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(Updated at 4:10 p.m. on 11/29/2022) Even with one month left, 2022 is the deadliest year for Fairfax County pedestrians in more than a decade.

Through October, vehicle crashes have killed 22 people on streets and highways in the county — the most since at least 2010, the earliest year in Virginia’s Traffic Records Electronic Data System (TREDS). The previous high came in 2018 and 2019, when there were 17 fatalities each.

It’s unclear if the state data includes the teen who died last Wednesday (Nov. 16) after being hit while crossing Columbia Pike in Bailey’s Crossroads.

The teen was among the almost two dozen people represented at Oakton High School on Sunday (Nov. 20) by electronic candles and empty chairs covered by shroud-like white sheets. A Fairfax Families for Safe Streets (Fairfax FSS) volunteer read their names in a hushed cafeteria for the community group’s World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims ceremony.

“We have experienced many more tragedies than we are able to name individually today,” Fairfax FSS volunteer and board member Chris French said, noting that the list didn’t include 18 non-pedestrians killed on county roads or people who survived crashes but still suffered physically, financially and emotionally.

Started by European nonprofits in 1995, World Day of Remembrance is commemorated on the third Sunday of every November as an occasion to mourn those lost and a call to take action to prevent future losses. FFS also had events in Alexandria and Arlington.

Fairfax FSS urged local and state officials to make safety improvements throughout the area, especially in corridors known to be dangerous to pedestrians like Columbia Pike and Blake Lane — where two Oakton High School students were killed and a third was seriously injured in June.

  • Installing automated speed enforcement at all schools
  • Deploying proven safety measures around schools and activity centers, such as rapid flashing beacons, HAWK or pedestrian hybrid beacons, and lighting at unsignalized crossings
  • Implementing a dedicated safe routes infrastructure plan for all Fairfax County schools
  • Implementing speed management solutions on all high injury and multilane arterials, for example, speed feedback signs, road diets
  • Improvements to pedestrian signals and timing for pedestrians to cross high traffic streets safely
  • Installing crosswalks and accessible ramps to all approaches at signalized crossings

Speed cameras likely coming

Fairfax County is moving to make that first demand at least a reality. Spurred in part by the fatal Oakton crash, the Board of Supervisors is expected to approve a speed camera pilot program after a public hearing on Dec. 6. Read More

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Pedestrians cross the intersection of Gallows Road and Cottage Street in Dunn Loring (via Fairfax County)

Two pedestrian and bicyclist improvements on Bluemont Way and Green Range Drive in Reston were among more than a dozen projects granted funding earlier this week. by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors earlier this week.

At a meeting on Tuesday (Nov. 1), the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved $5 million for active transportation and maintenance projects, including $2.7 million for two crosswalk improvement projects in each magisterial district.

The projects were identified based on their feasibility within the public right-of-way and the scope of land acquisition needs, design challenges or utility impacts, according to the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.

“The Board set a goal to identify $100 million over a six-year period and directed the Department of Transportation to compile a list of potential projects and develop a prioritization process for implementation,” the department said in a news release.

At the meeting, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn emphasized that more opportunities would be available for additional projects.

“This is the beginning of this process…If you don’t see your project in here, don’t worry about it,” Alcorn said, providing the only discussion on the matter.

In the Hunter Mill District, a refuge and ramps will be installed at the intersection of Bluemont Way and Explorer Street in Reston Town Center. Ramps and a marked crosswalk will also be installed on Green Range Drive’s intersection at Pyrenees Court.

The Dranesville District projects include a refuge and ramps on Georgetown Pike near Bucks Lane by the Great Falls Library. The facilities will go on the west side of the driveway for El Tio Tex-Mex Grill.

A complete list of all the projects is available online.

The funding package also includes $1 million to maintain trails currently managed by the county and a another $1 million for trails maintained by the Fairfax County Park Authority.

The board also approved a $200,000 local grant match that is required to accept state funding for a safety project at Bush Hill Elementary School in Rose Hill and $100,000 for the police department to buy speed display signs that will be utilized throughout the county.

