Fairfax County officials are gearing up to expand the police department’s use of automated license plate readers (ALPR).
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a $136,270 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice today (Tuesday) to further support the program. The Fairfax County Police Department is seeking the expansion in response to a rise in violent carjackings and stolen vehicles, according to county staff.
The FCPD introduced the camera system last year with an eight-week trial period that placed the technology in two locations. This spring, the department installed another 25 readers, extending the trial through Oct. 31.
Over the last 13 months, county officials say the police department has recovered 125 stolen vehicles and 22 firearms using the technology. The system also reportedly helped find 19 missing persons.
“The placement of these systems into neighborhoods will foster new partnerships with the communities that have requested LPR support. It will also increase communications between police and the neighborhoods,” county staff said in a memo to the board.
The camera system comes from Flock Safety, which has installed ALPRs in more than 2,000 localities across the country.
The technology captures a vehicle’s license plate, color, make and model and sends a real-time alert to law enforcement if a stolen vehicle used in a crime matches records in the database.
County officials say the program doesn’t conflict with the county’s public trust and confidentiality policy, which aims to ensure that immigrant residents can utilize county services without the fear that information will be disclosed to federal immigration officials.
“The FCPD LPR program specifically prohibits users from using the system to identify, alert, or enforce any immigration related warrants, which is a practice that is reinforced in the training class and every time a user logs into the system,” county staff wrote.
The FCPD is permitted to store data for up to one year, but Flock Safety’s system only stores data for up to 30 days, FFXnow previously reported. The issue of data retention has been a subject of legal and legislative debate.
In 2019, a federal court ruled that an FCPD database of photos of vehicle license plates violated Virginia privacy law. A year later, the Virginia State Supreme Court overturned that decision. During its session this year, the General Assembly considered a bill that would limit how data from ALPRs is stored, but it was left in a senate transportation committee.
A medical device printer in Herndon is among five local companies that will receive funding from Fairfax County’s new grant program for startups.
3D Orthobiologic Solutions (3DOS), which launched in 2019, seeks to manufacture 3D-printed medical devices and dental impacts.
“Their IP technology licenses a Stanford University patent. The company has been accepted by Johnson & Johnson’s accelerator program JLABS,” the county said in an overview.
The Fairfax County Department of Economic Initiatives announced the inaugural winners of Fairfax Founders Fund grants earlier this month. The fund is intended to support companies that are involved in creating innovative technology products and have demonstrated potential for growth.
The other four companies that received funds are:
- Anapact: An Alexandria-based company that makes smart headgear for boxers and MMA fighters to offer real-time feedback on performance, impact and damage.
- BloomCatch: The Centreville company aims to combat the growing labor shortage in the gardening industry by offering digital access to plant care information through an app to train employees.
- NearStar Fusion: The Chantilly-based company, which was founded in 2023, provides a globally scalable clean fusion energy option by using pulse plasma guns as a new component for a fusion power plants.
- Healp: The company, which is based in Fairfax Station, provides an app that connections patients and medical providers that focuses on rare conditions and illnesses at no cost to the patient.
“We are delighted to recognize and support these exceptional startups in Fairfax County,” Department of Economic Initiatives Director Rebecca Moudry said in the announcement. “These grants will empower our local firms to advance their innovations, meet business goals, and drive economic growth and technological progress in our community.”
The application period for the next round of funding runs from Nov. 27 through Jan. 8. Companies receive up to $50,000 to prepare for later-stage investment.
To be eligible, companies must be based in Fairfax County, have raised no more than $1 million of startup funding so far and have received no more than $250,000 gross revenue in the 12 months before they apply, among other criteria.
First proposed in July 2021, the Fairfax Founders Fund was conceived as a way to support female, Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs, who are less likely to receive investments for startups from other sources than male and white entrepreneurs.
“The primary objectives of the fund are to stimulate economic development, connect startups with local resources and partnerships, and promote economic mobility by ensuring that early-stage capital is accessible to entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds,” the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority said.
The Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES) has proposed a new grant program to help curb flooding in the county.
The flood mitigation assistance program (FMAP) would reimburse residents and property owners for purchasing and installing approved products and services that reduce the risk of flood damage to their property.
The program calls for a cost-sharing agreement where the resident or property owners cover 50% of the cost, and the county covers the other half up to $5,000, DPWES Deputy Director Eleanor Ku Codding told the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors at an environmental committee meeting on Tuesday (Oct. 3).
