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Thursday afternoon traffic at the Balls Hill Road and Old Dominion Drive intersection (via Google Maps)

Fairfax County has a plan to fix the Balls Hill Road and Old Dominion Drive intersection, but it will likely take another half-decade for the changes to fall into place.

Construction on the proposed realignment — which will split the X-shaped intersection into two T intersections — isn’t expected to start until the spring of 2027, finishing in fall 2028, Fairfax County Department of Transportation staff told the community in a pair of meetings this week.

The lengthy timeline partly stems from an extensive utility relocation process projected take up to 24 months. It could be shortened if the supply-chain issues that have slowed construction during the pandemic abate.

“Some of those [utility] poles are located right now where we’d need to put roadway stuff, sidewalks, whatever, so they have to be out of the way before we can begin construction,” FCDOT project manager Jared Kerr said during a virtual meeting on Wednesday (June 22).

An in-person meeting was held last night (Thursday) at Churchill Elementary School.

Fairfax County’s proposed preliminary design for the Balls Hill Road and Old Dominion Drive intersection (via FCDOT)

Local transportation officials say the wait will be worthwhile for McLean drivers, whose patience is regularly tested by traffic congestion in the central intersection between I-495 and Route 123.

Selected out of three options proposed when the county first brought the project forward in 2018, the T-intersection concept will move traffic more efficiently by reducing driver confusion and relocating signals so vehicles are less likely to block residential driveways, FCDOT staff say.

By 2045, the changes will shave almost two minutes off the average morning rush-hour delay and three minutes off peak afternoon travel times compared to what would happen if nothing is done, according to a staff presentation.

Those couple of minutes could mean the difference between sitting through one or two traffic signal cycles and limit vehicle queues to 125 to 150 feet long. Currently, queues on Balls Hill can extend over half a mile, backing up to The Langley School, one resident at Wednesday’s meeting observed. Read More

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Officials are proposing adding bicycle lanes and crosswalks to Farmington Drive and Fordson Road, which are in two highly trafficked areas south of the Beltway.

On Farmington Drive, the lanes and additional shared street markings would go between Telegraph Road and Edgehill Drive bordering Jefferson Manor Park and near the Huntington Metro.

On Fordson Road, new bike lanes are being proposed for the short segment of the road in Hybla Valley that connects Mount Vernon Plaza to Richmond Highway. The shopping center recently gained a 3,200-square-foot parklet.

New crosswalks across Fordson Road at Cyrene Blvd and near the entrance of the McDonald’s at the shopping plaza are also being suggested.

This would restrict “most” on-street parking south of Cyrene Blvd, the county notes on the project page, though on-street parking will remain intact north of the road.

All of this is set to be discussed with the community at a virtual meeting next week (June 15). A recording of the meeting will be posted afterward, and community feedback will be accepted until June 29.

Fairfax County Department of Transportation spokesperson Robin Geiger says these types of measures are recommended by the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan and adding bike lanes can help slow down car traffic.

“The [roads are] wide enough to accommodate additional transportation infrastructure,” she wrote to FFXnow in an email. “Wide travel lanes can also lead to higher travel speeds, which is a safety concern for drivers, as well as cyclists and crossing pedestrians.”

The project only needs to be approved by District Supervisor Rodney Lusk, who is expected to make his decision in the coming weeks after the public comment period.

The proposed projects are part of the county’s annual maintenance, repaving, and striping of roads. Every year, FCDOT identifies roads that could be improved by additional safety measures like crosswalks, bicycle lanes, and shared street markings. The county collaborates with VDOT, which does the actual work and funding of the projects. The work begins in April and concludes in November.

However, these two projects were not part of the original collection of roads that were set for new safety measures this year.

The Farmington Drive and Fordson Road projects had originally been slated for consideration next year, but a lower bid on the paving contract allowed them to be possibly moved earlier.

If approved, the roads will be repaved between September 2022 and June 2023, so it still could be a full year before the new bicycle lanes and crosswalks are completed.

VDOT was not able to provide more information by publication on how much street parking would be lost with the addition of bike lanes to Fordson Road as well as the cost of both projects. Geiger did say the addition of bike lanes and crosswalks are just “making minor adjustments to the striping.”

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The proposed Lincoln Street design adds two mini-roundabouts and a median on Magarity Road (via FCDOT/YouTube)

A planned street that will eventually connect Tysons East to Pimmit Hills could bring some major changes to Magarity Road, the border between the two neighborhoods.

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation shared a conceptual design for Lincoln Street last month that proposed adding two mini-roundabouts on Magarity, including one at the Peabody Drive intersection in front of Westgate Elementary School.

