.  The DOTers said a “D” rating is a county goal (currently several Reston intersections get an F”).  They also noted that in other FC “urban areas” they had tended toward accepting an ”E”.

         Several of the development community, such as Goudie, said that the result of the test would be academic. He plans to push to get 2050 density for all of TC back on the map.  Looney said he did not see himself “locked into” the new map. There was a consensus that this will provide useful input but that the SC will not be bound by the results of the test.

         Relevance to a TOD Reston: Several members, particularly Paul Thomas, stressed that the test needs to take into account things like:
    • the need for better pedestrian crossings (under the  DOT intersection improvement plan it looks like R Pkwy will have 13 lanes in places!).
    • North-South Reston traffic (i.e buses to South Lakes H.S.)
    --connector bus links (“will they be locked in a massive jam on Wiehle from 606 to the DTR”)
    (Comment: On the whole the FC DOTers give me the impression they are more used to looking at traditional suburban traffic than a more urban environment.)

         Grid of streets: The test will include some of the key connections proposed that “look reasonable.”  Wolfenstein noted that in Tyson the grid of streets had a tremendous impact on moving traffic.

         Test more Housing? Patti Nicoson briefly raised this issue. The DOTers said it would depend on more time and more DPZ money.  No support for it was forthcoming from others.

         Time Frame: “Forget August.” It will take us three months at least to do one iteration.  Major changes would require at least another two months. Maybe Thanksgiving.

    Next

         The full TF will be briefed on the map and test on 13 Sept.  It is possible that there will be an SC mtg before it (after Labor Day) to discuss allocating some development at Herndon Monroe station (there is none on the current map).

         The SC will meet later in the fall to look at other issues like open space.

    RA President McKee letter calls for new Reston residential development to be part of RA, August 1, 2011

    RA President ltr to Supr. Hudgins re Future Reston Residential Development

    Wednesday, August 3, 2011

    Boston Properties View on Reston Town Center Market in the Second Quarter

    The following is an extract from Boston Properties Earnings Call to market analysts on August 2, 2011.  Doug Linde, President of Boston Properties, is the person speaking.  A special hat tip to Seeking Alpha, a major finance, market, and economics blog, for its publishing of this transcript. 

    D.C. had a sort of a light quarter with respect to signed leases, but we did complete another floor at 2200 Pennsylvania Avenue, and we're negotiating leases in Northern Virginia involving almost 300,000 square feet of space. And we're in discussions actually with a tenant for a 250,000 square-foot of bill pursuit in Reston.

    Now this activity is not coming from Homeland Security or Defense, it's coming from telecommunications companies, digital marketing companies and the construction and engineering industries, which are flourishing in the D.C. region, and they're really not associated with the budgetary issues of the U.S. government.

    The gap in achievable rents and concession levels and activity in Reston Town Center is widening more and more against the other total markets, and we're probably over $10 a square foot in pure rental rate between Reston Town Center and those buildings just outside the core. . . .

    Dulles Rail Moves Forward, Reston Connection, August 3, 2011

    County board approves new cost allocation, considers Route 28 Station ‘problematic.’
    By Nicholas Horrock
    Wednesday, August 03, 2011


    The Fairfax Board of Supervisors Tuesday, July 26, voted to approve the new cost allocation plan for Phase 2 of the Dulles Rail project, but said if it cannot find sufficient funding to build the Route 28 Metro station at $83 million and the Fairfax and Herndon parking garages at $109 million, the work should be completed by all the Dulles Rail partners. . . .
     
    Click here for the rest of this article. 

    Monday, August 1, 2011

    Living in a Well-Planned TOD Community: Articles by David Dixon, Goody Clancy

    Last year, David Dixon, FAIA, Principal-in-Charge of Planning and Urban Design at Goody Clancy, a Boston urban planning, architecture, and preservation consulting company, wrote a series of articles that appeared in Reconnecting America's "Half-Mile Circles" blog about the importance of dense residential development in TOD areas.  Reconnecting America is a national nonprofit that advises civic and community leaders on how to overcome community development challenges to create better communities for all.  Its major partners are the University of Maryland's Center for Transit-Oriented Development (CTOD) and Transportation America.   Its "Half-Mile Circles" blog presents timely research from urban planning experts on a variety of related topics. 

    All of these articles focus on why a substantial residential  presence is vital to creating a successful urban planning environment and why resistance to those efforts is frequent.   Where these doubts have been overcome, development and re-development have created lively, lovely, and successful urban neighborhoods. 

    This post presents the final of these six articles--an overview of the five earlier reports--and summaries and links to the remaining posts by Mr. Dixon. 

    Creating places that people love

    January 27, 2010

    Opponents of density often argue that communities oppose denser development. However, Goody Clancy has consistently found more complex attitudes toward density. While neighborhood residents want, with good reason, to preserve the scale and character of their own residential blocks, they increasingly embrace lively, mixed-use, redevelopment of older shopping centers, industrial corridors, and similar places that represent the real opportunities for growth in the urban core.

