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In less than two years, the flooding that plagues Old Courthouse Road at Besley Road during every rain storm should be relegated to the past.

Construction has been underway since February to realign the intersection on the border of Tysons and Wolf Trap, giving it a literal boost with a bridge and other design and safety improvements.

In addition to replacing a “substandard” culvert with a bridge over Wolftrap Creek, the project will elevate and reconstruct about 1,000 feet of Old Courthouse Road and shift the Besley Road alignment east, according to a Fairfax County Department of Transportation presentation.

It will also add pedestrian improvements, including a crosswalk and refuge island east of Besley Road and walkways on both sides of Old Courthouse Road. The south side will get an 8-foot-wide shared-use path, while on the north side, a 5-foot-wide, concrete sidewalk will transition to an 8-foot shared-use path that connects to Spring Lake Trail, FCDOT spokesperson Freddy Serrano says.

Designed to accommodate a 25-year flood event, the project has been in the works for almost a decade now. FCDOT submitted preliminary plans back in 2016 and held its final community meeting on the design in February 2018.

The project is being funded by county bonds approved by voters in 2014. Its estimated cost of $15.5 million includes $11.4 million for construction.

Fort Myer Construction Corporation, the county’s contractor, is working in the Virginia Department of Transportation’s right-of-way from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Fridays, according to Serrano.

Outside the right-of-way, construction hours are between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m.

“There are a variety of phases to the project and impacts to traffic will vary depending on the phase of construction,” Serrano said. “There are short segments of road closure where traffic will alternate through the construction zone during some of the construction activities.”

Besley Road will be closed during the fourth phase of construction, which will focus on a 150-foot stretch of the road and is expected in the spring of 2025. FCDOT has proposed detouring traffic onto Arabian Avenue.

Construction of the overall project is scheduled to finish in December 2025.

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Elden Street in downtown Herndon (staff photo by James Jarvis)

(Updated at 9:40 a.m. on 3/26/2024) A federal funding boost is coming to help improve pedestrian and bicycle facilities on the Town of Herndon’s main through street and more than a dozen other sites around Northern Virginia.

At its meeting last Thursday (March 21), the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB) approved $19.5 million through the federal Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside Program for 15 non-highway transportation projects in the state.

Five of the projects to receive funds are in Fairfax County or its towns, led by $2.5 million for a plan to improve the safety, accessibility and walkability of Elden Street.

According to a Town of Herndon presentation, the project includes new ADA ramps and crosswalks, a widened sidewalk that moves around existing barriers, and a grass buffer. Spanning 0.3 miles between Center Street and Ferndale Avenue, the improvements will be in close proximity to the Washington & Old Dominion Trail, Herndon Middle School and St. Joseph’s School.

Over in the Town of Vienna, the Locust Street Trail project will get $1.3 million to facilitate the replacement of an existing sidewalk within a 10-foot-wide shared-use path. The project will also address drainage issues that “frequently make the existing path unusable for extended periods,” per a news release from the TPB.

The funding approved for Fairfax County will go to three different Safe Routes to Schools projects, including $140,000 for Shrevewood Elementary School in Idylwood. Developed in response to a fatal crash in 2019, the project will add three new crosswalks with a sidewalk or a shared use path connection.

“In addition to making it safer to walk or bike to school, this project will expand safe access for kids to the W&OD Trail, a key link in the National Capital Trail Network,” the TPB’s summary said.

The project has received another $1 million through other Transporation Alternatives Set-Aside funding, fulfilling the county’s full request, according to the board.

A Safe Routes to Schools program for Lake Braddock Elementary School in Annandale got around $356,000 to improve pedestrian safety and connectivity across the road and school entrance. It includes ADA ramps, new crosswalks and new pedestrian refuge islands.

More broadly, the school system’s overall SRTS program will get $276,000 to educate students on safe walking and bicycling.

“The project will develop maps with suggested safe routes, safety education, bike rodeos, walk and bike to school days, monthly challenges with rewards, build a bike give a bike programs, and the development of park and walk programs for students who live beyond the walking zone,” the press release said.

Two projects in Fairfax City also got funding from the Federal Highway Administration program:

Fern Street Neighborhood Connection, City of Fairfax: $285,119

Utilizing city property, this project will connect commercial and residential areas lacking a paved ADA-accessible pathway. The project prioritizes bikes and pedestrians by building a trail instead of a road extension and supports small area plan recommendations by initiating a pedestrian priority corridor and providing links to potential mixed-use redevelopments.