The other potential roundabout will be at the Violet Ridge Place intersection.

Each roundabout will have a pedestrian refuge and crosswalks. A raised median down the center of Magarity will require Lincoln Street drivers to turn right and go through the roundabout at Peabody in order to go east into McLean, according to a presentation at a virtual community meeting on May 19.

FCDOT staff said computer simulations have indicated that the roundabouts will be able to accommodate larger vehicles, such as school buses, fire trucks, and snowplows.

“This dual mini roundabout alternative will accommodate all vehicles,” FCDOT project manager Caijun Luo said.

Acknowledging that the roundabouts will create some inconvenience by requiring U-turns for left turns onto Magarity Road, county staff said it emerged as the best option for connecting Lincoln Street from a safety standpoint. It would also maintain access to the single-family homes lining the road’s east side as well as the existing curbside parking.

With more development coming into place in Tysons East, Lincoln Street will connect Magarity and Old Meadow Road with a bridge over Scott’s Run in an effort to divert some neighborhood traffic away from Route 123.

Though FCDOT previously suggested traffic signals were being considered at both intersections, Capital Projects Section Chief Michael Guarino said at the meeting that there will be stop signs instead, since “the volumes projected right now don’t warrant a traffic signal.”

The preliminary design for Lincoln Street next to Westgate Elementary School (via FCDOT/YouTube)

Lincoln Street will consist of two 11-foot-wide lanes — one in each direction — with a 10-foot-wide asphalt sidewalk on the north side and a 6-foot-wide concrete sidewalk on the south side. In the preliminary design, the sidewalks are separated from the road by grass buffers.

The travel lanes will each expand to 13 feet wide at the bridge over Scott’s Run, which will have concrete sidewalks on both sides. Staff said the bridge will have at least a 10-foot clearance for Scott’s Run Trail.

FCDOT confirmed that crosswalks and curb ramps will be added on Old Meadow Road, but many details — such as the possibility of connections from Lincoln Street to Scott’s Run Trail or flashing beacons at the Westgate Elementary crosswalks — will be worked out once the project progresses to the final design stage.

Staff promised to also examine how the new street will affect other intersections on Old Meadow and Magarity outside of the immediate project limits, particularly where Old Meadow meets Chain Bridge Road to the north.

That intersection already experiences traffic and speeding issues, community members said during the virtual meeting.

“That can be kind of busy and kind of hard to see, because…there’s a curve in the road at that point,” an attendee identified as Greg said. “Adding another road coming out there would certainly complicate that intersection further down, so it’s an impact that I’m glad you’re at least starting to think about.”

Following the community meeting, FCDOT is accepting input on the proposed concept through June 6.

Though the project is already fully funded, a final design isn’t scheduled to be completed until 2024. Land acquisitions could start that year, with construction starting in mid-2026 and finishing in late 2027.

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Traffic fills the Richmond Highway (via Fairfax County)

The public’s chance to comment on proposed tweaks to Fairfax County’s plan for bus rapid transit in the Route 1 corridor is almost over.

In a pair of April meetings, staff from the Fairfax County Department of Transportation recommended reducing the number of turn lanes currently along Route 1, also known as Richmond Highway, as well as some revisions to the project design, including reducing the design speed from 45 to 35 mph.

Branded The One, the planned BRT will travel to nine stations on Richmond Highway between the Huntington Metro station and Fort Belvoir. Prompted by community concerns, the proposed turn lane changes seek to improve the corridor, particularly for bicyclists and pedestrians.

In coordination with the Virginia Department of Transportation, county staff analyzed 30 proposals and recommended changes at 13 intersections:

  • Penn Daw Area — Entrance to Kings Crossing​
  • Penn Daw Area — Shields Avenue​
  • Furman Lane
  • Southgate Drive
  • Beacon Hill Road
  • Memorial Street​
  • Arlington Drive​
  • Fordson Road/Boswell Avenue​
  • Sherwood Hall Lane​
  • Ladson Lane​
  • North Buckman Road/Mount Vernon Highway​
  • Sacramento Drive/Cooper Road​
  • Jeff Todd Way/Mount Vernon Memorial Highway​

A 17-question survey seeking public input on whether to reduce turn lanes at those intersections will close at 5 p.m. today (Tuesday).

Federal money is projected to help the estimated $795 million project, according to the county. Construction could begin in 2026 and end in 2030.

