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
(Updated at 11:55 a.m.) This week, Fairfax City kicked off a project to build a new 530-foot sidewalk on Chain Bridge Road’s east side, connecting Old Town Fairfax with the Northfax areas.
On Monday (Feb. 5), construction crews began work on the new eastern sidewalk from Jenny Lynne Lane to Kenmore Drive, with plans also to relocate a pedestrian crossing at Cedar Avenue from the south to the north side to make pedestrians more visible to motorists..
Slated for completion in July, roadwork is scheduled from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the week, with reduced hours on Friday. Off-road construction will occur from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday to Friday, avoiding weekends.
The east Chain Bridge Road sidewalk improvement project was approved in 2021 and was paid for using a total of $430,000 in federal and local funds.
A public hearing is planned for summer 2024 to discuss allocating another $9.25 million for additional improvements along the western edge of Chain Bridge Road, which extends from Taba Cove to Warwick Avenue.
In 2020, the city applied for SmartScale funding, which is allocated by the state for transportation projects, for this initiative.
The improvements along the west side of Chain Bridge Road would include improvements to pedestrian crossings at five intersections, upgrades to two bus stops, a new drainage system, new street lighting, and the construction of a retaining wall.
Image via Google Maps
Snow remains on the ground after the D.C. area’s biggest snowstorm in two years, but the George Washington Memorial Parkway at least has reopened for traffic.
The roadway’s northern section from I-495 (Capital Beltway) in McLean to Spout Run in Arlington had been closed since Monday morning (Jan. 15) in response to the forecasted snow, which was expected to exceed 2 inches.
The National Park Service announced this morning (Wednesday) that the GW Parkway is open again, but northbound and southbound traffic are each confined to one lane in the stretch that’s under construction as part of an ongoing rehabilitation project.
“Drivers should continue to stay alert while driving through the construction zone, observe traffic signs, respect the 40-mph speed limit, expect delays through narrow travel lanes, and plan alternate routes,” the NPS said.
Fairfax Connector resumed regular service today after operating on a reduced schedule since 8 p.m. on Monday, though the bus system warned that some routes are using detours due to road conditions. Metrobus is also running nearly all bus routes on a regular schedule with some detours.
With temperatures dropping into the teens this morning, or even as low as 9 degrees at Dulles International Airport, the Virginia Department of Transportation cautioned travelers to watch out for icy spots on roads and pavement.
According to preliminary totals from the National Weather Service, snowfall totals in Fairfax County ranged from 2.8 inches in Lorton to 4.8 inches reported in Herndon and Vienna. Inside the Beltway, the county recorded roughly 3.5 inches.
This was the first time in 728 days that the D.C. region got more than an inch of snow, according to the Capital Weather Gang.
Baltimore and Washington DC metros picked up the most snow since 2022. Here's a map (followed by a county-by-county list) of the snow and ice totals from this recent event: https://t.co/a1FgB0Rumy. #MDwx #VAwx #WVwx #DCwx pic.twitter.com/aCjogoNpPr
— NWS Baltimore-Washington (@NWS_BaltWash) January 16, 2024
Use caution this morning, with temps in the teens and single digits, residual #icy spots are likely.
— VDOT Northern VA (@VaDOTNOVA) January 17, 2024
Image via Google Maps
The GW Parkway’s northern section is on the brink of a new phase in its rehabilitation process.
Starting tomorrow (Saturday), construction on the George Washington Memorial Parkway in McLean will shift from the southbound lanes to the northbound ones between the Capital Beltway (I-495) and Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road).
The traffic shift will be implemented over roughly three days, necessitating single-lane closures on the parkway’s northbound side starting at 8 p.m. today (Friday) until 2:45 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 8.
The new traffic pattern will require all drivers headed north toward Maryland to use a temporary, reversible lane that first opened in the parkway’s median last April, when construction began on the southbound lanes, the National Park Service announced.
“The left southbound lane (closest to the median) will serve as the reversible lane, which provides flexibility to change direction for morning and evening rush hours,” the NPS said. “The right southbound lane will always serve as a southbound lane.”
