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The West Falls Church Active Transportation Study area (via FCDOT)

The general public’s last chance to weigh in on Fairfax County’s ongoing study of the bicycle and pedestrian network in the West Falls Church Metro station area will come later than anticipated.

Two community meetings that had been scheduled for next week will instead be held on Oct. 26 and 27, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation announced yesterday (Thursday).

A virtual meeting has been set for 7:30-9 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 26, and county staff will also host an in-person meeting in Longfellow Middle School’s cafeteria at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 27.

“The team felt like we had not given the amount of notice we had planned that we would ensure the most participation by residents and stakeholders in the community,” FCDOT told FFXnow. “This is the final round of community input and attendees will hear about the survey results on active transportation alternatives.”

Launched last December, the West Falls Church Active Transportation Study is intended to identify needed safety improvements and gaps in the bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure within a 2-mile radius around the Metro station (7040 Haycock Road).

After paving the way for over 1 million square feet of new development, the county hopes the study will result in projects that can mitigate traffic and safety concerns raised by residents, some of whom have argued that the area can’t support the anticipated growth.

Replacing parking lots with housing, office, and retail construction, the proposed West Falls Church Metro redevelopment will include a new grid of streets that EYA — one of three developers involved in the project — has said should help alleviate pressure on the existing local streets.

However, that won’t address the missing sidewalks and lack of safe street crossings that community members highlighted during an initial round of public engagement on the transportation study in February.

The feedback will be used by county staff and a 13-person advisory group to develop recommendations for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on the future of non-motorized transportation in the area.

Adjacent to the Metro station redevelopment site, construction is underway on the West Falls project in neighboring Falls Church City, and plans were submitted last week for a major buildout of Virginia Tech’s Northern Virginia Center campus.

Map via FCDOT

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A rendering of the proposed development outside the West Falls Church Metro station (via WMATA)

Metro anticipates reducing the parking capacity at its West Falls Church station by over 700 spaces in order to accommodate a planned redevelopment of the property between I-66 and Haycock Road.

Under review by Fairfax County, the project would replace the Metro station’s surface parking lots with 24 acres of mixed-use development, including up to 900 residential units, 110,000 square feet of office, and 10,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.

Working with private developers known collectively as FGCP-Metro LLC, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has proposed eliminating a south parking lot off of Falls Church Drive and reducing the number of bus bays and Kiss & Ride spots at the station.

“Proposed changes are intended to promote transit-oriented development, increase Metro ridership, enhance bicycle and pedestrian access to the station, and modernize transit facilities,” WMATA says.

Park and Ride

Taking out the south parking lot will reduce the station’s park-and-ride capacity from 2,009 to 1,350 spots, according to an environmental evaluation by the consultant WSP.

The evaluation found that demand had dropped from an average of 1,500 vehicles per day when the Silver Line opened in 2014 to 850 per day in 2017. Prior to the pandemic, the average rebounded to 950 in 2018 and 1,100 in 2019.

The West Falls Church Metro station’s existing parking lots (via Google Maps)

About 1,350 to 1,400 spaces are projected to be sufficient to meet parking demand through 2045, the report says. The station’s existing 1,200 garage will be retained, while construction on the office and multifamily residential buildings planned on the north parking lot won’t begin for another 10 years.

At that time, Metro will “reassess” whether to keep as parking or give the developers permission to redevelop it, on the condition that private garages for the new buildings include 150 to 200 spots for commuters.

“Several factors could affect commuter parking demand, including post-COVID changes in commuter travel patterns, the planned openings of Silver Line phase 2 and the I-66 toll lane project, and efforts by Metro to manage parking demand,” the evaluation says, noting that FGCP-Metro will construct approximately 700 parking spaces. Read More

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Huntington Metro station (staff photo by Matt Blitz)

Shuttles, increased capacity, and an extension of the Blue Line are among the changes Metro will make to help riders when the Yellow Line shuts down this weekend, a closure that will last eight months.

