Design work is slated to begin this spring on a new shared-use path on Shreve Road just outside Falls Church City’s boundaries.
The Falls Church City Council approved an agreement on Monday (Feb. 12) to work with Fairfax County and provide funds for the project, which will add a 10-foot-wide path for bicyclists and pedestrians from the Route 7 (Leesburg Pike/West Broad Street) intersection to the Washington & Old Dominion Trail.
Other improvements will include a 6-foot-wide planting strip along Shreve Road, a crosswalk near the intersection of Shreve and Gordon Road intersection, benches near the W&OD Trail entrance, and stormwater management and drainage, Falls Church staff said in a report to the council.
Because the site is outside city limits, the county will be responsible for the project’s design and construction under the agreement.
“The concept is pretty simple and it’s pretty well-defined in the grant agreement, so we don’t think there’s going to be some curveball,” City Manager Wyatt Shields said at a Feb. 5 council work session. “…We’ve been working quite well with Fairfax County staff on this, so we feel very confident that we’re going to get what we want.”
The “West Falls Church Access to Transit and Multimodal Connectivity” project, as it’s formally known, is part of a larger effort by both the county and the city to add pedestrian and bicycle facilities connecting the W&OD Trail, the West Falls Church Metro station and Falls Church’s West End.
This component also “addresses a safety need” after a pedestrian was killed by a truck driver at the Shreve Road and Hickory Street intersection in 2019, according to a summary from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, which awarded $6.9 million to the city in 2020 to fund the project.
According to the staff report, Falls Church is also coordinating with the county and the Virginia Department of Transportation on the design of planned improvements around the Haycock Road side of the West Broad Street intersection.
Farther east on Haycock Road, a shared-use trail will be built over I-66 by developers in conjunction with a transformation of the West Falls Church Metro station’s parking lots into a mixed-use neighborhood.
The Shreve Road project agreement still needs to be approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, which is scheduled to take action on April 16, according to Falls Church staff.
Per the staff report, the project is expected to be in design from this spring into fall 2025, putting it on track to begin construction in the fall of 2026 and finish in spring or summer 2027.
The Virginia State Police will be quick to call foul on any drivers behaving poorly on I-66 before, during and after the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers’ big game this Sunday (Feb. 11).
With many sports fans planning visits to their local bar or stocking up on snacks and drinks for at-home Super Bowl parties, state troopers from the Fairfax and Culpepper divisions will have an increased presence in the 76-mile-long I-66 corridor throughout the weekend.
Dubbed “Operation Diss-rupt,” the traffic enforcement and safety initiative will take place from Saturday to Monday (Feb. 10-12) and focus on distracted and impaired driving, speeding and seat belt use, the VSP announced yesterday (Thursday).
“The weekend of the Super Bowl is an excellent time to ‘tackle’ bad driving behaviors,” VSP Bureau of Field Operations Director Lt. Col. Matt Hanley said. “Additional state troopers will be on patrol along the entire I-66 corridor to enhance highway safety for all motorists. We ask Virginians to ‘DISS-rupt’ risky driving behaviors by focusing on the roads and by designating a sober driver, especially if your Super Bowl celebration includes alcohol.”
According to the VSP, its troopers charged 23 drivers with driving while intoxicated during last year’s Super Bowl Sunday.
Preliminary data shows that 839 people died in traffic crashes on Virginia roads last year, state police said. In Fairfax County, 15 people were killed in crashes involving alcohol in 2023, and there have already been 45 such crashes, including one fatality, recorded this year, according to Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles data.
After the county saw an uptick in traffic-related deaths in 2022, especially among pedestrians, the Fairfax County Police Department conducted a “Road Shark” campaign last spring and summer to address speeding, phone usage and other unsafe driving behaviors. The campaign resulted in almost 25,000 citations and warnings to drivers.