The program was made to be flexible, according to Codding. It’s open to residential or commercial multi-family properties, common-interest communities, and places of worship. Approved flood mitigation practices include:
- window wells
- flood gates
- modified basement areaways
- sump pump backup batteries
- utility protection
- exterior grading or drains
However, if an owner wanted to use another flood mitigation service not listed, it would be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Codding said, since drainage is not a straightforward issue, sharing the cost is a good solution.
“By establishing a cost-share program, we are allowing residents to be empowered to take action to mitigate that risk of flooding,” she said. “In addition, we have seen that the best flood risk reduction programs — including FEMA — include these types of cost-share programs.”
Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust supported the program but called for the county to take more action.
“We should be thinking bigger in terms of stormwater management because it’s a huge problem,” Foust said. “And once we adopt this, then we’ll be done with it. We’ll check it off and move on to the next thing, and I just think the problem deserves more.”
Codding said other programs could be brought to the board in the future.
The county has discussed raising its building stormwater standards to accommodate more frequent and extreme flooding, and earlier this year, it piloted a program for sharing the cost of projects with private property owners, essentially testing the approach proposed for the new assistance program.
Funded through the county’s Stormwater Service District taxes, FMAP would start on July 1, 2024, and applications would be reviewed on a first come, first served basis. The Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District would administer the program.
DPWES will return to the board at a public hearing to get authorization to sign the memorandum of understanding with the conservation district. The agreement will establish rules for how the district should administer the program.
Screenshot via FCFRD/Twitter
(Updated at 9:35 a.m. on 8/22/2023) Maryland has renewed its commitment to replacing the American Legion Bridge and adding express lanes on the Capital Beltway, much to the relief of Northern Virginia transportation officials.
The Maryland Department of Transportation has applied for a federal grant to fund the initial phase of its project to widen the Beltway (I-495/I-270) and reconstruct the aging bridge, which provides the only road connection between Fairfax County and Montgomery County, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore announced today (Monday).
The announcement is the first indication of how Maryland will proceed since private express lanes operator Transurban backed out in March over concerns about delayed environmental approvals, lawsuits and the change in leadership after Moore succeeded Larry Hogan in January.
Since Hogan and then-Virginia governor Ralph Northam announced an agreement in 2019 to replace the heavily used American Legion Bridge, Maryland’s cooperation has been seen as critical to the success of Virginia’s I-495 Northern Extension (495 NEXT) project, which is now under construction and will extend the Beltway’s toll lanes from the Dulles Toll Road in Tysons to the bridge north of McLean.
“Governor Moore’s plan ensures these long-awaited improvements will become a reality. This is great news for area travelers and the economic competitiveness of our entire region,” Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance President Jason Stanford said in a statement. “The Alliance applauds Governor Moore for finding a multimodal solution to address one of the region’s worst bottlenecks and move more people through one of our most congested corridors.”
The Virginia Department of Transportation has estimated that 495 NEXT will move 2,500 more people per hour in both directions when the express lanes open in 2025. However, it would move 5,400 more people an hour with Maryland’s project in place.
Skeptics of 495 NEXT, including Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, have argued that widening I-495 in Virginia without a concurrent widening in Maryland will only push the existing congestion further north, leaving McLean residents to deal with the traffic, environmental and neighborhood impacts without getting any of the supposed benefits.
Noting that many details of Moore’s plan have yet to be shared, such as what kind of “managed lanes” will be involved, Foust called the announcement “great news” as a sign that Maryland is committed to helping address congestion on the American Legion Bridge.
However, assuming it secures the necessary approvals and funding, the Maryland project will still likely take years to complete, Foust said in a statement.
The estimate I have seen is that the project could be complete in eight years (by 2031) if all goes well. Unfortunately, that means commuters who cross the American Legion Bridge, and residents of the communities around the bridge, will continue to suffer from the impacts of severe congestion for at least that long unless something is done in the interim. Given the miserable traffic conditions around the bridge, eight years is too long to wait for any relief. That is why I believe VDOT needs to deliver interim solutions that mitigate the congestion impacts over the bridge and in the surrounding neighborhoods.
