Email signup

The Fairfax Board of Supervisors recently got a preview of what future transit connections between Tysons and Maryland could look like.

At a transportation committee meeting on Tuesday (Jan. 31), Todd Horsley, the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation’s director of  Northern Virginia Transit Programs, presented a study of how transit could make use of the I-495 Express Lanes being extended from Springfield across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

Horsley pointed out, repeatedly, that the designs presented were not a plan, but part of a study that could be used in case those transit plans came along later.

“The VDOT study…[is] to extend I-495 Express Lanes across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge into Maryland,” Horsley said. “The document we will produce is a study, not a plan. We believe it will provide a solid foundation for a future planning effort if or when there is a funded capital project in the corridor to plan for.”

Currently, there is limited bus service along I-495 and across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. But if new I-495 toll lanes are built, Horsley said the department wanted to provide a look at what future transit connectivity on those lanes could look like.

The short-term plans — which Horsley said could be implemented almost immediately using the express lanes — could include an express route that would run from Tysons down to Alexandria. The other route could connect Tysons to locations in Maryland.

The mid-term plans doubled down on that Maryland connection with bus routes connecting Tysons to Oxon Hill, Clinton, National Harbor, and even up into Navy Yard in D.C. Those routes, Horsley said, could be implemented sometime between this year and 2045.

The longer-term connections beyond 2045 would include both more extensive bus coverage connecting Fairfax County and parts of Alexandria, and curling that cross-Woodrow Wilson Bridge connection up into The Wharf.

The study also included a model of a rail connection from Huntington into Maryland, but Horsley said it didn’t show a huge benefit in the short term for ridership compared to buses on express routes.

Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck said despite the lack of short-term benefits in the modeling, the proposal would be worth keeping an eye on.

“I recognize the first stage of that could be using bus transportation and etcetera,” Storck said, “but if we’re looking at 2040 and 2045 and we’re not looking at what fits in after that, I think we’re making a big mistake.”

Public comments on the I-495 Southside transit study will be accepted via e-mail to drptpr@drpt.virginia.gov through Wednesday, Feb. 22.

Photo via Google Maps

0 Comments

A single-vehicle crash involving a tractor-trailer brought the Capital Beltway (I-495) in McLean to a standstill yesterday (Sunday) afternoon.

The tractor-trailer was traveling south on I-495 when it crashed near the Georgetown Pike exit, the Virginia State Police said. The impact of the crash caused the vehicle to catch fire.

Police responded to the scene around 1:06 p.m., closing all southbound I-495 lanes and diverting traffic onto Georgetown Pike.

“The driver was transported to a nearby hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries,” the VSP said in a news release. “The crash remains under investigation.”

More than two hours after the crash, traffic queues stretched north into Maryland, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation. It wasn’t until around 6 p.m. that the first lane on I-495 was able to reopen.

0 Comments
The cell tower by I-495 at the Old Dominion Drive bridge in McLean (via Google Maps)

(Updated at 3:45 p.m. on 1/5/2023) The search is still on for a new site to host a cell tower in McLean that has to be removed to make room for the widening Capital Beltway.

The monopole, which is owned by American Cell Towers and supports AT&T and T-Mobile service, was officially decommissioned on Dec. 9, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

“Cell providers are working to minimize any potential impacts to existing service, and VDOT is working with the project’s design-build contractor to facilitate a relocated cell tower as soon as possible,” the department told FFXnow.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors expressed concern at a Sept. 30 transportation committee meeting that losing the tower may cause wireless service disruptions, something that AT&T admitted was a possibility.

Fears of disruptions were particularly high after the removal of a cell facility at Lake Anne in Reston resulted in slow, spotty service for residents in that area over the summer, including for 911 calls.

Fortunately, those anticipated issues don’t seem to have come to fruition. Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust’s office, which represents McLean, says it hasn’t gotten any emails from constituents about the decommissioned cell tower, as of Dec. 20.

VDOT had hoped to see the tower relocated by Dec. 31 — an extension from the original deadline of Sept. 30 — but a new location still hasn’t been identified. VDOT didn’t respond by press time when asked if the deadline got extended again.

“[There’s] no timeline yet,” Jane Edmondson, Foust’s chief of staff, said by email. “The County has not yet received an application for a new location.”

Located by the Old Dominion Drive bridge, the 135-foot-tall monopole needs to be moved to make room for the I-495 Northern Extension (495 NEXT) project, which is adding about three miles of toll lanes on the Beltway from the Dulles Toll Road in Tysons to the George Washington Memorial Parkway in McLean.