Photo via Fairfax County

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Traffic from 2019 on eastbound Dolley Madison Boulevard at the Great Falls Street intersection in McLean (via Google Maps)

Fairfax County has some ideas for short-term fixes that could ease congestion on Dolley Madison Blvd. through McLean, but if traffic grows significantly further down the road, a more substantial overhaul may be needed.

For the first time in almost three years, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation returned to the community with updates on its efforts to address gridlock in the corridor between the Dulles Toll Road and Old Dominion Drive.

At a meeting on May 11, county staff shared revised traffic data and recommendations that they said take into account the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on people’s travel habits as well as infrastructure projects, like the Jones Branch Connector, designed to divert traffic from local roads.

According to the presentation, traffic in the D.C. suburbs is near pre-pandemic levels, with average daily volumes since July returning to about 90% of where they were in 2019, FCDOT project manager Maggie Qi reported.

However, aside from noticeable dips in March-April 2020 and this past January, traffic volumes have stayed relatively level over the past two to three years, and the county anticipates that people working from home will continue to slow growth, at least in the near-future.

“At some point, the ultimate solution would wind up being an interchange, but if we can find a way to keep volumes steady, we may be able to avoid that,” Qi said.

Building off of a 2010 Tysons Neighborhood Study, the Dolley Madison corridor study has been underway since 2017 — long enough that its definition of “short term” has shrunk from 10 to five years, with 2027 as the end of the planned timeframe.

Identifying the Lewinsville Road/Great Falls Street intersection as the corridor’s most problematic, particularly during afternoon peak hours, FCDOT has developed eight possible solutions, six of which come from the last community meeting in 2019:

  • Concept 1: Three continuous lanes on eastbound Dolley Madison, providing additional capacity with a new lane after the Dulles Toll Road
  • Concept 2: Builds on the first concept by extending the three lanes through Lewinsville/Great Falls
  • Concept 3: Eliminate left turns from Balls Hill Road onto Lewinsville, which could get another lane
  • Concept 4: A “partial jughandle” with restricted left-turns from Dolley Madison onto Old Dominion in both directions and onto Ingleside Avenue for eastbound traffic
  • Concept 5: Widen Lewinsville/Great Falls to add two exclusive left-turn lanes, allowing the traffic signal timing to become more efficient
  • Concept 6: Three westbound travel lanes on Dolley Madison from Old Dominion to Lewinsville

Though staff said that it would significantly reduce congestion, the sixth concept is no longer being considered after residents expressed strong opposition, since it would limit access to adjacent neighborhoods from Dolley Madison. Read More

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The Lewinsville and Spring Hill roads intersection in McLean has safety and congestion issues (via FCDOT)

(Updated at 2:45 p.m. on 5/17/2022) Plans to modify a centrally located yet awkward intersection in McLean have been put on hold indefinitely.

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation shared earlier this month that, after roughly four years of study, it has settled on a final, preferred conceptual design to revamp the intersection of Spring Hill and Lewinsville roads.

However, a lack of funding and some community objections to the proposed design have left the project in limbo.

A key connection between the Dulles Toll Road to the south and Route 7 to the north, the two roads currently intersect at acute angles, creating an X-shape that county officials say contributes to frequent crashes — a safety issue that is especially concerning with Spring Hill Elementary School just feet away.

“The intersection…has quite a few traffic accidents, including head on and angle collisions,” FCDOT spokesperson Robin Geiger said by email. “These are some of the most dangerous accident types. At the intersection they are attributed to driver confusion which is due to the significant skew of the intersection.”

According to a presentation delivered at a community meeting in June 2019, there were 33 crashes in or around the intersection between January 2011 and December 2015, including 21 rear-end crashes, four angle crashes, and five head-on crashes.

Four of the five head-on crashes occurred in the intersection, all involving vehicles trying to turn left from Lewinsville Road.

The intersection also experiences regular congestion, with drivers encountering 134.5 seconds of delay during morning peak hours and 75.7 seconds of delay in the afternoon, according to data collected on Jan. 26, 2017.

According to Geiger, FCDOT hasn’t updated its data during the pandemic, but the county anticipates that traffic will eventually “grow beyond what was happening pre-Covid.”

Based on a preliminary engineering study, county staff presented four potential concepts for redesigning the intersection in May 2018, including a “peanut” roundabout, additional lanes on the existing roads, and a modified offset T-intersection that would essentially create two intersections.

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation’s recommended concept for the Lewinsville and Spring Hill roads intersection (via FCDOT)

While the community initially favored maintaining a conventional intersection, staff suggested a revised version of the offset T-intersection concept in 2019 that has now been recommended as the preferred option.