The 495 NEXT project was designed to seamlessly connect to a version of an American Legion Bridge project that we now know will not be built. In addition to very nasty congestion, established neighborhoods along the path of the 495 NEXT project are being severely impacted by construction activity. Given the dramatic change of plans and potentially major reduction of scope for the Maryland project, I believe VDOT should determine whether and by how much it can reduce the scope of disturbance of its project to help mitigate those construction-related impacts on the adjacent communities.
Shifting away from the public-private partnership that Hogan sought and that has built Virginia’s growing express lanes network, Moore emphasized in his announcement that Maryland’s project will incorporate transit and other multimodal improvements, including pedestrian and bicycle access. Read More
Fairfax County is making another push to fund pedestrian safety improvements at Shrevewood Elementary School in Idylwood.
The long-gestating crosswalks project is one of five that the Fairfax County Department of Transportation intends to submit to the state for funding consideration under the federal Transportation Alternatives grant program.
“This program invests in community-based projects that expand non-motorized travel choices and enhance the transportation experience by improving the cultural, historical and environmental aspect of the transportation infrastructure,” FCDOT said in a press release last week.
For fiscal year 2025, which starts July 1, 2024, the department will request a total of $9.2 million to fill walkway gaps to the Mason Neck Trail in Lorton, add a shared-use path on Compton Road in Centreville, and support three Safe Routes to Schools projects — a program that encourages students to walk and bike to school.
Shrevewood Elementary School — Safe Routes to School
- Total estimated cost: $2.99 million
- Grant request: $1.14 million
Part of a larger effort to improve safety in the Shreve Road corridor after a fatal crash in 2019, this project will add marked crosswalks at Fairwood Lane, the school’s eastern driveway and across Virginia Lane at Virginia Avenue. The Fairwood Lane crosswalk will include a pedestrian refuge island.
FCDOT says the crosswalks “will provide neighborhood access to school amenities” and the nearby Washington & Old Dominion Trail.
Bush Hill Elementary School — Safe Routes to School
- Total estimated cost: $3.66 million
- Grant request: $1.86 million
Approximately 850 feet of sidewalk will be added on Bush Hill Drive between Ninian Avenue and Larno Avenue in Rose Hill.
“Completing this missing sidewalk link will improve safety and accessibility for children walking and bicycling to school,” FCDOT said.
Lake Braddock Secondary School — Safe Routes to School
- Total estimated cost: $2.55 million
- Grant request: $2.04 million
Crosswalks and a pedestrian signal will be constructed at the school’s entrance on Burke Lake Road. The project will also reconstruct a sidewalk on the road’s south side to be 6 feet wide and bring six ramps up to ADA standards.
Mason Neck Trail
- Total estimated cost: $13.96 million
- Grant request: $1.7 million
The project will build missing pieces of the walkway along Gunston Road from Richmond Highway (Route 1) to the existing trail.
Compton Road Walkway
- Total estimated cost: $9.3 million
- Grant request: $2.5 million
Approximately 550 feet of a 10-foot-wide, paved shared use path will be added on the east side of Compton Road, connecting the Cub Run Stream Valley Trail with an existing path crossing to the Bull Run Regional Events Center’s entrance.
The project will also widen a bridge over Cub Run to accommodate the shared use path.
FCDOT Communications Specialist Lynn Krolowitz noted that the grant request amounts could be revised if the project cost estimates changed before the applications are finalized in October.
“FCDOT select projects based on several factors such as program eligibility criteria and project readiness requirements, the need of continued funding for existing projects, and previous Board approval/consideration, which assumes some level of public involvement,” Krolowitz said in an email to FFXnow.
To be eligible for Transportation Alternatives grants, projects must have already gotten public feedback, be ready for design, require less than four years of construction, have a “logical” endpoint — such as an existing sidewalk or a road intersection — and be beneficial even if no other improvements are made in the area, according to FCDOT.
Three of the projects under consideration in this round, including the Shrevewood project, have previously gotten the grants, giving them priority in the selection process, Krolowtiz says.
FCDOT will host a virtual public input meeting to discuss the proposed projects at 6 p.m. tomorrow (Wednesday).
Image via Google Maps
Linway Terrace Park in McLean inched closer last week to getting a new, turf baseball diamond.
At its meeting on June 28, the Fairfax County Park Authority board approved a $20,000 grant to the McLean Little League (MLL), which has proposed replacing the existing grass field at 6246 Linway Terrace with a synthetic turf field.
