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Fairfax County’s existing Patrick Henry Family Shelter (via Google Maps)

(Updated at 3:35 p.m.) Congress has passed another short-term budget package, averting a partial shutdown of the federal government just hours before a midnight deadline.

In addition to funding the Justice Department, Housing and Urban Development, and other key agencies, the slate of bills passed 75-22 by the Senate on Friday (March 8) includes $12.7 billion in “pork” — money designated for local projects requested by lawmakers for their constituents.

In a joint press release, Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner announced that Fairfax County and other Virginia localities will be among the beneficiaries of the more than 6,600 projects that got funding, per the Associated Press.

“I’m proud that we secured funding for 105 community projects across Virginia that will improve transportation, upgrade water infrastructure, support health care, and more,” Kaine said. “I urge Congress to take up the rest of the government funding bills as soon as possible.”

According to breakdowns provided by Warner’s and Rep. Gerry Connolly’s offices, the biggest allocation for Fairfax County is $4.1 million “to fund a new homeless and domestic violence shelter for families.”

The county’s existing domestic violence and family shelters have exceeded their useful lives, but instead of building new facilities, the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority is planning to convert an existing “extended stay” hotel that will be able to house about 50 families a day.

“Site acquisition activities are ongoing, with the goal of securing a location that is well-served by transit, and close to jobs and services,” FCRHA spokesperson Allyson Pearce said.

Connolly’s office says the site “will entail combining rooms, creating service and office space, and other changes to the existing hotel setup,” noting that converting an existing building instead of constructing a new one will enable the county “to deliver this essential, brand new facility years earlier than might otherwise be accomplished.”

The county has two shelters specifically for people fleeing domestic violence — Artemis House and Bethany House — and two shelters that accommodate people with children — the Katherine Hanley shelter outside Centreville and the Patrick Henry shelter in Seven Corners.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved plans in August 2022 to replace the Patrick Henry shelter with supportive housing after some delays related to land acquisition challenges.

The appropriations package also includes funding for several road and pedestrian projects:

  • Spring Street widening from four to six lanes between Herndon Parkway and Fairfax County Parkway ($1 million)
  • Fox Mill Road and Pinecrest Road intersection improvements in Herndon ($850,000)
  • Silverbrook Road and Lorton Road intersection improvements ($850,000)
  • Sidewalk on Ninian Avenue and along Bush Hill Drive to improve safety and accessibility for Bush Hill Elementary School students in Rose Hill ($850,000)
  • Gunston Road shared-use path from Julia Taft Way to the Pohick Bay Golf Course entrance in Lorton ($500,000)
  • Compton Road bicycle and pedestrian path from the Bull Run Special Events Center access road to the Cub Run Stream Valley Trail in Centreville ($500,000)
  • Stone Road trail from the I-66 interchange to an existing trail along southbound Route 28 in Centreville ($500,000)

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation applied for federal grants last summer to fund the Bush Hill and Compton Road projects. Read More

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Tender Hearts founder Prabha Bhattarai presents bags of donated Nepali children’s books to Fairfax County Public Library Technical Operations Director Dianne Coan (courtesy Tender Hearts)

Centreville-based nonprofit Tender Hearts has donated over 100 Nepali-language children’s books to Fairfax County Public Libraries with the aim of connecting local Nepalese families and children to their cultural roots.

Prabha Bhattarai Deuja, founder and president of Tender Hearts, recently delivered the books to the Chantilly branch of Fairfax County Public Libraries, according to a news release.

“The Fairfax County Public Libraries hold a special place in my heart for its dedication to accessibility and equity,” Deuja said in the release. “To be able to contribute to that same mission with our newly added Nepalese culture books brings a sense of pride and gratitude for our community I didn’t know was possible. I am a firm believer that books are just one door to promoting our country and culture.”

The books have been cataloged and are currently available to all Fairfax County residents. More information can be found at fairfaxcounty.gov/library/nepali-world-languages-bags.

