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A new study seeks to alleviate congestion and safety issues along sections of Franconia Road and Commerce Street (via VDOT)

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is asking for public input on how to reduce congestion and the number of crashes on two half-mile sections of road in Springfield.

A new survey is open through June 15, asking residents about their traveling habits and safety concerns along Franconia Road between Backlick Road and Loisdale Road. The survey also focuses on Commerce Street between Amherst Avenue and Franconia Road.

The survey marks the beginning of a STARS (Strategically Targeted Affordable Roadway Solutions) study that will help develop “proposed improvements that localities can pursue for funding,” a press release says.

Those two sections of roads, particularly Franconia Road, are of concern because they often have traffic congestion due to the nearby I-95 interchange. There’s also a high number of crashes, according to VDOT.

That half-mile section of Franconia Road averages about 69,000 vehicles a day and has had 162 crashes between January 2015 and October 2022, per a VDOT presentation. That includes at least one fatal crash and several that resulted in severe injuries.

The portion of Commerce Street in the study has much less volume, with only about 19,000 vehicles every day. But there have been even more crashes along the road during that same time period.

A large number of the 171 crashes have resulted in property damage only, but several did lead to severe injury.

VDOT is looking into a number of improvements along those roads focused on safety, the presentation notes.

That includes “innovative intersections” that have different shapes or traffic flow patterns. It could also mean adding Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons, high-visibility crosswalks and improved bicycle facilities, including better bicycle lane transitions and pavement markings.

What exactly will be done will, at least partially, depend on the results of the public survey, VDOT said.

In the questionnaire, respondents are asked to rank their top concerns, with traffic congestion, pedestrian safety, public transit access, and speeding among the options listed. They are also asked when they typically traveled along those roads, by what method of transportation, and when they typically experience congestion.

The survey “will be used to help develop potential safety and operational alternatives that will be evaluated and presented during the second round of public involvement scheduled for this winter,” the project website reads.

The study is set to be completed in spring 2024. No construction timeline has been set as of yet, per the press release.

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Robeks has officially opened in West Springfield (courtesy Robeks)

Robeks, a smoothie franchise, is officially open in West Springfield.

Located in Cardinal Forest Plaza (8324B Old Knee Mill Road), the location includes smoothies, juices, açaí bowls and toasts, according to the company.

It’s led by franchisees Josue Chavez and Alejandra Ponce, who also own a Robeks location in McLean.

“We are delighted to open our second Robeks location in West Springfield,” Chavez shared in a statement. “Our goal is to create a vibrant, yet welcoming environment where people can discover and enjoy the benefits of delicious and nutritious smoothies, juices and bowls. We are committed to serving our community and promoting a better-for-you lifestyle, and we look forward to becoming an integral part of the West Springfield neighborhood.”

Robeks President and CFO David Rawnsley said the opening of the Springfield location is a “testament” to the company’s “strong growth trajectory.”

“The dedication and success of franchisees like Josue Chavez and Alejandra Ponce reflect our shared vision of promoting well-being and serving as a beacon of health-conscious choices. We look forward to continuing our expansion and positively impacting more lives across the state,” Rawnsley said.

Items on the menu include açaí almond butter toast, smoothies, juices, açaí bowls, and wellness shots.

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A 3.9-mile trail loops around Lake Accotink (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Questions continue to swirl around Lake Accotink Park’s long-term future, but that hasn’t stopped Fairfax County from pursuing some needed facility upgrades.

This Saturday (June 3), the Fairfax County Park Authority will celebrate the completion of its new Accotink Creek Crossing, a 320-foot-long concrete trail and 325-foot, elevated pedestrian bridge that closes 3.9-mile trail loop around the North Springfield park.

Coinciding with National Trails Day, the ribbon-cutting ceremony at 8:30 a.m. will be followed by a full day of outdoor activities, including nature and history hikes and a trail bicycle ride.

Under construction since last summer, the new crossing has improved the conditions and slope of the trail at the Lake Accotink dam outfall, according to the park authority.

“The previous stream crossing at the outfall of the Lake Accotink dam was subject to sudden and frequent flooding, often stranding trail users and tempting them to wade through swiftly moving water,” the authority said. “Additionally, excessive storm damage necessitated the total reconstruction of the trail twice within the last five years.”

The project was funded with just over $3 million from park bonds.