This weekend’s I-66 crackdown will the VSP’s second “Operation Diss-rupt” campaign after the agency similarly stepped up patrols of I-95 on Jan. 10-11.
“State Troopers cited 120 drivers for reckless driving, 117 drivers for speeding, 33 drivers for violating Virginia’s ‘Hands Free’ law, and 25 drivers and passengers for seatbelt violations (one improperly restrained child),” the VSP said in a press release. “There were no fatal crashes along the interstate during the enforcement period.”
Setting a goal of reducing crashes in general by 10% this calendar year, the VSP says it hopes to see no fatal crashes while the operation is in effect this weekend, advising drivers to follow basic traffic laws:
- Ditch Distractions: Virginia has a “Hands-Free” law that prohibits a driver from holding a handheld personal communications device while driving. GPS and making phone calls are still legal, as long as the device is mounted and/or not in your hands.
- Never Drive Impaired: Driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs is illegal in Virginia. Even buzzed driving is drunk driving. Always designate a sober driver or use public transportation or a ride-hailing service.
- Comply with Speed Limits: Posted speed limits on Virginia interstates never exceed 70 mph. So, neither should your speed. Speed-related crashes claimed 441 lives in 2022 in Virginia. Simply, drive to save lives.
- Seat Belt Safety: Virginia law requires all front seat occupants of motor vehicles be restrained, and any passenger from birth to 18 years old be properly restrained in an appropriate child safety seat or seat belt, no matter their seating position.
(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
A stretch of the George Washington Memorial Parkway in southern Fairfax County is moving toward some major changes, as is the neighboring Mount Vernon Trail.
The National Park Service, which maintains the GW Parkway and much of the Mount Vernon Trail, plans to start “initial design work and planning for key aspects of the project” this year, per a Jan. 26 press release.
The announcement came after the Environmental Protection Agency released an assessment finding no significant environmental effects from the proposed changes, which will include a road diet and intersection and trail upgrades.
Once work is done, the parkway will be reduced to one southbound travel lane between Mount Vernon and Belle View Boulevard and one northbound lane between Mount Vernon and Tulane Drive. The Mount Vernon Trail, which is typically 8 or 9 feet wide right now, will be expanded to 10 or 12 feet wide in certain areas.
“The primary goal of the project is to enhance safety and reliability for users of the parkway and trail, while preserving the area’s scenic and historic character,” the NPS said. “As vital routes for both local and visiting cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers, these improvements are crucial for the continued enjoyment and safety of everyone who uses these routes.”
The affected portion of the GW Parkway covers about 8.5 miles from George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate (3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway) up to the Hunting Creek Bridge south of Alexandria City. According to the NPS, neither the south section of the Parkway nor its drainage systems has had a “comprehensive rehabilitation” since it was constructed in 1932.
Other changes will include a replacement of road surface that the NPS characterizes as “deteriorated” and improvements to drainage and stormwater management.
On the portion of the roadway with a road diet, the plan is to set up two right-hand shoulders or, at southbound intersections, right-turn lanes. Plus, the road will feature a new striped median or center turn lane.
A number of intersections will also see updates intended to make them safer, including the ones with Vernon View Drive, Waynewood Blvd and the access to Tulane Drive, Belle View Blvd and Morningside Lane. A study of crashes on GW Parkway in 2005-2015 and 2018-2019 revealed crashes were most severe at intersections with those roadways, mostly due to vehicle speeds.
Select intersections will also get crosswalks.
The NPS-administered portions of the Mount Vernon Trail will also see stormwater management improvements. Four trail bridges will be replaced, and repairs are planned for 29 more.
The planned trail widening comes nearly four years after NPS finished a study that determined the trail is “relatively narrow by modern standards.”
A full construction schedule and traffic management plan will come after initial design work and planning, but NPS documents indicate that the trail will remain usable to pedestrians and cyclists during construction. Closed sections will be serviced by alternate routes and temporary detours.