Tender Hearts representatives said they hope to see the collection expanded over time. The nonprofit — formally known as PKP Tender Hearts Foundation — aims to preserve and spread awareness about Nepali culture within children in the U.S.

This article was written by FFXnow’s news partner InsideNoVa.com and republished with permission. Sign up for InsideNoVa.com’s free email subscription today.

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Looking east on Route 29 at the Cedar Lane intersection in Merrifield (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Fairfax County is changing lanes on some of its long-term transportation plans, veering away from a few road-widening projects in favor of ones that involve transit or pedestrian and bicycle upgrades.

As authorized by the Board of Supervisors on Dec. 5, county staff submitted a list of projects for the region-wide Visualize 2050 transportation plan that no longer includes widenings of Route 29 in the Merrifield area, New Braddock Road, Stringfellow Road and Magarity Road in Pimmit Hills.

A project to extend New Guinea Road in Fairfax Station to Route 123 (Ox Road) was also dropped from the county’s submission to the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB), which is currently reviewing projects from Virginia, Maryland, D.C. and Metro for the long-range plan.

At the same time, the county added some projects, including Orange and Yellow Line Metrorail extensions and the Route 7 bus rapid transit (BRT) system, that it hopes will pave the way for a less car-centric future.

“I think this is a balanced approach,” said Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn, then the chair of the board’s transportation committee and now its vice chair. “We end up with some additional projects going into the proposed plan, including some very important transit projects, and I note we also are showing five road projects coming out of the plan that I think are clear are no longer appropriate for the long-term plan.”

As a planning organization for the D.C. region, the TPB is required by the federal government to produce a regional transportation plan every four years, most recently finalizing Visualize 2045 on June 15, 2022. But work on the next update started early so new goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions can be incorporated.

In another change, jurisidictions are also required to resubmit all of their projects instead of carrying them over from one plan to the next like before.

According to the Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT), decisions about which projects to resubmit, add and take out were based on staff evaluation, conversations with the supervisors and public comments gathered by the TPB and the county, which held two public meetings in September.

It “was a good decision” to remove the New Braddock and Stringfellow road widenings in Centreville, Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith said. New Braddock Road would’ve been widened and extended from Route 28 to Route 29 opposite Stone Road, while Stringfellow Road was slated to be expanded to four lanes between Route 50 and Fairfax County Parkway.

Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said she worked with staff to ensure there “would not be any negative consequences” as a result of the removal of the Route 29 project in her district.

The county had planned to widen Route 29 from four to six travel lanes between the Fairfax City limit and the Capital Beltway (I-495) in Merrifield, but staff are now reevaluating that stretch of road “to better reflect completed segments and focus on active transportation facilities,” FCDOT says. Read More

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Centreville Planning Area (courtesy of Fairfax County)

Fairfax County’s Department of Planning and Development is inviting Centreville residents to share their thoughts on the area’s future development.

In an effort to better understand community preferences, the county published a six-question online survey last month, which seeks to gather opinions on what residents and visitors enjoy about the neighborhood and their desired direction for its future development.

Available until the end of January, the survey is a key part of a 2022 initiative by the Board of Supervisors to gather data that will help county staff formulate a recommendation for revising the 2,700-acre Centreville Planning Area.

The last update to the planning area occurred in the 1990s, says Leanna O’Donnell, the planning department’s director.

“The goals of the study are to review and evaluate existing Comprehensive Plan policies and to recommend additional policies to guide future growth in the area,” she told FFXnow.

She added that, based on residents’ feedback, her team might suggest policy changes regarding transportation, park space and land use in a comprehensive plan amendment to supervisors.

“Study recommendations will establish a policy framework for those interested in redeveloping property in the future,” she said, noting there will likely be a core focus around major arterial roads, including Route 29, Route 28 (Sully Road) and I-66.

