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Recently completed bus bays near the Herndon Metro Station are officially open and awaiting the start of rail service on Nov. 15.

At a ribbon-cutting ceremony yesterday (Thursday), town and Fairfax County officials gathered to celebrate the opening of the $5.9 million project, designed to give Fairfax Connector buses and cars convenient access to the Metro station.

The project also includes shelters and a neighboring signalized crosswalk.

The bus bay provides drop-off lanes in both directions along Herndon Parkway. The signalized crosswalk also allows pedestrians a “safe crossing of Herndon Parkway,” according to the town.

State Sen. Jennifer Boysko thanked the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority for making the project possible.

“This project accomplishes NVTA’s goal, specifically around traffic congestion, which is our mission,” she said.

Noting that Herndon will be the only town in Virginia to have a Metro station in its town limits, Mayor Sheila Olem said the bus bay project is critical to addressing traffic congestion in the area, which has been an issue for 20 years.

“It’s gonna be great for the…safety of those using the Metro whether they’re walking, bussing or biking to the Metro,” Olem said.

Designed by Clark Nelson and built by Arthur Construction, the project began in August 2021.

The town pitched in $1.2 million for the project, along with an additional $41.5 million through general bonds. A combination of federal, regional and local grants filled the remainder of the price tag.

Phase II of the Silver Line is expected to open on Nov. 15.

Other transportation infrastructure to support the 11.4-mile extension in Loudoun County are also on the way, including changes to Fairfax Connector service.

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Fairfax Connector bus in Reston (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Fairfax County officials are preparing for the launch of new bus services in the Reston and Herndon area through the Fairfax Connector.

The changes — which were approved by the Board of Supervisors in February — will connect commuters to the Herndon, Reston Town Center and Innovation Center Metro stations, which are set to open on Nov. 15.

“With the realigned service, buses will operate more frequently to link customers to new Metrorail Silver Line Stations, including new connections to employment, education, hospitals and key activity centers,” the county wrote in a news release.

Four new routes will be offered. One route will connect the Reston Town Center Transit Station to Inova Fair Oaks Hospital, Fairfax County Government Center, Fair Oaks Mall, Fair Lakes and Greenbriar Center.

The Reston Town Center station will also have new Capital Bikeshare stations.

A second route will connect the Herndon Metro Station, Centerville Road, and the park and rides at Sully Station, Centerville and Centreville-UMC.

The third route — known as the Herndon Circulator — will provide connections between the Herndon Metro Station, Spring Street, downtown Herndon, Elden Street, Archer Avenue and Worldgate Drive.

The final route provides connections between Sterling Plaza, Crest View Drive, Herndon Parkway and the Herndon station.

A dozen other routes were also tweaked to provide replacement services. A breakdown of all bus service changes is available online.

Local transportation officials are set to discuss the Connector changes at a meeting tomorrow at 11 a.m.

Interested participants can join the meeting online through Microsoft Teams or by phone, calling 571-429-5982 with the passcode 795 911 947#.

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Fairfax County Connector in Reston (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

A new circulator through the Town of Herndon is set to open when service for phase two of the Silver Line officially begins.

The Herndon Circulator — run through the Fairfax Connector — will include weekday and weekend service through the Herndon Metro station, Spring Street, Downtown Herndon, Elden Street, Parcher Avenue and Worldgate Drive.

“The route was developed in response to community input and to increase connectivity between downtown and the north side Herndon bus bays,” Robin Geiger, a spokesperson for the Fairfax County Department of Transportation, said.

Service is expected to begin when trains start running for phase two, according to the county. It’s unclear that will begin.

Most recently, Metro’s general manager stated that Metro may be operationally prepared to seek safety certification from the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission and Federal Transit Administration sometime this month.

An opening date has not yet been set, although a fall date is anticipated.

The route is one of several approved recently for Fairfax Connector. Other service changes include a new route between Tysons and Centreville that will take effect next year.

The route comes after the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved several new routes and changes to the Fairfax Connector in February.

Under the plan, the county added four new routes, altered 19 existing bus routes, and eliminated 12 bus routes.

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Fairfax County is considering renaming three stations in the first phase of its Richmond Highway bus rapid transit project (via FCDOT)

Fairfax County is going back to the drawing board for the names of its proposed Richmond Highway bus rapid transit (BRT) stations.

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation says it is looking for feedback on names for three stations “in response to community ideas about better ways to reflect station location and community character,” according to a news release published today (Tuesday).

