(Updated 10:55 a.m. on 7/26/2023) The ongoing redevelopment of Richmond Highway (Route 1) in Fairfax County has sparked a larger discussion over whether the benefits of road widening projects outweigh their potential harm.
The Virginia Department of Transportation plans to bring improvements to a three-mile stretch in the Richmond Highway corridor in two phases: first from Jeff Todd Way to just north of Frye Road, then from just north of Frye Road to Sherwood Hall Lane.
Notably, the changes will widen Richmond Highway from four to six lanes, which will pave the way for bus rapid transit in the corridor but has garnered some pushback from local community members.
The Coalition for Smarter Growth, which advocates for more “sustainable” transportation methods such as walking, biking and transit in the D.C. region, claimed in a recent press release that “wider roads fail, and the public knows this.”
CSG’s Northern Virginia Advocacy Manager Sonya Breehey says road widening projects create induced demand, arguing that adding more travel lanes incentivizes more people to drive and increases congestion in the long run, despite offering short-term relief.
“The idea is, we get stuck in traffic, so we add travel lanes,” Breehey said. “It’s easy for a few years, but then those travel lanes fill back up and then everybody’s clamoring again for more road widening. It’s a cyclical problem.”
Rep. Don Beyer, who represents the county’s Route 1 area in Congress, told FFXnow in an exclusive interview that he supports road widening projects.
“I think [road widening projects] are an important part of congestion relief,” Beyer said. “There’s an alternative argument…that they will fill up as fast as you build them. That’s certainly been largely true in the metro D.C. area for a long time…but at the same time, I don’t know if it’s still true today.”
In addition to adding travel lanes, the Richmond Highway project reserves median space for future lanes dedicated to The One, a bus rapid transit system that aims to outpace traditional bus services with dedicated lanes and fewer stops.
With the BRT expected to be operational in 2030, the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission announced last month that the Commonwealth Transportation Board approved $10 million to help implement the bus system from Fort Belvoir to the Huntington Metro station.
“This billion-dollar investment in a new state-of-the-art transportation system and in the communities along Richmond Highway will revitalize the area and provide more safe, convenient and dependable transportation options for the people who live here,” Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck wrote in a statement.
Storck says road widening can only be “done right” if it is “in coordination” with “walkable, bikeable communities and mass transit.” Read More
A proposal to add long-distance flights at Reagan National Airport has officially failed, to the relief of area representatives who feared it would undermine Dulles International Airport.
The House of Representatives rejected the proposal — which was included in a package of changes to the Federal Aviation Administration’s policies that passed overall — by a 229-205 vote on Wednesday (July 19).
Pitched by Rep. Burgess Owens (R-Utah), the proposal, which would have increased the number of flights that travel beyond 1,250 miles from National Airport, attracted significant pushback from local and regional officials.
In late May, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors said the move would increase flight delays and have a detrimental impact on the local economy, arguing that the Arlington airport lacks the capacity of Dulles Airport just over the Loudoun County border.
Rep. Don Beyer (D) called the defeat of the proposal a win for the region.
“This strong bipartisan vote of opposition should make it clear, as the Senate takes up their own FAA authorization, that proposals to weaken DCA’s slot and perimeter rules do not have majority support in the Congress,” Beyer wrote in a statement.
Fairfax County Board Chairman Jeff McKay lauded the county’s congressional delegation for defeating the proposal.
“It’s clear that this would have been an intrusive and unwelcome addition to DCA and appreciate the bipartisan approach to supporting residents of Fairfax County,” McKay said.
The Board of Supervisors had argued that the proposed changes would disrupt the balance between the region’s two major airports.
Sen. Mark Warner said he was happy to see “sanity win” in the House.
“I’ll continue fighting these changes — which would exacerbate delays and ruin folks’ travel plans — as we consider this legislation in the Senate soon, too,” Warner tweeted.
Glad to see sanity win in the House last night as they defeated chaotic changes to slot rules at DCA! I’ll continue fighting these changes – which would exacerbate delays and ruin folks’ travel plans – as we consider this legislation in the Senate soon, too.
— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) July 20, 2023
The federal government has agreed to pay $5 million to settle a civil lawsuit brought by the parents of McLean resident Bijan Ghaisar, who was shot and killed by two U.S. Park Police officers in Fort Hunt more than five years ago.
The settlement will allocate up to 25% of the total — or $1.25 million — to the family’s lawyers with the remaining money going directly to James and Kelly Ghaisar, according to court documents.