Starting this Saturday (Sept. 10), the Yellow Line bridge and tunnels will close until May 2023 for long-overdue repair work. Construction will also be done to connect the new Potomac Yard station to the main rail system so that station can open this fall.

Both projects will result in a months-long shutdown of the Yellow Line, which runs through Arlington, Alexandria, and Fairfax County. Parts of the Blue Line will also be closed through Oct. 22.

While this will undoubtedly inconvenience many local riders, Metro hopes to mitigate the impact of the construction and shutdown, which will happen in two phases.

During the first phase, which begins Saturday (Sept. 10) and lasts through Oct. 22, all six Blue and Yellow Line stations south of Reagan National Airport will be closed, as the Potomac Yard construction is completed. Those stations include Braddock Road, King Street, Van Dorn Street, Franconia-Springfield, Eisenhower Avenue, and Huntington.

Metro will offer seven free shuttles will be offered during this time. Options include local, express, and limited-stop shuttles that cross the Potomac River.

The local shuttles will stop at all Metro stations and be available during all Metrorail operating hours.

  • Blue Line Local: Between Franconia, Van Dorn Street, King Street, Braddock Road, and National Airport stations every 10-20 minutes
  • Yellow Line Local: Between Huntington, Eisenhower Avenue, King Street, Braddock Road, and Crystal City stations every 10-15 minutes.

Express shuttles, which will stop at the Pentagon and at the end of each line, will be available from 4:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays, and from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends.

  • Blue Line Express: Franconia-Pentagon Express service between Franconia and Pentagon stations every six minutes.
  • Yellow Line Express: Huntington-Pentagon Express service between Huntington and Pentagon stations every six minutes.

Limited shuttles, which will take riders into D.C., will be available during weekday rush hours only.

  • VA-DC Shuttle 1: Between Crystal City, Pentagon City, Smithsonian, and L’Enfant Plaza stations every 12 minutes
  • VA-DC Shuttle 2: Between Pentagon, Smithsonian, and Archives stations every 12 minutes.
  • VA-DC Shuttle 3 (former 11Y route): Between Mt. Vernon, Alexandria, and Potomac Park stations every 20 minutes. Peak direction service only.

Metro will increase capacity on the other lines by shortening wait times and increasing the length of railcars. Read More

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Safety and operational improvements are under construction at the Backlick Road and Leesville Blvd intersection in Springfield (via VDOT/Twitter)

Work is underway on traffic signal and crosswalk improvements at a heavily used intersection in Springfield, the Virginia Department of Transportation announced yesterday (Wednesday).

Drivers and pedestrians at the intersection of Backlick Road and Leesville Blvd will see a number of changes intended to improve the site’s safety and functionality:

The traffic signal upgrades include new mast arm poles, foundations, wiring, electrical equipment, high-visibility signal backplates and signs. Also, drivers on Backlick Road will have flashing yellow arrows for left turns to Leesville Boulevard and the office park.

Pedestrians will have four new crosswalks with Accessible Pedestrian Signals at the intersection, as well as two new pedestrian islands on Leesville Boulevard. Other pedestrian improvements include American with Disabilities Act (ADA) curb ramp upgrades and installations.

In the works since August 2019, the project carries an estimated cost of $700,000, according to VDOT’s webpage. The funding came from the Virginia Highway Safety Improvement Program.

Located north of the I-95 and I-495 interchange, the intersection averages about 30,000 vehicles a day on Backlick Road and 4,000 on Leesville.

Construction is expected to be finished next summer.

“Drivers, cyclists and pedestrians are reminded to use caution when traveling in active work zones,” VDOT said in its news release. “Be alert to new traffic patterns, limit distractions and follow detour route signage.”

Photo via VDOT/Twitter

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The proposed Rock Hill Road Bridge will connect Fairfax and Loudoun counties over the Dulles Toll Road (via Fairfax County)

(Updated at 10:40 a.m. on 8/8/2022) Planning for a new bridge connection between Fairfax and Loudoun counties over the Dulles Toll Road has officially begun.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously authorized a project agreement with the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority on Tuesday (Aug. 2) for the $196 million project. The vote was conducted with no discussion.

