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Fairfax Officials Look to Transit's Future

Officials are seeking public comment on the needs for the next 40 years.

While a vision for the next 40 years of Tysons Corner development and transportation has started to take shape, what the rest of Fairfax County will look like — and how residents will travel around and within it — is largely unclear.

Monday night was an early step toward painting part of that picture with the first public input meeting of the county’s 2050 County Transit Network Study. This is an effort by the department of transportation to determine how public transit system expansion plans can best meet the county’s goals for long-term economic growth.

About 50 people attended the three-hour meeting in Fairfax , including Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova, Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity, Fairfax City Councilman Michael DeMarco and Vienna Mayor Jane Seeman.

Among the options the county could consider in high-demand areas: an extended Metrorail, light- rail lines or street car and high speed-bus routes.

“An objective of the study is to develop an inter-connected rapid transit system network that gets people where they need to go that connects with transit in Arlington, Alexandria, Loudoun and Prince William [counties],” said Tom Burke, a senior transportation planner in the county’s DOT.

The study will also take land-use and right-of-ways into account, so that transit possibilities – and potential Metrorail station locations – aren’t eclipsed by other development.

“When we identify these [transit] corridors, we’ll identify the necessary right-of-way, and as we go through development review over the next several years, we’ll be looking at this plan and asking property owners and developers to accommodate the necessary right of way,” Burke said.

The DOT is just beginning to develop its preliminary goals and objectives for the study, but it’s keeping a focus on affordable, high-occupancy options, as opposed to new roadways.

“One of the challenges in Fairfax County is that … we’ve essentially built out our highway system,” said Dan Hardy of the Renaissance Planning Group. “There are still things under construction, but there are very few new roads that we’re going to be adding to the Fairfax County network.”

That means mixed-use development in highly trafficked areas, or “activity centers,” such as Springfield, Huntington and Tyson’s Corner would play a large part in , according to the presentation Monday night.

“Some people can choose to live and work in the same community and not necessarily get into any kind of vehicle for these daily trips,” Hardy said.

One resident wanted to know how these transit options would be funded when the time came to build them. “If someone wants to ride, they should pay to ride,” he said. “We shouldn’t be subsidizing.”

The DOT will make its recommendations for the 2050 transit study based on the current federal funding processes to see what is feasible.

County resident Rob Whitfield was also concerned about the money.

“Until you change the ground rules on the funding practices for transit, you’re wasting the public’s money with this study because really, you’re assuming that this is a bottomless pit from the taxpayers in Fairfax County,” he said.

Hardy noted that if a project is deemed important but unaffordable, it might be phased over the course of a few years.

After collecting public input this summer, the DOT will refine its study areas and recommendations and present it back to the public in the Fall of 2012, Hardy said. Those suggestions will be weighed and incorporated, and a set of recommendations will be made to the Board of Supervisors, which can then make amendments to the transportation map in the county's Comprehensive Plan.

DOT officials have received about 900 responses to a 25-question online survey, which will be available until Aug. 10.

Another public input meeting will also be held from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Thursday at Hayfield Secondary School.

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