The affected section of the GW Parkway may see temporary lane closures, and access to its “recreational, natural, and cultural areas” may be restricted during construction, per the environmental assessment for the project.
For the first time this century, Fairfax County’s Mason District has a new supervisor.
In his first week since succeeding Penny Gross, who retired in December after 27 years in the position, Andres Jimenez says he has been actively engaging with constituents to tackle issues ranging from transportation to art projects and economic development.
An immigrant from Bogota, Colombia, who has now lived in the Falls Church area for 12 years, Jimenez is the first Latino to represent Mason District on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. He also works as the executive director of the pay equity campaign Green 2.0 and previously served as an at-large member of the Fairfax County Planning Commission.
Winning a decisive victory last November over independent candidate Terry Modglin with 72% of the vote, Jimenez says that, since taking office on Jan. 1, he has been setting up his various social media channels, launching a new podcast and organizing several public forums across the district.
“I think that smart government is when residents don’t just come to you, it’s when the government — when the supervisor’s office — is going into the community and reaching out to residents…and asking them what is working, what’s not working, because only then can you really begin to make change,” he told FFXnow.
The dates for the public town hall and open house events have not been announced yet. However, Jimenez anticipates key areas will include transportation, housing and economic development.
“We do plan to go out into the communities [and] listen to the residents and make sure that we are prioritizing the needs of Mason District,” he said.
Pedestrian and traffic safety
Top on Jimenez’s agenda is addressing pedestrian and traffic safety concerns in neighborhoods like Annandale, Bailey’s Crossroads and Seven Corners.
Last year, the community advocacy group Fairfax Families for Safe Streets published a report showing that pedestrian fatalities increased in 2022 as a result of “underfunding for pedestrian-focused projects.”
“Unfortunately, there have been a lot of fatalities when it comes to the pedestrians,” Jimenez said. “…We need to really start working on figuring out not only why is this happening, but how can we solve this problem.”
In 2021, the Board of Supervisors approved $100 million for county-wide pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure improvements that will be allocated to different projects through 2028. About $30.2 million has been allocated to date, according to the county website.
Jimenez emphasized his objective is to ensure that money is promptly allocated to projects in Mason District, adding that the money is “desperately needed.”
Jimenez identified a few intersections — such as Leesburg Pike (Route 7) at both Row Street and Columbia Pike — as high priority, focusing more on signal upgrades and other spot improvements than more comprehensive, long-term solutions.
In the coming months, Jimenez noted that he plans to consult with local stakeholder groups, such as the Bailey’s Crossroads 7 Corners Revitalization Corporation, to help identify projects that need immediate attention.
“We’ve already identified several initiatives — obviously Seven Corners, Bailey’s Crossroads and Annandale — that need help,” he said. “They need signage and they need timers and they need different ways to make sure that pedestrians are safe.”
When they reconvene this month, Virginia lawmakers will consider a proposal to allow local governments to install speed cameras wherever they deem them necessary, with penalties of up to $100 for violations.
Bill patron Del.-elect Mike Jones, D-Richmond, said the legislation is intended to increase speed enforcement and reduce the number of traffic fatalities.
“It gives localities the decision of whether they want to do it or not,” said Jones. “So it’s not a ‘shall’ — every locality will have it — but for the ones that are concerned with this, it would help them out.”
State law currently allows local governments to install speed cameras in work and school zones as a way to drivers to go slower around children and construction workers. Jones’ bill would go further, allowing their placement in “any location deemed necessary” by local governments.
However, the use of more cameras to enforce speed laws has previously sparked controversy over privacy and public perceptions that the technology is just another way for a locality to raise revenue.
In November, amid a Frederick County debate, outgoing Supervisor Shawn Graber told the Mercury that “there should never be a time when a locality tries to simply put something in effect to make money from someone else’s misdoing.”
Jones said he understands the concerns, but argued people are asking for safer streets and safer neighborhoods.