Playground replacement expected this year

Other impending improvements include an overhaul of the park’s playground, which has been out of commission since November after an inspector determined that the aging equipment was unsafe to use.

With $300,000 approved for a replacement, the park authority recently unveiled a design concept showcasing the features planned for the new playground, including a tower structure with a slide, four swings, a climbing net, a bouldering feature, a music feature, and a playhouse.

A conceptual rendering of the updated equipment planned for Lake Accotink Park’s playground (via FCPA)

“In the interest of delivering a functional, safe and enjoyable playground experience as quickly as possible, this particular project was conducted as an in-kind replacement,” meaning it will fit within the footprint of the existing playground, FCPA spokesperson Benjamin Boxer said.

The new equipment is expected to be installed late this summer or by early fall, though the timeline could be revised “as ordering, delivery and installation details are finalized,” according to Boxer.

As the county develops a vision for the park’s future, which might not include a lake, the park authority says it intends to recommend adding a second, larger playground. Read More

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Fairfax Connector bus to Springfield (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Fairfax Connector is shaking up its service along the I-66 corridor in anticipation of two major parking facilities finishing construction later this year.

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation has proposed adding or revising almost 30 routes in Tysons, Vienna, Springfield, Chantilly and Centreville, as it seeks to incorporate the upcoming Springfield and Monument Drive garages into its bus system.

According to FCDOT, the changes will improve travel throughout the D.C. region, with the Monument Commuter Parking Garage and Transit Center in particular supporting new connections between the eastern and western sides of the county.

“By creating a transfer point at the new Monument Park-and-Ride facility, riders will have the opportunity to transfer between local routes, access regional routes, and connect to the Vienna Metrorail Station, Franconia Metrorail Station, Tysons, or…D.C.,” FCDOT said in a news release.

Shaped by two previous rounds of public engagement, the proposed service plan will be presented today (Monday) at a 7 p.m. community meeting in the Franconia Government Center (6121 Franconia Road). Virtual meetings are also scheduled for 7 p.m. tomorrow (Tuesday) and Thursday (May 25).

The public can also provide input through an online survey until June 5.

Monument Drive

The $43 million Monument facility will boast 820 parking spaces, eight bus bays, a pick-up and drop-off area, and bicycle racks and storage. Located at the Government Center Parkway intersection next to Fairfax Corner, it broke ground in November 2021 as part of the I-66 widening.

FCDOT has proposed adding the facility as a stop on Route 660, a cross-county connector from the Stone Road Park & Ride in Centreville to the Tysons Metro station that launched in February.

Other notable changes involving the Monument facility include:

  • Route 605: Reston Town Center Metro station to Fair Oaks Mall
  • Route 622: Fairfax Towne Center circulator with more local links and new weekend service
  • Route 625: New route to Random Hills Road and Pender Drive
  • Route 651: New seven-day service to the Westfields, Chantilly, and Fair Ridge areas
  • Route 663: Stringfellow Road Park and Ride to the Vienna Metro station
  • Route 670: New peak express service between Chantilly and the Franconia-Springfield
    Metro station
  • Route 671: New peak service from Chantilly to the Dunn Loring Metro station

Read More

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A combined drive-thru Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin Robbins is opening in Springfield (courtesy Dunkin’)

The powers of caffeine and sugar will unite this weekend for the grand opening of Springfield’s new Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin Robbins.

After a soft opening on April 3, the combined eateries are set for a more official launch at 9:30 a.m. this Saturday (May 6), promising free coffee or ice cream for a year to the first 100 customers to enter their shared doors at 6310 Backlick Road.

Winners of the giveaway will get four coupons per month for free scoops or medium-sized coffees, lasting 14 months, though they’ll only be accepted at the new location, according to a press release.

With a ribbon-cutting at 10 a.m., the opening will feature a Dunkin’ prize wheel, a balloon artist, face painting and the presence of Dunkin’s mascot “Cuppy.” A $3,000 grant from the Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation will also be presented to the Capital Area Food Bank.

“The Next Gen restaurant offers Springfield a first-hand look at Dunkin’s enhanced store experience, with a modern look that provides a fresh, friendly, vibrant, and engaging environment,” the coffee and doughnuts company said in the press release.

