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A tractor-trailer overturned on a I-395 South ramp in Springfield, spilling sewage (via VDOT)

A tractor-trailer carrying sewage flipped over on I-395 in Springfield earlier today (Thursday), resulting in a tough morning commute for drivers headed away from D.C.

The Virginia Department of Transportation reported at 7:35 a.m. that the vehicle had overturned and spilled its contents on the southbound I-395 ramp to southbound I-95. All lanes were blocked.

Drivers already on the highway were directed to detour to the Capital Beltway (I-495) or Old Keene Mill Road, while VDOT advised those not yet caught up in the jam to seek alternate routes.

By 8 a.m., vehicles were able to get by on the left shoulder, and VDOT said that there had been no injuries. However, the department revealed that the truck’s contents turned out to be sewage.

“Pls check 511Virginia before you go bc things can get backed up,” the department tweeted.

Per 511Virginia, VDOT’s live traffic camera site, the southbound right shoulder remains closed, and traffic backups extend approximately 1.5 miles, as of 9:38 a.m.

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Virginia’s Conservation Police are investigating a reported shooting of a red-tailed hawk at Lake Accotink Park last week that required the bird to be euthanized.

A woman saw the hawk flying near the North Springfield park’s carousel on Wednesday (Jan. 18) afternoon. When she tried to get closer for a photograph, though, she found it “struggling” in Flag Run, a creek that passes through the park, according to Diva Crows, a local songbird rehabilitation center.

The woman took the bird to Diva Crows, which gave it fluids before transferring it to a veterinarian the following morning.

“The bird’s wing was broken, it was bleeding from the chest and under the eye,” Diva Crows Director Catherine Sevcenko told FFXnow. “Even worse, its head was twisted over its shoulder and it had little use of its legs.”

The vet took X-rays that indicated the hawk had been shot, with two pellets passing through its chest to its skull. The vet euthanized the bird “to end its suffering,” Sevcenko said.

The incident was reported to the Fairfax County Park Authority and Animal Protection Police, which notified the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR).

DWR confirmed that the case is under investigation, but no further details are currently available. The Fairfax County Police Department said the vet “reported the bird had two injuries due to being shot with BB’s.”

Red-tailed hawks are among dozens of species protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treat Act of 1918, which prohibits killing, capturing, selling, transporting or otherwise harming many wild birds without a permit.

There are an estimated 3.1 million red-tailed hawks worldwide, according to the Avian Conservation Assessment Database.

“We do not have an estimate on the number of red-tailed hawks in the county and are not aware of any other such occurrences,” an FCPD spokesperson said.

Sevcenko says Diva Crows gets about one shot bird per year, though her operation has remained relatively small since starting in 2012. The center got a raven last year that had been shot but survived, ultimately winding up at the Cayuga Nature Center in Ithaca, New York.

Diva Crows typically handles songbirds, but Sevcenko’s state permit enables her to take in raptors or birds of prey if they’re transferred elsewhere for additional care within 24 hours. The center accepts injured and orphaned animals for rehabilitation from anywhere in Virginia, though most come from Fairfax and Arlington counties.

Sevcenko says she hopes publicizing the incident will help investigators figure out what happened and who was responsible.

“These cases are hard to investigate but having a witness really helps,” she said, noting that the Lake Accotink Park visitor saw the bird flying but didn’t hear the pellet shots.

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Burlington will open a store in the current, temporary H&M space at Springfield Town Center (courtesy PREIT)

(Updated at 12:40 p.m.) Springfield Town Center is gearing up for a big 2023.

Burlington will open a 30,000-square-foot store at the mall this year, property owner PREIT announced today.

Coupled with the much-anticipated Lego Discovery Center, which is expected to open this summer, the addition of the clothing department store will put the town center at a record 95.5% occupancy, according to a press release.

“We are pleased to welcome Burlington Stores to Springfield Town Center, another milestone in our mission to create a diverse tenant mix including non-traditional mall retailers,” PREIT Chairman and CEO Joseph Coradino said in a statement.

Burlington’s store will have two levels and both exterior and interior entrances. It will be located by Nordstrom Rack along Frontier Road, moving into a space that H&M is currently occupying on a temporary basis.

H&M’s permanent store is undergoing a renovation that will open this spring. After that store moves into its new space, construction on Burlington will begin, according to a town center spokesperson.

The Springfield Burlington will be the company’s sixth store in Fairfax County, joining locations in Fairfax City, Tysons, Seven Corners, and Bailey’s Crossroads.

