Richmond Highway Bus Rapid Transit gets green light for whole parcel acquisitions
Fairfax County Department of Transportation’s (FCDOT) project manager for the Richmond Highway Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project, Vanessa Aguayo, told BRT Executive Committee members Jan. 21 that the county has the green light to begin right of way (ROW) acquisition this spring and that a branding reveal for the BRT system will be held in coming months.
According to Aguayo, the Federal Transit Administration’s Jan. 7 signing of a categorical exclusion to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was a key milestone paving the way for the county to begin ROW acquisition, starting with whole parcel acquisitions. Future reevaluations of the project’s NEPA status may be necessary, added Aguayo, to accommodate design changes like electric bus charging facilities.
FCDOT plans to officially roll out the branding concepts for the BRT system, including its name, logo and colors, as well as the design elements for the BRT stations, in February. The county settled on the BRT’s branding last spring following a series of public meetings and surveys.
Community input will continue to play an important role in ensuring the nine proposed BRT stations reflect the history, identity and character of the neighborhoods surrounding them, said Aguayo. As part of its “community charm” initiative, FCDOT is working on a conceptual plan and will be inviting local high school students to participate in the design process. The first round of public meetings about the designs will take place this spring.
The general public will also have the chance to weigh in this spring on the county’s turn lane analysis, which is being conducted to determine if the number of left- and right-turn lanes along the highway can be reduced.
Overall, the capital cost estimate for the Richmond Highway BRT project has increased from $730 million in July 2019 — when 20% of the design was complete — to $795 million as of December 2021, when the project design was half finished. Aguayo attributed the projected cost increase to several factors, including a schedule extension, the active real estate market, a potential switch to electric buses and charging equipment, and the cost of global construction materials. The electric bus option is still being evaluated as part of a separate study, said a FCDOT spokesperson.
Aguayo said the county had managed to rein in an earlier cost estimate of up to $845 million, calculated in early 2021, by performing a cost reduction analysis and value engineering.
According to an updated project timeline, active construction of BRT will begin in late 2023 with utility relocation, and the system will open for public ridership in 2030.
A recording of the full BRT Executive Committee meeting may be viewed on the Richmond Highway BRT project materials webpage.