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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Eastbound Route 50 is closed at Westmoreland Road after a crash and fuel leak (via VDOT)

Eastbound Route 50 is completely closed in the West Falls Church area, as Fairfax County police and firefighters clean up a vehicle crash and fuel leak.

According to the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, there was a two-vehicle collision near the intersection of Westmoreland and Summerfield roads. A person with a minor injury has been transported to a hospital, department spokesperson William Delaney says.

There was also a “small gas leak from gas tank of one vehicle,” according to Delaney.

All eastbound lanes on Route 50, also known as Arlington Blvd., have been shut down, along with one westbound lane that has been blocked off to accommodate the emergency response vehicles. Traffic going west is creeping by in the right lane.

Delays now stretch back to I-495, according to the Metropolitan Area Transportation Operations Coordination. A detour for eastbound traffic has been put in place, and drivers should follow police directions, according to a Virginia Department of Transportation traffic camera update from 9:05 a.m.

Delaney says it’s currently unclear how long the road closure will last. The FCPD advises avoiding the area.

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Eastbound I-66 west of Nutley Street blocked by crash (via VDOT)

(Updated at 12:15 p.m.) All travel lanes on eastbound I-66 in the Oakton area have reopened after a two-vehicle crash closed multiple lanes this morning, causing miles of traffic backups.

Just before 9 a.m., an armored vehicle and Ford F-350 truck collided in the eastbound lanes near Exit 62, Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said. The crash initially shut down all eastbound lanes just before the Nutley Street interchange.

Backups were 6 miles long around 10:15 a.m., according to the Virginia Department of Transportation’s traffic cameras. They were down to 2 miles by noon.

The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department tweeted that no injuries were reported, but because of a large amount of debris covering the roadway, Virginia State Police had been diverting traffic.

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Traffic from 2019 on eastbound Dolley Madison Boulevard at the Great Falls Street intersection in McLean (via Google Maps)

Fairfax County has some ideas for short-term fixes that could ease congestion on Dolley Madison Blvd. through McLean, but if traffic grows significantly further down the road, a more substantial overhaul may be needed.

For the first time in almost three years, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation returned to the community with updates on its efforts to address gridlock in the corridor between the Dulles Toll Road and Old Dominion Drive.

At a meeting on May 11, county staff shared revised traffic data and recommendations that they said take into account the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on people’s travel habits as well as infrastructure projects, like the Jones Branch Connector, designed to divert traffic from local roads.

According to the presentation, traffic in the D.C. suburbs is near pre-pandemic levels, with average daily volumes since July returning to about 90% of where they were in 2019, FCDOT project manager Maggie Qi reported.

However, aside from noticeable dips in March-April 2020 and this past January, traffic volumes have stayed relatively level over the past two to three years, and the county anticipates that people working from home will continue to slow growth, at least in the near-future.

“At some point, the ultimate solution would wind up being an interchange, but if we can find a way to keep volumes steady, we may be able to avoid that,” Qi said.

Building off of a 2010 Tysons Neighborhood Study, the Dolley Madison corridor study has been underway since 2017 — long enough that its definition of “short term” has shrunk from 10 to five years, with 2027 as the end of the planned timeframe.

Identifying the Lewinsville Road/Great Falls Street intersection as the corridor’s most problematic, particularly during afternoon peak hours, FCDOT has developed eight possible solutions, six of which come from the last community meeting in 2019:

  • Concept 1: Three continuous lanes on eastbound Dolley Madison, providing additional capacity with a new lane after the Dulles Toll Road
  • Concept 2: Builds on the first concept by extending the three lanes through Lewinsville/Great Falls
  • Concept 3: Eliminate left turns from Balls Hill Road onto Lewinsville, which could get another lane
  • Concept 4: A “partial jughandle” with restricted left-turns from Dolley Madison onto Old Dominion in both directions and onto Ingleside Avenue for eastbound traffic
  • Concept 5: Widen Lewinsville/Great Falls to add two exclusive left-turn lanes, allowing the traffic signal timing to become more efficient
  • Concept 6: Three westbound travel lanes on Dolley Madison from Old Dominion to Lewinsville

