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Columbia Pike between Backlick Road and Tom Davis Drive (via Google Maps)

A stretch of roadside along Columbia Pike referred to as a “disaster” in a recent meeting — near where four people were struck by a driver last year — could be getting some safety-focused upgrades.

On Monday (Jan. 23), Fairfax County presented plans for a “Complete Streets” overhaul for a section of Columbia Pike from Backlick Run to Tom Davis Drive. The project involves the construction of a new 6-foot-wide sidewalk and a high-visibility crosswalk at Tom Davis Drive, along with ADA-compliant curb ramps and a 6-foot-wide strip of landscaping.

In terms of “Complete Streets” projects, the Columbia Pike one is fairly limited in scope: it only affects the southern side of the street and doesn’t include any bicycle upgrades. Staff emphasized that what was presented was just the first phase.

Area of improvements planned for Columbia Pike (via Fairfax County)

“[This project] has been discussed for a long time,” said Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross. “It looks simple on paper, but when you look at the various land use parcels that need to be included it becomes a much broader kind of proposal. I am anxious to learn what the design is going to look like now…Now we’re really getting down to the nitty gritty so some decisions can be made.”

The Complete Streets project will also cut down on the number of curb cuts — areas where vehicles cross over the sidewalk to get in and out of parking. While limiting vehicle access can be frustrating for retail along a street, Gross said the reduction in curb cuts shouldn’t impact businesses too severely.

“Right now it is chaotic for pedestrians and vehicles alike in that section,” Gross said. “There are too many curb cuts. It really shouldn’t affect access to businesses because there will be other curb cuts available. The basic idea is much safer for everyone.”

James Albright, a member of the county’s Trails, Sidewalks and Bikeways Committee, said he was excited to see improvements coming to Columbia Pike.

“I appreciate this project because this sidewalk is a disaster. It’s not safe,” Albright said. “This has been an area of concern.”

But Albright also expressed concern that the county was doing nothing for cycling along Columbia Pike, with no additional bicycle facilities planned as part of the overhaul.

Turner acknowledged that bicycle lanes were not proposed as part of the phase 1 improvement. Transportation Planner Nicole Wynands said Columbia Pike is a relatively narrow, four-lane road without much wiggle room to include bicycle lanes.

The project is currently scheduled to continue design through summer 2025, with construction running from 2026-2027.

Photo via Google Maps

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Town of Herndon government offices (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Sidewalk improvements are in the works for two streets in the Town of Herndon.

Included as part of the town’s long-range capital projects planning tool — the Capital Improvement Program — the town is planning a series of sidewalk improvements on Spring and Locust streets, each of which will cost over $1 million overall.

The overall CIP uses roughly $49.6 million in grant funding to support 25 different projects — a figure that does not include $57 million for projects at Elden Street and nearly $18 million in funding for Spring Street improvements.

Both of those projects are primarily funded through grants.

“Funding for large capital projects needs a mechanism so projects can come to fruition. The FY2024-FY2029 CIP incorporates all projects despite the lack of funding,” John Vernin, who manages the town’s CIP program, said in a memo.

The CIP establishes a six-year schedule for public improvements. The town’s planning commission, which held a work session on Monday (Jan. 9), makes recommendations to the town manager prior to the town council’s consideration of the program.

So far, the town has budgeted nearly $1.4 million each for the Spring and Locust street improvements. The town plans to construct continuous, ADA-compliant, 5-foot-wide sidewalks along both sides of the streets.

The Locust Street project will extend from old Spring Street to Elden Street. It will also include curb-cuts.

For Spring Street, the project will extend from Locust Street to the new Spring Street. A project to widen a quarter-mile of East Spring Street is currently underway.

The town might construct the project in phases.

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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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The sidewalk on Plum Street SW from Cottage Street to Tapawingo Road is one of the completed Robinson Trust projects (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The Town of Vienna has now committed about a third of the $7 million bequeathed by late councilmember Maud Robinson for building sidewalks to specific projects.

As of Aug. 2, the town has allocated approximately $2.3 million from the Robinson Charitable Trust based on open purchase orders, per Vienna’s finance department. The funds can be used to engineer, design and construct sidewalks in areas with existing curb and gutter.

“Of this amount, approximately $997,000 has been billed and reimbursed to the Town from the Trust,” the town told FFXnow.

Vienna has pursued 28 projects so far, seven of which have been completed. Others are currently being studied or designed, and despite some pushback from residents, one is set to begin construction this week: a 1,500-foot path on Alma Street SE.

When it met on July 11, the town council also approved funding to build a sidewalk on Blackstone Terrace NW and initiate design work on four other projects.

