If you find trips on the Capital Beltway into Maryland nightmarish now, imagine what they would be like without any transit options.
That’s the scenario posed by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) in a new study on the value of the region’s transit network, including Metro, local bus services like Fairfax Connector and the Virginia Railway Express (VRE).
Released today (Thursday), the study found that the American Legion Bridge — the only direct link between Fairfax County and Maryland — would need to carry 24,653 or 8.2% more vehicles per day in 2025 if there was no transit (325,619 vehicles) compared to the projected traffic volume with transit (300,965 vehicles).
The other bridges across the Potomac River would see even bigger differences, led by a 39.2% increase on the Arlington Memorial Bridge.
“These bridges are congested today, and congestion will increase in the future. Without transit, however, the capacity constraint on the bridges would be substantially greater,” the study report says.
The report notes that rush-hour traffic on all of the Potomac crossings is projected to exceed capacity in 2025 regardless of transit availability. The American Legion Bridge would exceed capacity by 3,651 vehicles under the “base” conditions and by 7,379 vehicles under the “no transit” scenario — a 102% difference.
Construction is underway to widen the Capital Beltway (I-495) by adding two toll lanes in each direction from the Dulles Toll Road to just south of the American Legion Bridge. The Virginia Department of Transportation has forecast that the 495 NEXT project will move approximately 2,500 more people per hour in both directions, starting in 2025.
However, Maryland’s plans to replace and expand the bridge remain in limbo following the exit of its private partner. Replacing the American Legion Bridge would allow the Beltway to move 5,400 more people an hour, VDOT has said, but the endeavor will cost an estimated $1 billion.
According to an NVTC spokesperson, the study’s calculations incorporated the 495 NEXT project, but it didn’t include the possibility of future bus service between Tysons and Bethesda, as proposed by both Fairfax Connector and Metro.
“Our study evaluated the difference between what’s currently planned for 2025 and a scenario in which all transit in Northern Virginia is removed,” NVTC said. “That means the proposed future route from Tysons to Bethesda, using the American Legion Bridge, was not included since it won’t be in service by then.” Read More
Plans for a Route 7 bus rapid transit (BRT) system in Tysons are starting to take more concrete shape, outpacing an ongoing study of the corridor further to the south.
The service will initially launch in Tysons, operating between the Spring Hill and West Falls Church Metro stations, before later expanding into Falls Church and Alexandria, Fairfax County Department of Transportation staff told planning commission members at a May 11 committee meeting.
“Since the northern portion is kind of on a fast track, we would make this the first phase to see how it works,” Sean Schweitzer, a senior transportation planner for FCDOT, said. “It would work in the interim as a closed system until the rest can catch up.”
During the interim phase, the BRT will have nine stops, according to a comprehensive plan amendment proposed by county staff:
- The West Falls Church Metro station
- Westbound Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) at Chestnut Street
- Patterson Road, near the Tysons Station and Idylwood Plaza shopping cneters
- George C. Marshall Drive
- Fashion Blvd, serving Tysons Corner Center
- International Drive and Fletcher Street
- International and Greensboro Drive, next to Tysons Galleria
- International and Lincoln Circle
- Spring Hill Metro station
In the future, the Fletcher Street station could serve as a transfer point for an “enhanced” Gallows Road transit system, Schweitzer said. A study of that corridor down to Annandale is only just gearing up.
The route follows the preferred alignment along International Drive that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved in 2021. The West Falls Church Metro was chosen as an interim southern terminus so buses can turn around, but the county hasn’t ruled out the possibility of making it a permanent station.
“If [the BRT is] better served by going directly to the Metro station, where it can pick up more passengers versus staying on Route 7, we could make that adjustment and have that be the ultimate alignment,” Fairfax County Transportation Planning Chief Mike Garcia said.
Except for the Metro stations, each stop will have separate platforms for east and westbound travel, staggered to reduce right-of-way needs, according to county staff.
The buses will mostly utilize dedicated median lanes, but they have to join other traffic at the Metro stations and to make the left turn from International Drive to Spring Hill Road. Spring Hill and Tyco roads will have “Business Access and Transit” (BAT) lanes limited to buses and drivers turning into the commercial area east of the Spring Hill Metro station. Read More
The City of Fairfax is asking the public for help in planning long-anticipated improvements to Jermantown Road.