The project will also replace the Old Dominion bridge, which has one lane each for eastbound and westbound traffic. The new bridge will have two lanes and a 14-foot-wide shared-use path on the south side. (Correction: This article initially said two lanes would be added on the bridge in each direction.)

While touted as necessary to mitigate traffic congestion, 495 NEXT has been criticized by some McLean residents as harmful to their neighborhoods and the environment.

Construction began in mid-2022 and is expected to continue into 2026, with the new express lanes opening in 2025.

Photo via Google Maps

0 Comments
Trees along Live Oak Drive in McLean have been cut down so the Beltway can be widened (photo by April Georgelas)

The project to extend the I-495 Express Lanes north toward the American Legion Bridge has been under construction for half a year now, but some McLean residents remain as determined as ever to fight the Beltway’s encroachment into their neighborhoods.

Residents along Live Oak Drive in particular have consistently argued that they will face the most disruptions from the I-495 Northern Extension (495 NEXT) without getting the congestion relief benefits touted by the Virginia Department of Transportation.

The latest blow came at the sight of workers cutting down trees that serve as a buffer between Live Oak and two existing I-495 (Capital Beltway) and George Washington Memorial Parkway ramps.

VDOT says the tree clearings were necessary to make room for the Beltway widening, a new retaining wall adjacent to I-495, and a planned noise wall adjacent to Live Oak Drive. But residents fear the redesigned interchange will be a new “Mixing Bowl,” the tangle of ramps and overpasses where I-495, I-395 and I-95 meet in Springfield.

“VDOT/Transurban are trying to shove through a new ‘Springfield Mixing Bowl’ right here in McLean,” Northern Virginia Citizens Association President Debra Butler said in a recent email to members. “Future demolition and construction will impact both sides of 495 at Georgetown Pike, Live Oak Drive, Langley Swim Club, Scotts Run Nature Preserve with a new ‘McLean Mixing Bowl’ with ramps as high as 271 feet [above sea level].”

Discussions of potential legislation underway

Organized in opposition to 495 NEXT, the association held a meeting at the Langley Swim & Tennis Club on Friday (Dec. 16) to discuss the tree removals and their issues with the project’s size.

Attendees at the meeting included Del. Kathleen Murphy (D-34) and state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31), who have started talking to Virginia Secretary of Transportation W. Sheppard Miller III about options for addressing resident concerns.

The association has suggested allowing commercial trucks in the I-495 Express Lanes, where they’re currently prohibited, and having them get on and off in Tysons instead of McLean, eliminating the need for some flyover ramps.

VDOT says a planned exchange ramp allowing vehicles to exit the toll lanes at the GW Parkway is intended for all vehicles, though one purpose is to give trucks from Maryland access to the general purpose lanes.

Legislators could also introduce a bill with new controls on public-private partnerships like the one between VDOT and express lanes operator Transurban, improving transparency and limiting their ability to substantially change a project’s design after a public hearing, Butler says.

Murphy confirmed she and Favola are having discussions about potential legislation, but no concrete proposals have formed yet, even with a Jan. 1 deadline to submit bills for the 2023 General Assembly session looming.

“Those are certainly things we are going to bring to the attention of the secretary of transportation to see what possibilities are available, and as soon as we finish those conversations, we’ll have a better idea,” she told FFXnow. Read More

0 Comments
Fairfax County police are investigating a robbery scheme where fake gold jewelry is offered for cash (via FCPD)

The Fairfax County Police Department is investigating a “cash for gold robbery scheme” involving three Maryland residents who forced a driver on the Capital Beltway (I-495) to give them money for jewelry that was likely fake.

The driver encountered the three individuals while driving home on Oct. 29 near the exit to Bethesda, where he saw them standing on the side of I-495, police said in a news release published today.

The victim stopped to provide aid. A woman said the stranded group needed money to continue their travels. She showed the victim a watch and gold jewelry. She requested cash in exchange for the items. The woman convinced the victim to drive to an ATM. Two men in a black SUV followed the victim and woman. The victim began driving and quickly realized this was likely a scam. The victim stopped in a parking lot and exited his car. One of the men from the other vehicle exited their car and told the victim to sit in the driver’s seat while he drove the victim to obtain money.

The man was driven to four locations around the Tysons area, where the trio forced the man “through intimidation” to withdraw money until his bank accounts were empty, according to the police.

Once the trio left him, the man called 911.

The FCPD says the perpetrators of the scam were identified as 39-year-old Magdalena Mazil, 36-year-old Hagi Voinescu, and 23-year-old Romeo Voinescu — all Baltimore residents — after an officer came across them in a gray Chevrolet Tahoe that “appeared to be disabled” on the Dulles Toll Road near Route 7 in Tysons on Nov. 3.

The officer searched the vehicle and found “large amounts of fake gold jewelry,” police said.

