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The I-66 Express Lanes connecting Route 29 in Gainsville to Route 28 in Centreville are set to open this weekend, ahead of schedule.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) made the announcement Friday (Sept. 2), touting that the opening of the western part of its highway widening project will help congestion on I-66 “sooner than originally planned.”

“We are pleased to join our 66 Express Lanes project partners in opening the first segment of one of Virginia’s largest megaprojects ahead of schedule,” VDOT Commissioner Stephen Brich said in the press release. “By opening the western segment of the new 66 Express Lanes early, we are able to start delivering congestion relief to I-66 travelers sooner than originally planned.”

The 9-mile stretch of road opening this weekend connects the Route 28 interchange in Centreville to Prince William County. Officials said opening that section now will help motorists get used to the new traffic patterns before the rest of the lanes open later this year.

Extending to the Capital Beltway interchange in Dunn Loring, the remaining 13 miles of express lanes are scheduled to open by December.

“This is an important step in opening the new 66 Express Lanes, allowing customers to begin to experience the benefits that the new managed lanes and project enhancements will provide, and helping to ensure a great customer experience when the full corridor opens at the end of the year,” Javier Guiterrez, CEO for the private contractor I-66 Express Mobility Partners, said.

Overall, the nearly-complete $3.7 billion project mostly centered in Fairfax County will bring widened roads with toll lanes and potentially make room for mass transit projects, while also rebuilding a number of bridges spanning the highway.

There will also be 11 miles of shared-use trails between Fairfax and Prince William counties.

Work began in late 2017 and is expected to finish in mid-2023, though the remaining express lanes will open to traffic a few months prior to that.

I-66 will still have three general traffic, toll-free lanes in the eastbound and westbound directions. The project is adding two high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes in each direction.

Buses, carpoolers, and motorcyclists will be able to use those lanes for free, while all other motorists will pay a toll based on real-time traffic conditions. The lanes expand the 10 miles of toll lanes between the Beltway and D.C. that opened in 2017.

The project also includes the construction of dedicated on- and off-ramps at Route 234/Sudley Road, Route 28, and Braddock and Walney Roads. Drivers will be able to access the Express Lanes from several general-purpose lanes, including near Route 28.

The I-66 Express Lanes construction is a result of a public-private partnership between VDOT and I-66 Express Mobility Partners, which will maintain and operate the HOT lanes under the 50-year agreement.

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Morning Notes

Verizon truck drives through water while turning from Baron Cameron Avenue to Reston Parkway after rain (photo by Ed Schudel)

Fairfax County Rescue Dog Dies — “We regret to announce the passing of #canine Phayu after a long illness. An 8-year veteran, he deployed worldwide including to quakes in Haiti & Nepal, and hurricanes in the Bahamas & USA. We thank Phayu for his service and extend condolences to his family and our #K9 section.” [Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue Team/Twitter]

County Firefighters Deliver Free Shoes to Kids — “The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department along with Firefighters and Friends to the Rescue on Thursday gave away more than 300 pairs of new shoes to children and families in need. The giveaways were held at Gum Springs and Lee District community centers in Alexandria.” [ABC7]

Route 28 Lanes Closed for Skewed Sign — A Route 28 sign for the Willard Road exit in Chantilly got knocked out of place during the morning rush hour yesterday (Thursday). Crews had to block off two southbound lanes for almost five hours while they addressed the situation, which required a removal of the sign pole. [VDOT/Twitter]

Free School Meals to End This Fall — “For the past two years, the federal government has provided no-cost meals to all public school students without the need to complete the annual Free and Reduced-Price Meal application. The extension of the no-cost meals benefit to all students is expected to expire at the end of this school year, meaning families must submit an application and be approved to be eligible for free and reduced price meals for the 2022-23 school year.” [FCPS]

McLean Rec Center to Close Tomorrow — “Spring Hill Rec Center will close June 4 through 7 to address electrical maintenance issues. This project was planned for August but has been moved up to ensure continuous site operation and safety.” [Supervisor John Foust/Twitter]

Herndon Man Charged With Assault — A 43-year-old man faces aggravated assault and burglary charges after Herndon police say he allegedly “entered a home in the 600 block of Center Street without permission on May 23 and assaulted one of it occupants.” The man is currently being held without bond at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center. [Patch]

Asian Fusion Eatery Joins Tysons Biergarten — “RollBär, an Asian fusion restaurant, opens TODAY at @shipgarten! Shipgarten, a new pop-up located at the future site of Scotts Run’s ‘Taylor’ block, launched last Thursday with the reopening of #TysonsBiergarten.” [Tysons Partnership/Twitter]

The St. James Plans Maryland Expansion — After unveiling a performance club at Reston Town Center in April, the Springfield-based sports complex announced yesterday (Thursday) that it will bring a similar facility to downtown Bethesda this winter. The new club will be smaller than The St. James’ flagship site, which is the largest athletic facility in the region, but it will include a Vim & Victor Café. [Washingtonian]