Located at the intersection of Rock Hill Road and Davis Drive, the bridge would connect Sunrise Valley Drive over the toll road to Innovation Avenue in Loudoun County. 

A new four-lane road with bicycle lanes and a sidewalk on both sides is anticipated in an effort to provide direct connections with the Innovation Center Metro Station area.

“The project will provide additional capacity across the Dulles Corridor, reduce congestion and delay on Route 28 and Centreville Road, and improve accessibility and mobility to and within the area surrounding the Innovation Center Metrorail Station,” county staff said in a memo. 

Currently, the Virginia Department of Transportation is competing a feasibility study, which is expected to wrap up in early fall.

The study will include information on the conceptual design for the preferred design, cross section features, the bridge’s type, size, and exact location, as well as cost estimates and timeline. 

It’s too early to know when the project will officially begin construction, but that is likely years down the line.

Over the next few years, staff will identify ways to fund the project through various pools of money. For now, the project is partially funded with NVTA’s regional funds.

Tuesday’s vote simply secures a project agreement between the NVTA and the county by allocating $20.6 million for the project.

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Fairfax County will acquire a parcel of land currently owned by The Gates of McLean for a road connecting Scotts Crossing Road to the Dulles Airport Access Road (via Fairfax County)

Fairfax County will use eminent domain to obtain land valued at nearly $3 million so it can build a road connecting Capital One Center in Tysons to the Dulles Airport Access Road.

With Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity abstaining, the Board of Supervisors voted 9-0 after a public hearing yesterday (Tuesday) to authorize county staff to acquire the 25,374-square-foot parcel, which is currently part of the Gates of McLean property north of Scotts Crossing Road.

In exchange, the Gates of McLean Condominium Unit Association could get more than $2.9 million based on an appraisal conducted on Nov. 4, 2021, county documents show. The county sent a letter to the association with the compensation offer on March 25.

Nicole Wilson, a right of way agent in the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services’ land acquisition division, confirmed that the board’s vote allows staff to pursue an agreement, but the deal hasn’t been finalized yet.

“This is not certainly the end of the conversation from the owners’ association, but allows you to continue to proceed moving forward and negotiate some of the terms under which the acquisition would occur,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said.

Lisa Samuels, president of the condo association’s board of directors, previously told FFXnow that the group had no concerns with the county taking the land for the road.

The association’s bylaws require a majority of owners in the 624-unit development to approve any land changes, but since most units are rented out to tenants, a vote was deemed “impractical,” according to a county staff report.

As a result, the board needs to use its quick-take powers so construction can begin, staff said. The adopted resolution states that the land rights must be acquired by Sept. 3 to keep the project on schedule.

The planned public street from Scotts Crossing to the airport access road “will help to relieve traffic congestion in the area” and pave the way for a “future realignment of an existing ramp connection to the Dulles Toll Road,” Wilson told the board.

Developer Cityline Partner offered to help build the street with the Scotts Run North project it got approved in 2015. After taking over the 9.4-acre property in 2019, Capital One has proposed building a portion of the road as part of a plan for parks on the site.

Though Samuels characterized the parcel sought by the county as too overgrown to be useful for recreation or other purposes, Gates of McLean owner and resident Donald Garrett — the only speaker at the public hearing — testified that it includes a walking path used by residents and their dogs.

“There should be recognition that we are asked to give up part of our green space and recreation space for a road project,” Garrett said. “Outside of financial compensation, I believe there are policy options at the county’s disposal to offer unit owners an equitable compensation.”

He suggested the county include pedestrian enhancements in the road project or give Gates of McLean residents priority booking at a nearby park or athletic field for events.

Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said the county will keep working with the condo association and residents throughout the negotiation process.

“We definitely want to ensure that, as the development continues in this area, that there will be definitely focus on the access to green spaces, safety for pedestrians, and ensuring that we have access to the businesses and residential communities in this area,” Palchik said.