On Wednesday (May 31) from 7-9 p.m., Fairfax will hold an open house at Katherine Johnson Middle School (3801 Jermantown Road) so the public can weigh in on preliminary design concepts for the Jermantown Road Corridor Improvement Project.
The project is set to add sidewalks, medians, and pedestrian crossings along about a mile-long section of two-lane Jermantown Road that extends from Route 50 to the city limits at the I-66 interchange. Other changes include a traffic circle at Orchard Street as well as a right-turn lane south of Orchard Street.
Also proposed are enhanced roadway crossings at Katherine Johnson Middle School and Providence Elementary School (3616 Jermantown Road), and a reduction of the number of driveways and access points along the road.
“Jermantown Road provides key local access (residential, school, & commercial locations) and connections to Fairfax County,” the project page says. “Current conditions are challenging for some users, and accommodating future growth and changes will require improvements to help the city.”
Fairfax City received $21 million from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority to make these road improvements. There’s no timeline for when construction might begin or be completed, with the project now in the design phase.
The city first brought on engineers to provide a concept plan for the project in 2018. Two options were put on the table: a widening of all of Jermantown Road from two to four lanes or more limited “spot improvement” option. The latter prevailed.
Earlier this month, city council members got a preview of the planned improvements during a work session with city staff, including transportation director Wendy Block Sanford.
According to staff, the average daily traffic along Jermantown Road is about 14,000 vehicles a day — a relatively high number for a road of this nature. There are also more than 30 access points to the road, like entrances or driveways. Typically, access points are where more crashes occur.
The road also is home to a growing population, making pedestrian and bicycle access even more crucial. About 1,100 households either live on or within a quarter-mile of the road, per the staff presentation. In addition, about a quarter of the roughly 2,000 students who attend the two schools could walk to school if safety was improved.
As noted at the council work session, tomorrow’s open house is really the beginning of the engagement process.
“The 31st is really meant to be a kick-off and listening session,” Sanford told the city council. “We don’t have the answers yet. What we know are what some of the challenges are and we want to know more about those challenges and understand everything. There will be plenty more. This is truly the first engagement of many engagements.”
While not part of the project, but related since it connects, the Jermantown Road Bridge over I-66 is now scheduled to likely open in the fall. Previously expected to reopen this spring, the bridge is getting new sidewalks and bicycle paths.
Sanford said there are “some issues” going on between the Virginia Department of Transportation and the contractor, but the expectation is that it will open later this year.
Image via Google Maps
Fairfax County’s vision for a redevelopment of the Pan Am Shopping Center in Merrifield will likely include an emphasis on pedestrian and bicycle connections.
At a virtual community meeting on May 22, the county’s Department of Planning and Development offered a preview of its proposed comprehensive plan amendment to allow multifamily housing at the 25-acre retail center (3089 Nutley Street SW).
Among the draft recommendations, which are being finalized for a staff report expected on June 7, is a provision that the new development blocks be designed to facilitate pedestrian and bicycle access and minimize conflicts between different modes of travel.
In addition to keeping an existing path to the Providence Hall Apartments to the south, county staff have suggested adding a “north-south pedestrian connection” between Route 29 and the three residential buildings proposed by Pan Am owner Federal Realty.
The county is also contemplating recommendations for a shared-use path on the east side of Nutley Street and new or upgraded bus shelters on Nutley and Route 29.
“One of the things that we are trying to do as part of this plan amendment…is to really create a sense of place at the Pan Am Shopping Center, so that you can have the type of environment where people are being encouraged to walk there and bike there, not just drive there,” county plan development chief Graham Owen said.
The shared-use path will likely be separate from the street, he added after a community member raised concerns about bicycle lanes taking away space from cars on Nutley.
The redevelopment’s potential impact on traffic has been at the forefront of many residents’ minds. An analysis by county transportation staff found that the proposed overhaul would generate 803 more vehicle trips per day than the existing shopping center.
That would be 4,271 fewer trips than what’s possible under the current comprehensive plan, but community members in the meeting lamented that Nutley already has congestion and accessibility issues.
“Coming on Nutley from the [I-66] bridge side, the county needs to improve that. With that new crossroads, it is dangerous,” resident Francis Forgione said. “There’s no lights, and cars don’t stop entering and exiting the freeway…The county needs to somehow make it safe so you can approach from all directions, not just one direction.” Read More
Fairfax County is working through a list of dozens of projects that could bring transportation infrastructure improvements to Richmond Highway (Route 1).