Officially approved by U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton after a hearing at the federal courthouse in Alexandria on Friday (April 28), the agreement states that it shouldn’t be interpreted as “an admission of liability or fault on the part of the United States.”
In a statement, the Ghaisars said their proceeds from the settlement will go to The Bijan Ghaisar Foundation — a nonprofit dedicated to addressing police brutality and helping victims of gun violence — “and other charitable causes.”
Despite agreeing to settle, the family said they “do not believe this is justice” and remain disappointed that federal prosecutors declined multiple times to pursue charges against officers Alejandro Amaya and Lucas Vinyard, who were only identified after the family filed the wrongful death lawsuit in 2018.
“We still believe, however, that accountability for Bijan’s murder is possible, somehow, sometime, and some way,” the family said. “We now shift our focus to fighting in Bijan’s name for other victims, and for all Americans, for accountability and prevention of police brutality.”
— Bijan Ghaisar (@WeAreBijan) April 28, 2023
Rep. Don Beyer, who represents Virginia’s 8th Congressional District, including McLean, called the settlement “the clearest admission to date that Bijan Ghaisar did not deserve to be shot and killed.”
“The officers who shot him showed reckless disregard for Bijan Ghaisar’s humanity,” Beyer said in a statement. “Yet, to this day no one has been held accountable for that act that left an unarmed young man dead, or for the unacceptable government stonewalling that compounded the Ghaisar family’s suffering and enraged the community I represent. This lawsuit is ending, but justice has never been done in this case.”
The DOJ settlement is the clearest admission to date that Bijan Ghaisar did not deserve to be shot and killed.
My thoughts go out to Kelly and James Ghaisar and their family. As their fight for reform and justice continues, I will continue to be their friend and ally. pic.twitter.com/hp9jhspZqh
— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) April 28, 2023
The Department of the Interior, which includes the Park Police, didn’t return a request for comment by press time. The department’s Office of Inspector General is conducting an administrative investigation to determine whether Park Police policies were followed, according to the Washington Post. Read More
Another new candidate has joined the increasingly crowded contest for Penny Gross’s job on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
Democrat Jeremy Allen has declared he’s running to be the next Mason District supervisor. Currently a staffer working in constituent services for Rep. Don Beyer (D-8), he has lived in the county for six years, per his campaign website.
“As a leader in his local neighborhood effort Save Bren Mar, which successfully stopped a negative rezoning application for increased industrial activity in his community, Allen has made the decision to run with a focus on championing similar causes throughout the Mason District,” his candidacy announcement read.
So excited to announce my campaign for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors as the Mason District representative! See more at my website https://t.co/1EJULyM2zm
— Jeremy Allen (@JeremyforMason) January 10, 2023
Allen joins a growing list of candidates vying for the job filled for 27 years by Penny Gross, who is retiring when her term ends on Dec. 31.
Last month, Andres Jimenez announced his intentions to run to be the next Mason District supervisor. He’s an at-large member of the county planning commission and the executive director of the nonprofit Green 2.0.
Two other Democratic candidates — Steve Lee and Reid Voss — are reportedly planning on running for the seat as well, according to Annandale Today.
The Democratic primary election is set for June 7, while the general election will be held on Nov. 7.
When asked how Allen differs from the other candidates, a campaign spokesperson told FFXnow that he has similar “lived experiences” to many Mason residents:
Jeremy understands what it means to be an advocate for his community and has lived experiences like many of Mason’s residents. He understands how targeted programs and collective action can enhance our community. Jeremy and his wife were able to purchase a home through the Fairfax County Workforce Development program after struggling to afford housing in the county. As Supervisor, Jeremy wants to increase awareness, access, and effectiveness of local government efforts so that other people can benefit similarly.
He said one of the major issues Allen would like to tackle, if elected, is “affordable homeownership.”
As a staffer for Beyer, whose district includes the Mason District, Allen noted that he has worked directly with constituents to connect them with resources, helping them file for state unemployment benefits during the pandemic, for example. This gave him an opportunity to be a “listening ear and voice of support” for residents.
“For the past three years, I have been interacting with constituents every day to hear their concerns and turn their feedback into policy solutions,” Allen said in the press release. “This experience helped me deeply understand Mason District residents and is directly relevant to what I would continue to do in the role of Supervisor.”
Gross announced in December that she won’t seek reelection in 2023. Longtime Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust will also step away from the Board of Supervisors. Jimmy Bierman announced his candidacy for that seat last month.
So far, five supervisors have confirmed they’ll seek reelection this year: Chairman Jeff McKay, Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk, Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn, and Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw.
Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith, Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik, and Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity have all yet to announce their intentions for the 2023 election.