Chain Bridge Road Shared Use Path, City of Fairfax: $2,098,314

This project will provide a safer and higher quality bike and pedestrian facility along Chain Bridge Road, a busy arterial that feeds into I-66. The project will build a shared-use path between existing trails, including a connection to the National Capital Trail Network’s Custis/I-66 Trail. The project serves an Equity Emphasis area.

The total amount of approved funding from the Transportation Alternatives set-aside program has been corrected from $195 million to $19.5 million.

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A new pedestrian bridge between Vienna’s Freeman Store and the W&OD Trail is open (via Town of Vienna/Twitter)

Users of the Washington & Old Dominion Trail can now more directly access the Freeman Store and Museum — and, beyond it, the Town Green — in Vienna.

The town has opened a new pedestrian bridge over Piney Branch that links the regional trail to the historic site. Completed in November, the facility replaces a wooden bridge that collapsed in 2016 due to water damage and general deterioration.

“It looks as it did many years ago and restores an important link to the Town’s history, connecting past and present,” the Town of Vienna said of the new bridge.

The town will celebrate the bridge’s reopening this Saturday (March 23) with a ribbon-cutting and reception starting at 10 a.m. Refreshments will be provided, and the Freeman Store will unveil two new museum exhibits: “Exploring Books Throughout Time” and “Vienna Unveiled Through Maps.”

Vienna officials had been looking to build a new bridge since they closed the previous one in February 2016, but an initial lack of response from contractors and rising costs for lumber and other materials delayed the project.

Construction finally began in February 2023, requiring a temporary detour around the affected section of the W&OD Trail.

Measuring about 53 feet long and 5 feet wide, the new bridge was made out of steel and timber. It’s also ADA-compliant, serving as the only way for wheelchair users to access the Freeman Store.

“Since the Freeman Store opened in 1859, it has been a store, a home, a train depot, a hotel, a hospital, an officers’ quarters, and a fire department, and the pedestrian bridge over Piney Branch to the store’s side entrance has been an integral part of the structure,” the town said in a news release.

Designated as a historic Virginia landmark in 2011, the Freeman Store is run by the nonprofit Historic Vienna Inc. and sells candy, artist prints, pottery, mugs, used books and other Vienna-themed items.

Located at 131 Church Street NE, the Freeman Store is open to the public from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday between March and December. The store closes on most federal holidays.

Photo via Town of Vienna/Twitter

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Aerial view of Route 29 corridor study area (via Fairfax County)

Commuters who use Route 29 in the Fairfax Corner area harbor concerns about poor pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, safety and traffic congestion, the results from a recent Route 29 survey suggest.

The Fairfax Department of Transportation conducted the survey from Feb. 12 to March 1 as part of an ongoing effort to make the 2.9-mile stretch between Buckleys Gate Drive and Jermantown Road more pedestrian and cyclist-friendly.

Nearly 400 people responded to the survey, about half of them saying they commute along the corridor regularly for errands, work or school. Three-quarters of those respondents drive, seven bike, two carpool, one walks, and 64 use various modes of travel.

While many respondents were content with the current state of the corridor, a majority expressed a desire for wider sidewalks and bicycle lanes, along with greater separation for those facilities from the road. The survey also identified frustrations with the roadway’s short turn lanes, which some said create long left-turn delays.

Frequency of trips along Route 29 corridor (via Fairfax County Department of Transportation)

During a virtual public meeting last Tuesday (March 12), FCDOT’s Arpita Chatterjee said the newly unveiled survey findings support the department’s plans to shift away from interchanges, road widenings, and other auto-focused improvements and “explore ways to increase walking and biking along the corridor.”

“The easiest way to describe Route 29 through this corridor is kind of a mess,” Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw said at the meeting. “And this study is our opportunity to develop a much better vision for this stretch of Route 29.”

Almost 20 people who attended the virtual meeting, but just one person spoke. Their comments centered on safety at the Jermantown Road intersection, and they recommended improving sidewalk lighting.

Though staff won’t present its final recommendations until summer 2024, Chatterjee said FCDOT plans to implement mitigation measures for intersections experiencing significant congestion, including Waples Mill and Shirley Gate Road.

“Overall intersection delays were over 100 seconds and side streets delays are even higher,” Chatterjee said. “But that said, we will investigate what mitigation would be possible to get the intersection of Waples Mill and Shirley Gate roads to operate more efficiently, similar or at least close to Legato Road and Monument Drive.”

The online survey will stay open until March 29, and participants can leave a recorded voicemail at 703-890-5898 using the code 3941.

There will be a second virtual meeting in the early part of this summer before staff present their final recommendations to the Board of Supervisors.

