Fairfax County is gearing up to secure land rights to proceed with the development of a new shared-use path from the Innovation Center Metro station to surrounding neighborhoods.
At a meeting on Tuesday (Oct. 24), the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed to set a public hearing for the project on Nov. 21.
Presented to the community in January, the project includes a 10-foot-wide, approximately 1,920-foot-long shared-use path. It would connect the kiss-and-ride parking lot to the residential communities at Farougi Court and Apgar Place.
“The connection will significantly reduce the trip length between the station and surrounding neighborhoods,” the Fairfax County Department of Transportation said on its webpage for the project.
Two pedestrian bridges over Horsepen Creek and lighting along the new path are also planned.
To move forward with the project, the county must secure land rights on six properties.
“Negotiations are in progress with the affected property owners,” county staff said in the board meeting agenda. “However, because resolution of these acquisitions is not imminent, it may be necessary for the Board to utilize quick-take eminent domain powers to commence construction of this project on schedule.”
Construction on the project is expected to begin in summer 2024, followed by completion in the summer of 2025.
Construction is about to ramp up on Dominion Energy’s undergrounding of a power line near the Spring Hill Metro station in Tysons.
The project will require an extended closure of the entire Vesper Trail from Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) to Vesper Street at Higdon Drive, starting Nov. 1, the utility company recently told residents in the area.
Expected to last until February 2024, the closure is needed so crews can work within the trail path, Dominion Energy said, noting that signs alerting users to the closure will be placed at the trail.
“We appreciate your patience and understanding as we work in your neighborhood,” Dominion said in a postcard sent to residents. “We are committed to completing this work safely and expeditiously to minimize disruptions to the Vesper Trail and your community.”
Preliminary construction activities on the Spring Hill project began this spring, necessitating a roughly five-day trail closure in late April as crews installed a manhole.
To increase the capacity of its power grid as Tysons continues to grow, Dominion is moving part of an existing, overhead electric transmission line underground. The 230-kilovolt line will run a half-mile from a Tyco Road substation to a transition pole near a new substation around the Vesper Trail’s midpoint.
Construction on the new, 75-foot-tall substation will begin after crews finish undergrounding the power line. The overall project is currently on track to be complete and in service by the end of 2025, according to Dominion spokesperson Peggy Fox.
Dominion says the project will “generally” serve its customers south of Leesburg Pike and outside of the Capital Beltway (I-495).
Graphic via Dominion Energy
Fairfax County will add its voice to the chorus of local governments touting the presence and benefits of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail.
The Board of Supervisors authorized staff on Tuesday (Oct. 10) to sign an agreement committing the county to developing, maintaining and promoting its segments of the trail, which spans almost 900 miles from the Allegeny Highlands in western Pennsylvania to the Potomac River’s mouth in Northern Neck.
The roughly 137-mile Northern Virginia section includes segments in Great Falls, McLean and along the George Washington Memorial Parkway and Route 1 (Richmond Highway) from the City of Alexandria to Lorton.
“This is a mostly unknown trail connection that we’ve all been working on, believe it or not, for years,” Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck said before the board’s unanimous vote.
Designated in 1983, the Potomac Heritage Trail is overseen by the National Park Service, but it has enlisted local governments to manage segments in their borders under the memorandum of understanding (p. 413), which was initially developed in 2020.
In addition to Fairfax County, participating localities include Arlington, Loudoun and Prince William counties, along with Alexandria and the towns of Dumfries, Leesburg and Occoquan.
Per the MOU, the county’s park authority and transportation and public works departments will maintain trail segments, place markers at key points like major trailheads, promote the trail with media and way-finding or interpretive exhibits, and report on “visitation, volunteerism, and challenges and needs for completed segments.”
“The purpose of the agreement is to recognize the Trail network in northern Virginia and to realize fully the benefits associated with such recognition, including increased opportunities for outdoor recreation and nonmotorized transportation; for education, health, and heritage tourism; and for contributions to a vibrant regional economy,” county staff wrote in a summary for the Board of Supervisors.
The MOU also directs trail managers to “consider requests to plan, acquire lands and easements for, and develop segments of the Trail within respective jurisdictions.”
Storck said at Tuesday’s board meeting that his office has been working over the last few months to adjust some of the new trail segments “so they’re not right on Route 1.”
Working with Fort Belvoir to move its segments off the road has proven to be a challenge due to Defense Department rules on “what you can do and where,” but Storck said there has been “great progress” made on the trail.
