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The Fairfax Board of Supervisors recently got a preview of what future transit connections between Tysons and Maryland could look like.

At a transportation committee meeting on Tuesday (Jan. 31), Todd Horsley, the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation’s director of  Northern Virginia Transit Programs, presented a study of how transit could make use of the I-495 Express Lanes being extended from Springfield across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

Horsley pointed out, repeatedly, that the designs presented were not a plan, but part of a study that could be used in case those transit plans came along later.

“The VDOT study…[is] to extend I-495 Express Lanes across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge into Maryland,” Horsley said. “The document we will produce is a study, not a plan. We believe it will provide a solid foundation for a future planning effort if or when there is a funded capital project in the corridor to plan for.”

Currently, there is limited bus service along I-495 and across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. But if new I-495 toll lanes are built, Horsley said the department wanted to provide a look at what future transit connectivity on those lanes could look like.

The short-term plans — which Horsley said could be implemented almost immediately using the express lanes — could include an express route that would run from Tysons down to Alexandria. The other route could connect Tysons to locations in Maryland.

The mid-term plans doubled down on that Maryland connection with bus routes connecting Tysons to Oxon Hill, Clinton, National Harbor, and even up into Navy Yard in D.C. Those routes, Horsley said, could be implemented sometime between this year and 2045.

The longer-term connections beyond 2045 would include both more extensive bus coverage connecting Fairfax County and parts of Alexandria, and curling that cross-Woodrow Wilson Bridge connection up into The Wharf.

The study also included a model of a rail connection from Huntington into Maryland, but Horsley said it didn’t show a huge benefit in the short term for ridership compared to buses on express routes.

Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck said despite the lack of short-term benefits in the modeling, the proposal would be worth keeping an eye on.

“I recognize the first stage of that could be using bus transportation and etcetera,” Storck said, “but if we’re looking at 2040 and 2045 and we’re not looking at what fits in after that, I think we’re making a big mistake.”

Public comments on the I-495 Southside transit study will be accepted via e-mail to drptpr@drpt.virginia.gov through Wednesday, Feb. 22.

Photo via Google Maps

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The tennis and pickleball courts at Glyndon Park in Vienna (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Getting court time at Glyndon Park in Vienna may be tougher going forward for pickleball players.

In the hopes of alleviating noise complaints from nearby residents, the Vienna Town Council approved a significant reduction in playing time for the increasingly popular sport at the 11-acre park’s four courts during its Monday (Jan. 23) meeting.

However, the new schedule represents less of a reduction in days than initially proposed, allowing pickleball on four days per week instead of just three. It also eliminates shared playing times between tennis and pickleball, so hours designated for pickleball will be exclusively reserved for that sport.

“I see this as a long-term issue,” said Councilmember Chuck Anderson, who proposed the adopted schedule. “I think we all on council agree on that, that what we need to do is roll up our sleeves and take a look at capacity. This is a rapidly growing game. It’s very popular, but it also has a noise issue, and it’s something I think we need to work on and manage.

Pickleball is now limited at the park to the following hours:

Dec. 1 to the end of February

  • 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday
  • 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday

March 1 through Nov. 30

  • 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday
  • 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday

Outside of those hours, only tennis will be allowed. The courts close at 10 p.m.

As part of the approved motion, the council also directed the Department of Parks and Recreation to post signage at the park recommending that pickleball players use “quiet” paddles that supposedly make less noise.

Prior to Monday’s 5-2 vote, pickleball and tennis were both permitted at Glyndon Park (300 Glyndon Street NE) seven days a week, but they alternated during open-play hours on Monday through Thursday mornings — a schedule confusing enough that the town council spent several minutes of a Jan. 23 conference session on the proposed changes trying to get clarification.

Anderson said he had considered continuing some shared usage of the courts as part of his proposal but ultimately decided it would be too complicated. He also found that the suggestion didn’t appeal to either pickleball players or the residents who raised the noise issues.

“If you start sharing [on pickleball days], you have to do it the other way too,” he said. “On a tennis day, if the tennis courts aren’t being used and a pickleball player shows up, it would be used, and I just don’t think that’s workable.”

Since Vienna added pickleball lines to Glyndon Park’s two tennis courts in 2020, some residents have complained that the noise made by paddles hitting the plastic balls is “unbearable,” an issue that has cropped up across the country.

Town staff reduced open-play hours and introduced a reservation system for afternoons, but complaints persisted, with some residents calling for pickleball to be banned from the park altogether, Parks and Rec Director Leslie Herman told the council.