The current version of the county’s comprehensive plan classifies the Centreville Planning Area as a mixed-use center and highlights Centreville as a “focus of development” in the western section of the county.

In addition to the survey, the county plans to hold in-person forums to engage directly with residents, business owners and visitors about future development in Centreville.

“Once we’re able to compile early feedback (i.e. survey, in-person engagements) a formal process will begin to evaluate new recommendations,” O’Donnell said.

County staff aim to present their findings in early 2025, although an official deadline has not been established.

Should the board adopt these recommendations, it will then be up to private entities and other stakeholders to initiate redevelopment applications, O’Donnell said.

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I-66 West lanes were blocked last night for a fatal three-vehicle crash near Nutley Street (via VDOT)

A woman died last night (Wednesday) after crashing into a tow truck that was responding to an earlier multi-vehicle collision on I-66, the Virginia State Police announced this morning.

Troopers were called first at 6:31 p.m. yesterday to a “chain reaction crash” that involved three vehicles in the westbound lanes of I-66 at the 51-mile marker in the Centreville area.

“One driver suffered minor injuries, but declined treatment,” police said.

However, police were called just minutes later, around 6:49 p.m., to a second three-vehicle crash on I-66 West near the exit to Nutley Street outside Vienna

“A tow truck was responding to the original crash and had slowed to a stop when it was rear-ended by a Jeep Compass SUV,” the VSP said. “The impact of the crash caused the Jeep to spin out into the westbound travel lane and strike a Toyota Tacoma pickup truck.”

The Jeep driver was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where she died from her injuries later in the evening, according to police. The tow truck driver was also hospitalized with injuries not considered life-threatening.

The Toyota pickup driver didn’t report any injuries, police said.

The crash near Nutley Street completely shut down both the regular and express lanes on westbound I-66. The lanes didn’t fully reopen until around 11 p.m., according to Twitter updates from the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Police are also investigating a third, separate crash that occurred on I-66 East before Route 50 at 7:35 p.m. yesterday. One driver was transported to a hospital after a two-vehicle crash near the 56-mile marker, a VSP spokesperson said.

Image via VDOT traffic camera

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Northbound Route 28 at the exit to Westfields Blvd in Centreville (via Google Maps)

An Ashburn man was charged last week with reckless driving — almost a month after his alleged speeding killed a motorcyclist on Route 28.

Gael Cruchet, 53, received a summons on Friday (Dec. 15) charging him with exceeding the speed limit by over 20 mph while driving a 2016 Acura TLX sedan in the lead-up to the crash on Nov. 16, the Fairfax County Police Department announced.

According to police, Cruchet was driving northbound on Route 28 (Sully Road) prior to Westfields Blvd when he hit Zafeer Piracha, 27, of Lorton, who was headed in the same direction on a 2022 Kawasaki motorcycle.

“The driver of the Acura struck Piracha causing him to separate from the motorcycle,” the FCPD said in a press release on Nov. 17.

Officers responded to the Route 28 and Westfields intersection in Centreville at 9:01 p.m. Piracha died at the scene, while Cruchet was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

At that time, that crash was the 14th fatal one in Fairfax County this year that didn’t involve a pedestrian, according to the FCPD. Since then, the total number of fatal vehicular crashes has climbed to 19, matching the number reported in 2022.

Including pedestrians, there have been 39 people killed in crashes in the county this year, a decline from 66 fatalities in 2022, according to Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles data.

Route 28 at Westfields Blvd was also the site of a two-vehicle crash in May 2022 that hospitalized two people who ultimately survived.

Image via Google Maps

The area in Centreville where a pit bull was found dead after being stabbed (via Google Maps)

Local police are turning to the public for help identifying the person who stabbed and killed a dog in Centreville earlier this month.

A community member found the dead pit bull mix on Dec. 3 near a wooded trail that connects Route 29 and South Barros Court behind the Barros South townhomes, according to the Fairfax County Police Department.