Photo via Fairfax County

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Person walks across a new pedestrian/cyclist bridge in Tysons (image courtesy VDOT)

A new bridge for cyclists and pedestrians is connecting two parts of Tysons previously separated by the Beltway.

The new bridge helps provide a link between the residential communities east of the Beltway to the Tysons Corner Center mall.

“The new bicycle and pedestrian bridge over I-495 (Capital Beltway) between Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) and Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road/Dolley Madison Boulevard) opened this afternoon,” the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) said in a release, “greatly improving bicyclist and pedestrian accessibility, connectivity, and safety in the Tysons area.”

Construction started in August 2021 and was supposed to be finished this summer, but VDOT officials previously said the weather was uncooperative.

“Construction on the first phase of the Tysons/Old Meadow Road Bike/Ped Improvements project began in August 2021 and is now substantially complete, with minor work occurring in the coming weeks until final completion with minimal impacts,” the release said. “The project’s second phase will extend the new shared-use path by half a mile along Old Meadow Road from Provincial Drive to Route 123; final design and construction will occur on the second phase as additional funding becomes available.”

The bridge and related improvements cost $13.4 million, paid for with a mix of federal, state and Fairfax County funding.

The trail has already seem some use from enthusiastic locals. Timothy Barrett, President of the McLean Hills Condominium Board of Directors, emailed FFXnow to share some of the excitement from the neighborhood.

“Yesterday, I took a walk with my dog, Bobby, across the new pedestrian bridge,” Barrett wrote. “I’m president of the McLean Hills Condominium Board of Directors, and we are delighted to have immediate access to Tysons now without crossing any streets! Bobby Barrett was most excited, enjoying a puppuccino at Starbucks on the Plaza, previously out of reach for his little legs!”

Bobby Barrett enjoying a puppuccino (image courtesy Timothy L. Barrett)

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Missing segments along Sunrise Valley Drive will be completed as part of the walkway project (via FCDOT)

Construction on a new walkway along Sunrise Valley Drive in Reston is set to begin in the winter of 2024.

At a meeting before Reston Association’s Design Review Board on Tuesday (Oct. 18), Fairfax County transportation planners said the project would provide much-needed pedestrian enhancements from Reston Parkway to Soapstone Drive.

The project will also provide a critical connection from the future Reston Town Center Metro station to adjacent neighborhoods, according to Sonia Shahnaj, a project manager for the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.

Construction of a 10-foot-wide walkway is planned, filling in missing segments along the north side of Sunrise Valley Drive.

In response to questions from DRB members on landscaping and tree preservation, Shahnaj noted that the presence of many utilities makes landscaping very challenging. FCDOT plans to remove eight trees throughout the entire project — including one that is nearly dead, she said.

“We are trying to save the existing trees, but there’s not enough buffer,” she said.

The project will add illumination on Sunrise Valley and Colts Neck Road, along with an 8-foot-wide refuge island at Indian Ridge Road, ADA curb ramps and bus stop improvements. A new bus shelter and loading pad are also planned.

Indian Ridge would get a 10-foot-wide asphalt walkway, in addition to the removal of a westbound turn lane to a driveway entrance.

A shoebox-style fixture is planned at Colts Neck Road. Crosswalks are planned at the intersection of Reston Parkway and Colts Neck, at commercial driveway entrances, and at the Sheraton Reston Hotel entrance.

DRB member Brian Cutler encouraged the county to look into installing a flashing light system for pedestrians at Indian Ridge.

“Cars are coming down that hill really fast,” Cutler said, referring to the west side of Sunrise Valley.

Shahnaj said the county explored the possibility of flashing beacon lights, but pedestrian traffic in that area does not warrant the addition, based on state guidelines.

“I’m not sure it’s warranted at this location,” she said, adding that the county is open to examining other pedestrian safety measures in that area.

Design plans will be finalized this November. Initial land acquisition is slated for the winter, with utility relocation and the beginning construction expected to begin the winter of next year.

Construction will likely be finished in the fall of 2025.