(Updated at 4:25 p.m. on 1/3/2023) An ongoing study of the possibility of having bus rapid transit (BRT) service from Tysons to Alexandria can now proceed confident that the planning will be seen through to completion.
The $1.7 trillion federal spending bill that Congress approved on Friday (Dec. 23), just in time to avert a potential government shutdown, included $2 million to complete all planning and environmental studies needed for the project, known as Envision Route 7.
The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission — the recipient of the funds — has been studying whether and how to bring dedicated bus service to Route 7 between the Spring Hill Metro station in Tysons and the Mark Center in Alexandria since 2013.
The fourth and latest phase of the study — a mobility analysis evaluating the benefits and impacts of BRT — got underway in October 2021. Expected to finish in April, it will be followed by environmental and preliminary engineering design work.
Reps. Gerry Connolly and Don Beyer requested that funds for the project be included in the omnibus bill so it can “complete the planning and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis to prepare…for design and construction,” according to a press release from Beyer’s office.
The proposed BRT will provide “high-quality, frequent” bus service along a corridor that’s already the second busiest for buses in Virginia, Connolly said in a separate release:
This BRT project will provide a reliable and affordable transportation option for communities along this corridor; provide a green transportation option that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help in the battle against climate change; reduce congestion along a key transportation corridor in Northern Virginia already benefitting from significant economic development and investment; leverage a range of federal, Commonwealth, regional, and local transportation funds; connect major employment centers (U.S. Department of Defense Mark Center, Bailey’s Crossroads, Seven Corners, West Falls Church and Tysons); and further enhance a robust and growing transit system in Northern Virginia.
“The #EnvisionRoute7 BRT will provide as many as 42,000 daily transit trips giving people access to opportunities throughout our region with direct transit connections to Metro at Tysons and East Falls Church, as well as to the new Alexandria West End Transitway,” NVTC said on Twitter, thanking Connolly and Beyer for securing the funds.
The #EnvisionRoute7 BRT will provide as many as 42,000 daily transit trips giving people access to opportunities throughout our region with direct transit connections to Metro at Tysons and East Falls Church, as well as to the new Alexandria West End Transitway.
— NVTC (@NoVaTransit) December 23, 2022
The Tysons segment of the BRT will include six stops, traveling up International Drive and looping around the Spring Hill Metro before taking International back down to Route 7 (Leesburg Pike).
The service will use two transit-only lanes that Fairfax County plans to build by widening Route 7 from Route 123 to the Capital Beltway.
From Tysons, the route continues through Falls Church City, into the Seven Corners and Bailey’s Crossroads area, and down to Alexandria. NVTC held a community meeting to discuss the Falls Church portion in October.
Other Fairfax County projects that got funding from the federal spending package include a cycle track on Sunrise Valley Drive to the Innovation Center Metro station, pedestrian and bicycle upgrades near the Vienna Metro station, and a renovation of the Little River Glen Senior Center near Fairfax City.
(Updated, 3:35 p.m.) With most incumbents running away to victory, it appears that Fairfax County’s voter turnout for the general election this year will fall short of the 2018 midterms.
About 53% of registered, active county voters took part in this year’s midterm elections, per Fairfax County election officials. That’s about 16 percentage points off from the midterms four years ago. It’s also lower than last year’s gubernatorial election, which had a 60% turnout.
In total, 391,361 ballots have been counted so far in Fairfax County, election officials said.
Turnout numbers remain unofficial. Ballots put into drop boxes will be counted today, while additional mail ballots can continue to arrive until noon Monday (Nov. 14).
Absentee mail and in-person voting rose this election cycle compared to 2018, with 130,350 residents voting early this year — just under 18% of active, registered voters in the county. That’s about 44,000 more people than in 2018, when 12% of voters made their decisions early.
Last year, 174,641 county residents, or about 24% of voters, cast ballots by mail or early in person.
With Fairfax County staying reliably blue, the lack of competitive Congressional races on the ballot may have contributed to the lower turnout compared to other recent elections. Based on the preliminary results, all but one local incumbent — Herndon Town Councilmember Signe Friedrichs — appears to have held their job.
Don Beyer (D) secured victory in Virginia’s 8th Congressional District with 73% of the vote with most precincts reporting. The district includes about 282,000 residents of Fairfax County, where Beyer secured 69% of the vote — about three percentage points lower than what he got in 2020 and 2018.
The re-elected Congressman tweeted out a statement just before 9 p.m. last night, thanking voters for “again putting their confidence in me.”