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Fairfax County’s existing Patrick Henry Family Shelter (via Google Maps)

(Updated at 3:35 p.m.) Congress has passed another short-term budget package, averting a partial shutdown of the federal government just hours before a midnight deadline.

In addition to funding the Justice Department, Housing and Urban Development, and other key agencies, the slate of bills passed 75-22 by the Senate on Friday (March 8) includes $12.7 billion in “pork” — money designated for local projects requested by lawmakers for their constituents.

In a joint press release, Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner announced that Fairfax County and other Virginia localities will be among the beneficiaries of the more than 6,600 projects that got funding, per the Associated Press.

“I’m proud that we secured funding for 105 community projects across Virginia that will improve transportation, upgrade water infrastructure, support health care, and more,” Kaine said. “I urge Congress to take up the rest of the government funding bills as soon as possible.”

According to breakdowns provided by Warner’s and Rep. Gerry Connolly’s offices, the biggest allocation for Fairfax County is $4.1 million “to fund a new homeless and domestic violence shelter for families.”

The county’s existing domestic violence and family shelters have exceeded their useful lives, but instead of building new facilities, the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority is planning to convert an existing “extended stay” hotel that will be able to house about 50 families a day.

“Site acquisition activities are ongoing, with the goal of securing a location that is well-served by transit, and close to jobs and services,” FCRHA spokesperson Allyson Pearce said.

Connolly’s office says the site “will entail combining rooms, creating service and office space, and other changes to the existing hotel setup,” noting that converting an existing building instead of constructing a new one will enable the county “to deliver this essential, brand new facility years earlier than might otherwise be accomplished.”

The county has two shelters specifically for people fleeing domestic violence — Artemis House and Bethany House — and two shelters that accommodate people with children — the Katherine Hanley shelter outside Centreville and the Patrick Henry shelter in Seven Corners.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved plans in August 2022 to replace the Patrick Henry shelter with supportive housing after some delays related to land acquisition challenges.

The appropriations package also includes funding for several road and pedestrian projects:

  • Spring Street widening from four to six lanes between Herndon Parkway and Fairfax County Parkway ($1 million)
  • Fox Mill Road and Pinecrest Road intersection improvements in Herndon ($850,000)
  • Silverbrook Road and Lorton Road intersection improvements ($850,000)
  • Sidewalk on Ninian Avenue and along Bush Hill Drive to improve safety and accessibility for Bush Hill Elementary School students in Rose Hill ($850,000)
  • Gunston Road shared-use path from Julia Taft Way to the Pohick Bay Golf Course entrance in Lorton ($500,000)
  • Compton Road bicycle and pedestrian path from the Bull Run Special Events Center access road to the Cub Run Stream Valley Trail in Centreville ($500,000)
  • Stone Road trail from the I-66 interchange to an existing trail along southbound Route 28 in Centreville ($500,000)

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation applied for federal grants last summer to fund the Bush Hill and Compton Road projects. Read More

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A shared-use path is planned on Shreve Road from the W&OD Trail to Route 7 (via City of Falls Church)

Design work is slated to begin this spring on a new shared-use path on Shreve Road just outside Falls Church City’s boundaries.

The Falls Church City Council approved an agreement on Monday (Feb. 12) to work with Fairfax County and provide funds for the project, which will add a 10-foot-wide path for bicyclists and pedestrians from the Route 7 (Leesburg Pike/West Broad Street) intersection to the Washington & Old Dominion Trail.

Other improvements will include a 6-foot-wide planting strip along Shreve Road, a crosswalk near the intersection of Shreve and Gordon Road intersection, benches near the W&OD Trail entrance, and stormwater management and drainage, Falls Church staff said in a report to the council.

Because the site is outside city limits, the county will be responsible for the project’s design and construction under the agreement.

“The concept is pretty simple and it’s pretty well-defined in the grant agreement, so we don’t think there’s going to be some curveball,” City Manager Wyatt Shields said at a Feb. 5 council work session. “…We’ve been working quite well with Fairfax County staff on this, so we feel very confident that we’re going to get what we want.”

The “West Falls Church Access to Transit and Multimodal Connectivity” project, as it’s formally known, is part of a larger effort by both the county and the city to add pedestrian and bicycle facilities connecting the W&OD Trail, the West Falls Church Metro station and Falls Church’s West End.

This component also “addresses a safety need” after a pedestrian was killed by a truck driver at the Shreve Road and Hickory Street intersection in 2019, according to a summary from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, which awarded $6.9 million to the city in 2020 to fund the project.

According to the staff report, Falls Church is also coordinating with the county and the Virginia Department of Transportation on the design of planned improvements around the Haycock Road side of the West Broad Street intersection.