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A new county-supported study is recommending pedestrian and bike-friendly improvements in the Huntington Metro corridor, including more crosswalks, wider sidewalks, additional lighting, and increasing shared-use paths.

At a virtual meeting tomorrow (Sept. 14) night, a Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) study – “Huntington Metrorail Active Transportation Study” – will be presented to the public that looked into the pedestrian and biking conditions within the Huntington Transit Station Area (TSA).

The Huntington TSA covers an area bordered by North Kings Highway to the south, Huntington Avenue to the north, Telegraph Road and Jefferson Manor Park to the west, and Richmond Highway to the east.

As the study points out, the area is continuing to grow in density.

“The Huntington TSA has been transitioning from low density to mid density for decades and will continue to become denser,” it reads while providing a list of new developments and projects that will contribute to the growing population in the years to come.

Along with that, the Richmond Highway Bus Rapid Transit is expected to create a “greater need” for pedestrian access and safety in the corridor when the system opens within the next decade.

While considering all future conditions and projects up to 2045, the study concluded generally that the corridor is “uncomfortable” for pedestrians and bicyclists. That’s due to a prevalence of narrow sidewalks, lack of bike lanes, high speed of traffic, and the far distance pedestrians have to go to cross major roads.

“Almost all of the analyzed roads were deemed highly uncomfortable for pedestrians… due to narrow sidewalks, large crossing distances, and high speeds,” reads the study. “It is also worth noting that areas around community resources such as Mt. Eagle Elementary School and the Huntington Community Center are also highly uncomfortable due to sidewalk quality and a lack of pedestrian scaled lighting.”

Three intersections are particularly worrisome due to the crossing length exceeding 400 feet.

These include Huntington Avenue between Biscayne Drive and Foley Street, North Kings Highway between Telegraph Road and Jefferson Drive, and North Kings Highway between Fort Drive and Fairhaven Avenue.

There are also no official bike lanes in the Huntington TSA.

To rectify these issues, the study recommends a number of fixes and solutions.

At the intersections with long crossing lengths, it’s suggested that “high visibility” crosswalks be added with crossing warning signs and pedestrian refuge islands.

Where pedestrian crossings currently exist in the Huntington Transit Station Area (via Fairfax County)

There are also suggestions for implementing for a number of roads the concept of “Slow Streets,” where traffic speeds are lowered and entry points are closed to traffic to create a safer space for pedestrians.

In terms of costs, the study notes that “improving sidewalk quality” is a lower-cost option than adding new or widening sidewalks. The highest cost options are changing road diets, adding new bike and pedestrian facilities, like shared use paths, or subtracting traffic lanes.

Overall, the study recommends potential options for individual streets with a focus on lower and medium-cost options.

For example, on Monticello Road in the Jefferson Manor neighborhood, the recommendation is to fix the “cracked and failing” sidewalk and widen it to 8 feet in some places plus adding more lighting. On North Kings Highway, the recommendations include new traffic signs telling traffic to stop for pedestrians, restricting truck traffic with signs, a new crossing location at Fairhaven Avenue, and a high-cost option of removing traffic lanes on Jefferson Drive.

Besides this study, a number of other planned infrastructure improvements are found in other county-supported plans, including a 10-foot wide path along N. Kings Highway and Huntington Avenue, narrowing travel lanes on N. Kings Highway to allow for wider sidewalks, installing more barriers, lights, and crosswalks, and installing a beacon crossing signal in front of Mount Eagle Elementry School.

Throughout the county – and region – car crashes involving pedestrians and cyclists have continued to be a major and tragic problem. In July, a woman was killed by the driver of a car who hit her while she was crossing an eight-lane section of Richmond Highway included in this study.

There have been 10 fatal crashes involving pedestrians on Richmond Highway since 2017.

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A worker stands next to 13 feet of exposed stream bank along Bear Branch in Southside Park (via Town of Vienna)

The Vienna Town Council dedicated over half a million dollars on Monday (Aug. 29) to an ongoing project to restore Bear Branch tributary, a stream that runs through Southside Park to I-66.

