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Morning Notes

A frog statue looks up at Giant in University Mall (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Army Nurse Thanks Fairfax County Firefighters — “Sunday, August 7, was a powerful and inspiring day at Station 11, Penn Daw, C-Shift. U.S. Army Captain Paul Petrie, an OR Nurse at Fort Belvoir, stopped by to thank the shift for their role in saving his life in May. Injuries he sustained are fatal a vast majority of the time. Watch to learn more!” [FCFRD/Facebook]

Long-Term Fix for AT&T Service Issues in Reston Coming — A permanent proposal to restore full cell service in the Lake Anne area isn’t expected to come until later this fall, according to Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn. Alcorn says AT&T is looking at installing equipment on the new Fellowship House roof, but that will require approvals from Fairfax County and the Reston Association Design Review Board. [Patch]

Fairfax County Parkway Targeted for Traffic Enforcement — “Officers from our Motor Squad are focusing on traffic enforcement on the Fairfax County Parkway this month. On the first day of this enforcement campaign, an officer stopped a car going 108 MPH on the County Parkway at Barta Road, a 50 MPH zone!” [FCPD/Instagram]

Vienna Trail Closed for Repairs — “The Wildwood Park trail that runs between Follin Lane SE and Niblick Drive SE, along with the Mashie Drive Park entrance, will be closed tomorrow, Tuesday, Aug. 9, between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. for repairs. Please use caution when in the area and plan for detours.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

Police Seek Help with Centreville Cold Case — “One of the DNA-analysis companies that Fairfax County Police in Virginia have been working with is Texas-based Othram, which is now crowdfunding help to identify a woman who was found dead…nearly 30 years ago. Even today, there isn’t a lot that police know about the woman, whose remains were found in 1993 near a cedar tree around what’s now the corner of Sharpsburg Drive and Calvary Place in Centreville.” [WTOP]

Connector Buses Not Affected by Metro Shutdown — The closure of several Blue and Yellow Line stations next month will have no impact on Fairfax Connector routes, but instead of taking a train, passengers will transfer to free shuttle buses. Drop-off and pick-up locations at the Huntington, Van Dorn Street, Franconia, and Crystal City stations may also be slightly different. [Fairfax County Government]

Reminder to Get Kids Immunized for School — “Parents, you’ve probably reminded your kids about summer reading and started purchasing school supplies. Have you booked your immunization appointment yet? Don’t wait until the last minute, make sure your children are up to date with their school required immunizations.” [Fairfax County Health Department/Facebook]

Maryland Toll Lanes Project on Hold — “A key federal agency has delayed Maryland’s plan to build toll lanes on the Capital Beltway and I-270, the latest setback for the star-crossed project. The move was immediately criticized by Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who said the delay will imperil the state’s efforts to ease one of the nation’s worst bottlenecks.” [Maryland Matters]

It’s Tuesday — Humid throughout the day. High of 94 and low of 78. Sunrise at 6:18 am and sunset at 8:12 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

A car at the Franconia-Springfield Metro station pick-up line (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Sidewalk Projects Planned to Address Route 7 Pedestrian Safety — Virginia and Fairfax County officials are working to add sidewalks along Route 7 in the Culmore area of Bailey’s Crossroads. Prioritized sites include the Liberty gas station where a pedestrian was hit and killed by a vehicle in December, prompting safety advocates to campaign for improvements. [Annandale Today]

Person Rescued from Lincolnia House Fire — “Units arrived on scene with smoke visible and fire on the second floor. Two of three occupants evacuated the home prior to fire department arrival. One occupant was trapped in a bedroom. Crews rescued the occupant via a ground ladder — unharmed!” [FCFRD]

Former FCPD Officer Sentenced in Daughter’s Death — Jason Michael Colley pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree assault in Frederick County Circuit Court last week in connection to his 6-month-old daughter’s death in 2017. Sentenced to a combined 50 years, he will serve eight in private home detention and serve five years of supervised probation on the condition that “he not engage in physical punishment of children.” [ABC7]

Old Dominion Drive Closed for Two Days — “Old Dominion Drive (Route 738) will be closed to through traffic between Balls Hill Road (Route 686) and Route 123 (Dolley Madison Boulevard), weather permitting, from 9 a.m. Monday, Aug. 8 to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 9 to replace stormwater pipes…Traffic will be detoured via Balls Hill Road, Lewinsville Road (Route 694) and Route 123 back to Old Dominion Drive.” [VDOT]