“We’ll need to continue [that progress],” he said. “This will be something that gets worked on long after I’m gone, to find better ways to have it be more scenic and less urban…We’re doing the right thing, and as you see, it’s taken 50 years just to get this far, so we’ll keep plugging away.”
According to a trail map maintained by the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, Fairfax County still has gaps in the Mason Neck Trail along Gunston Road, on Old Colchester Road to connect Route 1 to the Mason Neck Peninsula, and between Great Falls Park and Scott’s Run Nature Preserve.
The Great Falls-to-Scott’s Run segment is unfunded, though one needed easement has been obtained at the Madeira School in McLean. The Gunston Road segment will cost an estimated $9 million and has gotten $4 million funded so far.
The route connecting Route 1 and Mason Neck may be tweaked as the county updates its overall trails map as part of its ActiveFairfax Transportation Plan, which is “tentatively” expected to get adopted in 2024, according to NVRC.
Residents are calling on the Fairfax County Park Authority to ensure that a trail is constructed on the south side of a new tunnel in Colvin Run Mill Park.
Construction on the $1.5 million tunnel under Route 7 as part of the widening of Leesburg Pike is currently underway. But the project, which is managed by state officials, lacks a 1,000-foot trail to the south side of the tunnel that would allow residents to walk to the park’s sites in Great Falls, Lake Fairfax and Gerry Connolly Cross County Trail.
In a recent call to action by the Friends of Colvin Run Mill, James Waller described the issue as a a “tunnel to nowhere” and urged members of the nonprofit to ask elected representatives to allocate carryover funds for the project.
In a statement to FFXnow, Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust says he hopes the park authority will use a portion of the carryover funds for the trail.
“The Park Authority, however, is an independent agency with many needs and challenges,” Foust wrote. “I cannot mandate when the Park Authority will allocate funds for the construction of this trail, but I am confident they consider it a priority and are trying to make it happen.”
But carryover funds can only be used for system-wide maintenance projects and not new amenities, according to FCPA spokesperson Benjamin Boxer.
“The carryover funding received from the County is restricted to different uses and will not be a part of this project,” Boxer said.
Boxer said the park authority has authorized up to $200,000 for feasibility, environmental review and design for the future trail project.
“Work is progressing as the studies have been completed and we are entering into the design phase of the project so that when future funding is identified, we will be ready to pursue the project,” Boxer wrote in the statement.
A ditch will no longer force pedestrians and bicyclists to ditch the shared path along Route 29 in Merrifield.
Construction has been substantially completed on a new, unbroken shared-use path spanning about one-third of a mile between Vaden Drive and Nutley Street, the Virginia Department of Transportation announced on Friday (Oct. 6).
The path replaces an asphalt sidewalk that abruptly ended at an Accotink Creek tributary that runs under the roadway. In addition to filling in some missing segments, the project added a central yellow line to the new trail and extended a box culvert over the tributary to support it.
In the works since spring 2019, construction on the improvements began in November 2022. The project cost an estimated $3.8 million, funded by local dollars and a concession fee that the I-66 Express Lanes operator agreed to provide as part of the Outside the Beltway toll lanes extension.
“Construction on the project…is now substantially complete, with minor work occurring in the coming weeks until final completion with minimal impacts,” VDOT said.
#Merrifield area bicyclists & pedestrians – enjoy your new shared-use path along NB Rt 29 from Vaden Dr to Nutley St! This project constructed missing path segments and extended a culvert to carry the new path over an Accotink Creek tributary. 🚴🚶
— VDOT Northern VA (@VaDOTNOVA) October 6, 2023
While the new path isn’t especially long, it provides a crucial connection for pedestrians and cyclists to the nearby Vienna Metro station and other area sidewalks and trails, including ones in Towers Park, VDOT says.
However, that accessibility still ends at Nutley Street, since the south side of Route 29 has no sidewalk east of the intersection.
As part of a plan to redevelop the Pan Am Shopping Center, Fairfax County staff recommend implementing “continuous bicycle and pedestrian facilities along Route 29” in the future. The existing Bicycle Master Plan doesn’t show any trail on the south side and indicates that “further analysis and outreach is needed to determine the best fit for bicycle facilities along this roadway,” according to the amendment approved by the Board of Supervisors on Sept. 12.
Developer Federal Realty, which owns the shopping center, has proposed adding a 10-foot-wide shared-use path along Nutley Street with the redevelopment. To the north, VDOT is working to complete its I-66 shared-use trail, which opened a first segment in May that included a tunnel under Nutley.