According to Robert Froh, an engineer for the town’s Department of Public Works, construction has finished on 10 additional, small projects that received trust funding.

“These projects are along the frontage of one or several properties where there may be existing sidewalk on the sides of these ‘missing link’ project locations,” Froh said by email.

The Robinson Trust was established in early 2020 with a gift from the late councilmember, who died in March 2019. Projected to cover 3.3 miles of sidewalks, the money is intended to support projects that weren’t already planned or funded.

The current $2.3 million commitment represents a notable step forward from where Vienna was in the spring of 2021. At that point, just four projects had been approved, as the town struggled to win support from property owners.

However, with the halfway point looming, the town needs to pick up the pace even more in order to meet the October 2024 deadline set by the trust.

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Construction is expected to start this week on a sidewalk for Alma Street SE in Vienna (via Google Maps)

A sidewalk is coming to Vienna’s Alma Street SE, whether the residents there want it or not.

Construction to add about 1,500 linear feet of concrete, curb and gutter, driveway aprons, and ramps on the northwest side between Follin Lane and Delano Drive will begin by the end of this week, the Town of Vienna shared on Monday (Aug. 8).

One of many sidewalks in the works as part of Vienna’s Robinson Trust Sidewalk Initiative, the Alma Street project drew some particularly strong opposition from residents along the road, who petitioned against the proposal as it moved through the engineering and design process last year.

The town maintains that the sidewalk is needed for older residents, people with mobility challenges, and anyone else who doesn’t want to walk in the roadway or might benefit from the accompanying ramp, crosswalk and other accessibility improvements.

“The Town believes that sidewalks are an important amenity for residents of a street — and for the community at large,” Department of Public Works Engineer Robert Froh said in an email. “Sidewalks promote good health and pedestrian safety, connect individuals and destinations in the community, support Town businesses and sustainability goals, and enhance the ‘greater good’ of the community — today and in the future.”

A flier dated Aug. 4 that a resident shared with FFXnow said construction would take about three weeks, depending on weather. It will require relocations of water meters for five houses, and homeowners were told to move sprinkler systems and any personal belongings out of the right-of-way.

Street also targeted for Dominion undergrounding project

The resident says they learned earlier this week that Dominion Energy will underground its electric lines, which are on the same side of Alma Street as the incoming sidewalk, leading them to question the location and timing of construction.

Dominion Energy confirmed it has a project for Alma Street SE under its Strategic Underground Program, which focuses on moving its “most outage-prone overhead power lines” underground. Read More

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Morning Notes

A family hits the mini golf course at Jefferson District Park in Idylwood (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Metro Promises Relief for Train Riders Next Month — Starting Monday (Aug. 1), the addition of more rail cars will speed up service on the Orange, Blue and Silver lines to every 15 minutes on weekdays instead of the current wait times, which can reach up to 20 minutes. Metro says it anticipates expanding those service adjustments to weekends in September. [WMATA]

Man to Plead Guilty to Herndon Murder — A Virginia man told a Fairfax County judge he wants to plead guilty to the 1987 killing of 37-year-old Eige Sober-Adler in Herndon after being indicted in the case in January. Charles Helem is already serving life in prison for strangling and killing his ex-girlfriend, Patricia Bentley, in Chantilly in 2002. [WTOP]

Reston Residents Frustrated by Car Burglaries — “Some angry Reston residents are complaining that the police are doing too little to stop a persistent car burglar repeatedly targeting their community…Neighbors say the same burglar has returned to the West Market neighborhood near Reston Town Center at least four times over the course of the year” [WUSA9]

New Sidewalks in Lincolnia Near Finish — “Work is wrapping up on #Lincolnia Road Sidewalk and Spot Improvement Project! This #FairfaxCounty Transportation project consists of 1,000 LF of sidewalk to connect pedestrian facilities along North Chambliss Street and Lincolnia Road from the Lincolnia Senior Center to Linmar Court” [Supervisor Penny Gross/Twitter]

Pittsburgh Bank Coming to Reston — “First National Bank is expanding in Northern Virginia. F.N.B. Corp. (NYSE: FNB) said Wednesday it has filed applications with the Order of the Comptroller of the Currency to open new branches in Reston and Arlington. The bank currently operates seven First National Bank offices in Northern Virginia and the District and said it expects to grow that total to 11 by 2024.” [Washington Business Journal]

Maintenance Set for Planned Tysons Trail — “Fairfax County supervisors on July 19 authorized the county’s transportation director, Thomas Biesiadny, to execute a perpetual agreement with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) for joint operation and maintenance of a new shared-use path in Tysons.” [Sun Gazette]