Dunkin’ and Baskin Robbins are both part of Dunkin’ Brands Group, which was acquired by Inspire Brands in December 2020. Inspire also owns Arby’s, Buffalo Wild Wings and several other fast food restaurants.

Replacing a KFC that was closed not long after getting set on fire in 2020, the paired Dunkin’ and Baskin Robbins occupy a 2,396-square-foot, drive-thru restaurant with 25 workers and seats for 18 customers.

The company describes the venue as a “next generation” experience, highlighting its modern design, energy efficiency, designated pick-up area for mobile orders and the use of “an innovative tap system” for pouring cold beverages, including a nitro-infused cold brew only available at “Next Gen” locations.

The restaurant’s operating hours are 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays.

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The westbound I-495 exit to I-395 North (via Google Maps)

(Updated at 11:40 a.m.) One person was killed early this morning (Tuesday) after their vehicle apparently drove off the Capital Beltway (I-495) near the Springfield Mixing Bowl and crashed onto railroad tracks below.

An initial investigation indicates that a Kia was headed west on I-495 towards northbound I-395 when it veered off the interstate near exit 170B, according to Virginia State Police, which responded at 1:19 a.m.

“The vehicle went over the side cement barrier and landed on the railroad tracks below. The impact of the crash caused the vehicle to immediately catch fire,” the VSP said in a news release.

In an update at 11:48 a.m., police confirmed that the person who died was the Kia’s driver and lone occupant.

Some ramps at the interchange were closed, but the scene has now been cleared, and Virginia Railway Express trains are up and running, WTOP reported shortly after 6:30 a.m.

“The remains have been transported to the Office of the Medical Examiner in Manassas for examination, autopsy and positive identification,” the VSP said.

Photo via Google Maps

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Lake Accotink Park paddle boats (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The price tag affixed to dredging Lake Accotink has led some on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to say it might be time to pull the plug on restoration plans.

The Fairfax County park is popular, with over 250,000 visitors each year, but in a presentation to the board’s environmental committee yesterday (Tuesday), staff said the cost of the much-needed dredging project would be astronomical.

The basic cost of dredging alone is estimated at around $95.3 million, with additional dredging events for maintenance costing up to $300 million total by the 20-year mark.

Suggesting that the lake could be turned into a wetland, the staff report said that 43% of the sediment in the park would need to be removed, and costs of removing and disposing of the sediment are higher than originally estimated.

Alternative options, like damming the lake to create an “offline lake” separate from Accotink Creek, still came in as too expensive to be recommended.

A survey conducted after the staff report came out in February found respondents split over whether the lake should still be dredged, though “no” votes eeked out a 1% lead. Some commenters questioned the cost estimates and the county’s management of the park.

“It brings me no joy to come here with a recommendation to not proceed with dredging,” said Christopher Herrington, director of the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services. “I have an appreciation of the deep connection some residents have with the lake, so it brings me no joy to disappoint them.”

Herrington said the additional costs of continued maintenance dredging is really the nail in the coffin for the Lake Accotink dredging evaluation.

Board of Supervisors Chair Jeff McKay expressed personal disappointment with the results of the staff report.

“As someone who has used this park since I was a child, it brings me no joy to hear that,” McKay said. “There’s profound disappointment in the decision staff has made here. Not because there wasn’t a thorough investigation…I have a hard time stomaching the recommendations.”

While many on the board balked at the cost of dredging, Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw said more answers are needed before a final decision can be made.

“A lot of folks are angry and hurt that we’re talking about not keeping that commitment,” Walkinshaw said. “This lake has hundreds, thousands, of very strong impassioned supporters. The new cost estimates are eye popping, but I’m not ready to give up. If board not willing to commit resources to fully dredge, we owe people a lot more answers.”

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An adult day care in a church is hoping to relocate to an office in 8003 Forbes Place in Springfield (via Google Maps)

The third floor of an office building in Springfield could become dedicated space for an adult day care. 

8003 Forbes Place LLC is seeking Fairfax County’s permission to bring a more than 15,000-square-foot adult day care for up to 200 adults to an office building at 8003 Forbes Place, according to an April 19 application submitted to the county.

The remaining two floors of the office building would remain available for office uses. The facility would require the county to approve a special exception. Four picnic tables and benches on the northeastern side of the building are proposed, according to the application.

