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A bear crosses GW Parkway in Belle Haven (courtesy of Jaclyn B/Nextdoor)

(Updated at 7:40 p.m.) Why’d the bear cross GW Parkway?

Possibly to find an easy meal or explore its landscape after a winter hibernation, according to the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources.

A bear was sighted in the Belle Haven area on Thursday (June 9), and one Nextdoor user snapped some photos of it crossing George Washington Memorial Parkway near Belle View Boulevard, not too far from the Mount Vernon Trail.

The sightings piqued some social media users’ interest, with residents suggesting names for the bear and sharing photos of it around the neighborhood.

The Fairfax County Police Department says its Animal Protection Police and wildlife management specialist were alerted to bear sightings in the area over the weekend. The department has also received recent reports of a young bear moving through McLean.

Last week, a bear was also seen wandering around Arlington, though it’s unclear whether any of the bears that have been spotted are the same one.

While bear encounters aren’t common in Fairfax County, they’re not unusual during the spring and summer, when young bears old enough to be independent from their mothers spread out and seek food in green spaces that wildlife uses to travel, according to the FCPD.

Bear sightings have increased in recent years, as the animal’s population grows.

“This trend will continue in the future,” the county police told FFXnow. “Bears have adapted to living near people and we must also learn to adapt to bear activity and take responsible action to prevent conflicts from occurring in our communities by removing food sources that attract bears.”

The bear could be out looking for an easy meal as bears are emerging from their winter dens hungry, or it could be a cub exploring the landscape, according to the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, which says it’s important for homeowners to secure all potential food sources to reduce bear encounters.

Homeowners should secure garbage, compost, barbeque grills, birdseed and pet food.

“The goal is to make human sources of food harder for a bear to get than what nature provides — especially food that is high in fat and calories,” says Nelson Lafon, Forest Wildlife Program Manager for the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources.

Photo courtesy of Jaclyn B/Nextdoor

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Cars travel westbound I-495 on the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge (via Google Maps)

Work to expand the I-495 Express Lanes to the north is only just warming up, but the Virginia Department of Transportation is now turning its attention to the southern end of the Capital Beltway.

The I-495 Southside Express Lanes environmental study is evaluating possible express lane additions on an 11-mile stretch of the corridor east of the I-395 interchange in Springfield to Maryland Route 210 in Prince George’s County.

Crossing over the Potomac River, the corridor currently has two to five lanes typically, though a divided highway splits local and pass-thru routes. There is also a portion with six lanes, but the corridor overall has no express lanes presently.

VDOT presented its proposal at a virtual meeting yesterday (Wednesday), kicking off a series of meetings during a public comment period that’s slated to end June 6.

In-person meetings will take place tonight in Maryland, Monday (May 23) at John R. Lewis High School in Springfield, and the Nannie J. Lee Memorial Recreation Center in Alexandria on May 25.

The study is seeking to reduce congestion, address safety concerns and provide other improvements.

“In the morning, there is significant congestion going in the westbound direction, or from Maryland towards Virginia,” Abi Lerner, a VDOT engineer for megaprojects, said during the virtual meeting.

According to VDOT’s weekday data for the interstate, there’s approximately two hours of congestion in the morning from around 6:30 to 9, Lerner said. In 2019, average travel speeds could be as low as 30 mph during peak commuting times.

In Virginia, there’s significant congestion for an even longer time frame from approximately 3 to 7 p.m. for traffic going eastbound to the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge.

Expressing several concerns, resident Poul Hertel asked for the public comment deadline to be extended to June 18. VDOT said that would be considered and updated, if possible, on its project page.

The study is also evaluating whether express lane exit and entry connections could be added, an idea that drew mixed reactions.

“It’s very distressing to see that you have exit points into Old Town Alexandria,” Hertel said. “I would strongly urge you to remove that from your list.”

Meanwhile, multiple Maryland residents weighed in, with Prince George’s County Councilmember Jolene Ivey noting the area’s opposition to toll lanes there.

Lerner responded that whatever VDOT ultimately recommends “is going to require buy-in…from the Maryland side” of the Beltway.

Oxon Hill resident Howard Herrnstadt said it seems that a small number of affluent and time-stressed motorists use existing express lanes, questioning how the infrastructure expense would be justified.

Lerner said VDOT has seen significant usage of the express lanes for carpooling, which enables drivers to use them for free, but he was unable to provide data. Herrnstadt challenged that narrative.

According to VDOT, the proposed changes wouldn’t interfere with the possibility of light rail in the future, which the Woodrow Wilson bridge was designed to accommodate.

The study will inform any recommendations, including no changes, or potential projects in the future. VDOT plans to present options this fall or winter and finish its review in the fall of 2023 or winter of 2024.