As of Aug. 9, most remaining sections were slated to open this October, according to VDOT’s project website. That excludes a segment through the Route 50 interchange that’s not projected to open until spring 2024.
(Updated at 3:45 p.m.) A years-long effort to build a pedestrian and bicycle trail along Fairfax Blvd (Route 50) is facing a roadblock.
At a public hearing last Tuesday (Sept. 26), the Fairfax City Council deferred action on a special use permit for nearly 12,000 square feet of trail in Shiloh Street Park (10400 Shiloh Street). The affected area requires the permit because it is zoned for residential development.
The Shiloh Street Park passageway, which would include asphalt pavement, a boardwalk and a bridge over the Accotink Creek, would join the partially-constructed George Snyder Trail. Plans for the Snyder trail have been in the works for more than a decade.
Per a July presentation from city staff, the final version of the trail will be 1.78 miles long and offer a route for pedestrians and cyclists parallel to Fairfax Blvd from Chain Bridge Road (Route 123) to Draper Drive, connecting to the Wilcoxon Park trail.
The special use permit request for Shiloh Street Park now appears on the agenda for the council’s Oct. 10 meeting, where it will not require a public hearing. The vote to defer action was unanimous.
Councilmember D. Thomas Ross said he supported the deferral to give the council time to gather additional information and reflect on concerns raised by community members.
Councilmember Kate Doyle Feingold said the proposal was developed to use funding, rather than to serve residents.
Much of the Snyder trail’s $18.8 million estimated cost will be covered by money from the state’s I-66 Outside the Beltway project, which funds 16 projects approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board with the recommendation of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority.
“What we need to do is design things that the community and residents want, design things that protect our natural spaces, that make our residents feel safe and comfortable, places people love to go, like Daniels Run Trail,” Doyle Feingold said.
Among other concerns, she said the project would “take down an unnecessary hundreds of trees”
City staff estimate the Shiloh Street Park portion of the project would require removing 59 trees, while the overall project would require removing 568 trees — a prospect that has fueled opposition to the trail from some community members.
A mitigation plan to offset the prospective tree losses would plant 858 trees and 815 shrubs — all native species — in the project area, including 518 trees and 353 shrubs in the resource protection area, a city spokesperson says.
During the public hearing, four individuals who said they live in the Mosby Woods neighborhood near Shiloh Street Park spoke against having an access point to the trail near their homes, citing crime.
Ross said he recognized those concerns, and the city is taking action to address them. Ultimately, though, he remained supportive of the trail.
“From a trail perspective, and from our parks and our open space, opening them up to public access can be a good thing. It adds visibility. It adds public use,” he said.
Ross also said there has been “strong community support” for the trail over the years of its development.
The Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling called on riders to support trail construction ahead of a city council work session in July.
The vote on the Shiloh Street Park special use permit is not the last action the city council will take on the trail project this year. If the permit is approved, the body will vote this winter to award a contract for construction, which is scheduled for spring 2024, per city staff’s July presentation.
A rabid skunk was found on the Bull Run Occoquan Trail on Saturday, June 10, the Fairfax County Health Department confirmed today (Tuesday).
The skunk reportedly chased, sprayed and bit multiple hikers before it was found near Balmoral Terrace and Cannon Fort Drive in Clifton. Health officials advise that it may have had contact with other people or pets during the time that it was sick.
The skunk was described as an adult largely black animal with a large white stripe covering most of its back. It was reported several times between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. before it was captured by Animal Protection Police.
Rabies can infect wildlife — especially foxes, raccoons, skunk, bats and domestic animals. People get rabies when they are bitten or scratched by an animal infected by it.
To date, 10 animals have been diagnosed with rabies in the county this year, including a raccoon that was bitten by a dog in Vienna last month.
Here’s more from the health department on what to look out for:
Animals with rabies may act normally during the early stages of the disease, making it difficult to know if the animal is infected. As the disease progresses, animals often show changes in behavior. For example, wild animals may act very docile and domestic animals may become aggressive. Rabid animals may stagger, drool, or become paralyzed. Protect yourself and your family from rabies: stay away from wild animals and be sure pets are vaccinated against rabies every year. Remember, if the animal is not your own, leave it alone!
If bitten or scratched by an animal that might have rabies, wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention right away. When vaccinations are provided in time and appropriately, rabies treatment is 100 percent effective in preventing the disease. But if not treated, rabies is 100 percent fatal.
If anyone was bitten or scratched by the animal on or around June 10, county health officials urge individuals to call the Fairfax County Health Department Rabies Program at 703-246-2433, extension 711.