“There’s not enough police for them and/or they don’t respond to neighborhoods simply because of numbers,” said Jones. “I understand the concern for the overpolicing, I get that. I get that as an African American male, I get that as pastor of an African American church, a Black legislator that represented predominantly Black and brown people. I hear that, but the reality is this: People aren’t dying in a lot of these different neighborhoods; where they’re literally dying is in mine.”
Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles data found that last year, 20% of the 122,434 crashes in the state were speed related, a 1% increase over the previous year. Virginia Department of Transportation crash data also shows that between 2018 and 2022, the annual number of traffic fatalities increased from 819 to 1,005.
The DMV said that on average, 2.8 lives are lost and 163 people injured every day because of traffic crashes.
Rob Billington, a spokesman for the Virginia Municipal League, which represents city and town governments in the commonwealth, said the league supports letting local governments expand the use of speed cameras on all roads at all times. He said traditionally VML has supported local flexibility, and it sees Jones’ bill as providing that. Read More
Updated at 8:40 p.m. on 11/8/2023 — The community workshop has been relocated to the cafeteria of Langston Hughes Middle School (11401 Ridge Heights Road).
Earlier: Fairfax County is formally launching a new study on how to shift Wiehle Avenue from a car-dominated, suburban road to a multimodal, urban street.
The Wiehle Avenue study kicks off with an in-person community workshop on Nov. 13.
After diving into the background and purpose of the study, the county will open the floor for attendees to brainstorm ideas on how to improve the road between Sunrise Valley Drive and the Washington & Old Dominion Trail in Reston.
The ideas proposed by the community will later be refined into three concepts “to test in future (year 2030) scenarios” by the Fairfax County Department of Transporation and its consultant, Fehr & Peers, FCDOT spokesperson Freddy Serrano says.
“[The scenarios] will give us an overview of how potential changes may affect traffic operations and accessibility and comfort for pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users,” Serrano told FFXnow. “We will take these concepts and the resulting future analysis back to the public early next year and will solicit their feedback to arrive at a preferred concept for Wiehle Avenue.”
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors initiated the Wiehle Avenue study as a follow-on motion after approving TF Cornerstone’s Campus Commons redevelopment plan in 2019.
The project prompted vigorous debate on the safety of a proposed pedestrian crossing at the intersection Dulles Toll Road ramps and Wiehle Avenue. An alternative is being explored after the developer offered $1.65 million instead of developing a solution.
The county previously convened a study group to evaluate options for that crossing, but the group didn’t support any of the developer’s proposals.
FCDOT says this new study will take a broader look at the corridor and how it may have been affected by the opening of Metro’s Silver Line extension last year.
“This effort is expected to identify new and improved bicycle/pedestrian facilities and intersection treatments, as well as evaluate the potential reconfiguration of vehicular lanes and/or widths for current and future land use scenarios,” the department said in a news release.
The community meeting takes place from 5:30-9 p.m.
in the second floor conference room of 1900 Reston Metro Plaza. A light dinner will be provided. RSVPs are encouraged through an online feedback form.
Fairfax County is designing a new layout for Prosperity Avenue near the Dunn Loring Metro station.
The new configuration will reduce the roadway from four to two lanes by adding a road diet and protected bicycle lanes between Gallows Road and Prosperity Metro Plaza, the two-building office center whose tenants include U.S. Customs and Immigration Services’ D.C. field office.
The project will also convert existing on-street bicycle lanes that start to the west and continue until Hilltop Road into protected bike lanes.
Design funding will come from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG), whose Transportation Planning Board awarded $80,000 to the project last week as part of its Transit Within Reach program.
COG is “excited” about the county’s proposed improvements to Prosperity Avenue, which currently has a “very wide” design that “encourages drivers to speed and discourages people from walking and biking,” according to John Swanson, the principal transportation planner for the regional nonprofit.