Farther east on Haycock Road, a shared-use trail will be built over I-66 by developers in conjunction with a transformation of the West Falls Church Metro station’s parking lots into a mixed-use neighborhood.

Development has also been approved at Virginia Tech’s West Falls Church campus and is under construction on the city’s former high school site.

The Shreve Road project agreement still needs to be approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, which is scheduled to take action on April 16, according to Falls Church staff.

Per the staff report, the project is expected to be in design from this spring into fall 2025, putting it on track to begin construction in the fall of 2026 and finish in spring or summer 2027.

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The developer JBG Smith is selling a parcel from its Sheraton hotel property on Sunrise Valley Drive so Fairfax County can complete a walkway (via Google Maps)

Missing pedestrian links along Sunrise Valley Drive in Reston may soon be filled following the acquisition of land.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors formally accepted land at 11810 Sunrise Valley Drive from developer JBG Smith, which owns the Sheraton hotel there.

The acquisition will allow the county to complete a 10-foot-wide walkway from Reston Parkway to Soapstone Drive.

The gift comes after JBG Smith — which owns one of the parcels affected by the walkway — declined to grant limited land rights to construct the project. The company instead asked the county to take ownership of the parcel in its entirety, according to a board matter introduced by Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn on yesterday (Tuesday).

“Acceptance of this small parcel would allow the county to avoid condemnation to complete the Sunrise Valley Drive pedestrian enhancements and would provide the county with land to make one or more small improvements on this open space in the future,” Alcorn wrote in the board matter.

County staff have previously said construction is expected to begin this winter on the project, which will improve existing walkways and install missing links along 1,500 linear feet on the north side of Sunrise Valley Drive.

According to the the board’s transportation priorities plan, roughly $8.8 million has been recommended over six years to install separated bicycle lanes and pedestrian facilities on the north side of Sunrise Valley Drive.

Image via Google Maps

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Construction on the next phase of The Boro in Tysons has prevented pedestrians from safely walking on the streets around the site, a Fairfax County inspector says.

Matthew Stenger, an investigator with the county’s Department of Code Compliance, issued violation notices last month against The Meridian Group, The Boro’s master developer, and Silverstone Silver Living, which is constructing The Trillium Tysons, a senior living building expected to open this year.

A Nov. 15 inspection of the construction site bounded by Westpark Drive to the south and Greensboro Drive to the east “revealed that there is no safe and efficient pedestrian pathway provided along the properties street frontages,” Stenger said in the Dec. 15 notices.

The code compliance investigator also alleged that the companies failed to submit a construction management plan required as a condition of the expansion project’s approval in 2021.

Both developers have now separately filed appeals challenging the citations, stating that they have in fact provided the promised plan, which shows that a sidewalk on the southbound side of Westpark Drive would be closed throughout construction.

“Sidewalk closures are specifically identified as an appropriate method to ensure pedestrian safety,” Silverstone’s zoning appeal says. “…After consultation with County staff, due to existing sensitive fiber optics and live power infrastructure…along the Block J frontage, it was agreed that no safe interim pedestrian pathway was possible and a closure of the southbound side sidewalks during construction was necessary.”

Block J — The Trillium — is one of four blocks planned for The Boro’s expansion to the west side of Westpark Drive. Under construction since spring 2022, the apartment building for seniors will eventually be joined by two multi-family residential buildings with retail and either a health club or townhouses.

During the county’s review of plans for the development, nearby residents raised concerns about its accessibility and potential construction impacts, which led Meridian and Silverstone to agree to provide a construction management plan.

In addition to raising the possibility of fines, the code compliance department directed the developers to submit the required plan and build temporary pedestrian facilities along Greensboro and Westpark.

“Within two weeks after the date of this notice, you must complete the installation of an asphalt path along the Greensboro frontage,” Stenger wrote. “Within three weeks of the date of this Notice, you must complete the installation of that asphalt trail down Westpark Drive as close to the frontage of Block J as possible.”

However, Silverstone says in its appeal that construction on the Westpark trail — which will represent the first segment of the planned Tysons Community Circuit — can’t begin until Dominion Energy relocates its electrical utilities, a process expected to be complete this January.

Even after the utilities are moved, a temporary sidewalk can’t be safely built “due to the required installation and coordination of tree pits, bio filters, and additional underground infrastructure along the street,” Walsh Colucci land use attorney Lynne Strobel wrote in a statement on the developer’s behalf.

In a separate appeal application, The Meridian Group noted that the proposed temporary sidewalk on Westpark Drive would lead “pedestrians to a dead end at an active construction site,” which could result in people crossing the road without a crosswalk or traffic signal.