After talking with staff, the residents agreed limiting pickleball to Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays would be acceptable, leading Mayor Linda Colbert and Councilmember Ed Somers to object to the addition of a fourth day.

“I’m just concerned about adding a fourth day at this point. I might get there eventually if more people use the soft paddles, if the noise is reduced, if things change, I could get there very easily, but I’m not there right now,” Somers said to a smattering of claps from the audience.

Anderson and other supporters of the four-day schedule said it would give players more flexibility, while starting play later and ending it earlier.

“There’s just a one-hour difference, and it gives people more peace in the mornings and evenings,” Councilmember Nisha Patel noted.

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Fairfax County Public Schools (file photo)

Fairfax County Public Schools has to adjust its budget outlook for the next two years after a miscalculation led the state to overestimate how much funding it will give local school districts.

The error means FCPS will get nearly $18 million less than it had anticipated, including $5.1 million for the current fiscal year 2023, which began on July 1, 2022. The remaining reduction of $12.7 million will affect the upcoming budget for FY 2024.

Overall, Fairfax County’s shortfall is the biggest of any district, Virginia Department of Education spokesperson Charles Pyle confirmed to FFXnow.

According to the Washington Post, an unidentified “someone” discovered last week that a calculator tool provided to help local school divisions determine their allocation from the state budget had failed to account for the elimination of the state’s grocery tax.

Virginia stopped imposing a 1.5% tax on groceries and personal hygiene products on Jan. 1, though a 1% local tax remains in effect. The legislation, which was incorporated into the state budget, directed the state to use its revenue to compensate localities for any lost education funding, starting Feb. 1.

“The tool released last month did not include recognition of the grocery tax hold harmless payment, which began in FY 2023,” State Superintendent Jillian Balow said in an email sent to local superintendents last Friday (Jan. 24).

Statewide, Virginia will provide $201 million less in aid than expected, including $58 million for the current school year, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Balow said the VDOE will release an updated calculation tool after the General Assembly votes on a new state budget on Feb. 9.

It’s unclear how the $18 million deficit will affect FCPS, though it’s a relatively small portion of the district’s $3.3 billion budget. FCPS said it didn’t have an immediate comment, as of press time.

As part of their legislative agenda for the General Assembly, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and school board are advocating for the state to increase its funding for FCPS, arguing that the current formulas used to calculate allocations for each district don’t adequately reflect the area’s high cost-of-living.

FCPS received a projected $869.7 million — or 26.4% of its operating budget — from the state for FY 2023.

A $3.5 billion budget that Superintendent Michelle Reid proposed last month projected $696.4 million in state aid. Items covered in the budget include the addition of middle school athletic programs, staff compensation increases, and expanded pre-kindergarten education.

“The average Virginia school division receives less than 50 percent of its financial support from its local government,” the budget overview says. “FCPS must rely on local funds for 68.8 percent of its revenue.”

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Tysons moviegoers can now escape to Pandora while munching on blackened salmon.

CMX CinéBistro (2001 International Drive, Suite 1700U) has officially opened at Tysons Galleria after a couple of delays last fall. The dine-in movie theater, which features a full bar and lounge, is located on the third floor of the mall’s redeveloped Macy’s wing.

CMX Cinemas announced on Instagram that its newest theater opened its doors for the first time last Friday (Jan. 27).

The 43,268-square-foot theater has over 800 reclining seats in eight screening rooms. Available in theaters and at the Stone Sports Bar in the lobby, the menu focuses on “rustic New American cuisine” prepared by formally trained chefs, CMX said in a press release.

“The thing that really sets our menu and concept apart from other theaters in the region is that we serve it in-theater while guests are sitting in a plush recliner, and we pair it with the latest projection and audio technology,” CMX CEO Patrick Ryan said. “We want to be able to check every box in terms of food, technology, comfort and amenities, because it’s when you put it all together that it adds up to an unbeatable experience.”

Dishes include blackened salmon with roasted garlic mash and butter sauce, artichoke cakes with Old Bay remoulade and Brazilian tomato slaw, a signature CMX Burger, and a crispy chicken bowl with jasmine rice.

Standard movie theater concessions are also available, along with alcoholic and non-alcoholic milkshakes.

Patrons planning to use the in-theater dining service need to arrive at least 30 minutes before their showtime, and except for films designated as “family-friendly,” showings after 8:30 p.m. are limited to people 21 and older.