With no discussion, the council awarded a $543,258 design contract to A. Morton Thomas and Associates, Inc. (AMT), one of five engineering firms that submitted proposals for this second phase of a two-part project this past spring.

This phase of the restoration will address approximately 2,300 linear feet of stream that flows through the park, parallel to Walker Street SW and Ross Drive SW, by stabilizing “the steep, eroded stream banks,” according to town staff.

“The completed project will reduce sedimentation and improve the stream’s water quality using natural channel design techniques,” the project page says.

In addition to shoring up the stream banks, the project will involve the replacement of a pedestrian bridge and the development of a “functional” pedestrian trail from the bridge to an existing sidewalk.

As part of its proposal, AMT said it would provide two recommendations for a possible bridge design and work with the town and park staff to develop the trail. The firm’s contract consists of a base fee of $497,744 with $45,514 added for the bridge and trail.

Carrying an estimated total cost of $2.5 million, the project is being funded by both Fairfax County and the town, which obtained a grant from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality in November 2019.

The project’s first phase, which focused on the stream segment parallel to Patrick Street SW and Yeonas Park, got funding approved in 2019 and a design contract awarded in July 2020.

The first phase’s design plan is nearly complete and will be presented at a community meeting next Thursday (Sept. 8).

Photo via Town of Vienna

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A new trail would connect to the Herndon Metro Station (via Town of Herndon)

With the opening of phase two of the Silver Line expected in October, local governments are preparing public services to connect efficiently to the new stations.

In the latest initiative, the Herndon Town Council is poised to approve a $410,000 contract to build a new trail connection to the Herndon Metro Station. The proposal is set for a vote at a council meeting tomorrow (Tuesday).

The 8-foot-wide asphalt trail would run from Worldgate Drive through the existing Metro station pavilion entrance, according to the town’s Deputy Director of Public Works John Irish.

Irish noted that the project has been long in the works as part of the county’s capital improvements plan for years.

“We’ve spend years trying to get easements to construct this,” Irish said.

The project was bid out to A.P. Construction, LLC. The trail would be open to pedestrians and bicyclists. A timeline for construction and completion was not immediately available.

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VDOT has redesigned a circuitous Village Road pedestrian median in Reston (photo by Colin Mills/Reston Accessibility Committee)

(Updated at 6:10 p.m.) Community pressure about a circuitous and convoluted pedestrian refuge at Village Road in Reston has prompted a redesign.

Reston Association voiced its concerns about the “horrible initial design” of the refuge island in a letter to state and local transportation officials, according to RA spokesperson Mike Leone. The letter, along with community pressure, led to the rebuild and redesign effort.

VDOT has added a new access point and sidewalk.

“It is RA’s position that the changes/redesign are much better than the original design,” Leone wrote in a statement to FFXnow.

Construction crews are “almost finished with reconstruction, but it’s not yet turned over to us for inspection and acceptance,” VDOT spokesperson Ellen Kamilakis told FFXnow.

After FFXnow’s sister site, Reston Now, reported on the issues with the refuge in January, the Reston Accessibility Committee — a working group created by the Reston Citizens Association — submitted an assessment of the site to Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn in February.

“In addition to the poor sidewalk design, our assessment cited the narrow ramps, the misalignment of the crosswalk buttons, and the fact that the Village Road crosswalk was behind the stop line for the traffic signal,” the committee said in its summer newsletter, released on Saturday (July 30).

RA’s Multimodal Transportation Advisory Committee, a citizen advisory committee that reports to RA, also flagged concerns about the refuge.

“Pedestrian navigability and safety were our chief concerns especially with the near proximity of the new Lake Anne House,” the committee said. “The Board agreed and sent a letter to  VDOT strongly urging redesign.”

While the redesign is a significant improvement over the previous iteration, MTAC’s chair Mike McDermott said that some issues still remain.

“While we are glad that corrections have been made, we do feel that pedestrian facilities should be present on all four legs of this signalized intersection,” McDermott wrote in a statement to FFXnow.