Here’s from the National Park Service on the new traffic pattern, which will be in effect for the remainder of construction through late 2025:
Weekday morning rush hour (5:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.)
- Two lanes southbound (toward Washington, DC).
- Drivers who need to exit at Route 123 or CIA Headquarters must use the right lane.
- One lane northbound (toward Maryland/Virginia).
Weekday evening rush hour (2:45 p.m. – 7:15 p.m.)
- Two lanes northbound (toward Maryland/Virginia).
- Drivers who need to exit at Route 123 or CIA Headquarters must use the right lane.
- Drivers heading toward Maryland must use the right lane.
- Drivers heading toward Virginia via I-495 must use the left lane (the reversible lane).
- One lane southbound (toward Washington, DC).
Weekdays (9:30 a.m. – 2:45 p.m.) and weekends/holidays
- One lane southbound (toward Washington, DC).
- One lane northbound (toward Maryland/Virginia).
Drivers should observe traffic signs, respect the 40-mph speed limit, expect delays through narrow travel lanes and plan alternate routes. Vehicles with a gross vehicle weight over 10,000 lbs. are always prohibited from using the parkway.
This traffic pattern allows the project crews greater access to the roadway, which will reduce the time needed to complete the project. Temporary concrete barriers will be placed along the northbound lane throughout January to create a safer work zone for crews.
NPS notes that the timing of the traffic shift and the reversible lane schedule could change if there’s snow or other inclement weather — a strong possibility this weekend, current forecasts suggest.
The northern portion of the parkway will shut down four hours before any storm that’s expected to bring two or more inches of snow or any freezing rain or ice.
Announced in 2021, the North Parkway Rehabilitation Project will update the GW Parkway from the Beltway to Sprout Run in Alexandria with a redesigned Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road) interchange, new asphalt paving, stormwater management system repairs, extended entrance and exit lanes and other improvements.
The truck took out two beams on the bridge over the Dulles Toll Road while navigating a ramp to the toll road from southbound Reston Parkway. Transportation officials closed the left lane of the road to reduce the weight on the damaged beams after the incident.
“The repairs were completed the first week of December with final inspections completed in the middle of the month on the 14th,” Virginia Department of Transportation spokesperson Alex Liggit said by email. “Everything was completed on schedule.”
The pre-existing traffic pattern has also been restored. Since the July 10 crash, the left lane of southbound Reston Parkway was closed. The ramp to the eastbound toll road was re-striped as an exit and thru lane.
(Updated at 1:05 p.m.) Traffic on northbound George Washington Memorial Parkway is being detoured after a man was hit by a vehicle near Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road) in McLean this morning (Friday).
The U.S. Park Police (USPP) says its officers responded to the area of the GW Parkway and Route 123 interchange around 8:50 a.m. for a crash that involved “a vehicle and a person on foot.”
“The person on foot was transported to the hospital for treatment of life-threatening injuries,” a Park Police spokesperson said. “The northbound GWMP is diverted to Spout Run Parkway.”
Police confirmed that the person who got hit had been working on the GW Parkway. The northern section of the GW Parkway has been under construction for months as part of a rehabilitation project.
According to scanner traffic on Open MHz, a dispatcher told responding Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department units around 8:59 a.m. that the crash had been described as a “hit and run.” However, USPP says it wasn’t a hit and run.
As of 11:14 a.m., the GW Parkway’s northbound lanes remained closed around the ramp to Chain Bridge for the crash investigation, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation’s traffic camera site.
Traffic alert: Crash investigation George Washington Memorial Parkway in area of Rt. 123. Northbound traffic diverted to Spout Run Parkway.
— USPPNEWS (@usparkpolicepio) December 15, 2023
UPDATE: Crash with Injury. George Washington Parkway NB at VA-123. Fairfax County, VA. All northbound travel lanes remain blocked with ongoing investigation. Northbound traffic is diverted to Spout Run Parkway. Extended closure expected. Delays remain in both directions.
— MATOC Alerts (@MATOC) December 15, 2023
Map via Google Maps. Hat tip to Alan Henney
Construction on an overhaul of the Fairfax County Parkway and Popes Head Road interchange is slated to begin by the end of this year.