“The appropriate solution is to direct pedestrians to cross Westpark Drive at its intersection with Greensboro drive to access the existing sidewalk on the northbound side of Westpark,” Strobel wrote. “…The suggested sidewalk should only be constructed when the pedestrian signal at Boro Place is operational.”

According to the application, construction is underway on sidewalks along Clover and Broad streets, and the developer has agreed to build a temporary asphalt sidewalk on Greensboro. All of the facilities are on track to be completed and open for use “within the next several weeks,” as of mid-December.

A public relations firm representing The Meridian Group said the developer has no comment on its appeal.

Meridian and Silverstone have asked the county to dismiss the notices of violations, saying they’re “based on incorrect and inaccurate facts.”

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Mason District Supervisor Andres Jimenez (courtesy of Andres Jimenez)

For the first time this century, Fairfax County’s Mason District has a new supervisor.

In his first week since succeeding Penny Gross, who retired in December after 27 years in the position, Andres Jimenez says he has been actively engaging with constituents to tackle issues ranging from transportation to art projects and economic development.

An immigrant from Bogota, Colombia, who has now lived in the Falls Church area for 12 years, Jimenez is the first Latino to represent Mason District on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. He also works as the executive director of the pay equity campaign Green 2.0 and previously served as an at-large member of the Fairfax County Planning Commission.

Winning a decisive victory last November over independent candidate Terry Modglin with 72% of the vote, Jimenez says that, since taking office on Jan. 1, he has been setting up his various social media channels, launching a new podcast and organizing several public forums across the district.

“I think that smart government is when residents don’t just come to you, it’s when the government — when the supervisor’s office — is going into the community and reaching out to residents…and asking them what is working, what’s not working, because only then can you really begin to make change,” he told FFXnow.

The dates for the public town hall and open house events have not been announced yet. However, Jimenez anticipates key areas will include transportation, housing and economic development.

“We do plan to go out into the communities [and] listen to the residents and make sure that we are prioritizing the needs of Mason District,” he said.

Pedestrian and traffic safety

Top on Jimenez’s agenda is addressing pedestrian and traffic safety concerns in neighborhoods like Annandale, Bailey’s Crossroads and Seven Corners.

Last year, the community advocacy group Fairfax Families for Safe Streets published a report showing that pedestrian fatalities increased in 2022 as a result of “underfunding for pedestrian-focused projects.”

“Unfortunately, there have been a lot of fatalities when it comes to the pedestrians,” Jimenez said. “…We need to really start working on figuring out not only why is this happening, but how can we solve this problem.”

In 2021, the Board of Supervisors approved $100 million for county-wide pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure improvements that will be allocated to different projects through 2028. About $30.2 million has been allocated to date, according to the county website.

At the moment, the county is reviewing 69 proposed safety projects proposed for Mason District. Each of the projects originated from resident suggestions through a county-led online survey.

Jimenez emphasized his objective is to ensure that money is promptly allocated to projects in Mason District, adding that the money is “desperately needed.”

Jimenez identified a few intersections — such as Leesburg Pike (Route 7) at both Row Street and Columbia Pike — as high priority, focusing more on signal upgrades and other spot improvements than more comprehensive, long-term solutions.

In the coming months, Jimenez noted that he plans to consult with local stakeholder groups, such as the Bailey’s Crossroads 7 Corners Revitalization Corporation, to help identify projects that need immediate attention.

“We’ve already identified several initiatives — obviously Seven Corners, Bailey’s Crossroads and Annandale — that need help,” he said. “They need signage and they need timers and they need different ways to make sure that pedestrians are safe.”

Read More

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Construction will begin this week on a pedestrian bridge over the Washington & Old Dominion Trail at Reston Town Center (courtesy Boston Properties)

Construction on a new pedestrian bridge in Reston Town Center will begin this week.

According to the town center, the bridge will cross over the Washington & Old Dominion Trail, which passes by the town center south of Bluemont Way.

It will provide a link between Reston Town Center and the nearby Metro station, “while significantly increasing the safety of those who utilize the trail,” a press release says.

Boston Properties (BXP), which owns the town center, expects that construction will result in some detours.

“A short diversion off the trail around the construction will be implemented in January and will be in place for the duration of the project,” Reston Town Center said in the press release. “In late winter, a portion of the trail will be closed for a short period of time requiring an additional detour.”

Reston Town Center didn’t address follow-up questions about the project, including exactly where the bridge will be located.

The bridge is being built by the contractor Clark Construction. Work is expected to wrap up around late spring or early summer of 2024.

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