The three stations being revisited are:

  • Station #2: currently named Penn Daw, located at North Kings Highway and South Kings Hwy
  • Station #5: currently named Hybla Valley, located at Boswell Avenue and Fordson Road
  • Station #6: currently named Gum Springs, located at Sherwood Hall Lane

Dubbed “The One,” the planned BRT service will ultimately consist of nine stations in the Route 1 corridor, starting at the Huntington Metro station and ending in Fort Belvoir past the Woodlawn Plantation.

To gather input on what the stations should be called, FCDOT will host an open house at the Hybla Valley Community Center (7950 Audubon Avenue) from 6:30-8 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 12.

An online survey will also launch that day and stay open through Nov. 4.

Not expected to begin operations until 2030, the BRT will use dedicated bus lanes built in the median of Richmond Highway after the Virginia Department of Transportation widens the roadway from four to six lanes.

This summer, the county asked the public to weigh in on design elements and artwork at the future stations. The designs will be finalized by a Richmond Highway BRT Executive Commission in late spring 2023, according to FCDOT.

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A rendering of the proposed development outside the West Falls Church Metro station (via WMATA)

Metro anticipates reducing the parking capacity at its West Falls Church station by over 700 spaces in order to accommodate a planned redevelopment of the property between I-66 and Haycock Road.

Under review by Fairfax County, the project would replace the Metro station’s surface parking lots with 24 acres of mixed-use development, including up to 900 residential units, 110,000 square feet of office, and 10,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.

Working with private developers known collectively as FGCP-Metro LLC, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has proposed eliminating a south parking lot off of Falls Church Drive and reducing the number of bus bays and Kiss & Ride spots at the station.

“Proposed changes are intended to promote transit-oriented development, increase Metro ridership, enhance bicycle and pedestrian access to the station, and modernize transit facilities,” WMATA says.

Park and Ride

Taking out the south parking lot will reduce the station’s park-and-ride capacity from 2,009 to 1,350 spots, according to an environmental evaluation by the consultant WSP.

The evaluation found that demand had dropped from an average of 1,500 vehicles per day when the Silver Line opened in 2014 to 850 per day in 2017. Prior to the pandemic, the average rebounded to 950 in 2018 and 1,100 in 2019.

The West Falls Church Metro station’s existing parking lots (via Google Maps)

About 1,350 to 1,400 spaces are projected to be sufficient to meet parking demand through 2045, the report says. The station’s existing 1,200 garage will be retained, while construction on the office and multifamily residential buildings planned on the north parking lot won’t begin for another 10 years.

At that time, Metro will “reassess” whether to keep as parking or give the developers permission to redevelop it, on the condition that private garages for the new buildings include 150 to 200 spots for commuters.

“Several factors could affect commuter parking demand, including post-COVID changes in commuter travel patterns, the planned openings of Silver Line phase 2 and the I-66 toll lane project, and efforts by Metro to manage parking demand,” the evaluation says, noting that FGCP-Metro will construct approximately 700 parking spaces. Read More

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Fairfax Connector buses in Reston (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The Fairfax Connector is getting a few changes (page 228) starting early next year, including a new route along I-66’s express lanes with more Vienna connections on the horizon.

At a meeting on Sept. 13, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved several changes that could expand the reach and efficiency of transit around the Tysons area.

“Staff proposes service changes for implementation on January 14, 2023, to improve the customer experience and increase ridership through improved connectivity, on-time performance, service reliability, and effectiveness,” staff said in a report.

There are four changes planned for January. The big one for Tysonians is a new route that would use the I-66 express lanes for a better Tysons-Centreville route.

“County staff worked with the Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) to develop Route 660 that will operate along I-66 using the new express lanes,” the report said. “The route will improve connectivity between Centreville and Tysons, which is a major employment center, and will provide additional connections for passengers at the Government Center and Vienna Metrorail Station.”

According to the report:

  • Route 660 will provide weekday commuter service with 10-minute frequency during peak periods.
  • Reduces travel time from Centreville to Tysons by approximately 30 percent.
  • The estimated total annual revenue hours are 17,300.
  • The estimated total annual operating cost is $2.3 million, which will be funded through a DRPT grant using I-66 Outside the Beltway (OTB) toll revenue.
  • The vehicles needed to operate this route have already been purchased by the County using funds from DRPT

One of the other changes is the elimination of Route 644 to avoid duplication with the new Route 660.

“The connection from the Stone Road Park-and-Ride Lot to the Vienna Metrorail Station will be served by Route 660 with improved frequency,” the report said. “The entire service that Route 644 currently provides will be covered by Route 660.”

Other planned changes include shifting Route 937 (serving Innovation Center and Herndon Metro) and Route 951 (serving Innovation Center, Herndon, Reston Town Center) slightly south.

