There are two opportunities this week to speak in favor of positive moves by VDOT and Fairfax County that will make walking and biking safer and more convenient.
Dear Chairman McKay & and Members of the Board of Supervisors,
We, the representatives of the undersigned organizations, as part of the Fairfax Healthy Communities Network, are excited to support the Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP). As Virginia’s most populous jurisdiction, Fairfax County can stand out as a leader in the region and have an outsized impact on the race to reduce carbon emissions.
Our network partners envision a Fairfax County where people can live, work, and play in connected communities that are healthy, sustainable and inclusive. In fact, there may be no policy endeavor that better embodies our joint work than a climate plan that addresses all aspects of providing clean air, clean energy, reducing reliance on dirty fossil fuels for transportation, and ensuring natural green space for all county residents. This is a large part of our vision for a healthy community.
The newly-released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sixth Assessment Report on the science of climate change provides a dire picture of accelerated impacts. Warming of the planet is happening at an alarming rate, far faster than predicted.
The report predicts that warming of greater than 1.5 C (2.7F) will cause more extreme weather events such as fires, droughts and flooding. These events are already happening. Hurricane Ida, the Caldor Fire, the extreme heat in the Pacific Northwest and even our local intense pattern of rain are all very real “canaries in the coal mine” for all policy makers.
Today, we do not feel the most severe and dangerous impacts here in Fairfax County. However, the current fires and storms serve as the newest wakeup call – we have the opportunity to try to get ahead of the most severe local impacts. Fairfax County is a significant contributor to the emissions problem in the metro area and shares the responsibility to solve it. Only by large and rapid cuts in emissions can these dire impacts be addressed. There is no time to waste, and every jurisdiction has to play a role.
Core to this plan are twelve strategies that outline areas of focus. Each is important, but some will have greater mitigation impacts, such as energy efficiency in buildings and changes in transportation, particularly vehicular impacts. Others come with multiple benefits, such as preserving and expanding our natural resources throughout various land use processes to both sequester carbon and provide additional climate resiliency. Given the complexity of climate change and the world’s evolving response, we cannot rely on residents and businesses to voluntarily change behaviors or know which climate-friendly steps are most beneficial to prioritize, so we count on innovative and ambitious government policies and actions to influence change.
Reaching the goals in CECAP will only be possible if the County moves from ideation to the implementation phase at full speed. An implementation plan must be crafted and put in place with the urgency that is needed. As with all County programs, it is critical that each facet of this program comply with the One Fairfax policy by asking who benefits, who is harmed by any actions, and how we prevent harm.
As advocates representing environmental, smart growth, transportation, affordable housing, and social justice, organizations, we urge the Board of Supervisors to:
- Develop an aggressive timeline for the CECAP Implementation Plan
- Hire a team of climate experts to guide and support staff in implementing the plan
- Fund programs and provide incentives in FY 2023 to begin immediately mitigating carbon emissions
We are counting on the Board to offer its considerable leadership to this formidable task. If it is to be successful, it will also require dedicated, creative, and visionary staff to permeate throughout the government and into the private sector. Success is the only option.
Thank you for taking this important next step in the climate fight.
Audubon Naturalist Society, Renee Grebe, Northern Virginia Conservation Advocate
Coalition for Smarter Growth, Sonya Breehey, Northern Virginia Advocacy Manager
Friends of Holmes Run, Whitney Redding, Primary Conservator
Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance, Michelle Krocker, Executive Director
Sierra Club, Great Falls Group, Ann Bennett, Energy, Climate and Land Use
South County Task Force, Mary Paden, Chair
Virginia League of Conservation Voters, Bridget McGregor, Senior Northern Virginia Organizer
Washington Area Bicyclist Association, Stephanie Piperno, Trails Coalition Manager
Last week I joined the Gum Springs community demanding a safer Richmond Highway. The coffin included in the protest is dramatic, but captures just how dangerous our roads are. Fairfax County continues to experience high rates of pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities and serious injuries with 10 people killed already this year.
The Washington Post story captures the energy of local community members led by Queenie Cox and the New Gum Springs Civic Association fighting for safer streets. This community is showing that together we can make a difference.
Creating safe and connected ways to walk and bike in Fairfax County will take a strong vision and solid plan to overcome the disconnected and dangerous conditions we face today. That’s why the ActiveFairfax Transportation Plan is so important. Let’s make sure Fairfax County knows there is strong support for making active transportation a safe and viable option to get around our communities.
The County is currently seeking public input on the plan’s draft vision, goals, and objectives before it goes to the Board of Supervisors for approval. This is the first part of the ActiveFairfax Transportation Plan being developed that will be a road map for a safe and convenient network of sidewalks, bikeways, and trails in the county.
There is a virtual public meeting tonight, Sept. 15, at 6:30 pm where you can learn more about the plan and ask questions directly to staff. Check out the Active Fairfax Transportation Plan website for information on the plan and how to join one of the meeting. Public comments will be accepted through September 19.
We need safer streets and better walking and biking now. Remember to ask the county to move quickly from vision and goals to actually funding needed safety improvements!