Two Charged in McLean Church Burglary — Two men were reported forcing entry into the Faith Bible Presbyterian Church (6901 Haycock Road) through a window at 5:17 p.m. on July 31. Officers found the 18-year-olds inside the church, taking property. They were both charged with burglary and property destruction, and one of them was charged with providing false identification to law enforcement. [FCPD]

Reston Assault by Teens Under Investigation — “Officers from the Reston District Station of the Fairfax County Police Department are investigating an assault that occurred Wednesday night in the South Lakes area, according to the weekly crime report. Around 10:45 p.m., a group of teens stole property and assaulted a person in the 11900 block of Barrel Cooper Court…The victim was treated for non-life-threatening injuries” [Patch]

Renovation of Merrifield Fire Station Complete — “After a little over two years, the renovation at Station 30, Merrifield, is complete. [Thursday], crews moved back in. Station was totally operationally during the renovation with a trailer for personnel in back. The reno included an addition of 440 square feet.” [FCFRD/Facebook]

Graffiti by Soldiers Revealed at Historic Fairfax Farmhouse — “Between March 1862 and June 1863, hundreds of Union soldiers left their enduring marks in charcoal, graphite or crayon on the walls of the attic and first and second floors of Historic Blenheim, a brick 1859 farmhouse and 12-acre estate on what is now Old Lee Highway.” [WTOP]

It’s Monday — Humid throughout the day. High of 91 and low of 76. Sunrise at 6:17 am and sunset at 8:13 pm. [Weather.gov]

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More sidewalks might be coming to Lockheed Blvd near Hybla Valley in an effort to create a better, safer connection to Huntley Meadows Park.

Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk and Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay introduced a board matter on Tuesday (Aug. 2) calling for a portion of the leftover fiscal year 2022 budget to be used to fill a gap of about 1,500 feet of sidewalk on Lockheed Blvd leading up to the county-operated park.

Right now, there’s no sidewalk to the main entrance of Huntley Meadows Park. Adding one would make the 1,500-acre park safer and more accessible, the board matter says.

“I believe it is important that we fill that gap as soon as possible,” the board matter reads. “Not only would this make for a safer route for residents to get to Huntley Meadows, but it would also create a safer connection to the nearby Hybla Valley Elementary School.”

The school is less than a 10-minute walk from the park, but without a consistent sidewalk, the route there is inaccessible and unsafe. McKay acknowledged that student and pedestrian safety are top of mind after recent crashes.

“The idea that elementary school kids would have to cross a busy street not at a signalized intersection anywhere in two different places from the school to the park, which is a natural treasure of Fairfax County, seems to me not the message we want to be sending,” McKay said after reading the matter.

Extending the sidewalk and adding safer entrance points is not a new ask. In May, a local pedestrian and bicyclist safety organization called for protected bike lanes on Lockheed Blvd near the park.

Located less than a mile from Richmond Highway, Huntley Meadows Park is the largest park operated by the Fairfax County Park Authority. Established in 1975, the park has forests as well as open freshwater wetlands that have been described as a “waterfowl-filled oasis.”

There are trails, a picnic shelter, a visitor center, and a historic early 19th-century house once owned by George Mason’s grandson.

Lusk noted that the neighborhood and nearby school have one of the highest rates of students on free and reduced lunch in the county.

“Many residents [here] rely on public transportation or they are walking or biking as their primary form of transportation,” said Lusk.

Additionally, the new North Hill development and park are under construction less than a mile away from Huntley Meadows. Phase one could be completed later this year, and overall, it could bring over a thousand more residents to this portion of the Richmond Highway corridor.

The question, of course, is money. The board matter requests that the project be considered for the 2022 carryover budget, which will get a public hearing and vote on Oct. 11, but there was some debate about the project’s priority.

“We all have lots of projects that we want to put forward. We might want to have some criteria,” Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross said. “We all have pedestrian projects that we are anxious to get done. Last time we looked there were a thousand [projects] on the list, so the carryover [budget] may not make a dent in that.”

