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The current asphalt path on Old Courthouse Road west of Tysons (via Town of Vienna/Twitter)

Construction begins today (Monday) on a long-gestating project to upgrade the pedestrian facilities along Courthouse Road NE in Vienna.

The asphalt path that currently runs along the east side of the road will be closed for several months between Pine Valley Drive and Battery Park Street, as crews replace it with a concrete, ADA-compliant sidewalk, the Town of Vienna announced yesterday (Sunday).

“The new sidewalk will be able to safely accommodate pedestrians and people with disabilities who use a wheelchair or other assistive devices, and the overall project will enhance the neighborhood appearance,” Andrew Jinks, the town’s transportation engineer, said in a news release.

Jinks deems the existing trail “unsafe” for pedestrians. In addition to being narrow with an uneven, cracked surface, it runs next to an open drainage ditch that the project will enclose with a curb and gutters.

In the works since 2013, the full project extends to Gosnell Road beyond the town’s boundary. The remaining segment will be addressed by Fairfax County as part of an agreement with Vienna.

The $1.2 million project is being built by Sagres Construction, which was awarded a contract in March 2021.

It’s being funded by a combination of local and state funds, including a Safe Routes to Schools grant that the town got from the Virginia Department of Transportation in 2013 due to the site’s proximity to Westbriar Elementary School.

Vienna anticipates that construction on the new sidewalk will be complete in January 2023.

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Fairfax County will restore an eroded stream at Royal Lake Park in Kings Park West (via Fairfax County)

Fairfax County Public Works and Environmental Services has started construction on a project to improve a watershed in Kings Park West near Burke by restoring eroded stream banks.

Part of a plan approved over a decade ago, the Shanes Creek restoration seeks to stabilize the channel and prevent future erosion and degradation along the stream. It will also reconnect the channel to its floodplain and restore native trees and herbaceous planting to promote natural reforestation and a healthy ecosystem, according to a project page.

“The project will restore more than 4,800 linear feet of natural channel and about 1,300 linear feet of outfall leading to it,” the project page says, noting that construction work began on April 13.

The project requires closures of the trail network leading from nearby residential neighborhoods into Royal Lake Park, which is just to the south of the creek.

“The existing parkland trails within the project boundaries will be closed for the duration of the project to ensure public and worker safety,” the Fairfax County Park Authority said. “Active construction is anticipated to be completed by winter 2023.”

According to DPWES, work on the stream will start at Roberts Road, and crews have begun to set up fencing, “trail closed” signs, and other equipment. Trail closures will depend on where construction is underway.

“We are attempting to keep as many open as we can while construction is occurring, so there is not a clear map of what is open now [versus what] will be later,” DPWES spokesperson Sharon North said by email. “…We are working to install the fence and signs as we can.  The limits of disturbance will be well marked before construction of the stream starts.”

The Board of Supervisors approved a watershed management plan for the Pohick Creek watershed in 2010. The plan called for stream restoration efforts to re-establish those waterways that would help minimize erosion, including planting vegetation to stabilize and protect stream banks.

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Vienna’s Starbucks is closed for renovation (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Commuters passing through Vienna will need to last another week without their Starbucks fix.

The drive-thru cafe at 362 Maple Avenue East has been closed since Sunday (March 13) for renovations, as indicated by multiple signs posted around the building.

However, the coffee chain’s absence from town won’t be felt for long. The store will reopen on March 26, a Starbucks spokesperson told FFXnow.

“As a standard course of business, we continually evaluate our store portfolio, using various criteria to ensure we are meeting the needs of our customers,” the spokesperson said in an email. “…The store will reopen with new furniture, art, and handoff counter to better serve customers in the Vienna, Va., community.”

Starbucks employees elsewhere in the country have reported less savory reasons for store closures, as more than 100 locations explore the possibility of unionizing.

Workers in Merrifield and Springfield stores are currently seeking to hold union elections, becoming the first sites in Fairfax County to join the nationwide Starbucks Workers United campaign.