Synthetic turf will “provide an even and consistent playing surface that is more forgiving of wet conditions,” the park authority said.
MLL has committed to funding the remainder of the conversion, which will cost an estimated $1.2 million to $1.3 million. The grant, along with an initial $230,000 contribution from the little league, will cover the cost of design and permitting, according to the FCPA.
“We are currently working with the community to raise the funds required for this project,” MLL board member Bryan Orme said.
Though some community members have expressed concern about potential health risks posed by synthetic turf, Linway Terrace Park’s soccer and lacrosse fields have already been converted.
The park authority estimates that the baseball field conversion could start in the spring of 2025 and be completed that fall.
The park authority board also approved a Mastenbrook Volunteer Matching Fund Grant last week for new fencing at Frying Pan Farm Park in the Herndon area, according to a June 29 news release:
The Friends of Frying Pan Farm Park has proposed replacing sections of degraded fencing with 2,666 linear feet of new oak board fencing around several of the farm’s pastures. The Friends of Frying Pan Farm Park will be contributing matching funds in the amount of $19,995 to complete the funding needed for the project. Project completion is anticipated for early 2024.
The grant program helps fill gaps in funding for facility improvements at county parks undertaken by nonprofits, community groups and other volunteers. Grants can go up to $20,000, but they can’t exceed more than half of the project’s overall cost.
Since establishing the program in 1999, the FCPA has awarded approximately $2.08 million for a variety of projects, including trail and athletic field improvements.
The Town of Herndon’s comprehensive plan for 2050 received a big funding boost from the U.S. Department of Transportation this week.
In a release on Monday (June 26), Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine announced the town received $720,000 in funding from the federal Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity grant program (RAISE).
The funds will be used to develop the town’s comprehensive plan, called Herndon 2050. The town was one of five Virginia localities to receive grants from the more than $38 million allocated in federal infrastructure investment.
“The town’s receipt of this RAISE grant is a testament to our staff’s expertise and ability to successfully compete and prevail in highly competitive grant environments,” Town Manager William H. Ashton II said in a news release. “This award will provide significant financial assistance in achieving the town’s goals.”
The grant allows the town to proceed with developing the plan, which will guide transportation, land use, environment, housing, economic development and capital improvement issues over 25 years.
Community Development Director Lisa Gilleran said the funds are integral to completing the plan.
“The Comprehensive Plan is an important planning tool for our community,” said Gilleran. “One of our goals will be to develop this plan through the lens of equity to ensure that all residents, visitors, employers, and employees in the town live, work, and recreate in an environment that is conducive to their safety, success, and well-being.”
Once the process begins, it’s expected to take between one to three years to complete. The town will work with the public on Herndon 2050, which will include an economic development component and comprehensive plan implementation guide for the first time.
The overall project is expected to cost $900,000. The grant funding application states that the plan will incorporate active transportation projects, job diversification, metrics to reduce vehicle emissions, and inclusive economic development opportunities.
The town intends to put out an request for proposals in July, with a consultant under contract by September, according to town spokesperson Anne Curtis.
In an effort to reduce heat islands in vulnerable communities, the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services has applied for millions of dollars in grant funding to establish a street tree planting program.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the department’s request on Tuesday (June 6) to apply for a $11.5 million Inflation Reduction Act Urban and Community Forestry (UCF) grant from the U.S. Forest Service.
“The grant period is five years from the award date which is anticipated to be October 2023,” the board meeting package said.
Department of Public Works and Environmental Services spokesperson (DPWES) Sharon North told FFXnow the department is proposing to plant 1,000 trees over a five-year period. Although the county is looking at vulnerable communities, she said “no decision on the grant recipients will be made until October.”
The Forest Service announced the funding opportunity back in April. The UCF program received $1.5 billion under the Inflation Reduction Act to support urban tree planting and forest planning and management in at-risk communities.
“The Resilient Fairfax Plan notes that 91 percent of vulnerable households are in areas identified as having a significantly high urban heat island effect and that vulnerable populations are more likely to be impacted by extreme heat,” the package said.
Factors considered by the county’s vulnerability index include household income, education, English proficiency, health insurance and the percentage of the population that owns a home or vehicle.
If the county is awarded the funds, the program will also promote tree planting through partnerships with the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Fairfax County Park Authority, Fairfax County Public Schools, and nonprofit organizations.