A necropsy determined that the dog had been stabbed multiple times, police say. The dog is described as a young gray and white female.

“Officers believe the dog was likely left in the area for less than 24 hours prior to the community member discovering her,” the FCPD said. “Officers are asking community members who live near O’Day Drive and Barros Drive to review home surveillance footage.”

The police department is also encouraging anyone who might have driven on Route 29 that day and noticed suspicious activity to contact its Animal Protection Police at 703-691-2131.

The FCPD accepts anonymous tips through Crime Solvers, which can be reached online or by calling 1-866-411-TIPS (866-411-8477).

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A utility truck repairs a traffic signal at the Route 29 and Clifton Road intersection after a crash on Tuesday, Dec. 5 (via VDOT/Twitter)

(Updated at 5:45 p.m.) Speed was likely a factor in yesterday’s fatal two-car crash on Route 29, the Fairfax County Police Department says.

Sohail Iqbal, 30, of Manassas died at the scene after the driver of a 2013 BMW M3 plowed into his Hyundai Sonata around 12:24 a.m. at the intersection of Route 29 and Clifton Road, just outside Centreville, the police department reported today (Wednesday).

The BMW driver was taken to a hospital with injuries considered life-threatening. The driver is still in the hospital, as of this afternoon, the FCPD confirmed.

The BMW was traveling at a speed that’s believed to have contributed to the seriousness of the crash, according to police.

“Detectives continue to investigate to determine if alcohol was a factor in the crash,” the FCPD said.

According to the FCPD, a preliminary investigation by its Crash Reconstruction Unit detectives indicates that the BMW driver was headed south on Stringfellow Road when they collided with the Hyundai, which was traveling south on Route 29.

“The collision forced the Hyundai across the intersection, onto the embankment, and into a concrete utility pole foundation,” the FCPD said.

The crash damaged the pole, requiring repairs to a traffic signal that blocked lanes on Route 29 until around 4:20 p.m. that day, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation. Scanner traffic indicated that the BMW ended up in a 7-Eleven parking lot (13305 Route 29) just over the border in Clifton.

Iqbal appears to be the 39th person killed in a traffic crash in Fairfax County this year, nine of them pedestrians, according to Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles data. There were 66 fatalities in 2022 — the most since the database launched in 2010.

The FCPD says there have been 19 fatal vehicular crashes in 2023 so far, matching the number seen last year.

Image via VDOT/Twitter

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New lanes are open on Route 28, which has been widened from four to six lanes between Bull Run and I-66 (courtesy Northern Virginia Transportation Authority)

(Updated at 12:05 p.m.) The Centreville section of Route 28 is now two lanes wider and, local officials hope, noticeably less challenging to travel.

Construction is substantially complete on the project to widen Route 28 (Centreville Road) from four to six lanes between the Bull Run bridge at the Fairfax and Prince William county line and Route 29.

Fairfax County elected representatives joined regional and state transportation officials at the Centreville United Methodist Church Park and Ride (6400 Old Centreville Road) for a ribbon-cutting yesterday (Wednesday) to celebrate the milestone, which arrived right on schedule with two new lanes opening in early October.

“The anticipation surrounding this project in our community is palpable, with residents eagerly looking forward to the profound improvements in accessibility and…efficiency this project promises to bring,” Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith said at the ceremony. “The successful execution of the Route 28 widening project is poised to significantly enhance the quality of life for our residents.”

Under construction since September 2021, the Route 28 widening is intended to reduce traffic, improve safety and provide more transportation options on a highway that sees approximately 60,000 vehicles a day, according to the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.

In addition to the new lanes, the $79.5 million project constructed a 10-foot-wide shared-use path for pedestrians and bicyclists on both sides of the roadway. It also made improvements to intersections and side streets, including installing upgraded traffic signals and removing some median breaks and crossovers.