Images via Google Maps [1, 2]

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Morning Notes

A speed limit sign for Route 123 by the Tysons Corner Metro station (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Look Out for Spotted Lanternfly — “While there are still no sightings of the spotted lanternfly in Fairfax County, it is getting closer, and experts are on the lookout for it. This summer the invasive pest was found in nearby Loudoun County…The insect feasts on more than 70 plant species, though its preferred host is the tree-of-heaven.” [DPWES]

FCPD Detective Destroyed Evidence of Rape — Fairfax County police are reviewing dozens of unsolved sexual assault cases after the victim of a rape in 1995 learned that a detective had destroyed all physical evidence in her case, including the rape kit. Police now say they believe the woman’s account and that her case was handled inappropriately, but she says the department needs “to somehow be held accountable.” [The Washington Post]

Longtime Fairfax Symphony Leader Dies — “William Hudson, a pianist and conductor who led the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra for 36 years, establishing it as a leading regional orchestra in the capital area, died July 12 at his home in Vienna, Va. He was 89. The cause was atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, said his former wife, Denise Battistone.” [The Washington Post]

Tysons Corner Center Owner Reports Retail Resurgence — “Macerich…noted that distress in the retail industry has slowed dramatically after a pandemic-spurred wave of closures in 2020…Macerich said its leasing activity in the second quarter reflected retailer demand at levels not seen since 2015.” [CNBC]

Vienna Police Share Results of Increased Traffic Enforcement — “After a noticeable increase in stop sign violations, the Town of Vienna Police Department had a directed enforcement initiative during the month of June…During the Stop Sign Enforcement Campaign, officers worked a total of 469 events utilizing stationary observation of stop signs, which generated 219 stop sign violations and 74 other violations.” [Vienna Police]

Local Meal Service Company Gets New HQ — MightyMeals, an overnight meal delivery company that grew out of a Franconia restaurant in 2015, has leased a 16,000-square-foot commercial unit at 7669 Limestone Drive in Gainesville for its new corporate headquarters. The space is seven times larger than its current 2,400-square-foot cooking prep warehouse in Burke. [Washington Business Journal]

Signs for Renamed Vienna Street in Place — “Vienna officials have replaced street signs on the former Wade Hampton Drive with new ones reading ‘Liberty Lane.’ The switch was done in early July ‘with little fanfare’ (as requested by residents), town officials said in the government’s monthly newsletter.” [Sun Gazette]

Bus Planned to Upcoming Innovation Center Metro — “OmniRide is hoping to take advantage of the forthcoming 66 Outside the Beltway toll lanes, and for the first time, its passengers could be getting one-seat trips to the Dulles area by the end of the year. The transit provider is hoping to start a commuter route that would take riders from Balls Ford Road to the Innovation Center Silver Line Metro stop in December” [Inside NoVA/WTOP]

It’s Wednesday — Humid throughout the day. High of 90 and low of 71. Sunrise at 6:13 am and sunset at 8:19 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Traffic on Richmond Highway (via Fairfax County)

The speed limit on a 7-mile stretch of Richmond Highway should be lowered to 35 mph, the Virginia Department of Transportation says.

The road from Jeff Todd Way to the I-95/I-495 (Capital Beltway) interchange currently has a speed limit of 45 mph.

Announced at a virtual public information meeting on Wednesday night (July 20), the recommendation comes from a speed study that VDOT began nearly a year ago.

The study determined that lowering the speed on that 7.31-mile stretch of Richmond Highway was best practice considering the high crash rate, the amount of pedestrian activity, the number of bus stops, and signalized intersections that are currently along this corridor.

“Change in speed allows for longer perception and reaction time for drivers,” VDOT project manager Warren Hughes said. “We want to…change driver behavior. By changing driver behavior, it will enhance safety in the corridor.”

Richmond Highway Speed Limit Study recommendations (via Fairfax County)

As the study showed, crash rates were much higher on this section of Richmond Highway than the Northern Virginia and state averages for primary highways. On a particular 1.5-mile segment from Jeff Todd Way to Buckman Road, crash rates were 74% higher than the statewide average.

Just this month, two pedestrians were killed in separate crashes on the highway, which is also known as Route 1.

Officials noted that ample evidence suggests lowering speeds even a little saves lives, particularly when it comes to pedestrian-involved crashes.

“The impact of speed correlates to the chance of survival,” VDOT Northern Virginia District Traffic Engineer Gil Chlewicki said. “The lower the speed is when the vehicle hits the pedestrian, the better chance the pedestrian has to survive or less severe injuries. It decreases significantly, even with just five to 10 miles per hour.” Read More

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The scene of a crash that injured six people in Oakton (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Fairfax County is looking into purchasing additional “Know Your Speed” signs after a fatal crash that killed two Oakton High School students, and seriously injured a third.