Though staff said that it would significantly reduce congestion, the sixth concept is no longer being considered after residents expressed strong opposition, since it would limit access to adjacent neighborhoods from Dolley Madison. Read More

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Morning Notes

Route 123 and International Drive in Tysons (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Kingstowne Man Indicted for Real Estate Loan Scheme — Calling it one of the largest embezzlement cases in Fairfax County history, the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office announced yesterday (Monday) that Carlos Camacho has been charged with 15 counts of embezzlement and four counts of forgery. Camacho allegedly used loans to divert more than $2 million from his employer for personal expenses. [DCist]

County Sees Rise in Domestic Violence During Pandemic — “During the first quarter of 2022, our Department of Family Services’ Domestic and Sexual Violence Services (DSVS) division has seen this trend in real time through its Domestic and Sexual Violence 24-Hour Hotline, which has recorded an uptick in the number of domestic violence calls it receives.” [Fairfax County Government]

VDOT to Suspend Highway Work During Memorial Day Weekend — “Based on 2018 and 2019 traffic data, periods of moderate to heavy congestion on those pre-pandemic Memorial Day weekends were most likely to occur between noon and 6 p.m. on Friday and Monday, and midday on Saturday and Sunday, VDOT said in a news release.” [Inside NoVA]

IT Consulting Firm Octo Opens Lab in Reston — “Honored to attend the ribbon cutting for oLab today. With the relocation of groundbreaking companies and the expansion of cutting edge innovation labs in Virginia, we’re going to keep solving problems and making critical breakthroughs right here in the Commonwealth.” [Mark Warner]

Virginia Lawmakers Near a Budget Deal — “State legislators got word Monday that they should return to the Capitol on June 1 to vote on a proposed two-year state budget, even though final details on the spending plan were still being hammered out…Legislators launched the special session in April on his orders but promptly went home because there was no compromise to vote on.” [The Washington Post]

Chantilly Student Collects Medical Supplies and Food for Ukraine — “Nicholas, a student at Fairfax County’s Rachel Carson Middle School, chose to help Ukraine as part of his Eagle Scout project. All donations will be boxed by Nicholas and his fellow Scouts, and then sent to United Help Ukraine, a Maryland-based nonprofit organization founded in 2014.” [Patch]

Deputy Fire Chief Promoted — “Fire Chief John Butler is pleased to announce that Deputy Chief Dan Shaw has been promoted to Assistant Chief with the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department. Assistant Chief Shaw will head the Office of the Fire Chief, which includes Data Analytics Management, Fiscal Services, Health and Wellness, Information Technology, Planning, and Public Information and Life Safety Education.” [FCFRD]

It’s Tuesday — Rain in the morning and afternoon. High of 66 and low of 53. Sunrise at 5:51 am and sunset at 8:24 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Cars travel westbound I-495 on the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge (via Google Maps)

Work to expand the I-495 Express Lanes to the north is only just warming up, but the Virginia Department of Transportation is now turning its attention to the southern end of the Capital Beltway.

The I-495 Southside Express Lanes environmental study is evaluating possible express lane additions on an 11-mile stretch of the corridor east of the I-395 interchange in Springfield to Maryland Route 210 in Prince George’s County.

Crossing over the Potomac River, the corridor currently has two to five lanes typically, though a divided highway splits local and pass-thru routes. There is also a portion with six lanes, but the corridor overall has no express lanes presently.

VDOT presented its proposal at a virtual meeting yesterday (Wednesday), kicking off a series of meetings during a public comment period that’s slated to end June 6.

In-person meetings will take place tonight in Maryland, Monday (May 23) at John R. Lewis High School in Springfield, and the Nannie J. Lee Memorial Recreation Center in Alexandria on May 25.

The study is seeking to reduce congestion, address safety concerns and provide other improvements.

