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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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The Toll Brothers have proposed a 48-unit townhouse development in Tysons East (via Fairfax County)

The proposed Seneca Assemblage townhouse development could bring a number of enhancements to the transportation network in Tysons East.

With a rezoning application currently under review by Fairfax County, developer Toll Brothers envisions 48 townhouses, including eight workforce dwelling units, on a 3.8-acre site between La Salle and Seneca avenues, just west of the Dulles Toll Road.

The plan has been tweaked from an initial proposal submitted in September that called for 52 townhouses to replace the 13 standalone, single-family houses currently on the property. The developer now intends to keep one of the houses — labeled Unit 49 in the plan — whose owners want to stay, according to a county staff report published today (Thursday).

“The inclusion of Unit 49 allows the streetscape on La Salle Ave to be extended from the proposed [single-family attached] units all the way to Point Park,” staff wrote, referring to one of two potential public parks.

The 0.2-acre Point Park will be located on the southern end of the development near Magarity Road and could feature an open lawn, kids’ play equipment, bicycle racks, benches, a pet waste station, and other amenities.

The other public park, dubbed Buena Vista Park, will front some of the townhouses in lieu of a street, providing an 8-foot-wide sidewalk and seating areas with benches. Seneca Assemblage residents will also have access to private Courtyard Park at the center of the site with pedestrian paths, a turf lawn, a shade pergola, and bicycle racks.

The proposed Seneca Assemblage development will have 48 townhouses, three parks, and a new road (via Fairfax County)

The proposed streetscape for La Salle Avenue, Seneca Avenue, and a new Buena Vista Road connecting the two on the site’s northern end includes 6 to 8-foot-wide sidewalks and 8-foot landscape panels.

Toll Brothers initially designated Buena Vista Road as private, but the developer has now committed to designing and constructing the street within the project limits as a public road, with two 10-foot-wide travel lanes and an 8-foot-wide parking lane, according to a draft of proffers dated June 14.

As part of the proffer conditions negotiated with the county, the developer has also agreed to provide “a comprehensive walkway system” throughout the property and a painted crosswalk across Magarity Road at the Pimmit Drive intersection, pending approval by the Virginia Department of Transportation. Read More

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Franconia-Springfield Metro station (via Google Maps)

Metro is asking the public to weigh in on changes coming to the Franconia-Springfield Metro station.

Officials are proposing to add three new bus bays and a layover facility, eliminate the pick-up/drop-off area, and reconfigure sections of road near the station as well as access to entrances to the parking garage.

Additionally, Metro is looking to add intersections with signals at Metro Access Road and Frontier Drive, along with one reconfigured intersection to help with traffic flow.

These changes are as part of the planned Frontier Drive Extension, a $180 million project from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and Fairfax County. It will turn Frontier Drive into a large, four-lane divided roadway with a shared-use path and sidewalk.

The public can take a survey and provide written comments about the proposed designs until July 29 at 5 p.m. Residents can also weigh in at a virtual public hearing that Metro and VDOT will host on July 12.

The project’s intent is to better connect Frontier Drive and the Metro station to the new Transportation Security Administration (TSA) headquarters as well as other parts of Springfield.

“The project aims to relieve congestion and improve access to the Franconia-Springfield Metro station, the Springfield Mall and Town Center area, the General Services Administration (GSA) complex, the Northern Virginia Community College Medical Education Campus and the new Transportation Security Administration (TSA) building on Springfield Center Drive,” reads VDOT’s project page.

It was first proposed back in 2017, but this is the first opportunity for the public to hear about proposed designs. Designs are expected to be approved by the fall, according to the project page, which doesn’t list a construction timeline yet.

The proposed changes and additions of three new bus bays comes amid decreased ridership for the Franconia-Springfield Metro station over the last decade.

Even prior to the pandemic, this particular Metro station saw quite a dip in riders. In 2011, there was an average of 7,600 daily entries into the station, according to Metro’s own data, but that was more than halved by 2019, when there was only an average of 3,400 daily entries.

When asked whether Metro hopes ridership might bounce back with the Frontier Drive changes and TSA headquarters’ move, a spokesperson was unable to provide comment by publication besides noting that any projections would be “highly uncertain due to unpredictable effects of the pandemic.”