After the Oakton crash in early June, the devices were placed on Blake Lane, where the teenagers were walking on the sidewalk before they were struck by a speeding car. Police say the driver, an 18-year-old who has been charged with involuntary manslaughter, was going around 81 mph where the speed limit was 35 mph.

“These signs, that are currently limited in supply and moved to different locations across the county, were deployed to Blake Lane immediately following the crash, and were very much appreciated by the community,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said on Tuesday (July 19). “They have now been, understandably, rotated to another site. With a larger inventory of these devices, we could serve more communities for longer periods of time, but I am interested in the staff assessment of this idea.”

The Board of Supervisors directed staff to provide information and recommendations on purchasing more of the devices, which can take the form of signs on mobile trailers or fixed to posts as well as radar guns.

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said police have told him no one is available to place the speed devices in his district. The Fairfax County Police Department used to have three people who were properly trained to place them, but two left and one was assigned to a different squad, he said.

“I think we can add all the devices we want, but if we can’t get them in place…Part of this I would hope is that the police will come back and tell us how they’re going to take the devices we have and get them out into the field,” Foust said. “And I ask that it not be relying on district by district. I mean, it’s a countywide problem.”

There are different kinds of devices, and some don’t require a special certification to utilize the devices, Palchik said.

With the FCPD experiencing staffing challenges, Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity wondered if civilians could be trained to set up the devices.

“One of the things we might be able to look at as a solution is do we really need police officers to set these up, or can we get other folks trained to set it up? I don’t know whether that’s an option,” he said. Read More

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Afternoon rush-hour traffic clogs up Dolley Madison Boulevard at the Ingleside Avenue intersection in McLean (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

As Fairfax County explores ways to improve the flow of traffic on Dolley Madison Blvd., the McLean Citizens Association sees an opportunity to also address safety issues at the Ingleside Avenue intersection.

The residents’ group urged the Fairfax County Department of Transportation last week to consider installing a traffic signal there or at the adjacent Elm Street intersection as part of the county’s ongoing Dolley Madison Corridor Study.

“Installation of a traffic signal at either location would heighten safety for pedestrians and bicyclists,” MCA President Scott Spitzer wrote in a letter approved by the board of directors on Wednesday (July 6). “A signal at the Dolley Madison/Ingleside intersection would also address concerns raised by residents who are unable to turn left from Dolley Madison Boulevard onto Ingleside Avenue during rush hour traffic.”

Though they’re the size of neighborhood streets, Ingleside and Elm connect downtown McLean to the residences north of Dolley Madison (also known as Route 123) as well as the Dolley Madison Library, McLean Central Park, and McLean Community Center.

Traffic backups on Route 123 routinely block Ingleside in particular, making it “almost impossible” for drivers to turn into or out of the street, one MCA board member said during last week’s meeting.

“I certainly have had experience trying to take a left on Ingleside and having to wait minutes because nobody will let you in,” Glenn Harris, who chairs MCA’s transportation committee, said.

If a traffic light isn’t possible, given the proximity of Old Dominion Drive, MCA says it would support a flashing pedestrian beacon and “enhanced crosswalks” at either the Ingleside or Elm intersection.

There are currently striped crosswalks across Dolley Madison on the east sides of both intersections, but Elm Street has no sidewalks, and Ingleside only has a sidewalk on the west side.

For drivers on Ingleside, even a right turn onto Dolley Madison can be tricky, thanks to trees that block their sightlines, an MCA board member noted.

A crash that killed a bicyclist on Dec. 29 “supports the view that there are safety issues at the intersection,” Harris said. Read More

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A Vienna police SUV (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Tempers ran high on the roads of Vienna during the recent Fourth of July holiday weekend and last week.

A town resident told the Vienna Police Department that, around 6:35 p.m. on July 3, a driver showed a gun after he told the driver to slow down while they were both stopped for a red light at the Nutley Street and Courthouse Road intersection.

According to the Vienna police highlights for the week of July 1-7, the resident said he was going northbound on Nutley when he saw another vehicle “approaching from behind him at a high rate of speed.”

“The resident yelled at the other driver to slow down, and the driver brandished a firearm,” police said. “The driver placed the firearm in his lap and verbally threatened the resident before he made a left turn and continued westbound on Courthouse Road.”

The VPD says its officers were unable to find the driver who allegedly pulled out the gun.

Vienna police also responded to a tense encounter between a driver and pedestrian on July 1 near the intersection of George and Cottage streets.