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

A developer-proposed solution for a new crossing at Wiehle Avenue at the eastbound Dulles Toll Road ramps in Reston is officially off the table.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously yesterday (Tuesday) to consider a different proposal for the controversial crossing, which was the subject of vigorous debate during the approval of TF Cornerstone’s Campus Commons project.

Community concerns about the safety of an at-grade crossing led to the formation of a study group that identified several options for the crossing. Not one member of the group — which met 15 times between December 2019 and August 2021 — supported the developer’s suggested overpass options or an at-grade crosswalk. Most favored an alternative crossing through an underpass — which comes with a hefty price tag.

With a deadline looming to make a decision on the proffer, the board has officially decided to ditch the developer’s proposed options and explore what Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn says will be the most appropriate pedestrian crossing option.

Alcorn says a final decision on the crossing will come after the county completes a corridor study of Wiehle Avenue between Sunrise Valley Drive and the Washington & Old Dominion Trail. The study was approved in September of last year and will begin six months after phase two of the Silver Line opens.

Yesterday’s board matter formalizes language that the board will not support the developer’s proposed overpass options. The developer will either construct the crossing ultimately selected or provide $1.65 million as laid out in the proffers.

So far, the county has hinted at pursuing a “high visibility” at-grade crossing.

In his board matter, Alcorn said the proposal should “address documented concerns raised by the community…to ensure that this improvement is designed to be aesthetically pleasing, highly efficient, safe and accessible for all users.”

The Campus Commons matter was initially deferred last month for clerical changes and the refinement of legalese.

The vote comes nearly three years after the board approved the Campus Commons project, which will transform an aging office park at 1900 and 1902 Campus Common Drive into a 1.3 million-square-foot development.

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Reston’s massive Soapstone Connector project will likely cut through a historic district (via FCDOT)

A massive, half-mile road extension in Reston will likely have to cut through a historic district on Association Drive.

The Soapstone Connector would bring a new, direct link between Sunset Hills Road and Sunrise Valley Drive over the Dulles Toll Road — a critical connection that would relieve congestion on Wiehle Avenue.

As preliminary design work continues, county and state planners have revised an environmental assessment — first completed in 2017 — with updated traffic studies, summaries of previous public hearings, an impact analysis and additional documentation, according to Negin Askarzadeh, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation’s Soapstone Connector project coordinator.

The county’s transportation department held a meeting on the topic for the first time in several years last night (Monday). It was the first public meeting since 2018.

The county still favors one option of several discussed thus far: the southern terminus would be located at the intersection of Soapstone Drive and Sunrise Valley Drive, while the northern terminus would connect to Sunset Hills Road. The proposal would disrupt nine of 10 sites potentially eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

The Soapstone Connector would link Soapstone Drive to Sunset Hills Road over the Dulles Toll Road in Reston (via Fairfax County)

A new memorandum of agreement between federal, state and county stakeholders details a number of mitigation measures to limit the impact on the historic area.

Askarzadeh also said a public historical report would be prepared in order to “meaningfully convey the importance of the district” as part of Reston’s planned community.

By 2046, the existing transportation network won’t be able to accommodate projected peak hour demand for travel in the area. The average delay at Reston’s major intersections is expected to increase from 40 to 80 seconds.

A draft evaluation — known in planning jargon as a 4(f) evaluation — also states that “there is no feasible and prudent alternative to the use of land from the historic district,” according to the county. The report, completed in 2020, was recently approved for public availability.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is expected to make a decision on the preferred alternative for the project after reviewing the drafted agreement. The document also requires the approval of the Federal Highway Administration to determine that no other alternative is feasible to proceed with the project.

Once those approvals are in place, the county will coordinate with the Virginia Department of Transportation to begin designing the project.

At the meeting, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said he looks forward to the next steps in the planning process.

“This project has been a long time in the making so we’re moving forward,” Alcorn said.

