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Thread: Why we can't have nice things in Fairfax

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
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    Default Why we can't have nice things in Fairfax

    The Fairfax County Parkway Trail is arguably the most important multi-modal infrastructure in Fairfax County that isn't managed by NVRPA. It's kind of crappy infrastructure, with dangerous at-grade crossings, and wasn't important enough to actually follow the route of the Fairfax County Parkway where it would have required extra effort (a decision that continues to reverberate as one of the lousy gaps in the upcoming 66 trail). It's constantly plagued by random closures, bad maintenance, etc. Whenever there's road work being done the trail gets the boot, and rarely gets any kind of detour. But maybe VDOT really does care, and they just don't have visibility into how bad their contractors are doing?

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    This is typical. The stretch of forbidding sidewalk above is the route of the Fairfax County Parkway around Fair Lakes. (One of the spots where they didn't follow the actual route of the parkway but provided "equivalent facilities" elsewhere. The trail actually crosses the intersection at this light, requiring a wait for two crosswalk signals to legally cross, on average taking more than one full light cycle.) There are not one, but two warning signs for motorists blocking the "trail"--one of which is comically crooked to effectively block the whole thing. It was presumably considered to be too much work to move them all the way to the grass. The thing that makes this all-too-typical scene noteworthy is that on the other side of this car-centric dystopia is the VDOT Northern Virginia District office.

    So why can't we have nice things? The answers work in a tan building with a giant parking lot on the far side of this car-centric dystopia.
    Last edited by mstone; 05-24-2023 at 08:51 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Springfield VA
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    The parkway is a sore point for me. I've lived on the southern end of the parkway, near the split into the Franconia-Springfield parkway and the continuation of the Fairfax County Parkway, since before the parkway was built. Before it was opened, I remember riding down the middle of road. When the parkway was first opened in the 1990s, my friend and I biked northwards, trying to figure out the route that the path took. We were befuddled in the region around 123, and especially the stretch near Fair Lakes. No sounds, very little logic. It took us a lot of exploring to figure it out, and even then, it was clear that the route was barely viable. The flips from one side to another, random departures into neighborhood (with no signage), all showed that nobody cared when they built it.

    About 10 or 15 years ago, when the Army abandoned the Engineer Proving Grounds and they essentially extended Rolling Road southward to I-95 and renamed it the Fairfax County Parkway, I had high hopes that they would do it right and install some bike lanes. That could be my daily commuting route, and on my weekend rides, I often ride around that area. But it is an umitigated disaster. There is no easy way for me to get from my neighborhood north of the Parkway(s) south on Rolling Road when it turns into the Parkway (there is a way, but it is circuitous and not at all obvious). Putting in a simple way get south of Rolling Road would have made it easy for me to bike (or run) to the bus stops at Saratoga, or to commute when I worked at Fort Belvoir. I figured it out, but it's a PITA, and the average person interested in biking or walking among neighborhoods will not be as adventurous. There is a short stretch of a bike path along the Fairfax County Parkway south of Barta Road, but then it just abruptly ends. And very importantly - there is no easy way to cross I-95 while on 286. I am a fearless and experience rider, but there is no way I'm riding across that interchange. Every day, I had to go way out of my way each day in a piecemeal route, and I spent hours on Google maps figuring out the best route. My friends at work would ask me my route, and it would take several minutes for me to explain it. I was dedicated to make it work, but my routes were still crappy, and I'm certain that the average person would have given up long ago. So when they built the stretch of 286 through the Engineer Proving Grounds they completely missed an opportunity to make it right.

    At one point about 5 years ago, I contacted the bike advocacy reps in Fairfax County. They tried to school me on routes that didn't make sense. I got the impression they were looking at a map and trying to figure it out, and most of us know that approach doesn't work well. I sent them screenshots of my rides and the issues, but I got the impression they had never visited that area. I even offered to take them on a ride and show them around (I've also made this offer to my county rep).

    I've lived here over 30 years and know this area very well. I have commuted by bike and by foot (and bus and car) all over. Fairfax County just sucks when it comes to biking infrastructure. When I used to commute to Alexendria and Arlington, it was night and day when I reached those counties - they did biking right.

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