“Whenever we make road improvement projects like this in Fairfax County, we focus on not just the road improvements, which are absolutely critical to moving traffic and people, but also all the multimodal improvements, improvements for pedestrians and safety improvements for people who live along this corridor,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said.

Work is expected to continue until May 2024 on some of those elements, including the shared-use paths, noise barriers, storm water management facilities and side street improvements.

However, FCDOT says drivers have already reported shorter trips and less cut-through traffic.

“Morning rush-hour commuters from Manassas Park to I-66 have reported experiencing a reduction in their commute of 10-15 minutes each day,” the department said. “They have also reported a reduction in morning rush hour cut through/bypass traffic on Ordway Road and Old Centreville Road.”

A study conducted by the Virginia Department of Transportation in 2015 found that widening Route 28 would shave about 15 minutes off current travel times, though trips through the 5-mile stretch were still projected to take 40 minutes in the morning due to the area’s increased density and development.

Benefitting Loudoun and Prince William counties, as well as Fairfax, the Route 28 widening has “regional significance,” Northern Virginia Transportation Authority CEO Monica Backmon said. The regional transportation planning agency contributed $26 million to the project, which also got local, state and federal funds.

(Correction: The spelling of Monica Backmon’s name has been fixed.)

Lauding the “innovative design” of the expanded roadway, which could be widened even further to eight lanes in the future, Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity highlighted the project’s benefits for his constituents, even though it’s in the Sully District.

“Much of the benefit from this project will be felt in the Springfield District, as we start the process of alleviating all the cut-through traffic in the Occoquan watershed and through the Town of Clifton,” he said. “Those are people who really should be using this route, but it’s too congested. This project is the first step in making it less congested.”

The next step, Herrity said, is for Prince William County to widen Route 28 to six lanes on its side of the border. A preliminary design for that bypass project was presented in the spring, but construction isn’t slated to start until 2026.

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The costume store Spirit Halloween has several locations in Fairfax County for its 40th anniversary season, including at Tysons Corner Center (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

With Halloween less than a week away, time is running out to assemble a costume and housing decorations ghoulish enough to impress neighborhood trick-or-treaters.

Fortunately for those making last-minute preparations, the seasonal pop-up Spirit Halloween has taken possession of several vacant retail stores across Fairfax County.

That includes a return to the former Lord & Taylor store at Tysons Corner Center, which first got converted last year after previously hosting a mass COVID-19 vaccination site. Long-term plans to redevelop the building at 7950 Tysons Corner Center got approved last month by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

Accessible from the Plaza, the store is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day, except for Sundays, when doors close at 7 p.m.

Other locations include:

  • Fairfax Towne Center in the former Bed Bath & Beyond (12100 Fairfax Towne Center)
  • Crossroads Center in Bailey’s Crossroads, also a former Bed Bath & Beyond (5810 Crossroads Center Way)
  • Springfield Commons in the former Party City (6721B Frontier Drive)
  • Rose Hill Plaza in a former Tuesday Morning (6140 Rose Hill Drive)
  • Village Center in Centreville, another former Tuesday Morning (5619 Stone Road)

The company’s website also lists a store as “coming soon” to the former Office Depot (3536 South Jefferson Street) at Crossroads Center in Bailey’s Crossroads. Spirit Halloween didn’t respond to FFXnow by press time when asked if that location is still coming.

Celebrating its 40th anniversary, Spirit Halloween announced before this season began that it would be its “biggest” one yet, with more than 1,500 locations around North America.

“We’ve seen Halloween grow from a single day of excitement into a season-long celebration, with so many enthusiasts showcasing their love for Halloween all year long,” Spirit Halloween CEO Steven Silverstein said in a press release. “…However you celebrate this season, we have everything Halloween fans need, from the classics to the hottest new trends.”

In addition to opening physical pop-up stores every fall, the business sells Halloween costumes, decor and animatronics year-round online.

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