Photo via Google Maps

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The Virginia Department of Transportation has launched an interactive map showing the design and impacts of the 495 NEXT project (via VDOT)

(Updated at 3:15 p.m.) Construction to extend the I-495 Express Lanes from Tysons to the George Washington Memorial Parkway is moving full steam ahead, despite continued skepticism from many McLean residents.

The Virginia Department of Transportation shared revised designs for portions of the I-495 Northern Extension (495 NEXT) project at two public meetings earlier this week, one that convened in-person at Langley High School on Monday (June 6) and another held virtually yesterday (Tuesday).

Tweaks to the Live Oak Drive bridge as well as the Georgetown Pike and GW Parkway interchanges had some community members suggesting construction should be put on hold, citing safety concerns and arguing that coordination and public engagement on Maryland’s Capital Beltway toll lanes plan has been insufficient.

VDOT officials said they plan to continue working with Maryland and local residents, especially in McLean, to address specific design concerns, but they shut down the possibility of delaying the entire project.

“We are moving forward with construction,” VDOT Northern Virginia Megaprojects Director Susan Shaw said during last night’s virtual meeting. “We have a schedule, we have a budget, and we’re working to the plans as they have been approved.”

The project will extend the I-495 Express Lanes 2.5 miles from the Dulles Toll Road in Tysons to the GW Parkway. After breaking ground in March, construction on the actual interstate began about two weeks ago, VDOT project manager Rimpal Shah confirmed yesterday.

For the rest of this year, workers with contractor Lane Construction will focus on building piers for new Live Oak Drive and Georgetown Pike bridges over I-495, according to the presentation.

The 495 NEXT construction timeline, as of June 2022 (via VDOT)

Live Oak Drive

The planned bridge on Live Oak will have two lanes and a new 6-and-a-half-foot-wide sidewalk on the south side. Work scheduled in the next six months will include vegetation clearing and noise barrier demolition and construction.

Located south of the existing bridge, the new bridge has been slightly redesigned since the last public meeting in September to reduce disruptions to the adjacent residential neighborhood and keep an existing I-495 retaining wall in place during construction, VDOT staff reported. Read More

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Fairfax County hopes to acquire land from the Gates of McLean for a future Tysons connector road (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Fairfax County could exercise its eminent domain powers to acquire land for a road planned to connect Capital One’s future campus extension with the Dulles Toll Road in Tysons.

The Board of Supervisors agreed yesterday (Tuesday) to set a July 19 public hearing on the proposed acquisition from the Gates of McLean Condominium Unit Owners Association, which represents the 624-unit neighborhood that currently owns the land.

The land is needed for the construction of “an important public grid street” that will eventually run north from Scotts Crossing Road to the toll road’s eastbound off-ramp, according to the board agenda for yesterday’s meeting.

The connector road is in the street network envisioned by the Tysons Comprehensive Plan, and developer Cityline Partners committed to helping build it as part of the Scotts Run North project that the county approved in 2015.

The 9.4-acre development site at the northwestern corner of Scotts Crossing and Dolley Madison Blvd was sold to Capital One in May 2019. In a recent proposal to redevelop the land with parks and, later, mixed-use buildings, the financial corporation said it has been working with the county to accelerate the connector road portion of the project.

“Capital One…is committed to advancing construction of this planned public street, among others in the vicinity, to frontload critical transportation infrastructure as Tysons East continues to develop,” county staff said in the board agenda. “Acquiring this piece of land will enable this process to move forward.”

A parcel of land currently owned by The Gates of McLean is needed for a road connecting Scotts Crossing Road to the Dulles Toll Road (via Fairfax County)

The Gates of McLean has owned the parcel in question since the community was first built as apartments in the late 1990s, according to Lisa Samuels, president of the association’s board of directors.

Located on the neighborhood’s southeastern side, the land is currently undeveloped green space, and pieces of it are protected by conservation easements.

“In terms of future plans for development, we certainly didn’t have any, but we knew that there might come a time where some of it might be acquired in order to build the extension of the road,” Samuels said.