County planners plan to discuss the Richmond Highway Transportation Plan at virtual meetings tonight (Wednesday) and tomorrow (May 25).
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the Embark Richmond Highway Comprehensive Plan in 2018. As part of that approval, the board directed county transportation staff to develop a funding plan for improvements throughout the corridor.
So far, the recommended projects and conceptual designs in the corridor include missing links between sidewalks so residents can take advantage of planned Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) stations and existing shopping centers.
Branded “The One,” the BRT will include nine stations between Huntington Metro Station and Fort Belvoir.
Projects for additional sidewalks are below:
- North Gateway CBC sidewalks
- Huntington TSA sidewalks
- Penn Daw CBC sidewalks
- Hybla Valley/Gum Springs CBC sidewalks
- Beacon/Groveton CBC sidewalks
- South County CBC sidewalks
- Woodlawn CBC sidewalks
A second class of projects builds more streetscapes between Community Business Center (CBC) areas, largely through private developers. But a quarter of the projects are included in the funding plan in the event that small elements need to be built by the county:
- North Gateway Grid of Streets
- Penn Daw Grid of Streets
- Beacon/Groveton Grid of Streets
- Hybla Valley/Gum Springs Grid of Streets
- Woodlawn Grid of Streets
The final class of projects include a mix of pedestrian connections, paths and trails:
- Buckman Road Bike/Ped Improvements
- Dart Drive Bike/Ped Improvements
- South Kings Highway Bike/Ped Improvements
- Lukens Lane Bike/Ped Improvements
- Ashton-Grey Goose-Hybla Valley Trail
- Pole Road Shared Use Path
- Old Mill Road Shared Use Path
- Jeff Todd Way Shared Use Path
- Douglas Street-Derek Road Connector Trail
- Davis Street-Arlington Drive Connector Trail
- Sherwood Hall Lane Bike Lane
- Frye Road Bike/Ped Improvement
- Beacon Hill Road Spot Improvement
The Fairfax County Department of Transportation has also developed design concepts for bicycle lanes on Arlington Drive, Quander Road, Southgate Drive and Memorial Street. There are two options for the Arlington Drive lane: one that would provide curbside parking and a landscape panel on both sides of the street, and one that would provide them only on one side.
Tomorrow’s meeting runs from 7-8:30 p.m. Thursday’s meeting takes place from noon to 1 p.m.
The Herndon Town Council is poised to approve its capital projects plan.
Known as the Capital Improvement Program (CIP), the six-year schedule sets funding plans for the town’s infrastructure projects and is incorporated as part of the operating budget.
This year’s $25.4 million plan includes new projects like sidewalk improvements along Spring Street and Locus Street. In recent years, residents have called on the town to improve safety and security for pedestrians in those specific areas.
The town is proposing nearly $1.4 million in funding to construct ADA-compliant 5-foot-wide sidewalks and curb-and-gutter along both sides of old Spring Street. The project would also include curb-cuts and crosswalks, extending from Locust Street to the new Spring Street.
The Locust Street project — which would also cost nearly $1.4 million — also includes sidewalks and curb-and-gutter along both sides of Locust Street. It would extend from old Spring Street to Elden Street.
Both projects may need to be constructed in phases, according to the proposal.
The Herndon Town Council is expected to discuss the proposed CIP for 2025-2029 at a work session tonight (Tuesday).
This year’s program continues to benefit from federal funding through the American Rescue Plan Act.
In a presentation, staff noted that many of the projects included in the plan are “addressing aging and deteriorating infrastructure.” The presentation described the plan as “reasonable,” given the current financial climate faced by the town and throughout the country.
A new project to implement life cycle updates at Herndon Community Center is also on the books.
The life-cycle projects, which would cost roughly $1.4 million, are not yet set in stone. The town plans to complete an analysis of the project’s scope by fiscal year 2029 in order to determine what areas need upgrades and replacement. The proposal notes that the roof needs to be replaced.
According to the proposal:
The racquetball court, fitness room, locker rooms, and gym HVAC units were last replaced in 2005 with a useful lifespan of 20 years. An analysis should be completed in FY28 to determine the project scope, estimated replacement schedule and construction costs. This project will replace and upgrade the units and address any duct and related infrastructure work needed to facilitate the new units.