Mazil and Hagi Voinescu were arrested by Baltimore City detectives on Nov. 22, but Romeo Voinescu remains “outstanding,” according to police.

All three individuals are facing charges of abduction and four counts of robbery. The FCPD also obtained warrants for Hagi Voinescu for preventing a person from calling 911.

“Two additional warrants for preventing a telephone call were obtained for Magdalena. An additional warrant for driver failing to report an accident was issued for Romeo,” police said.

Police believe the trio may be connected to other crimes in the area.

“We’re asking anyone with information about the suspects or who may have encountered the suspects to contact us,” the FCPD said.

Detectives can be contacted at 703-691-2131. The department also accepts anonymous tips by phone (1-866-411-TIPS), text (type “FCCS” plus tip to 847411) and online through Crime Solvers.

The FCPD offers cash rewards of $100 to $1,000 to tipsters who provide information that leads to an arrest.

0 Comments
Several northbound lanes on I-495 are closed near the Dulles Access Road following a multi-vehicle crash (via VDOT)

(Updated at 3:40 p.m.) One person was killed this morning in a multi-vehicle crash on the Capital Beltway (I-495) in Tysons.

The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department had reported that one person had sustained injuries considered life-threatening, but the fatality wasn’t confirmed until just after 10 a.m. by the Virginia State Police.

VSP said it responded to the crash in the northbound lanes of I-495 near the exit for Route 267 at 6:52 a.m.

According to VSP, the driver of a 2019 Ford F-150 pickup — identified as Robert A. Blakely, 71, from D.C. — was “ejected from his vehicle” and died at the scene. A passenger in another vehicle received treatment for minor injuries.

The crash shut down the northbound Express Lanes and multiple general lanes on I-495 at the Dulles Access Road for hours during this morning’s rush hour, prompting vehicles in the toll lanes to be diverted at Route 7.

By 9 a.m., traffic backups extended approximately 9.8 miles to the end of the Express Lanes in North Springfield, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation’s traffic cameras.

This is the second major crash on the Beltway in as many days. During yesterday’s evening rush hour, a man died after being struck by an SUV near the Braddock Road exit. He had gotten out of the tractor-trailer he was driving following a collision with a sedan.

0 Comments
The northbound I-495 Express Lanes are closed near the Braddock Road exit after a fatal crash (via VDOT)

(Updated at 11:35 a.m. on 12/5/2022) A tractor-trailer driver died tonight after being hit by an SUV on the Capital Beltway (I-495) near Braddock Road.

According to Virginia State Police, the tractor-trailer driver had exited his vehicle after he collided with a sedan on northbound I-495 approaching the Braddock Road exit in North Springfield, sending the sedan into the left shoulder of the toll lanes.

“The driver of the tractor-trailer exited his vehicle and was running across the Express Lanes towards the sedan when he was struck by an SUV traveling north in the Express Lanes,” VSP said in a news release.

Troopers responded to the crash at 7:53 p.m., and the tractor-trailer driver was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he ultimately died. Police have identified him as Richard F. Alburger, Jr., 41, of Summit Hill, Pennsylvania.

Alburger was attempting to change lanes when his 2019 Freightliner tractor-trailer struck a 1985 Buick Century, according to police.

“Due to the impact of the crash, the Buick spun and struck the bollards and jersey wall on the left side of the road,” VSP said, noting that the drivers of the Buick and the SUV weren’t injured.

All northbound I-495 lanes were closed to traffic, as police investigate the crash. A Fairfax Alert said to expect extended delays.

0 Comments
A mini-van takes the new I-66 Express Lanes in the Centreville area (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

If you plan on driving the newly extended I-66 Express Lanes next month, make sure there are at least two other people in the car to avoid paying a toll.

The entire length of the I-66 toll lanes will shift from HOV2 to HOV3 in early December, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) recently announced.

Starting Dec. 5, only those with traveling with three or more people will be able to use the lanes for free. This is a change from the previous standard of two or more passengers.

Single riders or those traveling with just two passengers will have to pay a toll, with the price varying based on traffic volumes (known as “dynamic tolling”).

The change will apply to the entire 32-mile length of the I-66 Express Lanes, including the existing 9-mile section inside the Beltway (I-495) from Dunn Loring to Route 29 in Rosslyn. A new Beltway ramp to I-66 just opened this week.

That portion of I-66 operates as HOV on weekdays during peak hours and in peak directions. Otherwise, the express lanes are free and have no occupancy requirement.

Hours of operation for I-66 Express Lanes inside of the Beltway (screenshot via VDOT)

VDOT also notes that, in order to use the lanes during rush hour, drivers need an E-ZPass transponder.