Photo via Bryan Padron/Unsplash
Questions continue to swirl around Lake Accotink Park’s long-term future, but that hasn’t stopped Fairfax County from pursuing some needed facility upgrades.
This Saturday (June 3), the Fairfax County Park Authority will celebrate the completion of its new Accotink Creek Crossing, a 320-foot-long concrete trail and 325-foot, elevated pedestrian bridge that closes 3.9-mile trail loop around the North Springfield park.
Coinciding with National Trails Day, the ribbon-cutting ceremony at 8:30 a.m. will be followed by a full day of outdoor activities, including nature and history hikes and a trail bicycle ride.
Under construction since last summer, the new crossing has improved the conditions and slope of the trail at the Lake Accotink dam outfall, according to the park authority.
“The previous stream crossing at the outfall of the Lake Accotink dam was subject to sudden and frequent flooding, often stranding trail users and tempting them to wade through swiftly moving water,” the authority said. “Additionally, excessive storm damage necessitated the total reconstruction of the trail twice within the last five years.”
The project was funded with just over $3 million from park bonds.
Playground replacement expected this year
Other impending improvements include an overhaul of the park’s playground, which has been out of commission since November after an inspector determined that the aging equipment was unsafe to use.
With $300,000 approved for a replacement, the park authority recently unveiled a design concept showcasing the features planned for the new playground, including a tower structure with a slide, four swings, a climbing net, a bouldering feature, a music feature, and a playhouse.
“In the interest of delivering a functional, safe and enjoyable playground experience as quickly as possible, this particular project was conducted as an in-kind replacement,” meaning it will fit within the footprint of the existing playground, FCPA spokesperson Benjamin Boxer said.
The new equipment is expected to be installed late this summer or by early fall, though the timeline could be revised “as ordering, delivery and installation details are finalized,” according to Boxer.
A connection has now been solidified between Herndon Metro station and Van Buren Street.
The Town of Herndon has completed construction of an 800-foot trail for pedestrians and bicyclists that connects the Metro station to Van Buren Street by Worldgate Centre.
“The 800-foot trail provides ready access to Metro for workers in the Worldgate and nearby office complexes,” the Town of Herndon said.
The trail goes live as Bike to Work Day kicks off on Friday (May 19). The Herndon area will have pit stops at the Innovation Center Metro station and the Town Hall Green.
Construction on the project began in September 2022. The project was completed roughly two months ahead of schedule, according to town spokesperson Anne Curtis.
The overall project cost $600,000 for design and construction. It was funded through a combination of town funds as well as funds from Fairfax County’s Herndon Metrorail Station Access Management Study.
The trail was officially opened last week, not long after construction finished on nearby improvements along Van Buren Street from Spring Street to Herndon Parkway. That “complete streets” project widened the road, added curb-and-gutter and bicycle lanes, and made some intersection and stormwater upgrades.
Fairfax County leaders will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony and an inaugural bicycle ride and walk tomorrow (Friday) to celebrate the completion of the Mount Vernon Memorial Highway Trail.
Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck will join the Fairfax County Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services at George Washington’s Gristmill to mark the finishing of the trail.
The purpose of the project was to complete missing trail segments between Richmond Highway (Route 1) and Southwood Drive, a span of approximately two miles.
The project completes the missing links for the:
- East Coast Greenway Trail
- Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail
- NoVa Loop Trail
Storck told FFXnow he has been pushing to get the project completed to connect more of the county’s Potomac Banks tourism sites and to provide new transportation and recreation options for residents.
“This new shared-use path now provides a continuous pedestrian and bicycle way from Richmond Highway to George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate, then north to the City of Alexandria and the District of Columbia,” Storck said. “It will also provide connections to the future ‘The One’ Bus Rapid Transit System.”
The project constructed a 6,400-foot-long, 10-foot-wide shared-use path, which includes a pedestrian bridge adjacent to the Mount Vernon Memorial Highway bridge crossing Dogue Creek.
“The Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail will provide a continuous facility for pedestrians and cyclists along Mount Vernon Memorial Highway from Route 1 to the Mount Vernon Estates,” the county website states.
The project also provided marked crosswalks and curb ramps compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations and standards to improve pedestrian crossings.
The county incorporated comments from a 2018 pedestrian safety public information meeting into the design plans.
“As an avid runner and cyclist, one of my priorities as supervisor has been pedestrian and bicycle safety, and completing missing trail and sidewalk connections,” Storck said.
The locally funded project cost approximately $6.5 million. The ceremony will start at 10 a.m.