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The scene of a crash that injured six people in Oakton (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Neighbors are frustrated by a lack of safety improvements in recent years in Oakton’s Blake Lane corridor, where a driver struck three pedestrians, killing two, earlier this month.

At a virtual community meeting last night (June 23), many people who live on and close to Blake Lane expressed anger at state and county officials for what they describe as inaction despite extensive advocacy efforts. One resident said they’ve been asking for improvements since one particularly bad crash 20 years ago.

“There’s a lot of anger and frustration in our community right now,” said one neighbor. “…There’s anger that we’ve been warning VDOT for years how dangerous this road is, and we’ve gotten a lot of signs but don’t feel like we’ve made much progress other than that. If we don’t address this, more people are going to die. I’m sure of it.”

Hosted by Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik, the meeting saw police, transportation, and schools representatives discuss potential solutions to help make Blake Lane safer near several schools, including Oakton High and Mosaic Elementary.

Vehicle speed, lack of safe pedestrian crossing areas, and educating young drivers are the big concerns that local agencies and residents hope to address.

The 18-year-old driver involved in the fatal June 7 crash was charged with involuntary manslaughter Tuesday (June 21). Police revealed that he was driving 81 miles per hour in a 35-mile-an-hour zone.

There have been 114 crashes on Blake Lane since 2017, according to data presented by the Fairfax County Police Department. Six of them involved pedestrians, and two crashes involved bicyclists. While 31 resulted in injuries, the June 7 crash is the only one that has been fatal.

Just over a quarter — 31 crashes — involved a “young driver,” between the ages of 15 and 20 years old.

Where Blake Lane intersects with Five Oaks Road, where the June 7 crash occurred, there have been 12 total crashes since 2017, including two involving pedestrians and four involving a young driver.

Crash statistics for the Blake Lane at Five Oaks intersection (via Supervisor Dalia Palchik/Facebook)

The county and state officials proposed potential measures but cautioned that many permanent changes are subject to reviews, audits and studies. Read More

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Officials are proposing adding bicycle lanes and crosswalks to Farmington Drive and Fordson Road, which are in two highly trafficked areas south of the Beltway.

On Farmington Drive, the lanes and additional shared street markings would go between Telegraph Road and Edgehill Drive bordering Jefferson Manor Park and near the Huntington Metro.

On Fordson Road, new bike lanes are being proposed for the short segment of the road in Hybla Valley that connects Mount Vernon Plaza to Richmond Highway. The shopping center recently gained a 3,200-square-foot parklet.

New crosswalks across Fordson Road at Cyrene Blvd and near the entrance of the McDonald’s at the shopping plaza are also being suggested.

This would restrict “most” on-street parking south of Cyrene Blvd, the county notes on the project page, though on-street parking will remain intact north of the road.

All of this is set to be discussed with the community at a virtual meeting next week (June 15). A recording of the meeting will be posted afterward, and community feedback will be accepted until June 29.

Fairfax County Department of Transportation spokesperson Robin Geiger says these types of measures are recommended by the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan and adding bike lanes can help slow down car traffic.

“The [roads are] wide enough to accommodate additional transportation infrastructure,” she wrote to FFXnow in an email. “Wide travel lanes can also lead to higher travel speeds, which is a safety concern for drivers, as well as cyclists and crossing pedestrians.”

The project only needs to be approved by District Supervisor Rodney Lusk, who is expected to make his decision in the coming weeks after the public comment period.

The proposed projects are part of the county’s annual maintenance, repaving, and striping of roads. Every year, FCDOT identifies roads that could be improved by additional safety measures like crosswalks, bicycle lanes, and shared street markings. The county collaborates with VDOT, which does the actual work and funding of the projects. The work begins in April and concludes in November.

However, these two projects were not part of the original collection of roads that were set for new safety measures this year.

The Farmington Drive and Fordson Road projects had originally been slated for consideration next year, but a lower bid on the paving contract allowed them to be possibly moved earlier.

If approved, the roads will be repaved between September 2022 and June 2023, so it still could be a full year before the new bicycle lanes and crosswalks are completed.

VDOT was not able to provide more information by publication on how much street parking would be lost with the addition of bike lanes to Fordson Road as well as the cost of both projects. Geiger did say the addition of bike lanes and crosswalks are just “making minor adjustments to the striping.”