Movies currently playing include recent Oscar nominees like “Avatar: The Way of Water” and “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” along with this weekend’s new releases “80 for Brady” and M. Night Shamalyan’s “Knock at the Cabin.” There was also a repertory screening of “Rocky” on Wednesday (Feb. 1).

Ticket prices vary based on the movie and time of day, from $8 for a weekday matinee of “80 for Brady” to $14.49 for a “prime time” showing of “Top Gun: Maverick” on Friday night. On Tuesdays, all tickets for adults and kids are just $5, according to a promotional sign outside the theater.

This is CMX’s first location in Fairfax County, though the Florida-based company has theaters in Richmond and Leesburg.

“We are proud of our tenant offerings, and CMX CineBistro is one of the final elements that will complete the new wing at Tysons Galleria,” said Chris Pine, executive vice president of anchors, big box leasing and development at Brookfield Properties for retail. “CMX offers a sophisticated and comfortable experience that compliments the Tysons Galleria experience.”

The final additions to the new wing include the Southeast Asian restaurant Jiwa Singapura, which is located directly across from CinéBistro and expected to open early this year, and Yard House.

The sports bar was scheduled to have a grand opening on Jan. 15, but permit issues with Fairfax County delayed the opening, which will now be on Feb. 26, according to Dylan Wieder, executive chef for Yard House’s Tysons location.

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A Fairfax County school bus tire caught on fire in Pimmit Hills (via Ring)

A Fairfax County Public Schools bus had a tire catch fire while on Route 7 yesterday (Wednesday), causing some alarm in the surrounding Pimmit Hills neighborhood.

The tire fire occurred around 11:42 a.m. on Leesburg Pike in front of the Trader Joe’s shopping center near Pimmit Drive, as first reported by the Falls Church News-Press.

The bus driver noticed smoke coming from the vehicle’s wheel area and evacuated the students who were on board, according to the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department.

“Tire fire was small and did not catch fire until students were off,” FCFRD spokesperson William Delaney said, confirming that there were no injuries to students or staff.

FCPS says the bus was towed by Fairfax County’s Department of Vehicle Services, which manages and maintains the fleets for both the county government and the school system. The department “will conduct a thorough investigation,” an FCPS spokesperson said.

Community members on Nextdoor reported hearing explosions, with one resident saying the “second one” made their house shake. Another person said they could hear and feel the explosions from Idylwood Road.

Delaney told FFXnow that the “explosion” was from the tire “popping.”

H/t to Alan Henney

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Morning Notes

Snow on bridge in Reston’s The Glade (photo by Marjorie Copson)

Deadline for Feedback on School Calendars Extended — “Thank you to the approximately 23,000 families, staff, students, and community members who completed FCPS’ Calendar Feedback Form…The form will close on Monday, February 6, at noon. The School Board is scheduled to vote on a calendar on Thursday, February 9.” [FCPS]

McLean Teen Launches Swim School in South Africa — “An 11th-grade student at The Potomac School in McLean returned to the United States in late January after launching a youth swim academy in Alexandra…The not-for-profit Alexandra Youth Swim Academy, founded by Sasha Minsky, 17, provides free swim instruction to children aged 7 to 16 in the township, near Johannesburg.” [Patch]

Herndon Data Company Considering First Acquisition — “Unissant has grown organically over the years, but that phase may be coming to an end. It is actively looking to acquire, [Chairman and CEO Manish] Malhotra said, and indeed just dropped a letter of intent for an unnamed company it is evaluating.” [Washington Business Journal]

Silver Line Wins Award — “The Washington Airports Task Force (WATF) presented the Silver Line with the 2022 Williams Trophy during its annual general meeting on Friday, Jan. 20…The award recognizes how people in the region collaborated and took the initiative to make rail service to Dulles a reality.” [The Connection]

Mount Vernon Town Hall Will Have Food Tastings — “The annual Mount Vernon Town Meeting will feature a new event this year: a Taste of Mount Vernon. The town meeting hosted by Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck is planned for Saturday, Feb. 11 from 7:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Mount Vernon High School, 8515 Old Mount Vernon Rd.” [Patch]

Chantilly Mom Looks to Support Pediatric Patients — Inspired by a social worker who gave her son a bag of toys when he was at Johns Hopkins Hospital with a brain tumor in 2004, Chantilly resident Marcie McCauley and her family started making “Boredom Busters” with supplies to help kids and their parents during an extended hospital stay. As of 2022, the nonprofit has delivered over 2,000 boxes to patients. [WTOP]

It’s Thursday — Overcast throughout the day. High of 42 and low of 32. Sunrise at 7:15 am and sunset at 5:32 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Fairfax County is no longer considering a proposal to allow more housing in Wolf Trap’s Crowells Corner neighborhood.