The affected section of Prosperity Avenue has a 35 mph speed limit. A 19-year-old man from Chantilly was killed in a crash on the road last December, but that occurred to the south between Route 29 and Arlington Blvd.
“This part of Fairfax is undergoing a lot of change and the county is really committed to making the Dunn Loring station the center of a vibrant, walkable community,” Swanson said. “…This kind of project will make a real difference at the local level and will serve as a model for the region.”
The idea for the Prosperity Avenue safety project emerged out of discussions that started in April between representatives of businesses along the roadway and Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik’s office.
Since then, the district office has been working with county and state transportation staff to develop their proposal.
“I am delighted to see that this project design was approved for funding!” Palchik said in a statement. “After hearing from local businesses about safety concerns for their staff and visitors, my office worked diligently with FCDOT and VDOT on a proposal for a road diet for Prosperity Avenue. This design work will help improve safety for our pedestrians, especially for staff and community members visiting the USCIS offices or attending naturalization ceremonies.”
The Transit Within Reach funds will cover the project design up to 30% completion, according to the Fairfax County Department of Transportation. That will encompass the bicycle lanes from west of the Metro station to Hilltop Avenue, which is expected to be completed around the end of 2024.
The COG funding will also give the county an estimate for how much it’ll cost to implement the project.
“Once complete, FCDOT will identify funding to complete the design and construct the project,” a department spokesperson said.
Launched in 2021, the Transit Within Reach program provides consulting services for the design and preliminary engineering of “small, high-impact bicycle and pedestrian projects,” per COG.
The Transportation Planning Board approved a total of $250,000 in funding from the program at its meeting last Wednesday (Oct. 18). The other projects were a shared-use path in Gaithersburg and a sidewalk in D.C.
FCDOT is also working on a separate study to identify potential improvements on Gallows Road. Staff told community members at a meeting last month that traffic congestion, crashes, a lack of sidewalks and general pedestrian, bicycle and transit safety are all issues on the 7-mile corridor, Annandale Today reported.
While that study won’t assess or make recommendations for Prosperity Avenue, it could “be informed” by the road diet and bicycle lanes project, according to FCDOT.
Image via Google Maps
Some new traffic signs have popped up around Vienna, but unlike traditional stop or speed limit signs, these yellow, reflective placards are intended more for sidewalk users than road users.
Volunteers with the Vienna Pedestrian Advisory Committee (PAC) started posting the signs on pedestrian signal poles around town in late September for their “Eye to Eye” campaign, which encourages walkers to make eye contact with drivers before stepping into a crosswalk.
The campaign’s launch coincides with National Pedestrian Safety Month, which occurs every October. It also comes on the heels of a new Virginia law that requires drivers to fully stop, not just yield, when pedestrians are crossing.
However, PAC chair Angel Sorrell says “Eye to Eye” was in the works months before that legislative change took effect on July 1.
“What we found in the Town of Vienna is that, coming out of Covid, there’s just a lot more walking around town, which we love and we’d like to support that,” Sorrell said. “While that worked well when there weren’t a lot of cars on the road, as cars have increased, we’re seeing that pedestrians are crossing intersections and really not looking and making eye contact and crossing the intersections in a safe way.”
Pedestrian safety was a nationwide concern before the pandemic, but fatalities have noticeably jumped up since 2020, reaching a 41-year high of at least 7,508 deaths in 2022. In Fairfax County, 65 people were killed in traffic crashes last year — 32 of them pedestrians, the most since Virginia started regularly collecting data in 2010.
None of those deaths were in the Town of Vienna, and the national increase in pedestrian deaths has been attributed to a number of factors, including deadly road design and a trend toward large vehicles, beyond the capacity of a seven-person, all-volunteer committee to address.
But Sorrell says PAC had been “wrestling” with ways they could help keep pedestrians safe when committee member Brian Land suggested installing signs that encourage eye contact like ones he’d seen while on vacation in Nashville.