The town also anticipates replacing the floor of three racquetball courts, which was last installed in 1989, and additional work on the sidewalls.
Local transportation officials are dreaming of a better future for Metrobus, including a 24-hour route connecting Tysons and Bethesda.
That route and others are part of Metro’s draft “Visionary Network,” an aspirational redesign of the 50-year-old bus network that will not be implemented — at least in full.
“It’s kind of setting the table large and saying what the opportunities are, and then constraining it,” said Allison Davis, vice president of planning at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, at the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors transportation committee meeting Tuesday (May 16).
Other highlights for Fairfax County in the visionary plan include an extension of the 38B bus route to Seven Corners. Currently, the bus runs from Ballston to Farragut Square. There could also be added connections to George Mason University, a new hub for Inova Alexandria Hospital, and busing at Dulles International Airport when train service isn’t running.
At the meeting, both Davis and Peter Cafiero, managing director of intermodal planning at WMATA, highlighted interest in the Tysons-Bethesda route, which could be enabled by the Capital Beltway widening that’s now under construction.
“We’ve had a ton of comments about that Bethesda-to-Tysons connection that I think a lot of people are really keen to see,” Davis said.
After collecting feedback on the visionary network through this spring, WMATA will put together two network designs this fall. One will be a short-term network that’s immediately usable, while the other will be a revised version of the visionary network.
Changes could begin in 2024 if Metro’s board of directors approves the recommended short-term network in December.
WMATA is collaborating on the project with the Fairfax County Department of Transportation, which manages the Fairfax Connector bus system.
“We have been working with our partners at WMATA since the beginning of the process,” said Michael Felschow, planning section chief in the transit services division of FCDOT. “Our focus is to make sure our plans coordinate well with their plans.”
That coordination will involve making sure there are no gaps or duplications in service and helping to define service levels for prioritized routes, including on corridors such as Route 50, Braddock Road, Columbia Pike and Little River Turnpike.
“Our system doesn’t really provide a lot of service in these corridors, but we want to make sure we’re linking to these corridors at key terminals,” Felschow said.
Even as county staff works with WMATA, the county’s Transit Strategic Plan should remain “the driver” for FCDOT’s decision-making, Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said. Cost efficiency should also be a “huge driver” in determining who operates different bus routes.
“I do think the vision of where these routes are and how we can make sure there’s no gaps in service and other things is absolutely an essential thing to do,” McKay said.
As currently outlined, the visionary network would require a 35% increase in funding for Metrobus. WMATA’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2024 allocates $742.9 million to Metrobus, a slight decrease from the $743.9 million budgeted in FY 2023.
The public comment period for the draft visionary network runs until June 5. Community members can weigh in on the network redesign ideas online and at pop-up events. The visionary network is part of the broader Better Bus initiative.
Map via WMATA
Rising construction costs have created a funding gap for the widening of East Spring Street.
The Town of Herndon is seeking roughly $3.1 million in federal funding for the project, which is administered by the Virginia Department of Transportation.
The move will require a 20% match from the town. In a memo to the Herndon Town Council, staff said that the funding shortfall was caused by increasing construction costs.
“The full amount of the funding gap would otherwise be borne by the Town of Herndon,” staff said in the March 16 memo.
The project would be funded under the federal Community Project Funding program, which selects projects through a congressionally-directed application process.
The nearly $11.5 million project will widen Spring Street and Herndon Parkway at the intersection of those two roads.
It will also add a cycle track on Herndon Parkway to connect with the Sugarland Run Stream Valley Trail, high-visibility crosswalks, a sidewalk on the south side of Spring Street to connect with the county sidewalk under Fairfax County Parkway, and new traffic signals and accessible pedestrian signals.
The project is currently under construction and is expected to warp up in late 2024, according to VDOT.
Fairfax County government staff said a proposal (action item 3) that aims to right-size how much developers pay for their transportation impacts could negatively affect funding for local projects.
Currently, developers have to pay to offset their transportation impact of added density if the development exceeds the limits established in the comprehensive plan for areas like Tysons, Reston or Centreville.
With the county trying to emphasize public transit in many of its denser areas, proposed changes could reduce the estimated “trip generation” of new development, and past contributions to programs offsetting that development impacts could be adjusted to the new standard.
Back in August, the Board of Supervisors directed staff to reevaluate guidelines for the county’s road funds in order to maintain the county as an appealing destination for developers, according to the board matter introduced by Chairman Jeff McKay.