Grateful to voters in Northern Virginia for again putting their confidence in me to represent them in the House of Representatives. Their trust in me is humbling, and I will continue to do all I can to earn it. My statement: pic.twitter.com/mJCE2SNk03
— Don Beyer (@DonBeyerVA) November 9, 2022
The 11th District is almost entirely in Fairfax County, covering about 585,000 residents. That includes Lorton, Burke, Fairfax, Chantilly, Vienna, Tysons, Reston, and most of Springfield and Herndon.
Motorcyclist Dies Falling from I-495 — “An Alexandria motorcyclist was killed Sunday afternoon (June 26) after crashing and falling nearly 30 feet off the westbound Interstate 495 overpass exit ramp for Eisenhower Avenue toward Mill Road…He was transported to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.” [ALXnow]
System for Helicopter Noise Complaints Unveiled — D.C. area residents finally have a clear place to go to lodge complaints about helicopter-related noise. The site planenoise.com/dcmetro was unveiled yesterday (Monday) as part of a 60-day pilot program that could become permanent. Complaints can also be filed by phone at 877-209-3200 or a mobile app. [Rep. Don Beyer/ARLnow]
Fire Department Shares Fireworks Safety Tips — “The Fourth of July would not be the same without those breathtaking fireworks. However, tragedy can strike within seconds when fireworks are not properly and safely used. Thousands of people are injured each year in the United States due to fireworks. Consider the following safety tips when using permissible fireworks…” [FCFRD]
Fort Belvoir Plans Springfield Expansion — “The U.S. Army is advancing plans to build a big new distribution center at Fort Belvoir as part of a larger planned intelligence campus expansion. The 525,000-square-foot facility, which would house some 600 employees, is proposed for the western portion of the 804-acre Springfield parcel known as Fort Belvoir North.” [Washington Business Journal]
Falls Church Seeks Information About Cat — “The City of Falls Church Police are looking for the owner of a black cat that bit a person in Big Chimneys Park (210 Gibson St.) on Friday, June 24. The police want to know if the cat is vaccinated against rabies. The cat is described as black with either yellow or brown eyes.” [City of Falls Church]
Influential Local Land Use Lawyer Dies — “Martin D. ‘Art’ Walsh, who helped reshape Arlington’s skyline as co-founder of one of Northern Virginia’s most prominent land use law firms, died June 6 at a hospital in Fairfax County, Va. He was 78 and a resident of McLean, Va.” [The Washington Post]
County Highlights Need for HIV Testing — June 27 was National HIV Testing Day, so the Fairfax County Health Department released a video highlighting an HIV-positive advocate’s journey and the importance of getting tested. While no cure has been found for AIDS, the disease sometimes caused by the virus, which attacks the immune system, prevention and treatment services are available. [FCHD]
Ribbon Cut on Wakefield Pickleball Courts — “This weekend we cut the ribbon on two new pickleball courts at Wakefield Park! Expanding access to this growing sport is a priority in Fairfax County.” [Supervisor James Walkinshaw/Twitter]
Vienna to Laud Local Pets — “The Town is launching the Mayor’s Pet of the Week! Nominate your pet by emailing Mayor@viennava.gov with your pet’s name, the kind of animal it is, and what makes it special. The first honorary award goes to Mayor Colbert’s cat, Ginny!” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]
It’s Tuesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 78 and low of 60. Sunrise at 5:47 am and sunset at 8:40 pm. [Weather.gov]
Local Republicans nominated Karina Lipsman on Saturday (May 21) to seek the U.S. House seat currently held by Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.).
Early voting is underway for the June 21 Democratic primary to determine whether Lipsman faces Beyer or challenger Victoria Virasingh in the November general election. Portions of Fairfax County in the new 8th District include McLean, Bailey’s Crossroads, Annandale, and the Route 1 corridor.
At the local GOP’s ranked choice convention, Lipsman earned 61.5% of the votes in the first round of vote counting, according to a press release on her campaign website.
Alexandria resident Kezia Tunnell received 19.12% of the vote, and the party’s 2020 nominee Jeff Jordan received 15.92%. McLean resident Monica Carpio and Heerak Christian Kim, a registered nurse and former public school teacher, did not break 2.5%, the release stated.
The 8th District seat has been held by a Democrat for decades. Beyer was first elected in 2014, when he won a crowded primary to succeed former Congressman Jim Moran.
An Arlington resident, Lipsman fled Ukraine when it was still under Soviet Union control and came to the United States with her mother and grandparents, according to her campaign website. They didn’t speak English, survived on food stamps and lived in low-income housing in Baltimore. When she was 18, Lipsman became a U.S. citizen.