In addition to splitting the intersection into two, eliminating the skewed angle, the proposed design will add medians, bicycle lanes, and pedestrian crosswalks.

“Offset-T had [the] best results in term of safety, delays and needed [right of way],” Geiger said, noting that the new design will improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists, reduce driver confusion, and lower congestion.

FCDOT had been planning to hold a virtual community meeting on the recommended concept tonight (Monday), but the meeting was postponed on May 5 and has not been rescheduled.

While an online survey initially appeared to be open, Geiger clarified that it should not have been enabled and has now been closed.

FCDOT says it selected the offset T design based on written feedback and an online survey conducted after the 2019 meeting, but homeowner groups in the area have come out against the concept, according to a Summerwood Civic Association member who contacted FFXnow.

Geiger confirmed that the project has been put on hold while the county evaluates “the practical implications” of an offset T concept proposed for the intersection of Old Dominion and Balls Hill roads, which has been met with similar skepticism.

According to Geiger, the Lewinsville/Spring Hill project is currently unfunded with no timeline for design or construction.

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Design of the Route 28 widening project is nearly complete (via FCDOT)

The design phase of the planned Route 28 widening is nearly complete.

The $87 million project will widen Route 28 — also known as Centreville Road — from four to six lanes between Bull Run bridge and the Upper Ridge/Old Centreville Road intersection.

It also includes widenings of intersecting streets next to Route 28, the installation of new signals at five currently signalized intersections, four noise barriers, and the construction of new drainage improvements, including storm water and storm management facilities.

Robin Geiger, a spokesperson for the Fairfax County Department of Transportation, said that the project is designed to allow for future expansion, if needed. So far, designs are 95% complete.

“The project has been designed to allow for future widening of Route 28 to eight lanes, as needed and as funding is available,” Geiger wrote in a statement to FFXnow.

FCDOT plans to hold an online meeting on May 11 from noon to 1:30 p.m. to provide an update about the status of the project, upcoming activities and the overall schedule and process.

The project is expected to be completed by the winter of 2023-2024, according to the county. Substantial completion on construction is anticipated in the fall of 2023.

The department has provided right-of-way plans for phase two of the project online. Staff from Shirley contracting company will also be on hand to answer questions.

The meeting can be accessed via Microsoft Teams or over the phone at 571-429-5982 with access code 901 419 848#.

So far, land rights — including right-of-way, temporary easements, and permanent easements — will be acquired from 48 properties. No buildings or structures will be demolished for the project.

Geiger anticipated that all land rights will be acquired by the end of the year or early 2023. Construction on the project began in September 2021.

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

Fairfax Connector has not formally rescinded its requirement that all passengers wear face masks to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

However, a court ruling that struck down federal mandates last week means that the public bus service can no longer enforce its policy, which relied on a now-halted directive from the Transportation Security Administration.

Fairfax Connector is still encouraging passengers to keep wearing masks, according to the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.

“As we await clear guidance from the federal government, Fairfax Connector encourages our passengers to follow the CDC recommendations and wear masks while riding Fairfax Connector,” Robin Geiger, head of communications for FCDOT, told FFXnow.

After Florida U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle ruled on April 18 that the federal government had overstepped in requiring masks on mass transportation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that it will stop enforcing a mandate that had been in effect since January 2021.

The CDC still recommends that people wear masks while in indoor public transportation settings, and it announced last Wednesday (April 20) that it has asked the Department of Justice to appeal Mizelle’s ruling. The Justice Department filed an appeal that same day.

Geiger confirmed that the future of Fairfax Connector’s mask policy will depend on the outcome of the court appeal.

Masks are currently optional on Metro, Fairfax CUE buses, and Virginia Railway Express trains.

Greeted by both cheers and trepidation, a range of reactions shared by FFXnow readers, the end of the federal mask mandate for transportation came as COVID-19 cases have once again started to climb locally and nationally.

As of yesterday (Tuesday), the Fairfax Health District, which includes the county and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, was averaging 279 daily cases for the past seven days. According to the Fairfax County Health Department, the district has seen a 62% increase in cases over the last two weeks, and there have been 15 new outbreaks in the past week, 12 of them in schools and daycares.

“Although not as high as the peak in cases seen in January, this change is concerning,” the FCHD said, urging community members to consider risk levels in their day-to-day activities and continue taking precautions — including wearing a mask when indoors or around crowds.

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Route 7 seen from Route 123 in Tysons (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Fairfax County has secured all the funding it needs to design a future widening of Route 7 from Route 123 to I-495 in Tysons.