Charcoal Chicken Restaurant Coming to West Falls Church — “Super Pollo Charcoal Chicken is moving into the spot vacated by DC Steakholders at 6641 Arlington Blvd…Juan Carlos Hernandez, manager of the Barcroft Plaza Super Pollo expects the new place will open in two to three months.” [Annandale Today]

It’s Friday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 75 and low of 63. Sunrise at 5:46 am and sunset at 8:31 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Fairfax County police car lights (file photo)

Updated at 8:15 p.m.All Route 28 lanes have now reopened, but a man remains hospitalized, and police are continuing to investigate the crash.

Earlier: Two people have been transported to the hospital, one with life-threatening injuries, after a two-vehicle crash on Route 28 in Chantilly.

All three northbound lanes at Westfields Boulevard have been closed, as Fairfax County police officers investigate the incident, which occurred before 5 p.m. today (Monday).

The Fairfax County Police Department advises drivers to avoid the area. As of 5:50 p.m., there are about 2 miles of delays, with traffic backing up to I-66, according to the Metropolitan Area Transportation Operations Coordination.

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Design of the Route 28 widening project is nearly complete (via FCDOT)

The design phase of the planned Route 28 widening is nearly complete.

The $87 million project will widen Route 28 — also known as Centreville Road — from four to six lanes between Bull Run bridge and the Upper Ridge/Old Centreville Road intersection.

It also includes widenings of intersecting streets next to Route 28, the installation of new signals at five currently signalized intersections, four noise barriers, and the construction of new drainage improvements, including storm water and storm management facilities.

Robin Geiger, a spokesperson for the Fairfax County Department of Transportation, said that the project is designed to allow for future expansion, if needed. So far, designs are 95% complete.

“The project has been designed to allow for future widening of Route 28 to eight lanes, as needed and as funding is available,” Geiger wrote in a statement to FFXnow.

FCDOT plans to hold an online meeting on May 11 from noon to 1:30 p.m. to provide an update about the status of the project, upcoming activities and the overall schedule and process.

The project is expected to be completed by the winter of 2023-2024, according to the county. Substantial completion on construction is anticipated in the fall of 2023.

The department has provided right-of-way plans for phase two of the project online. Staff from Shirley contracting company will also be on hand to answer questions.

The meeting can be accessed via Microsoft Teams or over the phone at 571-429-5982 with access code 901 419 848#.

So far, land rights — including right-of-way, temporary easements, and permanent easements — will be acquired from 48 properties. No buildings or structures will be demolished for the project.

Geiger anticipated that all land rights will be acquired by the end of the year or early 2023. Construction on the project began in September 2021.

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Morning Notes

Inside Capital One Hall in Tysons (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Depp-Heard Defamation Trial Starts Today — “Three years after actor Johnny Depp sued his ex-wife, actress Amber Heard, for defamation over an op-ed she wrote for The Washington Post about being a survivor of domestic abuse, the case is going to trial on Monday in Fairfax County Circuit Court in Virginia.” [The Washington Post]

Reston Man Indicted for Animal Cruelty — “Sheheryar Kamran, a 20-year-old resident of Reston, Virginia, was indicted on three federal charges related to animal cruelty for allegedly creating and posting videos on social media showing him abusing and killing hamsters. Kamran pleaded ‘not guilty’ in a federal court in Alexandria on February 24, 2022. He is currently awaiting trial set for May 16, 2022.” [FOX5]

TJ Admissions Lawsuit Could go to Supreme Court — The Coalition for TJ, a community group opposed to Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology’s new admissions policy, has filed an emergency application to the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to vacate a stay of a judge’s order striking down the changes. Chief Justice John Roberts gave the Fairfax County School Board until Wednesday (April 13) to respond. [Associated Press/WTOP]

Portion of I-66 West to Close Overnight — All westbound lanes will close at Route 28 between 11 p.m. and 4:30 a.m. today (Monday) through Friday, requiring a detour. Crews will install bridge beams for the new Route 28 South bridge as part of the sweeping project to add express lanes on I-66. [VDOT]

Chantilly School Introduces “Walking Club” — The introduction of recess at Rocky Run Middle School this year inspired a teacher to supervise a ‘walking club’ for students and teachers who spend the break taking a stroll outside. The activity is part of a countywide pilot in anticipation of Fairfax County Public Schools requiring recess for middle schools this fall, a policy set to be approved Thursday (April 14). [WTOP]

Tysons Dim Sum Restaurant Enters D.C. — “After opening two grand dim sum parlors in the suburbs, restaurateur Chris Zhu is ready to expand to DC. The China Garden (Rockville) and Han Palace (Tysons) owner will open a 70-seat branch of her Cantonese restaurant in Woodley Park on Sunday, April 10.” [Washingtonian]