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Morning Notes

Snow hit Fairfax County on Saturday (photo by Marjorie Copson)

(Updated at 8:45 a.m.) Car Crash Closes Old Dominion Drive — “Old Dominion Dr is closed between Balls Hill Rd & Mottram Dr in McLean, likely for several hours. A car crashed into a utility pole. No injuries. Please avoid the area while crews work to repair the pole.” [FCPD/Twitter]

Judge Denies FCPS Request to Keep TJ Admissions Process — “A federal judge has denied the request of Fairfax County Public Schools for a stay of his order invalidating the admissions system at prestigious magnet school Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, marking another serious blow for Virginia’s largest school system.” [The Washington Post]

Reston Shooting Still Unsolved — “It’s been one year since 40-year-old Santos Antonio Trejo Lemus died from gunshot wounds he received while walking near his home in Reston’s Winterthur Apartments. To date, no one has been charged in Lemus’ homicide.” [Patch]

Rep. Connolly Tests Positive for COVID-19 — “This morning, I tested positive for covid. I am mildly symptomatic and will be self-isolating. Fortunately, I’m vaxxed and boosted. This pandemic isn’t over yet so if you haven’t gotten your booster yet please do.” [Gerry Connolly/Twitter]

Person Injured in Shooting at Springfield Residence Inn — A driver shot at occupants of another car in the hotel parking lot at 6412 Backlick Road around 7:06 a.m. on March 8, according to the most recent police weekly recap. One person was hit and taken to the hospital for injuries not considered life-threatening. [FCPD]

GW Parkway Construction Closes Turkey Run Parking Lot — “The National Park Service is imposing a temporary closure of parking lot C-2 and partial closure of parking lot B at Turkey Run Park as a part of the project to rehabilitate the north section of the George Washington Memorial Parkway. The dates of the closure are March 14, 2022, until further notice.” [NPS]

Former Vienna Mayoral Candidate Runs for West Virginia House — “Pasha Majdi, who served on the Vienna Town Council for six years before making an unsuccessful bid for mayor in 2020, is running for office again — in his new state of residence, West Virginia. Majdi is seeking the Republican nomination to run for the 100th District seat in the West Virginia House of Delegates.” [Sun Gazette]

Reston Real Estate Company to Expand — “Fast-growing Reston real estate firm Verity Commercial has received a ‘significant investment’ to drive its expansion into new markets. The firm…received an undisclosed amount from Germany-based RSBG Global Cos. through its San Jose-based subsidiary, Vela Tech Holding Inc.” [Washington Business Journal]

Baby Pigs Born at Frying Pan Farm — “Nike, a year and a half old Hampshire Cross sow, delivered her first litter of piglets on February 24. For her first time, she acted like a pro and delivered in less than two hours.” [Fairfax County Park Authority/Facebook]

It’s Monday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 57 and low of 31. Sunrise at 7:23 a.m. and sunset at 7:16 p.m. [Weather.gov]

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Updated at 1:50 p.m.Winter Weather Advisory for Fairfax County, with the National Weather Service predicting up to 2 inches of snow from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. tomorrow.

Earlier: All Fairfax County Public Schools students will participate in classes online tomorrow (Thursday) for the first time since February 2021.

The district announced the move shortly after noon today, citing weather forecasts that indicate some snowfall early in the morning.

Middle and high schools will have a two-hour delayed start, and elementary schools will begin the day at 10:30 a.m. FCPS advises all students to bring their laptops home and ensure their devices are charged.

Students were already scheduled to go home two hours early to mark the end of the second quarter. The early dismissal will remain in effect, and there will be no classes on Friday and Monday, which have been designated as a teacher work day and a professional development day, respectively.

FCPS is implementing virtual learning tomorrow after using up its five “traditional” snow days in response to winter weather that hit the D.C. area during the week of Jan. 3-7.

As of 10 a.m., the National Weather Service is projecting that Fairfax County could see 1 to 3 inches of snow between 1 p.m. today and 7 p.m. tomorrow. The D.C. area has a 64% chance of getting at least an inch of snow.

More details from the FCPS announcement are below:

Division operations are open on time and school and central office building work spaces are open. Employees are expected to report to work on time.

All employees (exempt and non-exempt) who are able to telework, meaning their job duties can be completed remotely and have access to the appropriate technology, may do so. Individuals who are unable to telework and those employees designated as essential are expected to report to their work site. Unscheduled leave is in effect. If you have questions, please contact your direct supervisor.

School age child care (SACC) centers are closed.