“In the morning, there is significant congestion going in the westbound direction, or from Maryland towards Virginia,” Abi Lerner, a VDOT engineer for megaprojects, said during the virtual meeting.

According to VDOT’s weekday data for the interstate, there’s approximately two hours of congestion in the morning from around 6:30 to 9, Lerner said. In 2019, average travel speeds could be as low as 30 mph during peak commuting times.

In Virginia, there’s significant congestion for an even longer time frame from approximately 3 to 7 p.m. for traffic going eastbound to the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge.

Expressing several concerns, resident Poul Hertel asked for the public comment deadline to be extended to June 18. VDOT said that would be considered and updated, if possible, on its project page.

The study is also evaluating whether express lane exit and entry connections could be added, an idea that drew mixed reactions.

“It’s very distressing to see that you have exit points into Old Town Alexandria,” Hertel said. “I would strongly urge you to remove that from your list.”

Meanwhile, multiple Maryland residents weighed in, with Prince George’s County Councilmember Jolene Ivey noting the area’s opposition to toll lanes there.

Lerner responded that whatever VDOT ultimately recommends “is going to require buy-in…from the Maryland side” of the Beltway.

Oxon Hill resident Howard Herrnstadt said it seems that a small number of affluent and time-stressed motorists use existing express lanes, questioning how the infrastructure expense would be justified.

Lerner said VDOT has seen significant usage of the express lanes for carpooling, which enables drivers to use them for free, but he was unable to provide data. Herrnstadt challenged that narrative.

According to VDOT, the proposed changes wouldn’t interfere with the possibility of light rail in the future, which the Woodrow Wilson bridge was designed to accommodate.

The study will inform any recommendations, including no changes, or potential projects in the future. VDOT plans to present options this fall or winter and finish its review in the fall of 2023 or winter of 2024.

Photo via Google Maps

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Fairfax County police car lights (file photo)

Updated at 8:15 p.m.All Route 28 lanes have now reopened, but a man remains hospitalized, and police are continuing to investigate the crash.

Earlier: Two people have been transported to the hospital, one with life-threatening injuries, after a two-vehicle crash on Route 28 in Chantilly.

All three northbound lanes at Westfields Boulevard have been closed, as Fairfax County police officers investigate the incident, which occurred before 5 p.m. today (Monday).

The Fairfax County Police Department advises drivers to avoid the area. As of 5:50 p.m., there are about 2 miles of delays, with traffic backing up to I-66, according to the Metropolitan Area Transportation Operations Coordination.

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Town of Herndon offices (file photo)

In the morning and afternoon, traffic on Herndon Parkway in the southwestern part of town settles into a sluggish crawl. While some congestion is inevitable in a modern-day commute, some town leaders wonder if another culprit can be to blame: a rise in cut-through traffic in the town.

Councilmember Sean Regan, who is pushing the town to explore the issue, believes a big chunk of Herndon’s traffic problem is caused by out-of-towners who do not live or work in the town. Some are commuters from the west seeking a quick path to avoid the main toll plaza.

But not much can be done until the town completes an origin-destination study to determine where cars are coming from and where they are going. Modern techniques using GPS data allow traffic engineers to buy origin-destination information from before the pandemic to determine whether or not the problem is simply anecdotal.

The renewed focus comes on the heels of a big step for the town: instituting limits on commercial vehicle parking and other parking restrictions.

The town has become what Herndon Police Chief Maggie DeBoard calls a “dumping ground.” The issue is also emblematic of a small town’s growing pains as the oncoming train of the Silver Line challenges the town to make its downtown more of a destination area.

So far, research, including traffic counts from the South Elden Neighborhood Plan, seems to show that some of the problem is due to cut-through traffic.

During the morning rush hour, a significant number of cars entered from the west on Sterling Road and Herndon Parkway and then exited the area on south Elden or Herndon Parkway to the east, Regan says. The conclusion was that drivers were western commuters cutting across town.

However, any possible solution would require interregional coordination. The town could, for example, work with neighboring governments and state officials to determine how to disincentivize western commuters who may skirt tolls.