The Virginia Department of Transportation awarded a $49 million construction contract for the project in Fairfax Station last week to the Roanoke-based company Branch Civil, which is expected to begin on-site activities in December.
In the works since at least 2017, the project will replace the existing, four-way intersection controlled by a traffic signal with three roundabouts and two bridges over Fairfax County Parkway “that will allow traffic to flow freely,” VDOT said.
Other elements include:
- Building a short segment of the future Shirley Gate Road extension that will provide pedestrian and vehicle access to the future Patriot Park (Fairfax County is designing the rest of the Shirley Gate Road extension)
- Constructing a shared-use path linking the Fairfax County Parkway Trail to the future Patriot Park
- Reconstructing the Fairfax County Parkway Trail
- Installing a sidewalk along the north side of Popes Head Road
- Extending Ladues End Lane to the new roundabout at Popes Head Road
- Adding an acceleration lane for drivers turning from Nomes Court onto northbound Fairfax County Parkway
According to VDOT, Fairfax County Parkway carries an average of 64,000 vehicles a day, while Popes Head Road averages about 3,200 vehicles daily. The long wait at the traffic light — which state officials have said can last five minutes during peak travel times — has been a source of frustration for commuters.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors gave its support for the proposed redesign in May 2020. Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity said at the time that the project “will provide significant congestion relief and a safer route for thousands of residents,” according to The Connection.
VDOT is ultimately planning to widen Fairfax County Parkway from four to six lanes, starting with the northern section from Nomes Court to Route 29, though some have questioned the department’s use of road widenings as an answer to traffic congestion.
Earlier this year, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation revisited a 2021 study of the parkway and determined that it should be six lanes, rather than the eight that had previously been recommended. Staff also stressed the need for bicycle and pedestrian improvements, calling the completion of a trail from Reston to Fort Belvoir a top priority.
The Popes Head Road interchange also ties into plans to extend Shirley Gate Road down to the parkway from Braddock Road. Some funds for that project, which isn’t expected to start construction until 2026, were redirected in July to a project that will eliminate hills on Lee Chapel Road, where two teens were killed in a crash in January.
VDOT estimates the Popes Head Road interchange overhaul will cost a total of $92.4 million, including $78 million for construction, per its project page.
“A ‘Pardon Our Dust’ information meeting for residents and travelers is being planned in January,” VDOT said. “Construction is expected to be complete in late 2026.”
(Updated at 12:05 p.m.) The Centreville section of Route 28 is now two lanes wider and, local officials hope, noticeably less challenging to travel.
Construction is substantially complete on the project to widen Route 28 (Centreville Road) from four to six lanes between the Bull Run bridge at the Fairfax and Prince William county line and Route 29.
Fairfax County elected representatives joined regional and state transportation officials at the Centreville United Methodist Church Park and Ride (6400 Old Centreville Road) for a ribbon-cutting yesterday (Wednesday) to celebrate the milestone, which arrived right on schedule with two new lanes opening in early October.
“The anticipation surrounding this project in our community is palpable, with residents eagerly looking forward to the profound improvements in accessibility and…efficiency this project promises to bring,” Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith said at the ceremony. “The successful execution of the Route 28 widening project is poised to significantly enhance the quality of life for our residents.”
Under construction since September 2021, the Route 28 widening is intended to reduce traffic, improve safety and provide more transportation options on a highway that sees approximately 60,000 vehicles a day, according to the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.
In addition to the new lanes, the $79.5 million project constructed a 10-foot-wide shared-use path for pedestrians and bicyclists on both sides of the roadway. It also made improvements to intersections and side streets, including installing upgraded traffic signals and removing some median breaks and crossovers.
“Whenever we make road improvement projects like this in Fairfax County, we focus on not just the road improvements, which are absolutely critical to moving traffic and people, but also all the multimodal improvements, improvements for pedestrians and safety improvements for people who live along this corridor,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said.
Work is expected to continue until May 2024 on some of those elements, including the shared-use paths, noise barriers, storm water management facilities and side street improvements.