The Site-Specific Plan Amendment (SSPA) submission has been withdrawn by its nominator, county planner David Stinson said at a virtual meeting last night (Tuesday) to discuss requested land use changes in east Reston and along Hunter Mill Road.

The proposal had requested an increase in density for six parcels totaling 10 acres on Crowell Road to one to two dwellings per acre, up from under 0.5 dwellings per acre as currently designated in the county’s comprehensive plan.

Submitted by Panthea Mohtasham, a local real estate agent, the application suggested either closing off Crowell Road in front of the new development, or rerouting it around the north side of the houses.

“As the Community and Fairfax County have grown, traffic has increased, safety concerns have become more acute,” the application said. “The Nominator’s proposal would permit restructuring of the road to increase safety for current residents, provide access to existing and future residences, and encourage commuters to adhere to safe speeds along Crowell Road.”

The first option would’ve turned the road into a private street, adding a gated entry after the driveway to Oakcrest School and eliminating the current connection to Browns Mill Road in favor of a cul-de-sac.

The second option would restructure Crowell Road with multiple turns, encouraging slower traffic compared to the existing straight segment, according to the application.

However, the road is a key link to Vienna and Reston for existing residents as the only direct connection between Hunter Mill Road to the west and Beulah Road to the east other than Route 7, according to community members.

“This would be a horrible decision that would block access to schools, the metro, the Toll Road, grocery stores, doctors, the hospital and numerous other devastating impacts,” a Crowells Corner resident said on Nextdoor. “In addition — a large number of homes would be effectively blocked in any time a large rain fall floods Brown Mill and people must go to Hunter Mill to go around. This is a safety and environmental problem and it must be made clear this proposal cannot move forward in any way.”

While the withdrawn application wasn’t discussed at yesterday’s meeting, some attendees said in the chat that safety and vehicle speeds have indeed been a concern on Crowell Road.

“We have children on this road who play and cars honk at us for checking our mail, pulling in and out of our driveways, etc,” commenter James C said, stating that residents have contacted the county and state about reducing the speed limit. “This is not a Nascar race track. This is our family road. We’ve almost gotten Tboned coming out of our drive 1 too many times.”

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a plan amendment in 2018 that realigns Sunset Hills Road to create an intersection with Crowell at Hunter Mill Road in the hopes of easing traffic congestion in the area.

An SSPA nomination that would develop the south side of that intersection remains up for consideration, along with other Reston proposals. A virtual meeting on applications for Tysons will be held at 7 p.m. tonight (Wednesday).

Map via Google Maps

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Police blocked off southbound Route 29 at Centrewood Drive after a fatal pedestrian crash in November (via VDOT Northern Virginia/Twitter)

The Fairfax County Police Department is doubling down on traffic enforcement and awareness efforts after a rise in pedestrian fatalities last year.

At a Fairfax County Board of Supervisors safety and security committee meeting yesterday (Tuesday), Police Chief Kevin Davis stressed that the department is focusing on education and enforcement, with pedestrian safety as a primary mission.

The police department recorded 24 pedestrian fatalities last year, a five-year high — though there were fewer pedestrian-related crashes overall (153) than in 2018.

That count doesn’t include crashes on state highways, which are reported by Virginia State Police, or on the Dulles Toll Road, which is enforced by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Police. Per state data, Fairfax County had a total of 192 crashes involving pedestrians, 32 of whom were killed — by far the most since at least 2010.

Deputy Chief of Police Bob Blakely said the rise in pedestrian fatalities is “very concerning.” The police department is also reminding officers about prevention and awareness by refreshing training, reminding officers and sharing information internally, he said.

“Our number one coal it to reduce crashes. If we reduce crashes, we reduce fatalities,” Blakely, adding that it’s not to write tickets.

Fairfax County police data for crashes involving pedestrians in recent years (via Fairfax County)

Each month, the police department hopes to focus on specific traffic safety initiatives with targeted public-facing campaigns and awareness months around the year.

The police department will resume Road Shark — in which officers are assigned to high-traffic areas for enforcement — on June 4 through June 18.

Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk asked the department to consider focusing on more pedestrian-safety campaigns throughout the year.

Davis noted that while overall crashes are lower now than in 2018 and 2019, the number of citations rose by 6,000 between 2022 and 2021. In line with national trends, the FCPD saw significant dips in the number of warnings, citations and crashes during the height of the pandemic.