    When asked what qualities they would seek in higher-density redevelopment, participants in recent planning and urban design charrettes led by Goody Clancy in downtown Ashville (NC), at the edge of Atlanta, in suburban Dublin (Ohio), and elsewhere have articulated a consistent vision. They talk about replacing acres of surface parking and former truck yards with tree-lined streets that have shops and restaurants at street level and new neighbors living above. They ask that development meet existing residents’ needs with both neighborhood- and regional-serving shops and services and public parks and squares that foster vibrant community life. Rather than formal public spaces, they prefer places animated by cafés and amenities like fountains and public art that engage the human senses. They make clear that “mixed use” implies genuinely public activities like libraries and community centers in addition to private development.

    Participants in these charrettes are fully aware of the challenges of density. They ask that the height of buildings step down to demonstrate visible respect for the scale of the traditional neighborhoods around them. They worry about traffic and ask that mixed-use development include both jobs and housing to promote walk-to-work opportunities for new and existing residents and workers and that traffic patterns be planned to avoid neighborhood streets. They understand that increased density can require additional parking but ask that it be located in structures that are lined with housing or other uses to shield them from public view.

    These attitudes cross lines of age, race, class and other differences. In recent years residents in one of the poorest and in one of the wealthiest communities in the Midwest have told us the same thing: while they might not yet love the word “density,” they did love the benefits they envisioned in well planned and designed density.

    Part 1: Density deficits
    This article highlights the demographics of the residential real estate market over the next couple of decades, noting the relatively high percentage of younger and much older households who want high-density urban housing.  "Demand for higher-density housing and related amenities—shops, parks and, increasingly, jobs—within walking distance is transforming real estate markets. Chris Leinberger, a developer working with the Brookings Institution, reports that mixed-use, walkable developments now claim a premium of as much as 40% per square foot over single-use developments in the same community. Carol Coletta, who heads CEOs for Cities, reports that for every one point increase in “Walkability Score,”  housing values in 24 metropolitan areas increased by up to $6,000. During the current recession, suburban real estate values have suffered far more than urban counterparts."   The market described here fits nicely into the need for smaller, more affordable homes Graham Fuller, Director, GMU's Center for Regional Analysis sees in the Metro region over the next two decades.
    Part 2: Restoring personal choices
    This article highlights the residential density required to support a vibrant Main Street.  "A study by Goody Clancy and Byrne McKinney Associates determined that between 1,000 and 2,000 housing units within a half-mile radius are required to support a block of Main Street retail (20,000-30,000SF). This number corresponds to neighborhoods with gross densities (not counting streets and parks) of 15 to 30 units per acre, a density that translates, for example, as a mix of narrow-lot detached single-family houses, row houses, and low-rise lofts. Reaching 4,000 or more housing units—a density of roughly 60 units per acre, characteristically found in admired neighborhoods like Boston’s Back Bay—by adding mid- and high-rise housing, unlocks the opportunity to attract a neighborhood grocery store."  RCA proposed achieving 15 housing units per acre--at the low end of this continuum--within the next 20 years in Reston's three TOD areas with a longer term view to achieving on the order of 50-60 housing units per acre in 40-50 years.
    Part 3: Building community in the midst of diversity
     This article discusses the role high-density urban housing can play in meeting the needs of a diversity community, a core principle of both Reston's new and old Master Plans.   "Building the foundation for communities that bridge economic differences often requires greater densities. These densities, for example, allow the transformation of public housing developments into mixed-income neighborhoods with sufficient housing to welcome back long-term lower-income residents and draw new higher-income neighbors. High housing values in affluent neighborhoods mean that some of the value of market-rate housing can be used to subsidize affordable stock—a critical advantage in creating mixed-income developments during an era of scarce public resources."
    Part 4: Fostering public health
    Improved public health--generated largely by urban neighborhood walkability-- has long been a known benefit of dense residential development in urban areas.   "At the same time, rising housing values in walkable central cities are pushing lower-income households to car-dependent outer suburbs where housing is cheaper, as Chris Leinberger noted in the March 2008 Atlantic Monthly. As a result, these Americans could face higher rates of obesity, diabetes, and other conditions kept in check by physical activity."  Greater residential density in Reston's TOD areas will improve the residents health, and could improve the health of a broader Reston population willing to walk, bike, or take transit there. 
    Part 5: Enhancing sustainability
     This article--like several recent RCA Reston 2020 articles--highlights the reduced fuel consumption and consequent environmental improvements from dense urban living near public transit.  "Such analyses make a convincing case that significant reductions in energy consumption, carbon footprints, and comparable sustainability benchmarks will require development patterns that focus growth toward infill of established urban areas rather than outlying greenfield sites." 
    Part 6: Creating places that people love  (see above)