McLean HS Lands New Football Coach — “Prior to accepting the job as the new McLean High School head football coach, Joe Cockerham held a variety of positions on different high school and college staffs. Cockerham, 34, believes those experiences will help him build a consistent winner of the Highlanders at McLean.” [Sun Gazette]

Hybla Valley Walmart Shoplifting Leads to Assault — Police responding to a shoplifting complaint at 7910 Richmond Highway reportedly found a 35-year-old man and a 30-year-old woman concealing merchandise. The woman ran, and the man assaulted officers. The man was arrested and taken to the hospital for injuries not considered life threatening. [FCPD]

McLean Symphony Marks 50th Anniversary — The McLean Symphony held a concert at Capital One Hall on Saturday (April 9) to celebrate 50 years of existence, all of them led by conductor Dingwall Fleary. The concert featured two premieres of original compositions, including one by a local student, and the attendance of Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears.

It’s Monday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 66 and low of 41. Sunrise at 6:39 am and sunset at 7:43 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Route 28 by the Frying Pan Road interchange (via Google Maps)

With property tax assessments skyrocketing, Virginia lawmakers passed a bill this year to change how data centers are valued, which could influence how quickly a local tax district can repay debt for projects that widened Route 28.

The Route 28 Highway Transportation Improvement District’s Fairfax County portion consists of over 1,000 parcels south of the Dulles Toll Road. New assessments for commercial and industrial properties in that area are relatively in line with increases seen in previous years.

Assessed values decreased 4.5% between Jan. 1, 2020 and Jan. 1, 2021 but increased by 3% to nearly $6.6 million on Jan. 1 of this year, according to a staff presentation during a meeting on Friday (March 11) for the Route 28 Transportation Improvement District Commission.

“The main thing we’re at now is just paying off debt,” Fairfax County debt coordinator Joe LaHait said. “There’s no construction left. It’s just paying off debt.”

Over in Loudoun County, however, the total assessed value for around 1,560 commercial and industrial properties in the district shot up by 29.5%, as of Jan. 1.

Officials expect to see assessments decline for properties north of the Dulles Toll Road in Loudoun after the General Assembly adopted House Bill 791, which directs data center valuations to be based on “depreciated reproduction or replacement cost” instead of the income they generate.

The legislative change will take effect on July 1, as long as Gov. Glenn Youngkin doesn’t veto it.

“Based on countywide estimates, Loudoun estimates that the Data Center value could decline by 30% for Tax Year 2023,” a staff presentation stated.

Del. Mark Keam, whose 35th District covers an area ranging from Fair Lakes to Vienna and Tysons, was the chief co-patron of the bill. He didn’t respond to messages seeking comment.

Without the significant increases in data center values, the tax district would generate revenue in line with historical levels, according to staff.

An impact statement for the bill stated there would be no effect on state revenue, but it could result in “an unknown revenue impact to localities.”

Local officials tried to get the bill delayed by a year to understand its effects, but that amendment failed, Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall, a member of the Route 28 commission, said Friday (March 11).

“We are…in some flux as to knowing what this will look like next year. We know it will decrease, but we don’t know by how much,” Randall said during the commission’s meeting.

She suggested there’s hope that the decrease in valuations won’t be as much as staff projected.

The tax district, which charges 17 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, could finish paying for the completed $105.6 million Route 28 widening projects in 2034 or 2037.

Some local businesses have expressed a desire to not pay the bonds off early, citing benefits of being in the tax district.

Photo via Google Maps

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Construction crews continue work along Route 28 (photo by David Taube)

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors may make use of its eminent domain powers in order to complete a project to relieve congestion on Route 28.

Construction on the $86.7 million project to widen a section of Route 28 from four lanes to six lanes began last fall, and the county has been working to acquire land rights to four properties needed to complete the expansion.

The properties in question are all located in Centreville.

“Negotiations are in progress with several owners of these properties,” county staff said in the agenda for the Board of Supervisors’ meeting tomorrow (Tuesday). “However, because resolution of these acquisitions is not imminent, it may become necessary for the Board to utilize quick-take eminent domain powers to commence construction of this project on schedule.”

The board will hold a public hearing at 4 p.m. tomorrow on whether to exercise that authority.

The Route 28 widening has been in the works since 2014 with the goal of alleviating increased traffic in Fairfax and Prince William counties south of I-66, according to the project page.

It is occurring along a 2.3-mile stretch of highway from just north of the Route 28 bridge over Bull Run to Upperridge Drive south of the Route 29 interchange in Centreville.

The project also involves constructing pedestrian paths on both sides of the road, intersection improvements, and traffic light reconstruction.

Work is slated to be done in 2023.

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