I’ve lived the American dream and now I see that dream slipping away due to failed leadership.
I’m running for Congress in #VA08 to protect the American dream for all🇺🇸
— Karina Lipsman (@KarinaCongress) May 13, 2022
She received a bachelor’s degree in economics while she was working full-time in the financial industry, and later earned a master’s in engineering from Johns Hopkins, according to the website. She’s worked in the national defense industry for over a decade.
Her website outlines priorities like supporting law enforcement, opposing tax increases, stopping illegal immigration and her stance against abortion.
She says she supports school choice and community colleges, technical schools, and vocational training programs.
“We must fight the dangerous voices that call for lowering educational standards in the name of equity,” she wrote.
The Fairfax County Democratic Committee has not publicly commented on Lipsman’s nomination, but Arlington Democrats posted to Twitter calling her an “extreme right candidate,” linking to a recording of her allegedly saying “Fauci should be jailed” at a candidate forum.
Lipsman’s website says she will “advocate for common-sense policies that fight crime, reduce inflation, ease transportation and improve our educational standards.”
“Let’s be honest — there are loud extremists on both sides, who benefit from dividing our country, and we cannot let that happen,” Lipsman’s website reads. “Divisive politics are poisonous and we must work together to overcome the gridlock on the critical issues that are facing our country.”
Photo via Fairfax County Republican Committee
(Updated at 11:20 a.m. on 5/6/2022) Fairfax County will kick off early voting for the June 21 Democratic primary tomorrow (Friday), but with only one race on the ballot, turnout will likely be muted.
Incumbent Don Beyer faces political newcomer Victoria Virasingh in the 8th Congressional District. It will be the county’s first primary under new district maps drawn and approved by the Virginia Supreme Court last December.
The new 8th district covers eastern Fairfax County from McLean to Mason Neck, including Falls Church, Bailey’s Crossroads, Annandale, Rose Hill, and much of the Mount Vernon magisterial district. It also represents Arlington County and the City of Alexandria.
“Let’s get out there and vote to shape a future that works for all of us,” Virasingh said yesterday (Wednesday) on Twitter.
In-person early voting will initially be limited to the Fairfax County Government Center, but additional sites will open on June 11 at the Franconia, Mason, McLean, and Mount Vernon governmental centers as well as Thomas Jefferson Library.
Absentee ballots, which are available to all registered voters in the district, will start arriving in the mail after Friday, according to the Fairfax County Office of Elections.
Early voting ends June 18.
The Republican Party will select its nominees for the 8th district at a convention on May 21. There are five candidates in the running: Monica Carpio, Jeff Jordan, Heerak Christian Kim, Karina Lipsman, and Kezia Tunnell.
Along with the Democratic and Republican nominees, independent Teddy Fikre is vying for the Democrats’ 8th district seat in the November general election.
Meanwhile, Republicans will hold a canvass tomorrow (Saturday) in Fair Lakes to determine the party’s nominee to challenge Rep. Gerry Connolly for the 11th district, which spans Great Falls to Lorton and includes Fairfax, Herndon, Merrifield, Reston, Tysons, and Vienna. Candidates include Manga Anantatmula, Joseph Babb, Barbara Banks, Matthew Chappell and James Myles.
Rep. Don Beyer
The former lieutenant governor of Virginia is seeking to land his fifth term in Congress.
“This year I worked harder than ever to help my constituents, opening thousands of constituent cases with federal agencies on behalf of Northern Virginians and returning millions of dollars to VA-8 taxpayers,” Beyer said in a January statement when announcing his reelection campaign.
“We have much more work to do in the year ahead and beyond, starting with comprehensive action on climate in the Build Back Better Act, which I helped draft as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee,” he said in the statement.
According to a statement from her campaign, top priorities for Virasingh, who announced her campaign in July, include:
- Raising the federal minimum wage to $18
- Advancing women’s issues such as robust reproductive healthcare, affordable childcare and equitable pay
- Tackling data privacy and protection
- Providing federal tax credits to build homes in underserved communities, increasing support for the low-income housing tax credit, and addressing restrictive land use and zoning policies
- Expanding access to affordable healthcare by passing Medicare for All
She’s emphasizing outreach to communities that have historically been left out of the political process as well as her volunteer work, which includes serving as outreach vice chair for the Arlington County Democratic Committee.
The Arlingtonian is seeking to try new ways to address enduring problems and notes her passion for climate action, voting rights protection and campaign finance reform.
Photo via Victoria Virasingh/Facebook