In a separate action item, the Board of Supervisors also approved funding from the I-66 Outside the Beltway tolls into two additional bus routes:

  • Route 670 – Chantilly to Franconia-Springfield Metrorail Station with connections at the Monument Drive multimodal facility and Vienna Metrorail Station
  • Route 698 – Stringfellow Park-and-Ride Lot to the Vienna Metrorail Station with through connections to the Pentagon during peak periods
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Fairfax County school bus (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Fairfax County Public Schools has made several bus stop changes in the Oakton area after conducting a safety review of the Blake Lane corridor.

Announced today (Friday), the school system has moved 22 stops away from Blake Lane in response to safety concerns after a driver hit three Oakton High School students at the Five Oaks Road intersection on June 7 — one of the last days of the 2021-2022 school year.

Two of the students died, while the third was hospitalized with significant injuries.

The changes will be in effect when the 2022-2023 school year launches on Monday (Aug. 22).

“Our community cares deeply about student safety, and we are grateful for their continued advocacy for increased precautions along the Blake Lane corridor,” said Karl Frisch, who represents Providence District on the Fairfax County School Board. “Moving these bus stops will enhance student safety while local and state partners continue working together to mitigate speeding and other traffic concerns in the area.”

Frisch says the stops have been relocated so that no students will have to wait on Blake Lane, but six stops will still be on the roadway, where side streets lack the capacity for the bus to turn around:

In the past, these students have waited on Blake Lane until the bus stops 50 feet from the intersection. Beginning the first day of school, August 22, students will assemble and wait for the bus on the side street and at least 50 feet away from Blake Lane, not on Blake Lane itself. When the bus arrives, the driver will ensure all traffic is stopped and motion the students to approach the stopped bus to board. In addition, the Office of Safety and Security (OSS) will recommend the installation of marked crosswalks on the intersecting side streets of Blake Lane as part of a VDOT safety review.

Fairfax resident Usman Shahid, the alleged driver in the June crash, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter. A new graduate of Oakton High School, he was driving 81 mph in the 35 mph zone when he hit the students, who were on a sidewalk, police said.

With residents pointing out longstanding safety issues on Blake Lane, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted earlier this month to expand the area where drivers face an additional $200 fine for speeding. The county is also looking at acquiring more “Know Your Speed” devices and introducing speed cameras near schools.

Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik plans to assemble a Blake Lane Safety Community Advisory Group, Frisch says.

A list of the bus stop changes for this year can be found below. Read More

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Morning Notes

A speed limit sign for Route 123 by the Tysons Corner Metro station (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Look Out for Spotted Lanternfly — “While there are still no sightings of the spotted lanternfly in Fairfax County, it is getting closer, and experts are on the lookout for it. This summer the invasive pest was found in nearby Loudoun County…The insect feasts on more than 70 plant species, though its preferred host is the tree-of-heaven.” [DPWES]

FCPD Detective Destroyed Evidence of Rape — Fairfax County police are reviewing dozens of unsolved sexual assault cases after the victim of a rape in 1995 learned that a detective had destroyed all physical evidence in her case, including the rape kit. Police now say they believe the woman’s account and that her case was handled inappropriately, but she says the department needs “to somehow be held accountable.” [The Washington Post]

Longtime Fairfax Symphony Leader Dies — “William Hudson, a pianist and conductor who led the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra for 36 years, establishing it as a leading regional orchestra in the capital area, died July 12 at his home in Vienna, Va. He was 89. The cause was atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, said his former wife, Denise Battistone.” [The Washington Post]

Tysons Corner Center Owner Reports Retail Resurgence — “Macerich…noted that distress in the retail industry has slowed dramatically after a pandemic-spurred wave of closures in 2020…Macerich said its leasing activity in the second quarter reflected retailer demand at levels not seen since 2015.” [CNBC]

Vienna Police Share Results of Increased Traffic Enforcement — “After a noticeable increase in stop sign violations, the Town of Vienna Police Department had a directed enforcement initiative during the month of June…During the Stop Sign Enforcement Campaign, officers worked a total of 469 events utilizing stationary observation of stop signs, which generated 219 stop sign violations and 74 other violations.” [Vienna Police]

Local Meal Service Company Gets New HQ — MightyMeals, an overnight meal delivery company that grew out of a Franconia restaurant in 2015, has leased a 16,000-square-foot commercial unit at 7669 Limestone Drive in Gainesville for its new corporate headquarters. The space is seven times larger than its current 2,400-square-foot cooking prep warehouse in Burke. [Washington Business Journal]

