NVTA approves funding requests for Route 1 widening, BRT projects

South and North Route 1 signs

(Fairfax County image)

It’s official: Two huge transportation projects considered vital to the future of Richmond Highway will receive crucial funding from the state.

Fairfax County’s $127 million request for the Route 1 widening project and its $260 million request for the Richmond Highway Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project each got the thumbs up last week from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA), which is responsible for allocating state funds for regional transportation projects. The NVTA’s staff had previously recommended fully funding both Richmond Highway-related requests, but nothing was certain until the NVTA board released its official list on Thursday.

The funding was part of the NVTA’s six-year program, which allocated $1.285 billion to 44 projects in the region. No two projects received more funding than the two Richmond Highway-related projects, which had topped the county’s wishlist to the NVTA. The third-largest chunk of NVTA funding was $89 million that went to the Route 28 corridor project in Prince William County.

“This is a big win for Lee District!” Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay said in a letter to constituents on Friday.

The two projects are at the heart of the Embark Richmond Highway initiative, which was formally adopted into the county’s comprehensive plan in March. The eight community business centers planned in Embark would be connected by BRT running from the Huntington Metro to Fort Belvoir, and both projects are necessary to make that happen.

While both projects enjoyed widespread support within the county and by influential regional groups, there had been added drama injected to the funding push in April.  That’s when the Virginia General Assembly, in a party line vote, voted to take money from the NVTA to fully fund long-deferred maintenance for Metro. That measure ended up pulling roughly $100 million annually from the NVTA. In the end, however, the largest projects on the NVTA’s list managed to escape being impacted by the cuts.

Where the projects stand

The Route 1 widening project, which is being managed by the Virginia Department of Transportation, will make Richmond Highway six lanes between Jeff Todd Way/Mount Vernon Memeorial Highway and Napper Road in Hybla Valley. That nearly three-mile stretch is the last portion of Route 1 between the Beltway and Telegraph Road that is only two lanes.

The widening project will also add dedicated bike lanes and sidewalks on each side of the road, and leave space in the median for future BRT. The $215 million project is currently in the design phase, with right-of-way acquisition — the purchasing of property to make room for the project — set to begin next spring. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2023, with completion in 2025.

The BRT project is in its very early stages. While the $260 million in funding from the NVTA will get the BRT project going  — its currently in the preliminary design and environmental evaluation phases — the $524 million project is reliant on substantial future funding from the federal government.