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Study Urges a Variety of New Transportation Choices and Transit-Oriented Communities for Northern Virginia

May 3, 2000 -- If booming Northern Virginia is going to continue to prosper, it will need other means of transportation than the automobile to structure new living and working patterns, a new study warns.

Now second only to Los Angeles in time lost to automobile congestion each day, the high-tech suburban area around Washington, D.C. will find it increasingly difficult to thrive without new public transit systems including various rail and bus networks linking transit-oriented communities, according to the study, prepared by the Community Design Group at the University of Virginia's School of Architecture.

Increased economic development has changed the patterns of commuting and brought about an increase in commuting between the suburbs, the study, undertaken for the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, says.

Regional transit systems would encourage community life by promoting the development of compact communities where people work, live and shop and provide alternatives to more road and highway construction, said Warren Boeschenstein, U.Va. professor of architecture and one of the authors of the study.

"The north-south movement is of particular concern in the area," he said. "By creating ‘activity centers' with compact, mixed use, pedestrian-oriented communities with multi-modal transportation choices, regional mobility will be improved and growth in these locations will be stimulated."

The automobile and highways have dominated land use and growth patterns in the area. Boeschenstein, along with co-authors Gary Okerlund, adjunct professor of planning at U.Va., and Morton Gulak, associate professor in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at Virginia Commonwealth University, urges a network of "activity centers" and transportation linkages.

The centers could be a district, town, village or hamlet. The common feature is that they would serve as origins or destinations for various means of public transportation including a combination of Metrorail, Virginia Railway Express (VRE), light rail, highways, buses, and bike trails that would link these centers through proposed transit corridors. The researchers have identified 10 existing and potential activity centers in the Northern Virginia area.

The Route 28 Corridor, Manassas and Baileys Crossroads are three of the potential centers.

The study of the Route 28 Corridor recommends a light-rail connection between the city of Manassas and Dulles Airport. With the heavy development in this area and the growth of Dulles Airport, the fastest growing of the world's 50 largest airports, and the influx of high-tech industry which has attracted housing and commercial development in the area, alternative means of transportation and compact development will be needed. The Route 28 Corridor would extend a distance of 15 miles and would bypass congestion and strengthen existing centers as well as encourage new compact mixed-use community development in new activity centers. This would reduce the current spread of low-density residential development and promote open-space preservation.

The Manassas activity center would link the Manassas intercity rail to Washington, D.C. and the proposed light rail in the Route 28 Corridor. Historic Manassas has come to depend exclusively on the automobile since World War II, resulting today in major congestion and air pollution and contributing to the reduction of quality of life in the area. The study's proposal focuses on promoting economic growth by expanding and diversifying the city's economic base, drawing tourists to the historic and cultural attractions and developing downtown Manassas into a telecommunications center.

Baileys Crossroads, a declining inner suburb in Fairfax County, was developed haphazardly in the 1950s. Today it is characterized by poor circulation and lack of cohesion between the existing commercial, business and residential sectors. In addition, Baileys Crossroads is bisected by two major highways. The area is poised for revitalization. The study proposes the introduction of light rail that would provide the catalyst for development strategies that encourage compact mixed-use redevelopment. The improved transportation would facilitate the transformation of the area into an important transportation interchange and unify the area.

In each of these areas improved regional mobility would stimulate growth, the researchers say. The proposals encourage taking advantage of the built infrastructures, often developing public transportation along existing rail lines, in medians and rights-of-way to revitalize existing communities by providing choices of transportation to decrease dependence on the automobile.

Boeschenstein says he is well aware that these kinds of changes occur incrementally. His 1994-95 proposal for transit centers along the Richmond-Washington, D.C. high-speed rail corridor has just been funded. That project won awards from the Virginia Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and from the National Department of Transportation.

For more information or interviews contact Warren Boeschenstein at (804) 924-8921 or wcb9w@virginia.edu. To obtain copies of the study contact the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation at (804) 786-7948 or fax (804) 786-3328.

Contact: Jane Ford, (804) 924-4298

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: please contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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