Idylwood Office Buildings Sold — “Dave Schaeffer, CEO of Cogent Communications, has acquired 7799 Leesburg Pike, a pair of 11-story office towers totaling 377,717 square feet in Tysons, Va. The sale price was $49 million, according to someone close to the deal…At the time of the sale, the buildings were 36 percent leased to seven tenants, including Tyson MRI and Imaging Center and the University of the Potomac Virginia Campus.” [Commercial Observer]

Reston Offers “Superhero” Triathlon for Kids — Coming this Sunday (July 31), the CORE Foundation will host its first-ever Reston Superhero Youth Triathlon at Ridge Heights Pool. Over 100 people have registered for the competition, which will feature running, swimming, and bicycling and have categories for para and adaptive athletes. [CORE Foundation]

Vienna Parks and Rec Registration Coming — “Get ready, get set for fall fun with Vienna Parks and Recreation! Explore the program guide and sign up for classes, camps and more adventures for the whole family! Registration for Town residents opens at 8 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 1. Registration for all others opens Monday, Aug. 8.” [Town of Vienna]

It’s Friday — Rain in the evening and overnight. High of 82 and low of 74. Sunrise at 6:09 am and sunset at 8:25 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Thursday afternoon traffic at the Balls Hill Road and Old Dominion Drive intersection (via Google Maps)

Fairfax County has a plan to fix the Balls Hill Road and Old Dominion Drive intersection, but it will likely take another half-decade for the changes to fall into place.

Construction on the proposed realignment — which will split the X-shaped intersection into two T intersections — isn’t expected to start until the spring of 2027, finishing in fall 2028, Fairfax County Department of Transportation staff told the community in a pair of meetings this week.

The lengthy timeline partly stems from an extensive utility relocation process projected take up to 24 months. It could be shortened if the supply-chain issues that have slowed construction during the pandemic abate.

“Some of those [utility] poles are located right now where we’d need to put roadway stuff, sidewalks, whatever, so they have to be out of the way before we can begin construction,” FCDOT project manager Jared Kerr said during a virtual meeting on Wednesday (June 22).

An in-person meeting was held last night (Thursday) at Churchill Elementary School.

Fairfax County’s proposed preliminary design for the Balls Hill Road and Old Dominion Drive intersection (via FCDOT)

Local transportation officials say the wait will be worthwhile for McLean drivers, whose patience is regularly tested by traffic congestion in the central intersection between I-495 and Route 123.

Selected out of three options proposed when the county first brought the project forward in 2018, the T-intersection concept will move traffic more efficiently by reducing driver confusion and relocating signals so vehicles are less likely to block residential driveways, FCDOT staff say.

By 2045, the changes will shave almost two minutes off the average morning rush-hour delay and three minutes off peak afternoon travel times compared to what would happen if nothing is done, according to a staff presentation.

Those couple of minutes could mean the difference between sitting through one or two traffic signal cycles and limit vehicle queues to 125 to 150 feet long. Currently, queues on Balls Hill can extend over half a mile, backing up to The Langley School, one resident at Wednesday’s meeting observed. Read More

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The current asphalt path on Old Courthouse Road west of Tysons (via Town of Vienna/Twitter)

Construction begins today (Monday) on a long-gestating project to upgrade the pedestrian facilities along Courthouse Road NE in Vienna.

The asphalt path that currently runs along the east side of the road will be closed for several months between Pine Valley Drive and Battery Park Street, as crews replace it with a concrete, ADA-compliant sidewalk, the Town of Vienna announced yesterday (Sunday).

“The new sidewalk will be able to safely accommodate pedestrians and people with disabilities who use a wheelchair or other assistive devices, and the overall project will enhance the neighborhood appearance,” Andrew Jinks, the town’s transportation engineer, said in a news release.

Jinks deems the existing trail “unsafe” for pedestrians. In addition to being narrow with an uneven, cracked surface, it runs next to an open drainage ditch that the project will enclose with a curb and gutters.

In the works since 2013, the full project extends to Gosnell Road beyond the town’s boundary. The remaining segment will be addressed by Fairfax County as part of an agreement with Vienna.

The $1.2 million project is being built by Sagres Construction, which was awarded a contract in March 2021.

It’s being funded by a combination of local and state funds, including a Safe Routes to Schools grant that the town got from the Virginia Department of Transportation in 2013 due to the site’s proximity to Westbriar Elementary School.

Vienna anticipates that construction on the new sidewalk will be complete in January 2023.