The Tysons Transportation Service District Advisory Board approved allocating up to $7.8 million from the district’s tax revenues to the Route 7 project last month, a move recommended by Fairfax County Department of Transportation staff.

The vote during the March 22 meeting was almost unanimous, but one member of the board said they couldn’t support putting more money to widening a road.

The project design is also expected to receive $2 million from the Tysons-wide Road Funds, which is supported by developer fees.

“That will fully fund design,” FCDOT planner Christina Cain told the board, which advises the county on the district’s annual tax rate and transportation projects funded by the resulting revenue.

Separate from the Route 7 widening under construction to the north, the planned widening from Route 123 to the Capital Beltway will replace the roadway’s existing median with two new lanes to accommodate future bus rapid transit service between Tysons and Alexandria.

Since the new lanes are envisioned as transit-only, Route 7 has to be widened to preserve six lanes for general traffic. The project will also alter the interchange with Route 123, though an evaluation of two possible concepts is temporarily on hold, according to FCDOT’s presentation.

Staff are looking at making upgrades to pedestrian crossings throughout the roughly 1-mile stretch of road, particularly at International Drive, according to Fairfax County Director of Transportation Tom Biesiadny.

“Today, [the crossings] are pretty minimal,” he said. “…What doesn’t exist today are median refuges so that people will be able to cross halfway if they’re not able to make it all the way across. They’ll have a safe way to wait.”

The county is also studying potential safety, operational, and bicycle and pedestrian improvements that could be made in conjunction with the widening and BRT service.

Even before the advisory board’s Route 7 vote, more than half of the $62 million in tax revenue and interest collected by the Tysons Transportation Service District since it was created in 2013 had been allocated to various transportation projects.

As of March 1, about $31.3 million had been allocated, leaving $30.4 million available for projects currently in their preliminary design or engineering phases.

The taxes are generated by residential and commercial properties in the district based on assessed property values.

Property values in Tysons have exceeded the 3% growth projected by the county every year except for fiscal years 2021, when there was a 4.4% decline, and 2022, which saw a 2.3% rise, according to FCDOT.

Because of the faster-than-anticipated growth, the advisory board supported staff’s recommendation to keep the tax rate at 5 cents per $100 of assessed value. The rate needs to be approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors as part of the budget for fiscal year 2023, which begins July 1.

“Ultimately, that [growth] probably means that the service district will terminate sooner than we projected, or at some point in the future, the rate can go down at the tail end,” Biesiadny said.

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A road project replaces pavement (via Fairfax County Department of Transportation)

Road paving and striping season has arrived.

The Fairfax County and Virginia transportation departments will hold multiple public meetings this month on proposed pedestrian crossing and road changes for 2022.

The changes include narrowing several roads to an 11-foot standard and upgrading crosswalks. Bicycle lanes are also slated for several areas across the county.

The most significant change appears to be in Sully District, where bicycle lanes — potentially buffered — have been proposed where possible on Braddock Road between Belle Pond Drive and Sully Station Drive.

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation said underutilized travel lanes on Braddock Road will be converted.

New bicycle lanes are also planned in the following areas:

  • Lee District: Lockheed Boulevard, between Route 1 and the Huntley Meadows Park entrance where feasible
  • Providence District: Cottage Street between Gallows Road and Cedar Lane where possible, as well as Wolftrap Road between Gallows Road and the end of the street
  • Sully District: Centreville Farms Road, where outside travel lanes could be buffered between Lee Highway and Stringfellow Road

Crosswalk upgrades are slated for:

  • Braddock and Lee districts: Greeley Road at Bellamy Avenue near West Springfield Elementary School
  • Lee District: Summer Ridge Road at Westcott Hills Way
  • Mason District: Westmoreland Road at both Barrett and Wayne roads
  • Providence District: Madrillon Road at Boss Street and Merry Oaks Lane; Stonewall Drive and Shenandoah Street; Wolftrap Road at Wolftrap Court; and Hibbard Street at Chain Bridge Road
  • Springfield District: Autumn Willow Drive at Stringfellow Park as well as Fair Lakes Boulevard at Sedgehurst Drive
  • Sully District: Newton Patent Drive at Awbrey Patent Drive

Some areas could see parking restricted to help address sightline issues.

FCDOT will hold virtual community meetings to discuss the changes on April 18 for Dranesville, Hunter Mill, and Providence districts; April 19 for Lee, Mount Vernon and Springfield districts; and April 21 for Braddock, Mason and Sully districts.

There are no striping improvements proposed for Dranesville and Hunter Mill districts, though.

Comment periods will close two weeks after each meeting. Paving work will begin this spring and finish in November.

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