Councilmember Pradip Dhakal thinks the issue has been especially problematic in the last decade or so — driven by rising highway tolls that make Herndon a go-to option.

“This is really a huge problem that needs discussion, analysis and exploration,” Dhakal said. “What the council really wants is to start the discussion to see if we can find feasible solutions to address this issue.”

Regan notes that many moving pieces are at play to tackle the issue.

“We need to make sure there are short-term parking spaces available in downtown, the Metro core and other commercial areas so they can easily stop and pick up groceries, grab dinner, or get their haircut, then continue on their way,” he said.

He concedes that the solution will not be easy.

“Traffic unifies us all and if we speak with a single voice we can make things better for Herndon today and for years to come,” Regan told FFXnow.

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Construction workers build townhomes and condos in McNair for Stanley Martin’s Liberty Park neighborhood (staff photo by David Taube)

Traffic congestion is no longer the top concern for residents here: It’s now housing affordability, according to a new survey.

A Reston-based research consultant, Heart & Mind Strategies, conducted a survey in December, gathering input from over 600 adults in Northern Virginia, extending research from previous years.

Adults’ top concern used to be reducing traffic congestion and improving transportation options, which was 33% of respondents in 2016, but that’s now dropped to 16%.

Meanwhile, concerns about improving affordability of housing and living, making it easier to afford to live here, increased from 18% in 2016 to 24% in 2019 before dropping to 21%.

The results were shared during a Northern Virginia Transportation Authority meeting last Thursday (March 10). The authority has been assessing the area through its TransAction long-range plan.

To find out more about residents’ needs, we’re asking readers how they’re handling the competitive and pricey real estate market.

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Morning Notes

Fair Oaks Mall on a March Sunday (staff photo by David Taube)

Trucker Convoy Leaves Capital Beltway — “After a week of ineffectual laps around the Beltway, the ‘People’s Convoy’ is now jamming up part of I-395 in Arlington. The convoy…is intended to protest the Covid-related government mandates. It received considerable media attention last week but didn’t do much to disrupt traffic.” [ARLnow]

School Board Appeals TJ Admissions Ruling — “The Fairfax County School Board is appealing a federal judge’s ruling that invalidated the recently revised admissions system for the prestigious Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology magnet school…Legal experts were divided over how the 4th Circuit is likely to rule.” [The Washington Post]

Mac & Cheese Restaurant Chain Eyes Tysons — “I Heart Mac & Cheese, a fast casual concept, tentatively plans to open in Tysons in October 2022. The Tysons location will be the first in Virginia and owned by franchisee Md Billal Hossain. A spokesperson could not share the location’s address yet, as the lease is still being finalized.” [Patch]

Pedestrian Improvements Finished in Bailey’s Crossroads — The Virginia Department of Transportation has completed work on pedestrian and traffic safety measures at the Columbia Pike (Route 244) and Lacy Boulevard intersection. Changes include a new traffic signal, four new high-visibility crosswalks, ADA curb ramp upgrades, and flashing yellow arrows for left turns from Columbia Pike. [VDOT]

More Details on Reston Invasive Plant Pilot Program — “Reston National Golf Course plans to spend $140,000 on a three-year project targeting invasive plant species affecting an area that includes the Hunters Green Cluster in Reston. This proposal is different from the one introduced by the Reston National Neighborhood Study Group in February.” [Patch]

Route 7 Construction to Require Great Falls Road Closure — “Starting the week of March 28 and continuing through June, drivers on Colvin Run Road will proceed to the east end of Colvin Run Road to access Route 7 eastbound and westbound as crews perform utility work and other construction activities at the west end of Colvin Run Road.” [VDOT]

Board of Zoning Appeals Has Vacant Seat — “The Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals has an opening for one member. Interested candidates must apply by Monday, April 11, to the Fairfax Circuit Court, which appoints the board’s seven members.” [Fairfax County Government]

It’s Tuesday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 64 and low of 40. Sunrise at 7:21 a.m. and sunset at 7:17 p.m. [Weather.gov]

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