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Morning Notes

People sit and walk by Occoquan River in Lorton (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Arrests in Fairfax and Arlington Counties Stir Debate over Bail Reform — “The man who was arrested on Sunday for robbery and carjacking after an inter-jurisdiction car chase on I-395 was awaiting trial in Fairfax County for stealing a car, court records show…Randall Mason, the president of the Arlington Coalition of Police, said Fairfax County’s release of the alleged carjacker put officers, the driver and the public at risk of injury.” [ARLnow]

Fairfax Real Estate Listing Goes Viral — “The $800,000 listing, a five-bedroom, 3.5-bath, single-family home, is only accepting all-cash offers despite needing multiple repairs and coming with roommates who aren’t paying rent and don’t have a lease. Oh, and potential buyers can’t see the lower level.” [Axios]

Herndon MS Students Enjoy Recess — Herndon Middle School students support the introduction of recess, calling it a “brain break.” Fairfax County middle schools started piloting recess periods this school year, and the school board is expected to make the practice permanent with a vote tomorrow (Thursday). [NBC4]

Reston Association Election Results Announced — The Reston Association Board of Directors announced the results of its latest election yesterday (Tuesday) at an Annual Members’ Meeting. The new directors are Glenn Small (At-Large), Irwin Flashman (Lake Anne/Tall Oaks District), and Laurie Dodd (North Point District). [RA]

Vienna Advances More Sidewalk Projects — “The Town of Vienna will move forward with engineering design of sidewalks on more streets as part of the Maud Robinson Trust…An estimated 3.3 miles of sidewalk can be added through the trust, according to the town.” [Patch]

Longtime Annandale Shoe Business for Sale — “Express Shoe Repair, at 7048 Columbia Pike, is for sale…Anna Koundakjian and her husband founded Express Shoe Repair in 1985, five years after they immigrated to the U.S. from an Armenian enclave in Lebanon. They are ready to retire, and Anna plans to start a new hobby — quilting.” [Annandale Today]

Vienna Little League to Celebrate Opening Day — “For the first time in a couple of years, Vienna Little League will hold an opening-day ceremony, scheduled for Saturday morning April 16 at 9 a.m. at the league’s Yeonas Park complex The ceremony has not been held the last couple of years at the regular time because of the pandemic.” [Sun Gazette]

TV Actor to Help Dedicate Reston Garden — Actor and environmental activist Ed Begley Jr. will visit Reston Community Center on May 4 to raise awareness about environmental sustainability. He will join officials at 5 p.m. for the dedication of a new pollinator garden by Hunters Woods Village Center before giving a talk on CenterStage at 8 p.m. [RCC]

It’s Wednesday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 78 and low of 59. Sunrise at 6:36 am and sunset at 7:45 pm. [Weather.gov]

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The north side of Adahi Road at the Park Street intersection, where Vienna plans to add sidewalk (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Vienna is dipping into its sidewalk trust funds again.

During its March 21 meeting, the Vienna Town Council approved spending $261,448 to build sidewalks along two residential streets using money from the Robinson Trust Sidewalk Initiative, which was established by the late councilmember Maud Robinson’s estate after her death in 2019.

The newly authorized funds will go toward installing:

  • Approximately 575 linear feet of concrete sidewalk on the north side of Adahi Road SE between Park and Glyndon streets
  • Approximately 680 linear feet of concrete sidewalk on the south or even-numbered side of Cherry Street SW between Courthouse Road and Cottage Street

Both projects will include construction on concrete driveway entrances and Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant curb ramps.

Awarded to the Sterling-based company Arthur Construction Co., Inc., the funds consist of $117,228 for the Cherry Street project, $144,220 for Adahi, and a 15% contingency.

Construction on Cherry Street is expected to start at the end of April, with work on the Adahi sidewalk coming after that, according to project manager Alsina Ervin.

The Robinson Trust initiative launched in February 2020 with $7 million that the Town of Vienna is required to spend on new sidewalks for streets that already have curbs and gutters. The town estimates that the funds will cover about 3.3 miles of added sidewalks.

Faced with a fall 2024 deadline for spending the money, the town council approved construction funds for four projects in April 2021. They were all completed by the end of last year.

During that April meeting, the council also advanced nine other projects to the design or engineering study phase:

  • Alma Street SE — Delano Drive to Follin Lane
  • Birch Street SW — Battle Street to Plum Street
  • Blackstone Terrace NW — Holmes Drive to Lawyers Road
  • Charles Street SE — Locust Street to Branch Road
  • Cherry Circle SW — Cottage Street to End
  • Elmar Drive SE/SW — DeSale Street to Park Street
  • Oak Street SW — Birch Street to Center Street
  • Symphony Circle SW — Melody Lane to End
  • Timber Lane SW — Tapawingo Road to Harmony Drive

“The other projects are in a preliminary stage and have not been approved by Town Council,” Ervin said.

The Alma Street project in particular has encountered some opposition from residents, but there is no indication right now that that will prevent them from getting approved once the designs are completed.

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