Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay plans to introduce a board matter next week that would direct county staff to analyze a road safety measure called turn calming.
The measure would direct staff to look at cities like Portland and New York City that have established turn calming programs, as recommended in a March 1 letter from the county’s Trails, Sidewalks and Bikeways (TSB) Committee.
McKay plans to introduce the matter when the board meets Tuesday (March 21).
“When it comes to pedestrian safety in particular, we need every possible tool in our tool box,” McKay told FFXnow.
After a year that saw a high number of pedestrian fatalities in Fairfax County, the TSB wrote to McKay endorsing a turn-calming program as one way to improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists in the county.
A turn calming program would make alterations to intersections with the goal of bringing down vehicle speeds during turns and reduce pedestrian injuries and fatalities.
In an addendum to the letter, the TSB points to an education campaign, physical improvements such as “hardened” center lines, and other strategies as “essential components” of a turn calming program.
Shawn Newman, who represents the Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling on the TSB, says turn calming would push transportation planners to rethink how intersections are designed.
Right now, many right turn corners in the county are designed so that cars can make them at “a relatively high rate of speed,” he explained.
“A simple fix such as bumping the corner out a bit and making it closer to a 90-degree angle will force vehicles to slow down and be more careful on the turn,” Newman said. “Left turns can also be made safer by extending out the median to again force vehicles to slow down and drive more carefully.”
According to the TSB committee’s letter, intersections were the location of 54, or 45%, of the county’s pedestrian-involved vehicular crashes recorded in the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Crash Analysis Tool between 2015 and October 2022.
“Intersection-related accidents are likely due to several factors that would be addressed by a turn-calming program: many drivers are traveling at too high a speed through intersections, cut corners and accelerate through intersections, and have limited awareness of potential presence of pedestrians,” TSB Chairman Kenneth Comer wrote in the letter.
The TSB letter comes after the Board of Supervisors unanimously endorsed a Safe Streets for All program in May 2022. The letter identifies a turn calming program as the “most promising” step to prioritize along the county’s major arterial roads in addition to the program’s recommendations.
“It’s good that they passed that…but it hasn’t accomplished its goal yet,” Newman said. “The streets are not safe yet.”
VDOT maintains practically all of the county’s public roads, so the state agency would have to be involved. If the measures work, McKay says he would fight for them to be implemented.
“I don’t want to spend any resources on things that don’t statistically work,” McKay said.
The TSB letter also recommends the county resist any efforts by VDOT to remove a crosswalk at the Braddock Road and Kings Park Drive intersection in West Springfield, where a pedestrian was killed in December.
Fairfax County and the Virginia Department of Transportation have kicked off construction to widen a 1.5-mile stretch of Route 29 near Centreville.
Though there will be a ceremonial groundbreaking today (Wednesday), construction on the project began Feb. 9 to add two lanes to the roadway between Union Mill Road and Buckleys Gate Drive.
By the time work finishes in spring 2026, there will be six lanes instead of four on that stretch of road. In addition to the new lanes, the project aims to make improvements to sight distance for drivers and shared-use paths on the roadway.
It will also connect pedestrian and bicycle trails located at the Fairfax County Parkway/West Ox Road interchange.
This work has been on VDOT’s radar for years, with the project first coming to the public at a meeting in October 2018. Notes from a 2019 public hearing say that a 2005 VDOT study “explored the feasibility of providing a continuous 6 lane section from Centreville to the City of Fairfax.”
“Over the past several years, portions of Route 29 have been widened to six lanes (three in each direction) between Centreville and the City of Fairfax,” Mike Murphy, a senior communications specialist at VDOT, wrote in an email to FFXnow.
After this widening, a continuous six-lane section will exist “along the five-mile stretch between Pickwick Road and Shirley Gate Road/Waples Mill Road to improve capacity and safety through the corridor,” Murphy wrote.
The project is removing trees between Stringfellow Road and Meadow Estates Drive on the north side of Route 29. To accommodate that work, residents will need to use alternate routes in place of part of Willow Pond Trail through April 2023.
The estimated cost is $97 million, and those dollars come from four sources: federal, state and local money, plus funding from a I-66 concession fee.
Today’s groundbreaking will be held on the Route 29 service road, near the Brightview Fair Oaks senior living facility. Two members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors — Pat Herrity (Springfield) and Kathy Smith (Sully) — plan to attend.
Several locations linked to African American history in Fairfax County could be eligible to be designated as historic places.
Those buildings and neighborhoods include the Louise Archer School, the Tinner Hill neighborhood and Clifton Primitive Baptist Church. Along with other candidates, they appear in a draft African American Historic Resources Survey Report, which was released on Feb. 23.
The county is looking for residents to share their thoughts on the report ahead of its final version, anticipated late this spring.
“We’re looking for feedback on the historical context and properties as written in the report,” Leanna O’Donnell, planning division director at the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Development, wrote in a statement to FFXnow.