ACE students should check their email for communications from ACE staff and instructors.

We will reassess the weather conditions tomorrow to determine any potential impact on activities that are scheduled on school grounds.

Grab & Go breakfast and lunch will be available from 10 a.m.- 12 p.m. Please pick them up at our weekly meal kit distribution locations, listed on our website.

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Fairfax County students have already gotten a couple extra days of winter break, thanks to yesterday’s snowstorm, but some community members are calling on Fairfax County Public Schools to extend its closure further, citing concerns about rising COVID-19 cases.

A Change.org petition started over the weekend urges FCPS to utilize some of its built-in snow days to either delay an in-person return in the hopes of mitigating a post-holiday surge or establish an online option for students who would prefer to remain at home.

As of 9 p.m. today (Monday), the petition was nearing 5,000 signatures. Supporters cited fear of the omicron variant’s transmissibility and the challenges with getting tested among their reasons.

FCPS’s designated testing sites have been closed to students the past two days, though the system tentatively expects to open them for staff today (Tuesday). Testing is only required for employees who aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, a union that represents faculty and non-administrative staff, also argued yesterday that FCPS should extend winter break another week, stating that staff absences and a rush to roll out Virginia’s planned test-to-stay pilot program would create “stress, chaos and inequity.”

“Our biggest concern has always been the health and safety of our students and teachers, we know that there are ways to better communicate and ensure that safety is prioritized,” the FCFT said in a series of tweets.

As acknowledged by the petition writer, FCPS is required by Virginia law to provide in-person instruction, but it could provide a virtual option or go fully remote if it’s deemed necessary to address high COVID-19 transmission levels in a school.

So far, FCPS has maintained that in-person learning is best for students, though a message sent to families on Sunday (Jan. 2) noted that “it is possible that short-term closures of classrooms will be necessary.”

The Fairfax County Parents Association, an organization that grew out of the Open FCPS movement in the summer of 2020, released a statement yesterday urging the school system to keep its commitment to providing in-person learning.

“We cannot let this hysteria lead us to more disruptions, where students in Fairfax County are on their third school year of educational disruption,” the group said. “Exacerbating that disruption only adds to the damage already done to students.”

FCPS reported 759 COVID-19 cases among students, staff, and visitors for the month of December — fewer than the 850 cases seen in September — but with schools closed for winter break, its data hasn’t been updated since Dec. 17.

How do you think FCPS should handle the current COVID-19 surge? Should students have the option to learn remotely, or should they all return in person? Would your comfort level change if testing was required?

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A snowplow on Legato Road at the intersection of West Ox Road near the Fair Oaks Mall (Photo by Benita Mwali)

(Updated at 2:35 p.m.) Local students will get another day of winter break, thanks to the snow that has inundated Fairfax County and the rest of the D.C. region.

Fairfax County Public Schools announced at 1:17 p.m. that classes have been canceled tomorrow (Tuesday), delaying the return of students for a second consecutive day. There will be no virtual or in-person learning, and all activities on school grounds have been canceled.

In the meantime, the snow has wreaked havoc on people’s travel plans and the county’s power grid.

Drivers faced delays, both by choice and by nature, where even some pickup trucks and emergency vehicles struggled as a snowstorm forced widespread shutdowns from schools to offices and roadways.

At least nine roads in the county were closed due to snow and ice or downed trees and wires, as of 1:50 p.m., according to the Fairfax County Police Department. Major roads affected include Richmond Highway near Huntley Meadows Park and Prosperity Avenue in Mantua.

As of 12:30 p.m., the Virginia State Police had responded to 559 traffic crashes and 522 disabled vehicles across the state since midnight.

Fairfax Connector bus service has been suspended since 11:45 a.m. with no updates on when it might resume.

The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department reported that firefighters and paramedics have spent all morning responding to reports of downed wires and trees, which have created potentially dangerous conditions while taking out power for around 40,000 Dominion Energy customers.

Downed power lines and trees can be reported to 9-1-1, Dominion Energy and NOVEC, or the Virginia Department of Transportation, depending on the severity of the situation and where the incident occurs.

The snow storm, transforming much of the region even before morning commutes, caught some people off guard after temperatures reached the low 60s yesterday (Sunday).

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