According to the report, the pedestrian took issue with a woman driving an SUV who “began driving too close to him and his family” around 10:05 p.m.

He advised that after the driver ignored his requests to be more careful, he stopped in front of her vehicle to slow her down. The citizen stated the vehicle’s bumper made contact with his back, but he was not injured. Officers spoke to the driver, who advised that the complaining citizen was causing the issue, stopping in front of her vehicle and sitting down on her bumper, refusing to move.

Officers explained the warrant process to both individuals in case either of them decides to pursue charges in the incident, which has been classified as an assault by the police department.

In a non-vehicle-related case, a Cottage Street resident reported finding an unwelcome surprise on Independence Day outside her bedroom window.

“A resident reported that a person dressed as a ghost and wearing sunglasses was standing right outside her bedroom window for approximately 5 minutes,” the VPD said. “Once the resident saw the person, she ran out of her bedroom to alert her parents. The parents attempted to find the person but were unable to locate them.”

The peeping tom was reported in the 1200 block of Cottage Street SW at 12:02 a.m. on July 4.

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A utility pole appears to be down in a roadway where a crash occurred in Oakton (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

(Updated at 11:45 a.m.) The 18-year-old driver in the Oakton crash that killed two Oakton High School students earlier this month has been indicted.

A grand jury indicted Fairfax resident Usman Shahid on involuntary manslaughter charges Tuesday morning (June 21), Fairfax County Police Department said in a press release. Shahid is expected to turn himself in later today (Thursday), police said. More information on bond will be available then.

The department’s Crash Reconstruction Unit determined that, on June 4, Shahid was driving a 2018 BMW south on Blake Lane at a “high rate of speed” when he struck a 4Runner in the intersection, continued traveling south, and struck three high school students on the sidewalk. The car continued down Blake Lane and struck a utility pole.

Two of the pedestrians died, and the third was seriously injured. Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis said at a press conference that she is now recovering at home.

Shahid and the front passenger of the car were transported to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Two passengers in the rear seats of the BMW fled the scene, police said at the time.

The police investigation suggests that Shahid was driving around 81 mph when his car first hit the 4Runner, Davis said.

Davis said the BMW passengers have been identified. While noting that they shouldn’t have fled the scene, Davis said the passengers have cooperated with the investigation, and police don’t anticipate pressing charges against them.

“This is a tragic incident that could have been avoided, and our hearts break for the families of these two young girls,” Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano said in a news release. “…I am committed to working toward accountability in a manner that promotes healing for the families involved and the wider community.”

Shahid faces two counts of involuntary manslaughter, both felony charges that carry a maximum sentence of 10 years of jail time, according to Descano.

The crash prompted renewed calls for safety improvements on the Blake Lane corridor. A meeting is scheduled for tonight with stakeholders that will be livestreamed to Supervisor Dalia Palchik’s Facebook.

“Slow down, slow down, be a defensive driver,” Davis said. “There’s nothing so important you have to jeopardize your safety and the safety of others by getting some place 30 seconds faster.”

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The scene of a crash that injured six people in Oakton (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Fairfax County is considering the addition of photo speed cameras in school crossing and highway work zones.

The Fairfax County Police Department has been working on the initiative, and a plan will be finalized before it is presented to the Board of Supervisors in a report, Deputy County Executive for Safety and Security Tom Arnold previously told FFXnow.

Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik hopes to get Oakton High School into a pilot for the speed cameras, she told FFXnow. Two Oakton High students recently died after a driver struck them and another student walking on the sidewalk of Blake Lane, a corridor where the community has had growing safety concerns.

Police say the 18-year-old driver of the car was speeding on Blake Lane before crashing into an SUV and then striking the three students.

Nearby cities and counties have added the safety devices in the last few years since a state law passed in 2020 enabling jurisdictions to install speed cameras in school and construction zones. Arlington County passed its own law allowing the devices in January, and the City of Fairfax added cameras around schools last year.

The state law dictates that local governments can impose a civil penalty if a vehicle is traveling 10 mph or more above the posted speed limit. The penalty can’t exceed $100, state law outlines.

County and state officials will hold a community meeting tonight (Thursday) on possible safety improvements in the Blake Lane corridor. The meeting will take place on Zoom with Palchik livestreaming it on her Facebook page.

The county and state have discussed improvements in the past, such as the recent implementation of an additional $200 fine for speed limit violations on Blake Lane between Jermantown Road and Sutton Road.

How do you feel about adding speed cameras in school and construction zones in the county?

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