November Inspirations

Signature Arlington Trail to Get Even Better?

Anyone who has used the popular Washington and Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail in Arlington, VA is likely familiar with that slightly confusing section around the East Falls Church Metro Station where the route leaves its well-defined corridor and navigates local surface streets. Arlington County is considering a much more direct route incorporating a dramatic new bridge to carry trail users over the Metro station area and two major highways. The bridge is one of several potential on- and off-road alternatives that Toole Design recently developed as part of a project to improve regional and local trail connectivity, and also enhance the on-street experience.

Christina Fink, PE led the project to develop five potential alignments with major structural elements as well as three on-road alignments. She recalls that, “We were fortunate to get our field visit completed and hold one in person meeting prior to the pandemic. At that point, it was pretty easy to pivot to a virtual format to review our designs.” The final discussion of the alternatives and development of a preferred solution was accomplished through a virtual meeting and online polls.

One key element of the project was the detailed selection criteria (left) that were developed to assess each alternative. Tina notes that, “first and foremost, two of our criteria responded directly to the overall project goals to improve Regional Connectivity (i.e. how well does the alignment provide direct and regional connection?) and Local Connectivity (what is the quality of connections to nearby bike lanes, neighborhood destinations, and metro station?).”

Additional criteria were developed through collaboration with all agency stakeholders, including the Virginia Department of Transportation, Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NOVA Parks), and several departments at Arlington County. Tina continues, “We didn’t assign weights to the criteria. Instead, we rated them all and combined them into one comparison matrix to facilitate a productive discussion. Ultimately, we polled our stakeholders and asked them to vote on preferred alternatives. One other small but important thing: in the comparison matrix we used colors that are discernable to someone who is color-blind.”

Our work on this project required a flexible process due to COVID-19, and a high level of coordination with multiple major agency stakeholders. Each of the alternatives had challenging issues related to bridges, pillars, intersections, boardwalks, tree preservation, ADA compliance and more. Managing these complexities and turning around the project quickly without sacrificing quality ultimately ensured a robust recommendation to the County: we recommended Structural Alignment #1, coupled with an on-road alignment that will ensure connections to the Metro station and local bikeway network.

What happens next? This project was a critical first step in determining options and feasibility for improved connection around the Metro station. The county is going to continue to explore the preferred alternative, as well as other alternatives, in the coming months/years. The project also identified some key next steps, including a tree inventory, multimodal traffic study, and community engagement.

This project also garnered internal recognition at Toole Design. It was selected as “design project of the year” as part of our September is Quality Month initiative. According to Tina Fink, “This project really exemplifies the collaborative nature of our work, how our engineers can incorporate a larger context and user experience in our designs and studies, and how we enjoy working with agency staff and our subconsultants to meet project goals.”

Prior to COVID-19, thousands of bicycle commuters created morning and evening peaks on the 45-mile trail.
The proposed alignment would go straight, parallel to the Metro, and travel over station parking (shown left).
Trail safety and access is complicated by an I-66 on-ramp and Metro access for people on foot, bike, bus, & car.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Senior Engineers Join the Toole Design Team

We are excited to welcome four new Senior Engineers to the Toole Design Team. Brendetta Walker, PE and Eva Gramatikova-Rowe, PhD, EIT join our growing Atlanta office; Sarah Rehder, PE strengthens the Seattle office; and Pittsburgh-based Katy Sawyer, PE will work initially with our Columbus, OH office.

“We have a long history of hiring talented women engineers and this group continues the tradition,” notes CEO Jennifer Toole. “We are particularly excited about the diverse backgrounds and perspectives that each of them brings. They have extensive international experience (including multiple languages), as well as experience working for state, regional, and municipal governments, as well as in the private sector.”

Michelle Danila, PE, PTOE, Director of Engineering Operations for North America is delighted to welcome their considerable engineering expertise. “All four know how to get projects off the drawing board and into the ground. Brendetta and Katy know how to navigate government agencies, including the permitting and development process. Sarah and Eva understand the importance and complexity of utilities, stormwater, and drainage in roadway design; both have a background with green infrastructure. They are all familiar with the production of final design and construction documents and are keen to share that experience with our clients and colleagues.”

Brendetta Walker, PE, MBA, spent 3 years as the City Engineer and Community Development Director for the City of Fairburn, GA following 10 years at Parsons Brinckerhoff in Atlanta. An Atlanta-area native, Brendetta earned her civil engineering degree from Georgia Tech, and her MBA from Georgia State University. She also spent four years working for the Georgia Department of Transportation on roadway design projects.

Eva Gramatikova-Rowe, PhD, MBA, CESCL, EIT, CPESC hails from Bulgaria, speaks six languages, and brings a wealth of experience in final design of complex roadway projects. Eva has a doctorate in civil engineering from the University of Rome and an MBA from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. Her diverse background includes working for the City of Seattle, and at AECOM in the Atlanta area.

Katy Sawyer, PE has 14 years’ experience as a civil engineer working on the planning, design, and construction of multi-disciplinary transportation projects. This includes five years in the Traffic Bureau of the City of Pittsburgh where she was heavily involved in Complete Streets, Vision Zero, Traffic Calming, and active travel projects and programs. Most recently, Katy was Pittsburgh’s Municipal Traffic Engineer, managing the 40-person Traffic Bureau.

Sarah Rehder, PE has spent 16 years in the private sector in the Pacific Northwest working on a fascinating mix of infrastructure projects, from building a seawall in Elliott Bay to designing the first curbless city center street in Seattle. She also managed stormwater design for several major regional transit projects. A graduate of the University of Washington, Sarah shares our passion for working on critical infrastructure projects that deliver long-term improvements to the built environment.

Please keep checking our careers page for details of current openings.

 

PeopleForBikes Launches Advocacy Academy

Bicycle industry group PeopleForBikes has launched an exciting new resource for local advocates and agencies seeking to make their communities more bike-friendly. The Advocacy Academy features a series of short videos backed up by easy-to-digest fact sheets and resource guides all built around providing best practices, lessons learned, and key features of some of the best cities for biking in the U.S. and around the world.

“This critical new resource is especially timely at a moment when traditional in-person trainings are not possible,” according to Senior Planner Michael Blau, who was Toole Design’s project manager. “We were delighted to help prepare the technical content, including the memos that accompany each video. PeopleForBikes has created an attractive and accessible package of materials that focuses on the key decisions, policies, programs, and tactics that cities need to follow to make a real difference and we look forward to continuing our relationship as more videos and background material are released in 2021.”

 

Insights

  • Jennifer Toole, AICP is the featured guest this month on the ITE Talks Transportation podcast. Jennifer discusses everything from the trials and tribulations of starting a company to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion issues, and Complete Streets.
  • Toole Design’s contribution to the World Day of Remembrance (Nov 15) included this review of U.S. performance on road safety compared to other countries. Spoiler alert: we should be doing better.
  • Mid-Atlantic Deputy Director of Landscape Architecture Ken Ray, PLA shared details of a successful walk audit held as part of a recent corridor study in Fairfax, VA. Participants were masked, kept their physical distance, had extensive handouts and briefing materials, and were able to follow up online.
  • Speaking of walking tours, check out this video from the Howard County-based Horizon Foundation and their Streets for All campaign. The short video documents the success of a 2018 Walk Audit in Elkridge, MD and provides details of a new Virtual Walk Audit tool we helped the Foundation develop to help tackle other dangerous locations in Howard County.
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