Signs for Renamed Vienna Street in Place — “Vienna officials have replaced street signs on the former Wade Hampton Drive with new ones reading ‘Liberty Lane.’ The switch was done in early July ‘with little fanfare’ (as requested by residents), town officials said in the government’s monthly newsletter.” [Sun Gazette]

Bus Planned to Upcoming Innovation Center Metro — “OmniRide is hoping to take advantage of the forthcoming 66 Outside the Beltway toll lanes, and for the first time, its passengers could be getting one-seat trips to the Dulles area by the end of the year. The transit provider is hoping to start a commuter route that would take riders from Balls Ford Road to the Innovation Center Silver Line Metro stop in December” [Inside NoVA/WTOP]

It’s Wednesday — Humid throughout the day. High of 90 and low of 71. Sunrise at 6:13 am and sunset at 8:19 pm. [Weather.gov]

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A woman gets dropped off at the Franconia-Springfield Metro station kiss-and-ride (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 10:45 a.m. on 11/3/2022) Metro is waiving fares on a local bus line and parking fees at several stations starting next month because of upcoming construction.

On Sept. 10, all Blue and Yellow stations south of the DCA Metro station will close for two major projects to complete the new Potomac Yard Station and repair the Yellow Line bridge and tunnel. The closure is expected to last six weeks, until Oct. 22.

The Metro Board of Directors voted late last week to waive all fees for those six weeks at the three stations with parking lots — Van Dorn Street, Huntington, and Franconia-Springfield. This is to allow riders to use the free shuttle service that’s being offered.

At the Franconia station, parking fees for non-riders will be waived until early summer 2023, when the Yellow Line bridge rehabilitation is expected to finish. This is to “encourage use of the Metrobus or Virginia Railway Express, transit alternatives available at Franconia-Springfield.”

(Correction: This article previously said parking fees would be waived at all three stations for the duration of construction.)

The board also did away with fares on the bus rapid transit Metroway-Potomac Yard Line through Oct. 22.

All of this came at the urging of Fairfax County staff, notes the Metro report.

While the waiving of the $4.95 parking fee and bus fare will save riders money, it will cost Metro nearly $611,000 in lost revenue, per the report.

Expected to open to riders in late fall, the Potomac Yard Metro station in Alexandria will serve both the Blue and Yellow lines. In September, new tracks will be constructed to connect the station to the main tracks along with performance and safety testing.

The Yellow Line Tunnel and Bridge rehab project will shut down the line for longer. That work is expected to take eight months, so the Yellow Line won’t operate again in Virginia until at least May 2023.

In June, Metro announced several alternative methods to get commuters where they need to go. That includes free shuttle service and increased Blue Line service for the first six weeks.

Then, on Oct. 22, all the Blue Line stations will reopen, and service will extend to Huntington until May 2023.

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Traffic fills the Richmond Highway (via Fairfax County)

The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) has awarded nearly $341 million to seven major transportation projects in Fairfax County.

Approved on Thursday (July 14), the NVTA gave out about $630 million to 20 projects across the region with its latest six-year program. More than half the money went to projects in Fairfax County.

“The NVTA takes a multimodal approach to providing transportation solutions and options that keep Northern Virginia and beyond moving, recognizing there is no one-size-fits-all solution to tackling traffic congestion in the Washington, D.C. region,” NVTA chair and Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall said in a statement. “The 20 projects the NVTA has just adopted are no exception.”

NVTA committed to funding six county projects and one project from the Town of Herndon:

“We regularly talk about our goal in Fairfax County to ‘move people’ no matter how they choose or need to travel. I could not be more pleased with this investment in our community,” Board of Supervisors Chair Jeff McKay wrote in a statement. “Fairfax County is the economic engine of the Commonwealth, and our infrastructure is at the core of this tremendous progress.”

The Fairfax County Parkway funding will widen 2.5 miles of the road between Nomes Court and Route 123 (Ox Road) in Fairfax Station as part of a larger project. No timeline is being given yet for when construction might start or be completed, according to the project page.

Fairfax Connector will acquire eight electric buses to initially serve four routes between Tysons and Franconia, potentially starting by the end of this year.

The combined $140 million for the two Richmond Highway projects will widen a three-mile stretch of the corridor from four to six lanes, among other improvements, and support The One, a dedicated bus service.

According to the Virginia Department of Transportation, construction on the widening could begin “as early as 2025” and take three to four years to complete.

The bus rapid transit service expected to serve up to 15,000 passengers a day with nine stations by the time it’s completed in 2030. All in all, both projects are expected to cost a billion dollars in total. Read More

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