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Posted December 7, 2012 | comments Leave a comment

Northern valley put into regional transit plan

By Sally Voth

The Northern Shenandoah Valley is included in a wide-ranging transit vision plan.

Gov. Bob McDonnell announced the Super NoVA Transit/Transportation Demand Management Vision Plan on Thursday.

A news release from the governor's office states the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation took the lead in coming up with the plan, which focuses on policy, program, infrastructure and service recommendations through 2040.

The study looked at the "super region" stretching from Washington, D.C., through Winchester, Warrenton, Culpeper, Orange and Caroline County, the West Virginia panhandle and parts of Maryland, according to the release.

"We have several levels of recommendations [for the northern valley]," Amy Inman, manager of transit planning with the DRPT, said on Friday.

Transit hubs are recommended for both Front Royal and Winchester, she said, as well as commuter buses stretching to those regions and buses that could take workers to Winchester from points both north and south on Interstate 81.

Inman said that right now the smaller buses are in demand.

"This regional vision plan goes out to 2040, " she said, adding that the smaller buses -- some of which already operate in this region - would evolve to the larger over-the-road coach type of buses.

"There's some commuter travel that goes from Shenandoah County on up into the Winchester area," Inman said.

Inman said it's thought the intermodal regional hubs would "really help facilitate the seamless connections from local service to the longer-distance regional service."

"In some of these areas we don't currently have much local bus service, so we would recommend having introduced or increased local bus service over time," she said.

Those would connect with the regional transit hub. Inman said the vision plan was a cooperative effort.

"We would want to work with the localities," she said. "That's really what we're hoping for -- things to continue, the great dialogue that we've had with this whole super NoVa area. It's been really wonderful to talk to the local jurisdictions, hear what their needs are currently, how do they see the advancement and evolution of implementing and advancing these recommendations."

While many area residents do commute to the DC/Northern Virginia area, John Bishop, who is the deputy director of transportation in the Frederick County Planning Department, was taking a wait-and-see approach to the vision plan. He noted there are already commuter buses and park-and-ride lots in the county, but said it's hard to speculate whether Winchester would be a commuter hub 30 years from now.

"When you're looking at something like this and you're looking as far out as you are, it's just very difficult to project with any kind of accuracy what the true development pattern is going to be," Bishop said. "This study...does seem to feel that things are going to continue to be just as they are now. You might have said that in Tysons Corner 25 years ago. The idea that you're always going to be a commuter community, or even that you fully are a commuter community now is a bit of a stretch for me as a planner."

Rather, in the future, many jobs will be available in the region, negating the need for so much commuting to the D.C. metropolitan area, Bishop predicted. He pointed out the changes in the past decade that have seen FBI and Federal Emergency Management Agency and other jobs increasing here.

Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or svoth@nvdaily.com

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