Tysons, VA

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) hosted a virtual public meeting on Tuesday (Jan. 12), with transportation leaders from Virginia and Maryland to address questions and comments about its transit and transportation demand management study for Interstate 495 and the American Legion Bridge.

The study’s focus is to “develop and prioritize transit options and travel demand management for bistate travel across the bridge,” DRPT Northern Virginia Transit Planning Manager Ciara Williams says.

Tuesday’s meeting specifically focused on proposed recommendations to expand bus service through the corridor that the study team first unveiled in November.

Williams presented three investment packages divided into baseline, medium and high designations based on their ability to improve productivity, equity and connectivity.

The baseline package focuses on two main route connections that would provide peak-period service from Tysons to Gaithersburg and Bethesda in Maryland.

The medium package features additional routes, increased frequency, and a Bethesda-Tysons route with off-peak service. It also adds service to Silver Spring, Germantown, Frederick, L’Enfant, and Arlington.

The high package offers all-day bus service, additional route connections, and even more frequency. It has an expanded scope that includes Dunn Loring, Reston, and Dulles.

DRPT Chief of Public Transportation Jennifer DeBruhl emphasized that the study is being conducted in coordination with partners at the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Maryland Transit Association.

“This study is really about the art of the possible,” DeBruhl said. “…We’re looking forward to continuing to work with them…to put together a really seamless network that we can develop and enhance as funding resources become available to do that.”

During a question-and-answer portion of the meeting, community members questioned the exclusion of a Dulles route from the baseline and medium packages.

According to DeBruhl, there wasn’t “much demand” seen in a connection to Dulles, but transportation leaders can reevaluate the possibility, either as part of the current study or in the future.

“This evaluation of transit options in the corridor doesn’t end with this study,” she said.

Members of the public also asked about the ability to accurately predict the potential traffic patterns that transit may create over the American Legion Bridge when transit currently does not exist there.

“This is, in a lot of ways, a very technical modeling effort to try to assess and predict the demand and willingness of individuals to shift from that single-occupant vehicle to a transit option if it’s made available and competitive from a time perspective,” DeBruhl said.

With DRPT now working to finalize its recommendations, Williams noted that no decisions have been made yet on which transit agencies would operate the proposed routes.

The public comment period for the study will be open through Feb. 1. DeBruhl anticipates that a final study report will be published in March.

“This study has covered a lot of ground in a relatively short period of time, but it is our goal to bring this study process to a conclusion before we get to far into the spring,” DeBruhl said.

Comments on the study may be made online, by phone at 703-253-3324, or by sending a letter addressed to Ms. Ciara Williams at DRPT, 1725 Duke Street, Suite 675 Alexandria, VA 22314.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott; slide via Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation

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