Currently anchored by department stores like Target and Macy’s, Springfield Town Center welcomed over 20,000 square feet of stores in 2022, according to PREIT. New arrivals included the fashion accessory store Lovisa, the pop culture merchandise store BoxLunch, Shawarma Taco, and Carter’s, a kids’ clothing store.

In addition to Burlington and Lego, upcoming tenants will include Daily Thread, a clothing chain primarily based in the Midwest.

Though envisioned by Fairfax County as more of a mixed-use community, Springfield Town Center has remained primarily focused on retail even after undergoing a major renovation and rebranding almost a decade ago.

Development efforts finally took a step forward on Dec. 6, when the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved plans for a five-story hotel and a 460-unit residential building called the Hanover, which will give Springfield its first new multifamily housing since 2001.

“The addition of Burlington Stores, the upcoming opening of Lego Discovery Center, and the planned apartment and hotel developments will strengthen the property’s appeal to customers and prospective tenants,” Coradino said.

Though the town center has no shortage of clothing options like Burlington, a market study released last fall suggested that the Lego Discovery Center will help diversify the town center’s retail offerings, which have started to trend more toward food service and entertainment.

The 32,000-square-foot facility broke ground on Dec. 8. It will feature interactive activities, a “mini world” made out of over 1.5 million Lego bricks, a 4D movie theater and more.

“It’s an engagement opportunity that I think is one that’s going to drive a lot of people to want to come and bring their sons and their daughters,” Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk told FFXnow in a Nov. 18 interview. “So, I’m really, really excited by it. I think it’s going to be a unique and well-attended facility.”

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Virginia State Capitol in Richmond (file photo)

Fairfax County is seeking more state support for education, a return of $39 million for regional transportation projects and more in its recently approved legislative priorities for next year.

At a meeting last week, the Board of Supervisors approved the adoption of the county’s 2023 legislative programs for both state and federal lawmakers. It passed by a 9-1 vote with only Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity opposing.

The approval on Dec. 6 was, more or less, a formality with most of the discussion and debate happening in legislative committee meetings throughout the fall.

In addition to trash collection changes, here are a few of the most notable priorities in this year’s agenda:

Increase state support for education 

Jointly with Fairfax County Public Schools, the county wants the state to better address the differences between “high cost-of-living jurisdictions like Fairfax County” and other Virginia localities when funding public education.

State education funding is based on complex formulas and varies from year to year. The county has long argued that the formulas don’t adequately account for its higher cost of living compared to other areas.

“Public education funding in the Commonwealth is enshrined in the Virginia Constitution as a joint responsibility of both state and local governments, so it is essential that the state fully and appropriately meet its Constitutional responsibility to adequately fund K-12 education,” the state legislative program says.

Also, both boards oppose “budget cuts that disproportionately target or affect Northern Virginia” and “policies which divert K-12 education funding away from local public schools and toward non-public options.”

Allow traffic safety measures

Local elected county officials have maintained their call for more local authority from Virginia, where localities only have the powers explicitly granted them by the state.

As crash fatalities mount, the county is advocating for General Assembly legislation that lets localities create and post signage requiring motorists to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.

Legislation is also needed to clarify that counties can reduce speed limits below 25 miles per hour on state-maintained roads that lie in residential districts, according to the program. Without that authority, the county’s options for addressing speeding are limited.

Restore regional transportation project funding

The state diverted $102 million away from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) in 2018 to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to cover Virginia’s share of Metro funding.

In the several years since, $63.5 million has been restored, but the NVTA is still looking for the remaining nearly $39 million to support road repairs, facility maintenance, and other transportation projects in Northern Virginia.

“This [money] will ensure that transportation projects continue to advance in Northern Virginia after decades of state underfunding,” Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw, who chairs the board’s legislative committee, said in his motion at the Dec. 6 meeting. Read More

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Firefighters respond to a house fire in the 6300 block of Abilene Street in Springfield (via FCFRD/Twitter)

A man has been taken to a hospital by helicopter after suffering burn injuries from a house fire in Springfield.

The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department reported at 10:14 a.m. that residents were initially trapped by the fire in the 6300 block of Abilene Street — a residential neighborhood near John R. Lewis High School.

Around 10:50 a.m., firefighters had gotten the blaze under control, but one occupant was evacuated by a Fairfax County police helicopter to a burn center. His injuries are considered non-life-threatening.

The man reportedly suffered burns to his arms, legs and face. No firefighter injuries were reported.

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A hotel is slated for approval at Springfield Town Center (via Fairfax County)

The first pieces of the long-anticipated redevelopment of Springfield Town Center are officially moving forward.

At a Nov. 30 meeting, the Fairfax County Planning Commission voted to approve the replacement of a surface parking lot with a five-story hotel — a move that the applicant says could jumpstart the rebirth of the area that surrounds the mall.