However, FCDOT says drivers have already reported shorter trips and less cut-through traffic.
“Morning rush-hour commuters from Manassas Park to I-66 have reported experiencing a reduction in their commute of 10-15 minutes each day,” the department said. “They have also reported a reduction in morning rush hour cut through/bypass traffic on Ordway Road and Old Centreville Road.”
A study conducted by the Virginia Department of Transportation in 2015 found that widening Route 28 would shave about 15 minutes off current travel times, though trips through the 5-mile stretch were still projected to take 40 minutes in the morning due to the area’s increased density and development.
Benefitting Loudoun and Prince William counties, as well as Fairfax, the Route 28 widening has “regional significance,” Northern Virginia Transportation Authority CEO Monica Backmon said. The regional transportation planning agency contributed $26 million to the project, which also got local, state and federal funds.
(Correction: The spelling of Monica Backmon’s name has been fixed.)
Lauding the “innovative design” of the expanded roadway, which could be widened even further to eight lanes in the future, Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity highlighted the project’s benefits for his constituents, even though it’s in the Sully District.
“Much of the benefit from this project will be felt in the Springfield District, as we start the process of alleviating all the cut-through traffic in the Occoquan watershed and through the Town of Clifton,” he said. “Those are people who really should be using this route, but it’s too congested. This project is the first step in making it less congested.”
The next step, Herrity said, is for Prince William County to widen Route 28 to six lanes on its side of the border. A preliminary design for that bypass project was presented in the spring, but construction isn’t slated to start until 2026.
Updated at 4 p.m. on 9/26/2023 — The traffic pattern change at Lewinsville Road and Route 7 has been rescheduled for 5 a.m. on Thursday (Sept. 28), the Virginia Department of Transportation says.
Earlier: One portion of the ongoing project to widen northern Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) is complete.
Final work on the intersection will continue tonight into the morning, in preparation of the new traffic pattern taking effect by 5 a.m.
“Temporary traffic patterns may be in place during the overnight hours between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. while crews complete the transition,” VDOT said. “Please use caution and be alert to directional signage that will be in place to guide drivers through the intersection.”
Under the new configuration, Lewinsville Road has been realigned with the McLean Bible Church’s east entrance on the south side of Route 7. A displaced left-turn lane separates Route 7 traffic headed east onto Lewinsville from westbound Route 7 traffic.
Traffic signals have been placed at both McLean Bible Church entrances, but a new acceleration lane lets drivers from Lewinsville Road turn right onto westbound Route 7 without having to stop at the light, as shown in a simulation video from VDOT.
Under construction since spring 2019, the Route 7 Corridor Improvements Project is widening the roadway from four to six lanes along a nearly 7-mile stretch from Reston Avenue to Jarrett Valley Drive just north of the Dulles Toll Road.
The $313.9 million project is also adding 10-foot-wide, shared-use paths on both sides of the corridor and reconfiguring several intersections, including Lewinsville and Baron Cameron Avenue in Reston.
Work is scheduled to be completed by July 31, 2024.
Major improvements on Van Buren Street are officially complete.
The Town of Herndon is set to celebrate the completion of the project at a ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday (Sept. 7) at Halley Smith Park.
The project kicked off in the spring of 2022. It cost $12.4 million, including $4.7 million for improvements to the Herndon Parkway intersection. Roughly $8 million was funded through federal, regional and local grants.
“The projects provide significant enhancement to these primary roads in the town, particularly necessary due to their proximity to the Herndon stop on Metrorail’s Silver Line,” according to the Town of Herndon.
The most significant improvements — two left turn lanes on west bound Herndon Parkway and a right-turn lane to eastbound Herndon Parkway — took place at Herndon Parkway’s intersection with Van Buren Street. A right-turn lane was also built on northbound Van Buren Street.
Upgrades include widening lanes to 15 feet to accommodate bike lanes, the addition of five-foot sidewalks with streetlights, improved pedestrian crosswalks with ADA signals, upgraded storm water management facilities and relocated overhead utility lines.
At Alabama Drive, crosswalks and traffic signals were also added, along with a turn lane for northbound Van Buren Street at Herndon Parkway.