The state transportation agency said in a press release that the new requirements are “consistent with HOV requirements on the other express lanes in Northern Virginia.”

In a statement to FFXnow, a VDOT spokesperson said consistency and federal environmental standards were the biggest reasons for the change:

This change supports the National Capital Region’s Transportation Planning Board’s policy to change HOV-2 to HOV-3 throughout the region in order to move more people with fewer vehicles and comply with the federal Clean Air Act Amendment. This change is also consistent with the other express lanes in Northern Virginia on I-95, I-395, and I-495, and is aligned with Virginia’s policy that HOV-3 be the requirement for toll-free travel on all privately-operated express lanes in Virginia. This rule applies to I-66 Express Lanes Outside the Beltway, which are operated by I-66 Express Mobility Partners under a public-private partnership with the Commonwealth.

The switch from HOV2 to HOV3 was first approved in 2016 by Virginia’s Commonwealth Transportation Board.

The portion of the express lanes inside the Beltway opened five years ago, accompanied by a good amount of griping about the high toll prices.

The 22-mile section outside of the Beltway is almost fully operational after about six years of work. A 9-mile stretch from Route 28 in Centreville to Route 29 in Gainesville opened in early September, and the westbound lanes from I-495 in Dunn Loring to Route 28 became operational yesterday.

The eastbound lanes could open as early as tomorrow, a few weeks ahead of schedule, VDOT says. Work in the corridor will continue through mid-2023 on other elements of the Transform 66 project, including new interchanges and a parallel shared-use path.

A version of this story appeared earlier on FFXnow’s sister site, ARLnow.

0 Comments
I-495 North is getting a new ramp to the I-66 West general purpose lanes, while the existing ramp will lead to the new I-66 Express Lanes (via VDOT)

Updated at 3:25 p.m. — The switch to the new I-495 North ramp to I-66 is now scheduled to be implemented tomorrow night and will be in place early Wednesday morning (Nov. 16), VDOT says.

Earlier: The Capital Beltway is getting a new ramp in Dunn Loring, as the Virginia Department of Transportation prepares to open another segment of the extended I-66 Express Lanes.

A new, permanent ramp and exit from the northbound I-495 Express Lanes to the general purpose lanes on I-66 West was scheduled to open this morning, VDOT announced Friday (Nov. 11).

The ramp is located on the right side of the Beltway, about 500 feet north of the existing ramp, and loops around the interchange.

The existing ramp closed today but will reopen on or around Saturday (Nov. 19) as the new connection from the 495 North Express Lanes to the new 66 Express Lanes West, according to VDOT, though the exact date could vary depending on the weather.

The department announced last week that the westbound I-66 toll lanes from I-495 to Route 28 in Centreville will open to traffic this Saturday, with the eastbound lanes following by the end of November.

The Transform 66 Outside the Beltway project has been in the works since 2016, adding 22 miles to the I-66 toll lanes while reconfiguring interchanges and creating a shared-use trail in the corridor. A 9-mile stretch of lanes opened between Gainesville and Centreville in September.

Starting Dec. 5, the entire I-66 Express Lanes system will require vehicles to have three or more occupants to qualify as high-occupancy so they can use the lanes toll-free.

0 Comments
The current end of the I-495 North Express Lanes in Tysons (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Starting next week, all drivers traveling north on the Capital Beltway through Tysons will share the same exit to get to the westbound Dulles Toll Road.

The existing Exit 45 will be closed around Wednesday, Nov. 16, so construction can begin on a new bridge for the Beltway (I-495) over the toll road ramps, the Virginia Department of Transportation announced Thursday (Nov. 3).

Both general-purpose and express traffic looking to get onto the toll road’s westbound lanes will instead be directed onto a 495 Express Lanes ramp, located about one-third of a mile south of the old exit.

“To facilitate this new travel pattern, I-495 will be reduced from four to three lanes for a stretch of approximately one-half mile near the I-495 and Dulles Corridor interchange,” VDOT said. “…Due to this change, drivers traveling on southbound Route 123 will not be able to access westbound Dulles Toll Road from northbound I-495.”

I-495 North drivers will soon use an earlier exit to access Dulles Toll Road West (via VDOT)

The new configuration will be in place through early 2025, as work continues on the 495 Express Lanes Northern Extension (495 NEXT) project, which is extending the lanes 2.5 miles from Tysons to the George Washington Memorial Parkway interchange in McLean.

The redesigned Dulles Toll Road interchange will include two new ramps from I-495 North, one going east and one going west. Three stormwater ponds are also being constructed inside the ramp from the westbound toll road to the Beltway.

Active construction began on 495 NEXT in late May and is expected to continue into 2026.

0 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list