“We worked with the town and said that, as volunteers, we would post these signs in a temporary fashion at really high-traffic intersections, even some with the flashing signs,” Sorrell said. “We would install them around town in a temporary fashion through the fall. So, that’s what we’ve done.”
Fixed around eye level on poles with pedestrian crossing buttons, the signs feature two stick figures — one on foot and one seated in a car — with an arrow between their eyes to indicate that they’re looking at each other.
“LOOK! Make eye contact before crossing,” they say.
Sorrell says PAC purchased 38 signs and placed two to four at busy intersections, depending on how many each site could accommodate. The volunteers plan to leave the signs at their current locations through the fall before moving them to different intersections around town about once every quarter.
The “Eye to Eye” campaign joins a slew of efforts by Fairfax County to address the recent uptick in pedestrian fatalities, from crackdowns on aggressive driving by the police to funding for crosswalks, trail maintenance and other pedestrian and bicycle projects.
So far, the county has seen seven pedestrian fatalities, most recently on Richmond Highway this past Saturday (Oct. 7). At this time in 2022, there were 14 fatalities.
In addition to “Eye to Eye,” PAC has been working with town staff to identify and fill in sidewalk gaps, an effort that has quickened in pace over the past year. Around May, the committee also started an initiative to help residents maintain clean sidewalks and address overgrown bushes and tree limbs that might create an obstacle for pedestrians.
“We just needed to have more safety guardrails really put around our pedestrians and crosswalks,” Sorrell said. “[The General Assembly was] working at it from a legislative side to change that law that just went into effect. But we really wanted to arm pedestrians with the tools that they need to be successful in crosswalks.”
Some broken lights have unexpected challenges for Fairfax County’s speed camera pilot program, which appears to be having an effect on drivers, based on early data.
For about a week in mid-July, the Winko-Matics — flashing lights that signal when a school zone is in effect — failed to turn on at three of the eight sites involved in the pilot, according to the Fairfax County Police Department.
As a result, the cameras at Irving Middle School in West Springfield and London Towne Elementary School in Centreville stopped issuing citations, the police department announced on Aug. 16. The lights for both school zones ceased functioning correctly on July 17 to July 28.
In an Aug. 21 update, the department reported that the Winko-Matics on Franconia Road for Key Middle School in Springfield also encountered issues during that time frame.
“The cameras correctly issued citations during summer school operations, but the Winko-Matics did not function properly,” the FCPD said, stating that any citations issued while the lights were broken will be voided or reimbursed.
As of last Thursday (Aug. 24), the department’s vendor was still conducting a review to determine exactly when the lights weren’t working, so it’ll take some time to figure out how many citations were affected, FCPD public information officer Sgt. Jacob Pearce told FFXnow.
The westbound camera on Franconia Road remains offline after construction work on a private property accidentally severed an electrical connection, but the other cameras and Winko-Matics are now functioning properly, according to Pearce.
Despite those technical issues, speed surveys conducted before and during the pilot suggest the new cameras have been effective at slowing down drivers, according to FCPD Sgt. Ian Yost.
Average speeds decreased between last fall and this past May at all but one of the six evaluated sites — London Towne, Irving, Key, South County High School, and Chesterbrook Elementary School.
The only outlier was northbound Soapstone Drive near Terraset Elementary School in Reston, which saw a 3% uptick to 24.4 mph, but the average speed recorded before the pilot (23.8 mph) was already below Virginia’s 25-mph speed limit for school zones.
Prior to getting the photo speed cameras, the other schools were all seeing average speeds over 30 mph, led by nearly 37 mph on southbound Stone Road near London Towne. In May, speeds dropped to 24-28 mph, with South County seeing the biggest change at 37%.
“The speed cameras is just a piece of the puzzle, but it does help as our…data did show that it did have an effect in slowing down speeds of drivers in and around schools,” Yost said. “So, I do think it does fit with our overall idea and implementation of traffic safety here in Fairfax County.” Read More