With your help, we did it! The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve the West Falls Church plan to transform acres of parking lots into an inclusive, walkable, bike-friendly, transit-oriented community. Thanks to all of you who took action and helped make this a success!
The CSG team worked with local advocates to help shape the plan and win the day! Your donations help keep our team in the field winning more sustainable communities like this.
Thanks to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission for supporting the vision of a walkable, transit-oriented West Falls Church. We are also grateful that they recognized concerns expressed about the safety of people walking and biking along the major roads outside the development and in the neighborhoods and are initiating a West Falls Church Active Transportation plan to identify and prioritize needed safety improvements to support the redevelopment.
Stay tuned for further updates as the West Falls Church redevelopment and Active Transportation plan move forward for opportunities to continue working with us to ensure the success of this project. Together we will build a more sustainable, equitable, and vibrant future for Fairfax County and our region.
Chairman McKay and Members of the Board,
Please accept the attached joint comments on the West Falls Church Comprehensive Plan Amendment (CPA) 2018-II-1M before you tomorrow. We write to express our support for the redevelopment of the West Falls Church Transit Station Area and urge you to consider our recommendations below and vote in favor of the CPA.
These comments are being submitted jointly on behalf of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, the Audubon Naturalist Society, the Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance, the Sierra Club Great Falls Group, Friends of Holmes Run, Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions, and the Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling.
While we are pleased the Planning Commission recommended approval of the West Falls Church plan, it’s not a done deal yet. Tomorrow the Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing and then make their decision. Will you speak up and urge them to support the plan that will allow redevelopment of the West Falls Church Metro station area into a walkable, bike-friendly, transit-oriented community?
Here are two actions you can take:
Fairfax County is considering a comprehensive plan amendment that would allow acres of underutilized parking lots at the WMATA and Virginia Tech sites to be transformed into a well designed mixed-use community. The new transit-oriented development will provide significant transportation improvements helping reduce traffic congestion while providing greater access for people walking, biking, and using transit.
Redevelopment of the West Falls Church station area would complement and connect to the City of Falls Church’s mixed-use redevelopment already underway. Together these projects will create a new inclusive, vibrant, and livable neighborhood with great access to transit in West Falls Church. Let’s make sure it’s approved.
Fairfax County is holding a virtual public meeting on June 30th at 6:30 pm on its Richmond Highway Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and wants to hear from you. County staff will share the latest roadway design and next steps for the BRT station design. You can ask questions and offer input during the meeting, or provide feedback via an online survey through July 9th.
The proposed BRT line and bicycle and pedestrian improvements will offer cleaner transportation options; improve access to jobs, especially for lower-income workers; and support walkable, transit-oriented communities. But we need to get it right!
Here are CSG recommendations to make the BRT plans safer, more equitable and better for the environment:
- Design the Overall Corridor for a 35 MPH Speed Limit – Physically designing the roadway for 35 mph by narrowing travel lanes would help reduce speeding, allow for smaller buffers within the right of way, and minimize the crossing distances for pedestrians.
- Provide Adequate Number of Safe Crossings – Fairfax County must ensure safe at-grade crossing options at intervals that are reasonable for pedestrians.
- Ensure Affordability BRT – The BRT system will help improve access along the corridor but it must be affordable for those who need it most.
- Use Clean Fuel Buses – The county should invest in a BRT that runs on electricity or even hydrogen fuel cells instead of fossil fuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality.
- Underground the Wires – Placing utilities underground would improve electrical reliability, allow for larger shade trees and improve the aesthetics of the corridor.
Don’t miss this opportunity to learn more and speak up for a safer, more accessible Richmond Highway. Check out the project website here for more information about the project, review proposed designs, and provide your feedback by July 9th.
Fairfax County is holding two virtual public meetings next week to get input on the goals and strategies recommended in its Community-Wide Energy and Climate Plan (CECAP). This is the last opportunity to provide feedback before the plan is finalized and presented to the Board of Supervisors. The meetings will be held Tuesday, May 18 and Thursday, May 20, from 7:00pm – 8:30pm. Both will provide the same information so you only need to attend one.
Your input is critical to ensure Fairfax adopts a bold plan that not only addresses green buildings, renewable energy, and electric vehicles but also includes walkable, bikeable, transit-oriented communities as a core climate solution.
Transportation is the leading source of climate emissions in the county, but cleaner fuels and even electric vehicles won’t be enough. We must reduce how much we need to drive and to make that easier we need our communities to be easier to walk, bike, and use transit to meet daily needs.
Please make your voice heard! Attend one of the public meetings ensuring the plan includes reducing the amount we have to drive by investing in transit, walking, biking, and more homes in walkable, transit-accessible communities. You can learn more about the meetings and register on the CECAP public engagement page.
For more information on the climate and smart growth connection, you can check out this CSG report and presentation.
Sonya, our Northern Virginia Advocacy Manager, showed the following presentation at CSG’s West Falls Church Forum on May 5th, 2021:
Evan Goldman of EYA showed the following presentation at our West Falls Church Forum on May 5th, 2021: