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Signs for I-495 in Tysons (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Maryland’s plans for the American Legion Bridge and its side of the Capital Beltway remain a big question mark, but its drivers at least will get a head’s up before they reach the toll lanes now under construction in McLean.

The Virginia Department of Transportation is working with its Maryland counterpart on an agreement that will enable the I-495 Northern Extension (495 NEXT) builder to install signs related to the project on the northern side of the Potomac River.

Six sign structures and accompanying power and communications utilities need to be built in Maryland so the upcoming I-495 Express Lanes can operate correctly, VDOT officials told the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) at its March 19 meeting.

“We need to have signage in Maryland so people approaching our express lanes understand what to do and how it works,” Virginia Secretary of Transportation W. Sheppard Miller said. “…It’s about our cooperation with Maryland to get the things that we need in Maryland done so that our lanes will work appropriately and properly when folks get to Virginia.”

Under the agreement, VDOT and its private partner Capital Beltway Express — a joint venture of the engineering firm Fluor and toll lanes operator Transurban — will install and maintain most of the new signs, which will provide directions for using the express lanes and other messages.

Maryland will be responsible for two guide signs for the interstate’s exits that aren’t related to the express lanes, according to VDOT acting megaprojects director Michelle Shropshire.

The CTB will be asked to authorize VDOT staff to sign the agreement at a meeting in April.

Miller noted that the presentation came just a few days after the two-year anniversary of the official start of construction on 495 NEXT, which will widen 2.5 miles of I-495 from the Dulles Toll Road in Tysons to the George Washington Memorial Parkway in McLean with two express lanes in each direction.

“I remember cutting the ribbon [on] a very chilly morning in Northern Virginia. It was a great day,” he said.

The toll lanes remain on track to begin operating in December 2025, and the overall project is set to finish in May 2026, Shropshire said.

As construction continues to move along, some Fairfax County officials raised concerns last month about a lack of clarity on VDOT’s efforts to coordinate with Maryland and the impact of the road work on McLean residents, commuters and the environment.

Virginia and Maryland’s then-governors Ralph Northam and Larry Hogan announced a $1 billion agreement in 2019 to rebuild the aging American Legion Bridge and expand their respective sides of the Beltway to address traffic congestion. However, public opposition held back Maryland’s toll lanes project, and Transurban pulled out altogether last March.

Maryland signaled that it may pursue a fully public project when it applied for a federal grant in August, and officials held public open houses last fall to get feedback on a proposal that would replace and widen the bridge, along with a portion of I-270.

Last week, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit from environmental, neighborhood and historic preservation groups seeking to block the potential project, but Maryland’s plans going forward remain unclear.

“This is an important step forward to D.C. area residents who are counting on this project to bring needed congestion relief, better transit service, and improved bike and pedestrian connections in this corridor,” said Jason Stanford, president of the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, which supports the toll lanes projects. “Now that this obviously frivolous lawsuit has been dismissed, it’s time for Maryland to move forward with this critical, multimodal transportation improvement for our region.”

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit included the Northern Virginia Citizens Association, a group of McLean residents who also sued VDOT last year over 495 NEXT. Residents along Live Oak Drive in particular have vocally opposed the project, lamenting the loss of trees and other environmental and health impacts.

In recent emails to VDOT officials, some reported that construction has, at times, disrupted their phone, cable and water services.

VDOT will provide an update on 495 NEXT at two public meetings next month: a virtual one on April 8 and an in-person one at Langley High School (6520 Georgetown Pike) on April 11. Both meetings will last from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Virginia State Police vehicle (photo by John Calhoun/JC Photography)

A driver involved in one of the two fatal pedestrian crashes that occurred on the Capital Beltway this past Sunday (March 10) was allegedly intoxicated and didn’t have a valid license, according to the Virginia State Police.

Carlos Nunez Morales, a 26-year-old Woodbridge resident, has been charged with driving under the influence, involuntary manslaughter and driving with a revoked or suspended license after police say he hit and killed a pedestrian on I-495 near the Telegraph Road exit in the Rose Hill area.

According to the VSP, Morales was driving a 2003 Dodge Ram in the westbound lanes of I-495 around 3:38 a.m. when he veered off the left side of the interstate and hit Gregory Bruington, Jr., who was changing a tire on a 2017 Volkswagen Golf parked on the highway’s left shoulder.

Bruington, a 30-year-old man from Newport News, died at the scene, and a 24-year-old, female passenger in the Volkswagen “was seriously injured,” a police spokesperson said in an update this morning (Thursday).

“Nunez Morales suffered minor injuries,” state police said. “He was not wearing a seat belt.”

The crash occurred just minutes before a separate crash in the eastbound lanes of I-495 near the same exit that also killed a pedestrian.

Around 3:53 a.m., responding state troopers came across a woman identified as Vanessa Schwartz, a 35-year-old Alexandria resident, lying in the interstate.

The VSP later reported that Schwartz had stepped into traffic and was hit by the driver of a 2005 Honda Accord that was traveling east on I-495 in the right-center lane

“The Accord was then struck by a 2021 Acura RDX, and the Accord then struck the jersey wall. A 2023 Nissan Rogue then struck the RDX,” police said.

Schwartz died at the scene.

Both of Sunday’s crashes on I-495 remain under investigation.

Fairfax County police are also still seeking information about a third fatal pedestrian crash that took place shortly after midnight on Sunday in Mount Vernon. In that crash, the driver of a 2015 Hyundai Sonata that had been reported stolen allegedly hit James Johnson, 63, of Hybla Valley on Janna Lee Avenue and fled the scene.

Westbound I-495 approaching the exit to Telegraph Road near Alexandria (via Google Maps)

(Updated at 12:50 p.m. on 3/12/2024) Fairfax County was the site of three different fatal pedestrian crashes yesterday (Sunday), two of them occurring just minutes apart in the same proximity on the Capital Beltway (I-495).

According to the Virginia State Police, troopers responded first at 3:39 a.m. to a crash on the westbound I-495 shoulder, east of the exit to Telegraph Road at the Alexandria border.

“At this stage of the investigation, it appears an individual was on the shoulder changing a tire on a vehicle when the individual was struck by a truck,” the VSP said.

The person changing their tire died at the scene, while the truck driver was taken to a hospital for treatment. Charges in the crash “are pending,” police said in an update just before 10 a.m. on Sunday.

Then, at 3:53 a.m., police came across a woman lying in the eastbound lanes of I-495 near the Telegraph Road exit. Calls to police indicated that the woman got hit by two vehicles, according to scanner traffic on OpenMHz.

“A 2005 Honda Accord, heading eastbound in the right center lane on I-495, was unable to avoid striking a female pedestrian who had stepped into traffic,” the VSP said in an update on Tuesday (March 12). “The Accord was then struck by a 2021 Acura RDX, and the Accord then struck the jersey wall. A 2023 Nissan Rogue then struck the RDX.”

The woman, Vanessa Schwartz, 35, of Alexandria, died at the scene of the crash, which remains under investigation. A spokesperson emphasized that the two crashes “are not related.”

Police seek driver in fatal hit-and-run

Separately, Fairfax County police detectives are investigating a fatal pedestrian crash in Mount Vernon that allegedly involved the driver of a stolen vehicle.

Around 12:17 a.m., officers spotted a black 2015 Hyundai Sonata on Buckman Road near Russell Road that had been reported stolen overnight on Saturday (March 9) from the 7900 block of Sausalito Place, according to the Fairfax County Police Department.

“The driver of a stolen Sonata sped away at the sight of the police. Officers did not pursue,” the FCPD said.

An officer saw the sedan “traveling at a high rate of speed” north on Janna Lee Avenue about 15 minutes later.

“The driver sideswiped an occupied vehicle near Tamarind Street,” police said. “Officers followed the direction the driver was traveling and located the stolen vehicle crashed into a dumpster and unoccupied.”

A man later identified as James Johnson, 63, of Hybla Valley was found in the grass nearby after he had apparently been hit by a vehicle. He was taken to a hospital, where he died.

According to the FCPD, its Crash Reconstruction Unit detectives believe the driver of the stolen Hyundai hit Johnson while he was walking on Janna Lee Avenue before crashing into the dumpster. The driver wasn’t located, and the police department doesn’t have a description “at this time.”

The crash remains under investigation.

There have now been five pedestrian deaths in Fairfax County this year, including two fatal crashes on Richmond Highway in February.

Image via Google Maps

Construction crews build the footing for a bridge abutment for the future Georgetown Pike bridge over I-495 (via VDOT)

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors wants answers now to its lingering questions about the Virginia Department of Transportation’s northern extension of the Capital Beltway (I-495) toll lanes.

County staff got the green light yesterday (Tuesday) to send a letter seeking clarity on VDOT’s coordination efforts with Maryland and plans to mitigate the environmental and traffic impacts of a construction project that has now been in progress for nearly two full years.

Dranesville District Supervisor Jimmy Bierman, who represents the McLean area most directly affected by the project, requested the letter for Virginia Transportation Secretary W. Sheppard Miller after a message that the board sent in September “inexplicably” went unanswered.

“I just think it’s absolutely ridiculous that we would send a letter to the Secretary of Transportation in September, and we’re sitting here in February and never got a response. It’s just absurd,” Bierman said at the transportation committee meeting, which he chaired.

Under construction since March 2022, the project known as 495 NEXT is adding 2.5 miles of express lanes on the Beltway from the Dulles Toll Road in Tysons past the George Washington Memorial Parkway in McLean.

VDOT has touted the widening as necessary to relieve congestion and add pedestrian, bicycle and transit connections in the corridor. Though they endorsed the project in April 2021, Fairfax County leaders — particularly Bierman’s predecessor as Dranesville District supervisor, John Foust — have warned that traffic relief will be limited without toll lanes on Maryland’s side of the Beltway.

VDOT estimates that the project would move more than twice as many additional people when coupled with Maryland toll lanes than it would as a standalone project.

After that analysis came out, however, Maryland downsized its plans to widen the Beltway and replace the aging American Legion Bridge in response to local opposition. The project stalled altogether last March when contracted toll lanes operator Transurban backed out.

Maryland officials began reviving the project last summer, proposing to widen the bridge and 6.5 miles of I-495 from the GW Parkway to I-270, Maryland Matters reported. A new design hasn’t been released, and construction isn’t expected to break ground until 2026 — a year after Virginia’s express lanes are scheduled to open.

In its September letter, the Fairfax County board urged VDOT to craft a written agreement with its Maryland counterpart to guide any work that may spill over into Virginia. Since Miller didn’t respond, there’s “prevailing uncertainty” over the local implications of Maryland’s project, according to the new draft letter. Read More

Looking east on Route 29 at the Cedar Lane intersection in Merrifield (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Fairfax County is changing lanes on some of its long-term transportation plans, veering away from a few road-widening projects in favor of ones that involve transit or pedestrian and bicycle upgrades.

As authorized by the Board of Supervisors on Dec. 5, county staff submitted a list of projects for the region-wide Visualize 2050 transportation plan that no longer includes widenings of Route 29 in the Merrifield area, New Braddock Road, Stringfellow Road and Magarity Road in Pimmit Hills.

A project to extend New Guinea Road in Fairfax Station to Route 123 (Ox Road) was also dropped from the county’s submission to the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB), which is currently reviewing projects from Virginia, Maryland, D.C. and Metro for the long-range plan.

At the same time, the county added some projects, including Orange and Yellow Line Metrorail extensions and the Route 7 bus rapid transit (BRT) system, that it hopes will pave the way for a less car-centric future.

“I think this is a balanced approach,” said Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn, then the chair of the board’s transportation committee and now its vice chair. “We end up with some additional projects going into the proposed plan, including some very important transit projects, and I note we also are showing five road projects coming out of the plan that I think are clear are no longer appropriate for the long-term plan.”

As a planning organization for the D.C. region, the TPB is required by the federal government to produce a regional transportation plan every four years, most recently finalizing Visualize 2045 on June 15, 2022. But work on the next update started early so new goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions can be incorporated.

In another change, jurisidictions are also required to resubmit all of their projects instead of carrying them over from one plan to the next like before.

According to the Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT), decisions about which projects to resubmit, add and take out were based on staff evaluation, conversations with the supervisors and public comments gathered by the TPB and the county, which held two public meetings in September.

It “was a good decision” to remove the New Braddock and Stringfellow road widenings in Centreville, Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith said. New Braddock Road would’ve been widened and extended from Route 28 to Route 29 opposite Stone Road, while Stringfellow Road was slated to be expanded to four lanes between Route 50 and Fairfax County Parkway.

Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said she worked with staff to ensure there “would not be any negative consequences” as a result of the removal of the Route 29 project in her district.

The county had planned to widen Route 29 from four to six travel lanes between the Fairfax City limit and the Capital Beltway (I-495) in Merrifield, but staff are now reevaluating that stretch of road “to better reflect completed segments and focus on active transportation facilities,” FCDOT says. Read More

Dranesville Supervisor Jimmy Bierman (courtesy of Jimmy Bierman)

Jimmy Bierman officially stepped into the role of Dranesville District supervisor last week, taking the reins from John Foust, who retired last year after 16 years on Fairfax County’s board.

Bierman, a lawyer and McLean resident, has a clear vision for his tenure, but he says he’s also committed to continuing the work of his predecessor, focusing on issues such as the revitalization of downtown McLean, senior living opportunities and the impact of the I-495 expansion on local residents.

“I had gotten to know John Foust very well, through local Democratic Party circles,” Bierman told FFXnow. “He was really a mentor to me, and a role model.”

Before securing his victory last November against Fairfax County Republican Committee first vice chair Puneet Ahluwalia with 61% of the vote, Bierman served on the county’s Police Civilian Review Panel from April 2019 to December 2022 and worked as an attorney advisor to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

But Bierman wanted to do more at the local level.

“I loved my job at federal government, but I started realizing that the government that interacted with people sort of on a day-to-day basis, that you really needed at times, was your local government,” he said.

For his first term representing the Dranesville District, which covers McLean, Great Falls, Herndon and Idylwood, Bierman’s priorities include adopting more environmentally friendly practices, enhancing housing density in areas well-served by public transit and securing additional funding for Fairfax County Public Schools.


At the top of his list is managing the county’s growth in a “sustainable way.”

While in office, Bierman says he plans to not only advocate for conserving green space, but also promoting green practices in county-owned buildings. Specifically, he will focus on incentivizing more renewable energy sources in both the public and private sectors.

“A good example of something that the county did recently in our district, that I very much applaud and think is great, is we’ve moved to powering the Spring Hill Rec Center, partially, through geothermal energy,” Bierman said.

The recreation center at 1239 Spring Hill Road is one of a growing number of county facilities that are getting power from renewable energy.

In July 2021, Fairfax County adopted an Operational Energy Strategy, aiming to become carbon neutral by 2040 through renewable energy practices.

Read More

A Virginia State Police vehicle (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 10:55 a.m.) Virginia State Police are seeking witnesses in a possible shooting incident that occurred this morning (Thursday) near the I-495 and Dulles Toll Road interchange in Tysons.

Troopers responded at 6:08 a.m. to a driver stopped in the shoulder along the Capital Beltway’s northbound lanes near the exit to the toll road’s westbound lanes, according to the VSP and scanner traffic on Open MHz.

The driver wasn’t injured, but he reported that his vehicle “had a bullet hole in its passenger side,” state police said.

Starting around 10:30 a.m., the VSP closed all northbound lanes on the Beltway at Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) to the toll road as it investigates the shooting.

“State police has requested the closure so we can search for any possible evidence connected to the vehicle that was shot,” a VSP spokesperson said.

The closure was expected to last 30 to 45 minutes.

State police are seeking potential witnesses, asking anyone who saw “suspicious activity in this area between 5:50 a.m. and 6:05 a.m.” to reach out by phone at 804-750-8798 or by email at

I-495 approaching the Eisenhower Avenue exit in Alexandria (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Any extension of the I-495 Express Lanes along the south side of the Capital Beltway should support additional transit options, Fairfax County leaders stressed in a recent letter to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

VDOT is currently studying options for completing the I-495 toll lanes by expanding them from the I-395/I-95 interchange in Springfield to Maryland Route 210 in Prince George’s County, an approximately 11-mile span that crosses the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in Alexandria.

At a meeting on Nov. 21, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a letter to Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sheppard Miller emphasizing the importance of accommodating transit in the project, which is intended to relieve congestion on what VDOT has said is the most heavily traveled segment of the Beltway.

“The County is appreciative that the Commonwealth is assessing solutions on the only interstate segment in Fairfax that does not have a transit benefit at this time,” the board’s letter said. “It is critical that additional travel choices are available in the Capital Beltway Corridor to move the most people as efficiently as possible in this region.”

VDOT staff presented several preliminary concepts at a public meeting on Sept. 12, including the addition of one or two general-purpose or express lanes in each direction or two reversible express lanes that would change direction with rush-hour traffic.

Staff said it has also explored adding a dedicated transit lane for buses and making adjustments that wouldn’t require new construction, such as supporting new bus routes or allowing the existing I-495 shoulders to be used as travel lanes during peak traffic periods. However, the congestion relief benefits would be limited without more space on the highway, according to the study team.

Taking a slightly more open stance than officials in Alexandria City, the Board of Supervisors didn’t comment on specific concepts, but it urged VDOT not to pursue any option that would rule out the possibility of future rail service over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

Opened to traffic in May 2008, the bridge was designed with a median to accommodate future transit, not with the expectation of toll lanes, Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay noted at the Nov. 21 meeting.

“From an equity standpoint, I do appreciate the fact that this is on the table, because this remains the only piece of interstate highway in Fairfax County that currently has no transit benefit whatsoever,” McKay said. “I acknowledge a failure of past efforts when projects were done to literally cut off this part of the county from the same types of transportation options that other parts of the county now have, including the communities that are sandwiched between the Springfield interchange project and the Woodrow Wilson project.”

According to the board’s letter, Fairfax County staff would support “an interim phase” without rail while Metro continues exploring how to increase capacity on its Blue, Orange and Silver lines, a study that has been underway since 2019 and could conclude by the end of this year. Read More


A vehicle fire has snarled rush-hour traffic on the Capital Beltway in Springfield.

A truck caught fire around Backlick Road just west of the Springfield Mixing Bowl, where I-495 meets I-395. The left and express southbound lanes on I-495 were closed for the fire, creating traffic backups that extended about two miles, as of 5:21 p.m., according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

The Virginia State Police confirmed that the fire wasn’t related to a crash, and no injuries have been reported.

There was no indication of what caused the fire, Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department spokesperson Ashley Hildebrandt told FFXnow.

As of 5:24 p.m., the fire had been extinguished, according to Hildebrandt.

Traffic camera photo via VDOT

Fairfax County police car lights (file photo)

A driver was killed and a motorcyclist seriously injured in two separate crashes in Fairfax County this morning (Thursday).

The fatal crash occurred around 12:30 a.m. on the Capital Beltway (I-495) near Eisenhower Avenue in the Rose Hill area, according to Virginia State Police.

“A tractor-trailer and a Honda sedan collided in the southbound lanes of Interstate 95 near Eisenhower Ave,” the VSP said in a brief news release. “Both vehicles came to a stop on the left shoulder.”

The sedan wound up “under the front of the tractor-trailer,” trapping the car’s driver, according to scanner traffic on Open MHz.

The sedan driver, an adult woman, died at the scene, police said. As of 6:37 a.m., police were still in the process of notifying the woman’s family.

“The crash remains under investigation,” a VSP spokesperson said. “The Virginia State Police Fairfax Division Crash Reconstruction Team and Motor Carrier Safety Team responded to the scene to assist with the investigation.”

Just a few hours later, around 4:25 a.m., Fairfax County police and emergency medical services responded to a reported hit-and-run that critically injured a motorcyclist on Richmond Highway at Fairfax County Parkway in Fort Belvoir.

“Male motorcyclist hit by a red sedan. Driver of sedan fled the scene,” the Fairfax County Police Department said in a tweet at 5:32 a.m. “Motorcyclist was taken to hospital w/ injuries considered life-threatening.”

According to the police scanner, a dispatcher reported that the motorcyclist “was down” in the roadway and said “their leg is gone.” The responsible vehicle reportedly sustained “heavy front-end damage.”

“It’s going to look like fleeing vehicle shouldn’t have any headlights at the moment,” an officer said at 4:34 a.m. “They’re all on the ground here.”

Southbound Richmond Highway at the intersection was closed for the police investigation. The roadway has now reopened after the vehicle and driver responsible for the crash were located, the FCPD said at 9:12 a.m.

The motorcyclist remains hospitalized, according to police.


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