David Gill, the applicant’s representative from Wire Gill, said the hotel — Home2 Suites by Hilton — is a “great first step in analyzing the vision that was thought of nearly a decade from now.” The building sits across two parcels fronting Loisdale Road on property owned by Philadelphia-based Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT).

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will hold public hearings tomorrow on the hotel and a companion application for the Hanover, a mid-rise residential building with up to 460 units.

Overall, in 2007, the area was approved for 2 million square feet of commercial space and up to 2,736 residential units, in addition to the roughly 1-million-square-foot mall.

The hotel piece of the property only covers a roughly 5.4-acre piece of the overall development plan.

The latest proposal swaps the hotel with the original location of the first office building planned on the site. The plan also calls a reduction in hotel rooms from 225 to 140 rooms and a reduction in the ground-floor retail from up to 23,000 square feet to a small portion that will serve hotel guests.

Gill said that the applicant plans to build suites only.

Braddock District Commissioner Mary Cortina expressed concerns about the deferral of a Central Park that was previously set to be triggered by the development proposal, due to challenges with “no build” areas maintained by restaurants.

“When are we ever going to see the park part of this? Could this use be indefinitely put off? And I think it would detract from the property value overall,” Cortina said.

County staff noted that the applicant is still committed to the Central Park, but when market conditions and associated easements allow it to move forward in a realistic manner.

Planning Commissioner David Lagana lauded staff for their work on the project.

“We worked very hard to get this application ready for this board date. It was a Herculean effort,” he said.

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The northbound I-495 Express Lanes are closed near the Braddock Road exit after a fatal crash (via VDOT)

(Updated at 11:35 a.m. on 12/5/2022) A tractor-trailer driver died tonight after being hit by an SUV on the Capital Beltway (I-495) near Braddock Road.

According to Virginia State Police, the tractor-trailer driver had exited his vehicle after he collided with a sedan on northbound I-495 approaching the Braddock Road exit in North Springfield, sending the sedan into the left shoulder of the toll lanes.

“The driver of the tractor-trailer exited his vehicle and was running across the Express Lanes towards the sedan when he was struck by an SUV traveling north in the Express Lanes,” VSP said in a news release.

Troopers responded to the crash at 7:53 p.m., and the tractor-trailer driver was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he ultimately died. Police have identified him as Richard F. Alburger, Jr., 41, of Summit Hill, Pennsylvania.

Alburger was attempting to change lanes when his 2019 Freightliner tractor-trailer struck a 1985 Buick Century, according to police.

“Due to the impact of the crash, the Buick spun and struck the bollards and jersey wall on the left side of the road,” VSP said, noting that the drivers of the Buick and the SUV weren’t injured.

All northbound I-495 lanes were closed to traffic, as police investigate the crash. A Fairfax Alert said to expect extended delays.

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The Franconia-Springfield area is concentrated around I-95 and Old Keene Mill/Franconia Road (via FCEDA)

A decade after Springfield Mall was torn down, reemerging two years later as Springfield Town Center, Fairfax County officials are still trying to figure out how to make the reality of the development match that rebranding.

Progress on transforming downtown Springfield from a commercial hub into the more mixed-use, walkable environment envisioned by county planners has been slow, even nonexistent when it comes to housing, a recently released study found.

In fact, the area hasn’t added a single multifamily residential unit since the Springfield Crossing apartments were built in 2001, according to the Springfield-Franconia Market Study commissioned by the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA).

“That’s insane,” Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk said. “Think about it for a second. Every market has had some sort of residential construction. We have had zero. So, that’s something that we have to obviously think about and figure out where we might allow more residential options…in the areas that make up the Franconia-Springfield market.”

Attributed at least in part to lower rents compared to areas like Tysons or Bethesda, the lack of housing isn’t the only challenge facing downtown Franconia-Springfield, which is concentrated around the I-95 and Old Keene Mill/Franconia Road interchange.

HR&A’s Springfield Market Study found that the area hasn’t added any multifamily housing units since 2001 (via FCEDA)

According to the study, which was conducted by the consultant HR&A, Springfield has 3.2 million square feet of retail development, 2.7 million square feet of office space, 978 multifamily units, 1,843 hotel rooms, and 0.3 million square feet of industrial space.

While the existing shopping centers, including the town center, are performing well overall, retail growth has slowed with just 22,000 square feet added since 2010, and vacancies have jumped to 6.4% during the pandemic.

Covid also drove up vacancies in the office market, where the rate climbed from 13% pre-pandemic to 19% as of early 2022, and sent hotel occupancy rates tumbling from 73.7% in 2019 to 28.4% in 2020 before bouncing back to 51% this year.