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Construction at Reston Station during a recent sunset (photo by Wil Villatoro-Reyes)

Fairfax County Man Dies in Alexandria Jail — “Alexandria law enforcement is investigating the death of Anthony Mouf, a 25-year-old Fairfax County man in Alexandria’s William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center. According to a city release, Mouf was found suffering from an apparent medical emergency alone in his cell in the jail’s booking area.” [ALXnow]

Fort Belvoir Housing Contractors Hit with Lawsuit — “After bouncing around houses near Fort Belvoir, pleading with Michaels for repairs and remediation and asking officials on the base for help, Roman filed a lawsuit on March 16 of this year, alleging the owner and manager of thousands of housing units on the base allowed safety hazards and other substandard conditions to persist for years.” [Bisnow]

Fairfax Diner Plans Comeback — After being destroyed by a fire before Thanksgiving last year, the 29 Diner will reopen on Oct. 10, owner John Wood announced earlier this month. Still serving “the thick slices of applewood-smoked bacon, milkshakes, and Texas-style barbecue patrons know and love,” the restaurant will have an updated, open kitchen and restored furnishings that pay homage to its 1947 opening. [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Tips for Handling the Baby Formula Shortage — “As the nationwide infant formula shortage continues due to a temporary shutdown of the plant that manufactures about half of the U.S. supply, local families are impacted, too. Our Health Department advises if you have any questions, check with your baby’s physician or healthcare provider, especially if your baby is on a restricted diet or has any medical conditions.” [Fairfax County Government]

Vienna Burger Joint Expands to Arlington — “HQ2 will be home to Arlington’s second Conte’s Bike Shop, a South Block, the second location of Vienna-based Social Burger and the first brick-and-mortar location of HUSTLE — a high intensity cycling workout business.” [ARLnow]

Capital One Sets Timeline for Office Return — The Tysons-based financial company announced that it will fully reopen all U.S. offices under a hybrid work model on Sept. 6, almost exactly a year later than previously planned. Capital One is one of the D.C. area’s largest employers, with 11,530 associates and contractors just for its headquarters, according to a spokesperson. [Capital One]

McLean Tennis Court Project Approved — The Fairfax County Park Authority Board “approved $650,000 in funding for court improvements at Lewinsville Park in McLean…FCPA anticipates the courts to be closed for up to four months, while these renovations and repairs are made.” [FCPA]

Reston Shop Hosts “Bike to Work Day” Stop — “National Bike Week happens to be this week with the 21st anniversary of Bike to Work Day in the National Capital Region falling on May 20…In Reston, bicyclists can head to a pit stop just off the Washington & Old Dominion Trail at The Bike Lane, 11150 Sunset Hills Reston, VA, 7 a.m.-9 a.m.” [Patch]

Annandale Food Festival Seeks Sponsors — “Now that planning is underway for the 2022 Taste of Annandale, the top priority is securing sponsors. The family-friendly community festival scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 1 in the center of Annandale, is likely to draw at least 6,000 people.” [Annandale Today]

It’s Thursday — Rain in the morning. High of 79 and low of 61. Sunrise at 5:54 am and sunset at 8:19 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

It’s gosling season at Lake Audubon in Reston (photo by Marjorie Copson)

Family of Slain Alexandria Man Urge FCPD to Resume Search — Family members and friends of Ahmed Hasheem Ebrahim called on Fairfax County police yesterday (Thursday) to resume searching for his body at a landfill in King George County. Police believe Ebrahim was killed in an attempted robbery in Lincolnia and have arrested and charged two people in connection with his disappearance in mid-January. [The Washington Post]

FCPD Sex Trafficking Lawsuit Allowed to Advance — “A federal judge ruled Wednesday that a lawsuit against two former police officers accused of protecting a sex trafficking ring in northern Virginia in exchange for sex can move forward…The lawsuit is filed on behalf of a Costa Rican woman identified in court papers only as Jane Doe.” [WTOP]

Local Groups Call for Lockheed Blvd Improvements — “Together, the leaders expressed appreciation for the county’s proposal to add standard bike lanes along the roadway near Huntley Meadows Park but insisted that protected bike lanes or a cycle track were necessary to ensure cyclist safety.” [On the MoVe]

New I-66 Express Lanes on Track to Open This Year — “Although VDOT has not given an exact date yet, spokesperson Michelle Holland tells 7 News that as long as the weather does not cause major construction delays, the new express lanes should open some time in December at the latest. Construction on the lanes has now been going on more than four years.” [ABC7]

Nearby: Landmark Mall Demolition Begins — “After two decades of Landmark Mall redevelopment being just out of reach, city officials and developers alike let out wild roars of satisfaction as the wrecking ball crashed into the side of the building…There’s still a long way to go before the first buildings of the new hospital and mixed-use development start coming online — currently slated for 2026.” [ALXnow]

Man Pushing Stroller Hit by Vehicle in Vienna — A pedestrian told police that he was knocked to the ground by a vehicle while pushing his child in a stroller past the Chick-fil-A parking lot at 538 Maple Avenue W on April 27. According to the Vienna Police Department’s weekly recap, the driver attempted to talk to the pedestrian, who left the scene but later reported the incident. [Vienna Police]

Local Foster Parent Awarded — “Congratulations to Sue Christenson! She’s been recognized as the 2022 Fairfax County Foster Parent of the Year by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG). Sue has been a foster parent for nearly 15 years, and she is happily spending her golden years giving precious children a new beginning.” [Fairfax County Government/YouTube]

Lunar Eclipse May Be Visible Sunday — “The first of two total lunar eclipses visible to Virginia and DC residents in 2022 occurs Sunday night into Monday and will turn May’s full flower moon blood red. Oh, and it’s also a supermoon — depending on whom you ask.” [Patch]

It’s Friday — Overcast throughout the day. High of 69 and low of 58. Sunrise at 5:59 am and sunset at 8:14 pm. [Weather.gov]

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