Thursday, November 1, 2012

NVRPA Announces Improvements to W&OD

NVRPA press release: (Tip of the Hat to NVRPA for a fantastic trail, and making it safer!)

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Friday, October 26, 2012

One of the Nation’s Best Trails Gets Safer as it Serves More Users

The W&OD Trail, owned and operated by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA), stretches 45 miles from Shirlington to Purcelleville. With over two million uses a year, and more than 70 at-grade road crossings, this trail is the backbone of cycling, pedestrian, and other non-motorized recreation and transportation in Northern Virginia.
“With ever increasing usage of the trail and so many intersections, safety is always a high priority. This is why we are so pleased to announce efforts at some the of most challenging intersections to improve safety,” stated Paul Gilbert, Executive Director of NVRPA.
Over the years, NVRPA has had a number of engineering studies and analyses conducted, with the safety of its trail users specifically in mind. In March of 2011, the Park Authority commissioned an evaluation of the existing physical and operational conditions at six of the busiest individual roadway crossings across the region. Today, the recommendations created by these evaluations are beginning to be implemented. 
NVRPA has worked extensively to engage its jurisdictional partners such as Fairfax, Loudoun and Arlington Counties and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), and is appreciative of their efforts to assist in making this truly regional asset safe.
The crossings identified for evaluation were: Belmont Ridge Road – Ashburn, Loudoun County, Sterling Boulevard – Sterling, Loudoun County, Wiehle Avenue – Reston, Fairfax County, Hunter Mill Road – Vienna, Fairfax County, Lee Highway – Arlington, Arlington County, Columbia Pike – Arlington, Arlington County.  The six intersections were part of studies by Toole Design, a national leader in trail quality evaluation. The report was based on field inventory and observations, sight distance assessment, trail-user intercept surveys, traffic counts, spot speed counts and video behavioral analysis at each trail crossing. 
Highlights of the recommendations and actions that NVRPA and its partners have already implemented or will do so based on NVRPA’s recommendations include:  
Belmont Ridge Road
• Relocate or eliminate parking area on the northwest and northeast corners. This work has been completed.
• Add actuated rectangular rapid flash beacons to alert motorists to the presence of a trail user.
• Trim vegetation to improve sight lines. Work completed by NVRPA and VDOT
• Consider construction of a 12 foot wide crossing island to create a refuge and to traffic calm the crossing.
• Consider in the long term grade separation as the ideal improvement.
Sterling Boulevard
• NVRPA and VDOT are working together to consider reducing the length of the northbound deceleration/left turn lane on Sterling Boulevard to expand median refuge.
• Consider the addition of actuated rectangular rapid flash beacons to alert motorists to the presence of a trail user, based on results from Belmont Ridge Road.
• NVRPA to work with VDOT and Loudoun County to expand the sidewalk network along Sterling Boulevard.
Wiehle Avenue
• NVRPA and Fairfax County to work together to identify short term improvements to include:  improved roadway markings, additional signage and potential lane width improvements.
• Consideration to widen the median refuge.
• Consider alternate signal timing to reduce conflict with trail crossing.
Hunter Mill Road
• NVRPA and VDOT to address vegetation and terrain issues that affect sight line distance.
• Consider replacing advanced trail crossing flashing beacon with Actuated Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacons.
Lee Highway (Route 29)
• NVRPA to realign trail approaches to orient better to the crossing for trail users and motorists.
• NVRPA to work with Arlington County to consider adjusting signal timing and phasing.
• NVRPA to work with Arlington County to consider turn lane options, such as relocating or adding additional signage. 
Columbia Pike:
• The trail approaches will be realigned to intersect at a better angle to the roadway.
• NVRPA to work with Arlington County to consider adjusting signal timing and phasing.
These intersection changes will build on the improvements made by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority recently.  Those improvements included curb ramps, rumble strips, advanced warning signs on the roadway, marked crosswalks, warning signs on the trail and thermoplastic pavement markings noting the approaching intersection.  Along with these treatments, extensive work was done to improve sight lines at each crossing. Collectively, these changes made the W&OD Trail a national model for trail safety.
The physical condition of the Trail and the intersections is vitally important, but far more important is the behavior of those on the Trail and those on the roads. The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority is proud to also be a partner with Street Smart, an annual public education, awareness and behavioral change campaign in the Washington, DC, Suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia area. Since its beginning in 2002, the campaign has used radio, newspaper, and transit advertising, public awareness efforts and added law enforcement, to respond to the challenges of pedestrian and cyclist safety.
“Trail safety is a combination of the condition of the trail and the behavior of trail users, and the conditions of the road crossing and behavior of the vehicular traffic,” said NVRPA Board Chairman Brian Knapp.
NVRPA is currently in the process of adding a reflective strip along the entire 45 mile trail. Every year, areas of the trail are re-paved and often expanded, and the Regional Park Authority has a full-time maintenance crew that is constantly working on upkeep of this great regional asset.
“Using non-motorized transportation is fantastic for the environment and a great way to have a healthy lifestyle. We want to see more people using the W&OD Trail and other regional trail networks. We also want all members of the public to stop, yield and follow the traffic rules to keep everyone safe,” Knapp added.

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