According to Samuels, Capital One informed the association’s board of its interest in acquiring the land for the road about two years ago, but the discussion was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Samuels says the board “has no concern” about the county’s plan to take the land, since heavy overgrowth prevents the community from using it for recreation or other purposes.

However, the association’s bylaws require approval from 75% of unit owners for any land changes, and because most Gates of McLean owners don’t live on-site, instead renting out their condos to tenants, the board typically struggles to get a response rate higher than 15%.

“It’s just very difficult for us to get that supermajority that would be needed to sell the land,” Samuels said. “Our owners aren’t overly responsive to communications from us.”

Taking the land through eminent domain would enable construction on the connector road to begin on schedule, according to county staff.

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Officials are proposing adding bicycle lanes and crosswalks to Farmington Drive and Fordson Road, which are in two highly trafficked areas south of the Beltway.

On Farmington Drive, the lanes and additional shared street markings would go between Telegraph Road and Edgehill Drive bordering Jefferson Manor Park and near the Huntington Metro.

On Fordson Road, new bike lanes are being proposed for the short segment of the road in Hybla Valley that connects Mount Vernon Plaza to Richmond Highway. The shopping center recently gained a 3,200-square-foot parklet.

New crosswalks across Fordson Road at Cyrene Blvd and near the entrance of the McDonald’s at the shopping plaza are also being suggested.

This would restrict “most” on-street parking south of Cyrene Blvd, the county notes on the project page, though on-street parking will remain intact north of the road.

All of this is set to be discussed with the community at a virtual meeting next week (June 15). A recording of the meeting will be posted afterward, and community feedback will be accepted until June 29.

Fairfax County Department of Transportation spokesperson Robin Geiger says these types of measures are recommended by the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan and adding bike lanes can help slow down car traffic.

“The [roads are] wide enough to accommodate additional transportation infrastructure,” she wrote to FFXnow in an email. “Wide travel lanes can also lead to higher travel speeds, which is a safety concern for drivers, as well as cyclists and crossing pedestrians.”

The project only needs to be approved by District Supervisor Rodney Lusk, who is expected to make his decision in the coming weeks after the public comment period.

The proposed projects are part of the county’s annual maintenance, repaving, and striping of roads. Every year, FCDOT identifies roads that could be improved by additional safety measures like crosswalks, bicycle lanes, and shared street markings. The county collaborates with VDOT, which does the actual work and funding of the projects. The work begins in April and concludes in November.

However, these two projects were not part of the original collection of roads that were set for new safety measures this year.

The Farmington Drive and Fordson Road projects had originally been slated for consideration next year, but a lower bid on the paving contract allowed them to be possibly moved earlier.

If approved, the roads will be repaved between September 2022 and June 2023, so it still could be a full year before the new bicycle lanes and crosswalks are completed.

VDOT was not able to provide more information by publication on how much street parking would be lost with the addition of bike lanes to Fordson Road as well as the cost of both projects. Geiger did say the addition of bike lanes and crosswalks are just “making minor adjustments to the striping.”

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Fairfax County could ask a developer to pay $1.65 million to find a safer crossing at Wiehle Avenue in Reston (via Fairfax County)

The developer of a major mixed-use project near the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station could have to pay $1.65 million to help fund a safer alternative to a pedestrian crossing at the intersection of Wiehle Avenue at the eastbound Dulles Toll Road ramps.

At a board meeting yesterday (Tuesday), Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn introduced a board matter that would require developer TF Cornerstone, the developer of Campus Commons, to pay the proffered funds to build an alternative crossing for the area.

The board deferred a vote on the matter to the board’s next meeting later this month so staff could determine whether there might be legal concerns posed by the county dabbling in the implementation of proffers for developers.

“This is very unusual,” Alcorn said. “Frankly, this is the implementation of a proffer approved before I was supervisor. It’s probably not a process I would want to do again.”

The move came after Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross expressed concerns about the county’s involvement with proffers.

“I just want to make sure that we’re within our lane here with this request,” Gross said.

Alcorn says an at-grade crossing of Wiehle Avenue should only be explored if the improvement “can be achieved through enhanced multimodal design that demonstrates acceptable operational conditions and incorporates pedestrian safety measures” that are in line with his office, the Virginia Department of Transportation, and the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.