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Morning Notes

The Vienna bookstore Bards Alley celebrated its fifth anniversary this past weekend (staff photo by Pia Kramer)

GW Parkway Rehab Breaks Ground in McLean — “Top federal and local officials participated in a groundbreaking ceremony Monday morning on a $161 [million] project to upgrade the northern section of the George Washington Memorial Parkway.” [Patch]

W&OD Trail Detour Starts in Reston — “In preparation for the future bridge there, underground utilities along the trail on the west side of Wiehle Ave in Reston are being relocated, necessitating a detour to the gravel trail to the north. This detour will be in effect from Tues, July 19 to Fri, July 22.” [W&OD Trail/Twitter]

Plastic Bag Tax Coming to Fairfax City — “Effective Jan. 1, 2023, disposable plastic bags provided at point of sale to consumers at grocery stores, convenience stores, and drugstores in Fairfax City will be subject to a 5 cent tax. To avoid the tax, consumers can provide their own reusable shopping bags, or opt out of bags altogether.” [City of Fairfax]

NoVA Leaders Advocate for More Express Lanes — “Northern Virginia has been transformed for the last decade by Express Lanes projects and regional leaders say more of the same is needed — including over the Potomac River and into Maryland — if the metropolitan area is to continue thriving.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

Wegmans Plans Hiring Event for Reston Store — “Wegmans Food Markets will be hosting a virtual hiring event Thursday to fill 100 full-time positions at its new Reston grocery store, which is set to open in early 2023…The virtual hiring event will run from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., on Thursday.” [Patch]

County Brings Public Safety Talks to Barbershops — “@fairfaxhealth along with @FairfaxCountyPD and @FairfaxCSB is hosting a series of conversations at barbershops around the county. The focus will be on community policing, substance abuse, and building trust in our community. No RSVP is required.” [Fairfax County Government/Twitter]

Vienna Student Wins State Tennis Title — “Unlike the previous season, Simone Bergeron was totally satisfied with her perfect campaign in girls tennis this past spring. The Madison Warhawks junior capped the 2022 season by winning the Virginia High School League’s Class 6 girls state-championship singles tournament.” [Sun Gazette]

It’s Tuesday — Humid and mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 87 and low of 74. Sunrise at 6:00 am and sunset at 8:33 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Traffic fills the Richmond Highway (via Fairfax County)

The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) has awarded nearly $341 million to seven major transportation projects in Fairfax County.

Approved on Thursday (July 14), the NVTA gave out about $630 million to 20 projects across the region with its latest six-year program. More than half the money went to projects in Fairfax County.

“The NVTA takes a multimodal approach to providing transportation solutions and options that keep Northern Virginia and beyond moving, recognizing there is no one-size-fits-all solution to tackling traffic congestion in the Washington, D.C. region,” NVTA chair and Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall said in a statement. “The 20 projects the NVTA has just adopted are no exception.”

NVTA committed to funding six county projects and one project from the Town of Herndon:

“We regularly talk about our goal in Fairfax County to ‘move people’ no matter how they choose or need to travel. I could not be more pleased with this investment in our community,” Board of Supervisors Chair Jeff McKay wrote in a statement. “Fairfax County is the economic engine of the Commonwealth, and our infrastructure is at the core of this tremendous progress.”

The Fairfax County Parkway funding will widen 2.5 miles of the road between Nomes Court and Route 123 (Ox Road) in Fairfax Station as part of a larger project. No timeline is being given yet for when construction might start or be completed, according to the project page.

Fairfax Connector will acquire eight electric buses to initially serve four routes between Tysons and Franconia, potentially starting by the end of this year.

The combined $140 million for the two Richmond Highway projects will widen a three-mile stretch of the corridor from four to six lanes, among other improvements, and support The One, a dedicated bus service.

According to the Virginia Department of Transportation, construction on the widening could begin “as early as 2025” and take three to four years to complete.

The bus rapid transit service expected to serve up to 15,000 passengers a day with nine stations by the time it’s completed in 2030. All in all, both projects are expected to cost a billion dollars in total. Read More

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