“The building is conveniently located near the Capital Beltway, allows for safe and convenient access and parking, provides outdoor space for adults, and meets all accessibility requirements,” land use lawyer Sara Mariska wrote in a statement of justification on the applicant’s behalf.

The applicant is currently operating an adult day care in the Calvary Church of Nazarene (8220 Little River Turnpike) in Annandale. The application proposes relocating and enlarging the existing program to the property in Springfield. 

Last July, Annandale Today reported that the program was under the threat of eviction. It’s operated by Friends Health Care Team at Calvary Church and provides nursing, physical and social activities and other services to older adults.

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Lake Accotink Park sign (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Lake Accotink Park’s playground has seen better days, not unlike the lake itself.

The Fairfax County Park Authority closed the playground at the popular Springfield park in November after an inspector determined the rusting equipment was “unsafe for use,” Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw said at a Board of Supervisors meeting yesterday (Tuesday).

The supervisor proposed allocating $300,000 to replace the playground. An attempt to repair the equipment faltered because the vendor that originally provided the playground in the mid-1990s is no longer operating, according to Walkinshaw.

“Other playground vendors do not offer matching replacement components that would allow for a safe repair and re-opening,” Walkinshaw said. “In the months since the playground’s closing, FCPA has exhausted every avenue possible to procure the needed matching replacement part. At this point, the only option left for the opening of a safe playground at Lake Accotink Park, is a full replacement.”

The funding request will be considered as part of the board’s budget review for the third quarter of fiscal year 2023, which ends June 30. Other items being discussed for the $51.2 million available to the county include upgrades for the county’s tax payment system and running bamboo clearing projects.

Originally installed in 1995, the playground near the marina at Lake Accotink Park (7500 Accotink Park Road) features a swing set and a structure with five slides, ramps and inclines, a “shaky bridge” and a tic-tac-toe game.

The new playground will be different from the current one, according to Fairfax County Park Authority spokesperson Benjamin Boxer, though the agency is still determining the scope of the project.

“While there may be some common features, it will be an updated design and composition,” Boxer said. “Once a final project scope is determined, contingent upon approved funding, we will have a more concrete idea of the final playground concept. The updated playground will be in the same location as the existing playground area.”

The park authority won’t know exactly what materials are needed — and therefore, when construction can take place — until funding is approved, according to Boxer.

“If approved, we could proceed with completing the scope and ensure conformance with permitting,” he said by email. “An actual timeline will be available once the requisition is created and availability and potential delivery of materials is arranged.”

The playground project comes in the middle of a larger existential challenge to the 493-acre Lake Accotink Park, which celebrated its 60th anniversary in August and saw more than 300,000 visitors a year before the pandemic, according to Walkinshaw.

After years of planning to dredge accumulating sediment, county staff recommended earlier this year that the lake instead be allowed to fill up and transform into a wetland, stating that dredging would now be too costly and have too many negative community and environmental impacts.

The Board of Supervisors will discuss staff’s proposal at an environmental committee meeting on April 25.

“The replacement of the playground would not be affected by the outcome of the Board’s decision whether or not to dredge Lake Accotink,” Boxer said.

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Townhouses are proposed on the recently consolidated property (via Fairfax County)

The amount of residential development on Villa Park Road in Springfield could see a boost if Fairfax County approves a proposal to increase the number of houses allowed in the area.

A community meeting is on the proposal is slated for April 17. The proposal, if approved, would increase the density allowed by the county’s comprehensive plan in the Springvale Community Planning Sector from 4-5 dwelling units to 8.5 dwelling units per acre.

JR Real Estate Group wants to develop two vacant parcels fronting Wesley Road and next to Villa Park Road into a 42-unit townhouse development, according to the application, which has been under county review since September 2021.

“The parcels have remained vacant for years and only recently been consolidated as they emerged from bankruptcy by the owner,” an updated statement of justification from March 17 says. “The present proposal represents the best opportunity in the near term to meaningfully reinvest in the community while also advancing broader county policy objectives.”

A central spine road would anchor the Towns at Villa Park, alongside two parks on site to buffer the new community from a single-family development on the west side of the property. Roughly 2.7 acres of open space are proposed — almost triple the minimum requirement set by the county, according to the application. 

The applicant plans to contribute 0.5% of the projected sales price of the units to the county’s housing trust fund. 

The meeting begins via Zoom at 7 p.m. Information is available on the county website for the proposed plan amendment.

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