Residents who want to weigh in on the report can do so through Friday, March 24. There will also be a virtual community meeting on the report’s findings at 6:30 p.m. on Monday (March 6).
“Any feedback will be taken into consideration as we finalize the report and help identify properties that could be nominated for inclusion in Fairfax County’s Inventory of Historic Sites, the Virginia Landmarks Register or the National Register of Historic Places,” O’Donnell wrote.
The survey report furthers the work of the African American History Inventory, a database of resources related to the county’s African American culture and history. That inventory came to be following an October 2020 motion from a commissioner on the Fairfax County History Commission.
In 2021, the county received funding through the Virginia Department of Historic Resources’ Cost Share Grant Program to support the current study.
The report includes historical information about African Americans in present-day Fairfax County, starting in the 1600s. It also features photos and descriptions of buildings and communities surveyed, as well as preliminary recommendations.
For example, the entry on Louise Archer Elementary School includes a description of the building’s location, its exterior and the surrounding area of Vienna, along with pictures of the building and some historical context.
“The evolved building is the third purpose-built school for African Americans in Vienna,” the report says. “Once Fairfax County schools began to integrate, Louise Archer School was the only formerly Black elementary school to integrate and remain open.”
The report calls the school “a strong candidate for NRHP listing.”
Of the sites not already listed, Lane’s Mill in Centreville and Luther Jackson Middle School in Merrifield were deemed eligible for the national register. Other potential candidates include McLean’s Chesterbrook Baptist Church, Clifton Primitive Baptist Church, Quander Road School in Belle Haven, and the Tinner Hill neighborhood in Falls Church.
The Gum Springs area was the only part of the county excluded from the survey. That area is “part of a more intensive survey effort focusing specifically on this prominent African American community,” according to a county press release.
The county has also moved to honor Black and African American history with new historical markers, selected late last year.
The Fairfax County School Board passed a resolution on inclusive education at its meeting Thursday (Oct. 20), leaving aside an earlier version that included references to social justice, equity and antiracism.
The 7-4 vote came with much back and forth about topics including board procedure and the resolution’s timeline.
The four members who voted against the amended resolution — Mason District Representative Ricardy Anderson, Hunter Mill District Representative Melanie Meren and members-at-large Abrar Omeish and Karen Keys-Gamarra — had expressed support for its original iteration. Providence District Representative Karl Frisch was not at the meeting.
As passed, the resolution affirms the county’s support for teachers and administrators when it comes to “inclusive curriculum and instruction.” The resolution is symbolic and does not change county policy.
“….the School Board commits to protect and support teachers and administrators as they deliver FCPS-approved curriculum and classroom resources that are inclusive, and meet the high aspirations of our students, families, and the Fairfax County community.”
Amendments also left out a reference to “recent events” that have “caused many FCPS educators and school-based administrators to fear that implementing these necessary curricular improvements could lead to personal or professional harm,” according to the text of the original resolution.
Anderson, who introduced the original resolution, said the amended version would not adequately support teachers and cited the removal of the words truth, antiracist, equity and justice as among the reasons she would not support it.
“There are some essential components that are missing from the version being provided that I just cannot support not including in this kind of resolution,” she said.
The school board’s student representative, Michele Togbe, opposed the amendments.
“Amending it to the weak and hollow statements and words, where originally it was strong and clear, it doesn’t make sense to me, and I don’t see the progress that can be made by going forward with it,” Togbe said.
Dranesville District Representative Elaine Tholen, who brought the amendment with Braddock District Representative Megan McLaughlin, said she believed the amended version was “more inclusive of our board member views and less divisive for our broad community.”
Tholen added that she thought the message of support for educators should have been conveyed with “a simple statement,” but maintained the resolution format.
While the resolution is symbolic, the board has a controversial issues policy that outlines guidelines for administrators, teachers and students dealing with controversial topics. That policy, mentioned in the amended resolution, has been discussed at multiple governance committee meetings this calendar year, according to minutes from those meetings.
After the revision passed, several people spoke about the resolution during the community participation portion of the meeting. These included representatives from Free and Antiracist Minds (FAM) and the Fairfax County Council PTA, two of the many advocacy organizations Anderson said had been involved with the original resolution.
The amended resolution “was a great way of not having to vote no but also completely undermining the substance of the actual message,” said Kweli Zukeri, representing FAM. FAM called the vote a “craven display of systemic racism” in an Oct. 21 press release.
In a video testimony, Kara Danner, a member of the FCCPTA’s executive board, said the organization supported the original resolution for the sake of students’ mental health.
Other speakers accused the board of having political motivations and questioned its priorities.
Board chair and member-at-large Rachna Sizemore Heizer said she was glad to have the resolution to support teachers, but looked ahead before adjourning the meeting.
“At the end of the day I’m excited to get into budget season and looking at our strategic plan, because that’s really where we show our values,” she said.
The Fairfax County Police Department could begin using cameras to catch speeders in nine school crossing zones and one highway work zone as soon as early 2023.