The county also identifies specific activities that will receive the funding:
- identifying areas in the county that are heat vulnerable low tree canopy and/or areas where green infrastructure would provide additional community and resilience benefits
- planting and maintaining up to 5,000 native and/or climate-resilient street trees over five years in neighborhoods and within the right-of-way and on public property
- educating and engaging the public on the benefits of green spaces and trees
- expansion of a green workforce to maintain existing and new street trees.
The county launched a pilot program in 2021 that provides free trees to residents of areas with minimal tree canopy coverage. The program initially focused on the Richmond Highway corridor but was expected to shift to Bailey’s Crossroads this year.
A project to reduce light pollution at Turner Farm Park Observatory will soon kick off.
The project, funded by the Mastenbrook Volunteer Matching Fund Grant Program, will provide $7,515 to retrofit 26 light bollards to replace current fixtures with LED lights.
“The retrofit project will position Turner Farm Park to apply for designation as one of seven Urban Night Sky places by the International Dark Sky Association,” the Fairfax County Park Authority said last week.
The Analemma Society, which conducts astronomy and science education programs for more than a decade at the observatory, will pitch in a little over $5,100 toward the retrofit.
When applying for the grant, representatives of the Analemma Society explained that the retrofit is the “last piece” needed to meet the criteria for an Urban Night Sky Place, a label awarded to parks, open space or observational sites near an urban environment that “actively promote an authentic nighttime experience in the midst of significant artificial light.”
The park began the application process to obtain the designation over two years ago.
“Light pollution is a major environmental problem,” the grant application said. “This project aims to reduce light pollution by creating demonstration lights showing proper dark sky lighting design to help educate the public on this. In doing so it also improves the lighting at the observatory to provide better views of the night sky for participants in our astronomy outreach programs.”
The park is located at 925 Springvale Road in Great Falls.
The grant was officially approved by the park authority’s board of directors on May 31.
The board also approved roughly $2,400 for improvements at Lewinsville Park in McLean. It will fund the installation of 230 linear feet of black privacy slats on the existing pickleball courts to create a windscreen for players.
The Mastenbrook grant program supports public-private ventures. Grant amounts range from a few hundred dollars up to $20,000.
The county is in the midst of changing light regulations around the observatory. The draft policy aims to amend zoning standards for outdoor lighting within a half-mile of the observatory.
(Updated at 2:20 p.m. on 6/4/2023) Pickleball players at McLean’s Lewinsville Park will soon no longer have to contend with wind gusts.
The Fairfax County Park Authority Board approved a $2,382 grant during its May 24 meeting to support the installation of black privacy slats on the fencing around the park’s dedicated pickleball courts at 1659 Chain Bridge Road.
“The increasing popularity of pickleball has been driving high demand for the athletic courts at Lewinsville Park,” the park authority said in a news release. “However, wind often interferes with play and hinders player performance and safety.”
The four courts opened last October as part of a $650,000 renovation that resurfaced all of the park’s tennis and basketball courts. One of the six existing tennis courts was converted into pickleball-only facilities, and another was restriped to support both sports.
Since then, “hundreds of players” have been utilizing the courts throughout the year, and demand “is expected to grow rapidly,” according to Baroody Camps, an organization that provides school and summer enrichment camps and programs.
Baroody works with the park authority to provide recreational programming, including pickleball. The lack of wind screens for the Lewinsville pickleball courts has become a frequent issue for players, the company said in its Mastenbrook grant application to the FCPA.
“Wind impacts all players at every skill level, undermining players’ ability to place and return the ball and in some cases forcing players to rapidly shift running direction to reach the ball in play, creating a safety hazard,” Baroody founder and owner Peter Baroody wrote.
In addition to “slowing the crosswinds that occur at the site,” the slats could also potentially “aid in noise reduction,” Baroody told FFXnow.
With the project carrying an estimated cost of $4,764, Baroody will match the approved grant funds and take full responsibility for maintaining the slats, though it says the equipment provider, Long Fence, describes its windscreen “as virtually maintenance-free.”
According to FCPA staff, the project will add 230 linear feet of 9-foot-high slats on the existing pickleball court fencing along the 120-foot sideline and along 110 feet of endline.
The installation is expected to be completed this summer.
Photo courtesy Fairfax County Park Authority/Flickr