Aside from industrial construction, which has stalled since 1988, the study projects room for growth across all markets over the next 10 years, including 1,000 to 1,600 multifamily units, but mixed-use development is necessary to achieve that potential.

The new Springfield Market Study found the area could support more development (via FCEDA)

“There have been significant private investments in Springfield, most notably at Springfield Town Center and the TSA headquarters,” the report said. “However, growth has been focused on site-specific investments, not mixed-use development supportive of County goals or catalytic growth.”

Mixed-use development would require not only more housing, particularly mid-rise buildings less than eight stories tall, but also amenities and public infrastructure to draw residents, workers and the tourists that the study says are needed to offset declining business travel. Read More

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Secure Space is planning a seven-story facility in Springfield (via Fairfax County)

A seven-story self-storage facility is planned on land in Springfield currently developed with a TownePlace Suites by Marriott (6235 Brandon Avenue).

Secure Space, the applicant, is seeking Fairfax County’s permission to build the facility on a vacant portion of the property, resulting in no major effect on the existing hotel.

The proposal is part of a process that began several years ago when the county accepted a Site Specific Plan Amendment (SSPA) for the property — which opens up the county’s comprehensive plan for changes. The area was previously contemplated for restaurant uses, according to the application.

After conversations with local stakeholders, the applicant chose to instead dedicate roughly 2,700 square feet for retail uses or community spaces — but it’s unclear what that would look like.

So far, the application anticipates tenants like business startups, maker spaces, art studios, specialty retailers or community spaces for general use.

In a Nov. 16 letter, the applicant’s representative — Lynne Strobel of Walsh Colluci Lubuley & Walsh — said that the proposal aligns with Springifeld’s commercial business corridor and fulfills an unmet need for self-storage facilities in the area.

“Specifically the proposed use will be a community asset, providing a needed use in a high-quality attractive building that promotes pedestrian activity, but generates low vehicular traffic,” Strobel wrote.

The application also calls the facility a “catalyst to encourage economic investment in the area.”

The facility would also include a 1,125-square-foot leasing office and internal break out room. Two to three self-storage employees will work on site during leasing office hours.

The application states that the building would be disguised as an office building.

So far, the rezoning application has not yet been accepted for review by the county.

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The I-95 North ramp to Franconia Road and the Franconia ramp to I-395 pass each other (via Google Maps)

One person is dead and another critically injured after a car apparently going well over the speed limit drove off an I-95 ramp in Springfield, crashed into trees, landed on a separate highway ramp and collided with another vehicle on Monday (Nov. 14).

According to the Virginia State Police, which responded to the crash at 11:16 a.m., the incident began as 19-year-old Bryan Osorto-Tejeda of Fredericksburg drove a 2013 Honda Accord north on I-95, taking the ramp to go west on Franconia Road (Route 644) “at a high rate of speed.”

“The Honda then ran off the left side of the road, through the guardrail and became airborne,” the VSP said in a news release yesterday. “As it traveled, it struck several trees, overturned and landed on the ramp from Route 644 to I-395 north where it was struck by a 2018 Toyota Highlander which subsequently struck the jersey wall.”

The Honda’s passenger — identified as Odaly Y. Hernandez, 19, of Woodbridge — died at the scene after being “ejected from the vehicle,” according to police, who say she wasn’t wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash.

Osorto-Tejeda was transported to Inova Fairfax Hospital with serious injuries. State police said he was also not wearing a seatbelt and got ejected from the car.

The driver and three passengers in the Toyota, including a 3-year-old girl and 4-year-old boy, were taken to a hospital to receive treatment for minor injuries, according to VSP. They were all wearing seatbelts or “age appropriate safety restraints,” in the case of the kids, police said.

“The preliminary investigation suggests the vehicle was traveling in excess of 100 mph,” VSP spokesperson Shelby Crouch told FFXnow.

The speed limit on I-95 and I-395 at the Route 644 interchange is 55 mph, according to VDOT’s speed limits map.

VSP says it is investigating “extreme speed” as a contributing factor and has charged Osorto-Tejeda with failure to maintain proper control.

Virginia classifies reckless driving as a Class 1 misdemeanor with a minimum fine of $250, but it can be elevated to a Class 6 felony if the person convicted had their driver’s license suspended or revoked at the time and the reckless driving directly caused a fatality.

There have been at least two other fatal crashes at the I-95/Route 644 interchange this year: one in May where a driver died after their vehicle caught fire and a hit-and-run in October, where an allegedly intoxicated driver killed a pedestrian whose car was disabled.

Image via Google Maps

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