“Recently, the County has been experiencing various forms of redevelopment, including repurposing buildings for different uses and the redevelopment of sites with new developments where other buildings had been rendered obsolete and torn down,” McKay wrote. “This redevelopment is vital in keeping the County economy competitive, as well as resilient…However, the adopted guidelines do not anticipate how to handle the new reality we are experiencing.”
McKay said some of the current contribution requirements for developers don’t reflect the reality of how much traffic the new developments are putting on roads:
For example, a project in Fair Lakes where an obsolete office building paid into the Road Fund in the 1980s is being replaced by townhomes. The townhomes will generate a lower trip rate than the office building. As such, and absent guidelines on how to address these instances, County staff was only able to give the developer credit for the previous contribution. However, that contribution was at a much lower square foot rate since it was made 40-years ago. Staff did not have the latitude to consider the lower trip generation rate, or how much the rates have increased over time when evaluating the Road Fund contribution.
But while that could benefit developers, staff also said that change could be a hit against the county’s transportation funding — and at-risk populations are most likely to be impacted.
According to the staff report:
Staff conducted an Equity Impact Assessment and concluded that this action may negatively impact at-risk populations. While there is a realized benefit of allowing developers to reduce their development derived contribution toward County road funds, that benefit comes at the expense of reduced transportation funding. Although the at-risk populations in most road fund areas are primarily within the low to average vulnerability index, the Centreville area has populations that falls within the high to very high vulnerability index. Reduced funding in all areas, especially Centreville, may result in reduced transportation services for populations in need of additional accessibility and transportation options.
In short, if approved, staff said there will be less money to spend on transportation projects.
“The proposed revisions to the road funds may result in reduced developer funds received for transportation projects,” the report said.
The item was docketed for review at a Board of Supervisors meeting on May 9 but was deferred.
The drive down Echols Street SE is about to get bumpier — and, the Town of Vienna hopes, a little slower.
After some initial skepticism, the Vienna Town Council gave its support on April 24 to traffic-calming measures designed to force drivers to slow down on the two-lane residential street, which crosses over Wolftrap Creek.
Town staff and the Transportation Safety Commission recommended installing three speed tables between Branch Road SE and Follin Lane, adding solid white parking lane lines on both sides of the roadway, and painting the word “Stop” before the three-way stop sign at the Berry Street SE intersection.
The recommendations are based on a traffic study conducted last year that showed 85% of vehicles driving up to 31 mph on the 25-mph street, Vienna’s acting public works director Christine Horner told the town council.
Some council members questioned whether those speeds are enough to need traffic calming.
“I’ve gone to the street a couple of times,” Councilmember Howard Springsteen said. “I personally would prefer to go with two [speed tables]. I think three is potentially excessive for that street.”
Echols Street just meets Vienna’s threshold for traffic calming, staff said. The town’s street safety guide states that physical measures can be considered if the 85th percentile average speed is 31 mph or higher, along with other criteria based on the type of road and traffic volumes.
Vienna Transportation Engineer Andrew Jinks noted that there was an additional police presence on the street when the traffic study was conducted on Nov. 3-10 last year, so typical speeds are likely higher than what was recorded.
Requested by a resident petition, the study counted a total of 3,765 vehicles in front of 509 Echols Street and 18,250 vehicles at the Wolftrap Creek crossing that week, observing speeds from 3 to 55 mph. The average speed at the creek was 27.2 mph.
“Basically, half the cars are going above the speed limit,” Councilmember Ray Brill observed.
According to a staff proposal, the speed tables will be located just before the Delano Drive SE intersection and on either side of the E Street intersection.
Speed tables are raised like speed bumps, but they’re wider and have a flat top, making them less disruptive to the passing vehicles. They can reduce speeds by around 6-9 mph on average, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation’s traffic calming guide.
Multiple tables are often needed for them to be effective, Jinks said. VDOT recommends placing the tables about 200 to 500 feet apart.
“If staff says it takes three to get the proper spacing to make an effect, I have to defer to staff on this,” Councilmember Chuck Anderson said, as Springsteen ultimately agreed.
The project has an estimated total cost of $20,000, including $6,000 for each of the speed tables, according to Jinks. The traffic calming devices will likely be installed within the next two to three months, a town spokesperson says.
Image via Google Maps