The move comes nearly three years after the board approved TF Cornerstones’ plans for Campus Commons — a project that would transform an aging office park at 1900 and 1902 Campus Common Drive into a 1.3 million-square-foot development.

Resounding community concerns about safety at the proposed at-grade crossing prompted the formation of a study group that evaluated three proposed options for the site.

But virtually all members voted against the three options proposed by TF Cornerstones. Instead, 71% supported a crossing with an underpass — which comes with a hefty price tag — and 59% supported an enhanced at-grade pedestrian crosswalk with more multimodal improvements. The conclusion came after 15 meetings between December 2019 and August 2021.

With none of the options in the approved Campus Commons plan finding support, Alcorn’s board matter suggests that the developer instead give the county money to build an alternative that would be refined after study on the Wiehle Avenue corridor and in coordination with future designs and crossings at Wiehle.

The developer plans to build three buildings with 655 apartments, more than 520,000 square feet of office space, and a little over 28,000 square feet of ground-floor retail. A 24-story tower and two small towers are proposed.

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The proposed Vienna Metro station segment of the I-66 Trail will extend from Nutley Street to Blake Lane (via VDOT)

Thanks to some unanticipated financial wiggle room, Fairfax County’s request for funds to build pedestrian facilities near the Vienna Metro station now has support from the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission.

At a meeting on Thursday (June 2), the regional group of elected officials approved the proposed trail as one of seven projects recommended for I-66 Commuter Choice funding, which comes from toll revenue and supports transit and infrastructure improvements in the corridor.

NVTC staff had recommended in April that the commission leave the trail off its list of projects to submit to the state for consideration. The six projects supported at that time included a continuation of Fairfax Connector’s bus service between the Vienna Metro and the Pentagon.

The projects were seeking $12.4 million in funds, and the group estimated that $14.1 million would be available. Fairfax County is requesting $2.2 million to build a nearly 1-mile I-66 Trail segment between the interstate’s Nutley Street interchange and Blake Lane in Oakton.

NVTC says the project could now be fully funded with $1.4 million that has been freed up by “a pending project closeout” on top of $1 million in “remaining revenue that staff had already identified” for the coming fiscal year 2023-2024, which starts July 1 and ends on June 30, 2023.

“The proposed trail would create a safe, attractive route to Metrorail by bicycle or foot for commuters making their way to destinations in the I-66 Inside the Beltway corridor,” NVTC said in its agenda for yesterday’s meeting.

The trail will consist of 5,000-foot-long cycle track and sidewalk along Country Creek Road/Virginia Center Boulevard and a 10-foot-wide, paved shared-use path along Sutton Road.

According to a staff report, the commission received 17 public comments specifically about the trail from an online survey that was open from April 15 to May 16. All but one expressed support for the project.

“This is the project I’m most supportive of. Anything we can do that makes it easier and more convenient to walk or bike we should do,” one respondent said.

With construction on the cycle track and path not expected to start until late 2024, the Virginia Department of Transportation is planning interim amenities for bicyclists and pedestrians that are scheduled to fall into place this year.

The addition of the Vienna Metro trail brings NVTC’s total funding request up to $15.1 million. The other submitted projects include bus service renewals, bus fare reductions in Prince William, a Virginia Railway Express parking garage in Manassas Park, and a new Ballston Metro entrance in Arlington.

The package will now go to the Commonwealth Transportation Board for possible inclusion in its FY 2023-2028 Six-Year Improvement Program, which will be finalized later this month.

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The proposed Lincoln Street design adds two mini-roundabouts and a median on Magarity Road (via FCDOT/YouTube)

A planned street that will eventually connect Tysons East to Pimmit Hills could bring some major changes to Magarity Road, the border between the two neighborhoods.

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation shared a conceptual design for Lincoln Street last month that proposed adding two mini-roundabouts on Magarity, including one at the Peabody Drive intersection in front of Westgate Elementary School.

The other potential roundabout will be at the Violet Ridge Place intersection.

Each roundabout will have a pedestrian refuge and crosswalks. A raised median down the center of Magarity will require Lincoln Street drivers to turn right and go through the roundabout at Peabody in order to go east into McLean, according to a presentation at a virtual community meeting on May 19.