The proposed photo speed enforcement pilot program was presented to the Board of Supervisors at a public safety committee meeting Tuesday (Oct. 4).
The work zone included in the pilot would be on Route 28, while the school placements have not been finalized, FCPD Capt. Alan L. Hanson, the police department’s traffic division commander, said.
Drivers caught going at least 10 mph over the speed limit would receive civil penalties, according to the presentation. A maximum penalty of $100 could be incurred for exceeding the limit by at least 20 mph.
A working group including several county departments recommended a six-month pilot program, Hanson said. Their work came after a 2020 state law passed permitting jurisdictions to use speed cameras in school and construction zones.
The draft ordinance authorizes FCPD use of the devices and outlines the fine structure. Photo speed enforcement would aim to reduce the number of people speeding and bring down the number of crashes in and around school areas, Hanson said.
“We’re not trying to entrap people, what we’re trying to do is maintain or gain voluntary compliance,” he said.
Multiple supervisors emphasized that the initiative is not designed to bring in revenue. Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said he doesn’t believe residents will see the program as a money grab, but the board could also avoid this perception by making a plan for what to do with any excess revenue.
“I say plow them back into pedestrian and bicycle safety in and around our schools,” he said.
The state law only enables cameras in designated school crossing and highway work zones. This limits the county’s ability to use them around Blake Lane, where safety concerns have been particularly urgent after an allegedly speeding driver struck and killed two Oakton High School students in June.
The county has already increased fines for speeding and routed school buses off of Blake Lane in the wake of the fatal crash. Read More
With opioids topping the list of causes of non-natural death in Fairfax County, local health officials have launched a new resource to give residents a better understanding of the situation.
A public-facing dashboard went live Monday (Oct. 3) with data about opioid overdoses and overdose deaths in the Fairfax Health District, which includes Fairfax County and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church.
The Fairfax County Health Department worked with the county’s Opioid and Substance Use Task Force to put the dashboard together, according to the announcement.
“The goal of the dashboard is to ensure that Fairfax County residents understand the threat that opioid drugs pose in our community and recognize that overdoses and overdose deaths affect a wide range of ages, people of both sexes, and all racial and ethnic groups,” Dr. Benjamin Schwartz, the county’s director of epidemiology and population health, said in the release.
The dashboard provides information about overdoses broken down by age, race and ethnicity. It will be updated in the first week of every month, according to the announcement.
As of press time, the dashboard counted 205 non-fatal opioid overdoses from Jan. 1 through Sept. 30 in the Fairfax Health District. There were 237 non-fatal overdoses at this point in 2021.
The dashboard also noted that the first quarter of 2022 saw 20 fatal opioid overdoses, compared to 31 during the first quarter of 2021.
“We want the public to be aware of overdose trends, which reflect the impacts of social factors, the types and availability of drugs, and the effect of mitigation measures including law enforcement, treatment and harm reduction measures,” Schwartz said.
The data comes from two main places: A system managed by the state health department that keeps track of emergency room and urgent care visits for overdoses, and the Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
Earlier this year, county medical officials worked to step up their response to the opioid epidemic after emergency care statistics showed an increase in overdoses, particularly cases involving teenagers.
The county provides services to assist people struggling with opioid use, including the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board Peer Outreach Response Team and the Fairfax Detoxification Center.
Visitors will have a chance to step into an assortment of Reston lifestyles at the Reston Home Tour this November.
A ticket unlocks self-guided tours of eight homes, according to a press release from the tour’s host, the Reston Museum. These include the new Lake Anne House and a home close to Lake Audubon that is filled with art.
The event will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 5.
Though the home tours are self-guided, attendees can keep an eye out for docents equipped with information about particular rooms and home features.
The tour is a little bigger this year to recognize the event’s 20th anniversary, Reston Museum Executive Director Alex Campbell told FFXnow in an email. Typically, there are six or seven homes on display, compared to the eight featured this year:
From the press release:
This year’s featured homes include an award-winning modern masterpiece tucked back in a wooded oasis, a beautifully-landscaped personal “club house” offering amazing views of the golf course, a newly-renovated Reston Town Center townhouse with a water view, and an art-filled home near Lake Audubon with soaring ceilings and a delightful garden pond. Highlighted homes also include a renovated colonial near North Point with lots of unique personal touches, brand new EYA model townhouses with elevators near the Wiehle Avenue Metro and the newly-constructed Lake Anne House for seniors.
Tickets are available on the Reston Museum website or in-person at the museum. In addition, The Wine Cabinet, Chesapeake Chocolates and the Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art will sell paper tickets, according to the press release.
Tickets cost $30 until Oct. 17. After that, the price increases to $35.
In addition to the Reston Home Tour, the Reston Museum hosts the Lake Anne Cardboard Regatta and Reston Founder’s Day, among other events. The home tour continues to be the Reston Museum’s biggest fundraiser, Campbell wrote.
In past years, tours have featured work by a local architect and a Marilyn Monroe bathroom, among other attractions.