The previous design was so flawed that some pedestrians cut through the middle or skipped over the refuge entirely. Other concerns included narrow ramps and misalignment of crosswalk buttons.

The new design completes the sidewalk by turning into a loop and realigns the crosswalk  buttons. The vehicle stop line for the Village Road signal was also moved back behind the crosswalk.

“RAC supports the attempt to remediate the design and make the design safer and more accessible for everyone,” the Reston Accessibility Committee said in its newsletter. “There is still room for improvement, however, and we encourage all parties to continue exploring design changes to make it even better.”

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Cars head south on Richmond Highway in Penn Daw near the Groveton border (staff photo by Matt Blitz)

Driving on Richmond Highway in Fairfax County could get a little slower, potentially by the beginning of next year.

Virginia Department of Transportation staff said last week that the speed limit should be reduced from 45 to 35 mph along a 7.31-mile stretch of the roadway from the Capital Beltway at the Alexandria border to Jeff Todd Way in Mount Vernon.

The recommendation came from a year-long speed study prompted by concerns about the safety of the corridor, which saw two fatal pedestrian crashes in the span of a week earlier this July. The study found one 1.5-mile stretch that had a 75% higher crash rate than Virginia’s average.

According to the National Safety Council, speeding contributed to 29% of all traffic fatalities in the U.S. in 2020. Research suggests 10 mph can make a significant difference in the risk of severe injury or death that pedestrians face when hit by a vehicle.

Several states, including Virginia, have moved in recent years to lower speed limits on local streets, but about 60% of pedestrian deaths occur on major, non-interstate roads. In Fairfax County, speed limits in corridors like Richmond Highway and the also-treacherous Route 7 range from 35 to 45 mph even in increasingly urban, populous areas.

Though VDOT staff said reducing Route 1’s speed limit is expected to have a “minimal” impact on traffic, some community members at last week’s virtual meeting worried it might exacerbate congestion and cut-through traffic. Notably, the study recommended maintaining the 45 mph on the road through the Fort Belvoir area.

Others questioned the effectiveness of lowering the speed limit without robust police enforcement and other safety measures, such as added crosswalks and protected sidewalks. A recent report from the nonprofit Smart Growth America argued that driver behavior is more influenced by how roads are designed than posted speed limits.

How do you feel about lowering the speed limit on Richmond Highway and other major roads in Fairfax County? Is it a necessary safety improvement, or do you think other approaches should be considered instead?

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Construction on the bicycle and pedestrian bridge over the Capital Beltway in Tysons will take slightly longer than anticipated.

The Virginia Department of Transportation says the first phase of the project — which will eventually connect Tysons Corner Center and the McLean Metro station via Old Meadow Road — is now expected to be completed this fall, behind the previously advertised summer 2022 timeline.

“No particular reason,” a VDOT Northern Virginia spokesperson said when asked what led to the delay. “But summer weather certainly doesn’t adhere to our timetables.”

VDOT has spent more than half a decade now working to provide a crossing from Tysons East over the Beltway (also known as I-495) for bicyclists and pedestrians, initially unveiling concept plans for a trail along Route 123 in 2017.

However, community members quickly raised concerns about the potential safety risks of at-grade crosswalks on ramps at the I-495/Route 123 interchange, prompting officials to pivot to the current bridge and shared-use path proposal.

Construction began on the bridge in August 2021. With this first phase, the project is also adding a 10-foot-wide path from the bridge, which leads to Tysons One Place, to the Old Meadow and Provincial Drive intersection.

The path will eventually be extended all the way to Route 123, but VDOT is still in search of funding for that phase of construction.

“VDOT continues to work to identify additional funding sources for Phase 2,” VDOT Northern Virginia Communications Coordinator Mike Murphy told FFXnow by email.

The first phase carries an estimated construction cost of $13.4 million, a price tag fueled in part by agreements for property easement and right-of-way acquisitions. VDOT says the cost hasn’t changed with the delay, despite inflation and supply-chain issues driving up construction costs nationwide.

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