FCDOT staff said computer simulations have indicated that the roundabouts will be able to accommodate larger vehicles, such as school buses, fire trucks, and snowplows.

“This dual mini roundabout alternative will accommodate all vehicles,” FCDOT project manager Caijun Luo said.

Acknowledging that the roundabouts will create some inconvenience by requiring U-turns for left turns onto Magarity Road, county staff said it emerged as the best option for connecting Lincoln Street from a safety standpoint. It would also maintain access to the single-family homes lining the road’s east side as well as the existing curbside parking.

With more development coming into place in Tysons East, Lincoln Street will connect Magarity and Old Meadow Road with a bridge over Scott’s Run in an effort to divert some neighborhood traffic away from Route 123.

Though FCDOT previously suggested traffic signals were being considered at both intersections, Capital Projects Section Chief Michael Guarino said at the meeting that there will be stop signs instead, since “the volumes projected right now don’t warrant a traffic signal.”

The preliminary design for Lincoln Street next to Westgate Elementary School (via FCDOT/YouTube)

Lincoln Street will consist of two 11-foot-wide lanes — one in each direction — with a 10-foot-wide asphalt sidewalk on the north side and a 6-foot-wide concrete sidewalk on the south side. In the preliminary design, the sidewalks are separated from the road by grass buffers.

The travel lanes will each expand to 13 feet wide at the bridge over Scott’s Run, which will have concrete sidewalks on both sides. Staff said the bridge will have at least a 10-foot clearance for Scott’s Run Trail.

FCDOT confirmed that crosswalks and curb ramps will be added on Old Meadow Road, but many details — such as the possibility of connections from Lincoln Street to Scott’s Run Trail or flashing beacons at the Westgate Elementary crosswalks — will be worked out once the project progresses to the final design stage.

Staff promised to also examine how the new street will affect other intersections on Old Meadow and Magarity outside of the immediate project limits, particularly where Old Meadow meets Chain Bridge Road to the north.

That intersection already experiences traffic and speeding issues, community members said during the virtual meeting.

“That can be kind of busy and kind of hard to see, because…there’s a curve in the road at that point,” an attendee identified as Greg said. “Adding another road coming out there would certainly complicate that intersection further down, so it’s an impact that I’m glad you’re at least starting to think about.”

Following the community meeting, FCDOT is accepting input on the proposed concept through June 6.

Though the project is already fully funded, a final design isn’t scheduled to be completed until 2024. Land acquisitions could start that year, with construction starting in mid-2026 and finishing in late 2027.

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Traffic fills the Richmond Highway (via Fairfax County)

The public’s chance to comment on proposed tweaks to Fairfax County’s plan for bus rapid transit in the Route 1 corridor is almost over.

In a pair of April meetings, staff from the Fairfax County Department of Transportation recommended reducing the number of turn lanes currently along Route 1, also known as Richmond Highway, as well as some revisions to the project design, including reducing the design speed from 45 to 35 mph.

Branded The One, the planned BRT will travel to nine stations on Richmond Highway between the Huntington Metro station and Fort Belvoir. Prompted by community concerns, the proposed turn lane changes seek to improve the corridor, particularly for bicyclists and pedestrians.

In coordination with the Virginia Department of Transportation, county staff analyzed 30 proposals and recommended changes at 13 intersections:

  • Penn Daw Area — Entrance to Kings Crossing​
  • Penn Daw Area — Shields Avenue​
  • Furman Lane
  • Southgate Drive
  • Beacon Hill Road
  • Memorial Street​
  • Arlington Drive​
  • Fordson Road/Boswell Avenue​
  • Sherwood Hall Lane​
  • Ladson Lane​
  • North Buckman Road/Mount Vernon Highway​
  • Sacramento Drive/Cooper Road​
  • Jeff Todd Way/Mount Vernon Memorial Highway​

A 17-question survey seeking public input on whether to reduce turn lanes at those intersections will close at 5 p.m. today (Tuesday).

Federal money is projected to help the estimated $795 million project, according to the county. Construction could begin in 2026 and end in 2030.

Photo via Fairfax County

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