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Morning Notes

Looking up at Tysons Central office building on an overcast day (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Saturday Morning Shooting in Herndon Under Investigation — “Officers are investigating a shooting in the 2100 block of Astoria Circle in Herndon. One person taken to the hospital with serious injuries. Suspect(s) believed to have left the area in a silver sedan.” [FCPD/Twitter]

New Route 123 to I-66 Ramp to Open Tomorrow — “The new permanent ramp from Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road) South to I-66 West is planned to open during the early morning hours on or about Tuesday, April 19. The current temporary left turn and connector ramp from Route 123 South to I-66 West will close as part of this work.” [VDOT]

Fight Leads to Stabbing Near Fairfax Circle — “Officers were called to the location for reports of a group of men fighting. When they arrived, the victim was found with a stab wound to the upper body. The victim was taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries. The victim’s condition was later upgraded, and the victim remained hospitalized. Preliminarily, this does not appear to be a random act.” [FCPD]

Seven Corners Alehouse to Close — “Dogfish Head Alehouse in Seven Corners is closing. Its last day is May 15. A message from the restaurant on social media says ‘Upon renewal of our lease, we were not able to come to terms with the property owner and as such our time has come to an end.'” [Annandale Today]

T-Mobile Might Be Coming to McNair — Multiple commercial real estate firms reported that telecom giant T-Mobile has signed a lease for almost 200,000 square feet at 2340 Dulles Corner Blvd. An update from one firm suggested the deal had not yet closed, but if accurate, it would be the largest first-quarter lease in Northern Virginia. [Washington Business Journal]

Walkability Still a Challenge in Tysons — “The area known to county planners as Tysons East…has seen significant investment over the past decade…But those areas are separated from each other and neighboring developments like the Tysons Corner Center Shopping Center and Tysons Galleria by major highways, limiting the suburb’s ability to truly feel like an urban center.” [Bisnow]

New Reston Fire Station Celebrated — “Thank you ⁦@ChiefJohnButler⁩ and @ffxfirerescue⁩ for a great grand opening of the new Reston Fire Station this morning (4/16) We appreciate all you do for our community!” [Walter Alcorn/Twitter]

FCPS Hires New HR Assistant Superintendent — “Superintendent Scott S. Brabrand has named Sherry Wilson, who currently serves as director of Human Resources in Chesapeake (Va.) Public Schools, to the role of assistant superintendent, Department of Human Resources, effective June 1, 2022.” [FCPS]

It’s Monday — Rain starting in the afternoon. High of 47 and low of 39. Sunrise at 6:29 am and sunset at 7:50 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Families, including young children, called for changes yesterday (Tuesday) to make the Route 7 corridor in Bailey’s Crossroads safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

At a rally organized by the immigrant advocacy organization CASA and the transit nonprofit Coalition for Smarter Growth at the corner of Route 7 and Glen Carlyn Drive, mother Viviana Valverde, who is pregnant with her third child, said through a translator that the area has become more dangerous due to a lack of signage.

“We are here to win badly needed safety improvements,” Coalition for Smarter Growth Northern Virginia advocacy manager Sonya Breehey said.

Cards distributed by CASA attribute fatal crashes on Route 7, also known as Leesburg Pike, to a lack of signage, pedestrian crosswalks, adequate lighting, and heavy, high-speed traffic.

Route 7 there has a 40 mph speed limit, but based on Virginia Department of Transportation data from September 2016 to September 2021, the community group Fairfax Families for Safe Streets has called it one of the deadliest roads in the county.

Most recently, 68-year-old Falls Church resident Nguyet Ly died on Dec. 13 after a 2018 Subaru Impreza hit her as she was walking near the shoulder in a section of Leesburg Pike with no sidewalk.

VDOT is looking at possible improvements to the corridor between Glen Carlyn Drive and Glen Forest Drive, such as adding missing sidewalks. The department hopes to share concepts and feasibility analysis by mid-June, VDOT administrator Claudia Llana wrote in a Feb. 28 email.

Group presses VDOT for faster timeline, temporary upgrades

Emphasizing the urgency of the situation, Fairfax Families for Safe Streets asked VDOT to make interim upgrades by this summer, including temporarily lowering the speed limit and creating a pedestrian path on the road using jersey barriers.

VDOT said on Monday (March 12) that it’s gathering speed and crash data to prepare for a full speed study, which is required under Virginia law for evaluating potential speed changes.

“The study could take several months and will incorporate input from Fairfax County police, Department of Transportation staff, among others,” Llana wrote. “Due to the potential for change in posted speed limit, installing a speed feedback sign is not recommended at this time, that would reinforce a speed limit that may change.”

The department suggested it’s working with the county on the effort, but Fairfax Families for Safe Streets board member Phil Kemelor called the response disappointing and frustrating.

“People are getting hit out here,” he said. “We’re hoping we can collaborate more and have a seat at the table.”

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