The department issued roughly 115,000 citations in 2018 and 2019 compared to between 49,000 and 56,000 in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross encouraged the police to provide information about the consequences of speeding and disobeying traffic laws.

“People think it’s a black hole, that nothing happens,” Gross said.

Davis said that it can be easy to raise awareness about high-profile incidents and more challenging to provide information on how individuals were adjudicated.

Law enforcement and county officials hope the addition of speed cameras — a pilot program that will begin this year — will help reduce speeds in highly problematic areas.

“This is going to really effect behavior in those localized areas,” said Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn.

But Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw said that part of the solution may lie in pursuing societal change: limiting the speeds at which vehicles can operate.

Reflecting on how seat belt usage factors into crash injuries and deaths, Walkinshaw said state and local officials should monitor some federal efforts and technologies that control the speed of cars.

“There is not reason that cars need to be traveling more than 100 miles per hour,” Walkinshaw said, adding that electric vehicles can be even more problematic with high speeds and performance.

He conceded that he may not be very popular amongst the car hobbyist crowd.

Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said high speeds in low-speed areas continue to be problematic.

“That’s the area where I have so much concern,” Palchik said.

FCPD says it also hopes to work with Fairfax County Public Schools to provide educational resources to new and future drivers in classrooms.

Photo via VDOT Northern Virginia/Twitter

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Fairfax County firefighters respond to a fire in the 1000 block of Westwood Drive (photo by M. Clark via FCFRD/Twitter)

A firefighter was injured while responding to a house fire in Vienna just before midnight.

Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department units were dispatched to the 1000 block of Westwood Drive NE at 11:58 p.m. yesterday (Tuesday), according to a tweet.

“Crews arrived [with] fire visible from 2nd floor of a house under construction,” the department said.

The firefighter’s injury was described as “minor.” An investigation into the fire is now underway, and the department says more information will be shared as it becomes available.

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Morning Notes

A dusting of snow on trees (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Redevelopment Proposed in Bailey’s Crossroads — “Several community members who attended a Fairfax County Planning Department presentation on a proposal for a major mixed-use project on the Food Star site in Bailey’s Crossroads said the county should address the immediate problems in that area first. Those problems include crime, litter, traffic, weeds in the median, safety and trash issues at Skyline Park, and the lack of safety for pedestrians.” [Annandale Today]

Lorton Man Charged With DWI in Alexandria — “A 23-year-old Lorton man was charged with driving while intoxicated after allegedly crashing into four cars in Old Town. The crash occurred near the intersection of S. Patrick Street and Gibbon Street at around 5:30 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 21. Three people suffered minor injuries and went to the hospital, and the driver was released later that day.” [ALXnow]

No Safety Threat After Alleged Sexual Assault — Frost Middle School Principal Anthony Harris said in a letter to families on Monday (Jan. 30) that “there is no reason for concern about students’ safety” after one student reported that she had been sexually assaulted in a bathroom on Jan. 12. Fairfax County police are still investigating, but said there is “no apparent threat” to students or the general community. [WTOP]

County Prosecutors Share More Bond Data — “Fairfax County’s top prosecutor says his office is now recommending fewer people sit in jail for minor and nonviolent crimes — and he has the data to prove it. The data, released Monday morning by the office of Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano, is a follow-up from data released in October.” [DCist]

GSA Seeks to Offload Groveton Property — “The General Services Administration is holding an online auction for a 10.5-acre site in Alexandria that features an empty, 110K SF office building surrounded by parking lots and green space. The bidding process began in late December, and the agency expects to close the auction in late February.” [Bisnow]

Tysons Tech Company Explores Sale — Cvent, a Tysons-based company that provides software to support in-person and virtual events, “is exploring a sale that could value the cloud-based event-software provider at upwards of $4 billion, according to people familiar with the matter.” After going public in 2021, the $3.3 billion company has seen its shares lose nearly half their value from an early 2021 high. [Wall Street Journal]

Vienna Opens Parking Survey — Vienna’s public works and economic development departments have launched an online survey to gather information about the town’s current and future parking needs. Open through Feb. 28, the survey is part of a supply-and-demand study that will help inform the town’s ongoing zoning code update. [Vienna Voice]

Construction Concludes on Fort Belvoir Water Project — Construction is mostly finished on a main water line replacement along Richmond Highway that serves Fort Belvoir, according to American Water Military Services Group General Manager Wes Casa. In the works since July 2021, the project “involved replacing a 3,100-foot-long section of 24-inch potable water pipeline that had reached the end of its useful life.” [On the MoVe]

GMU Delivery Robots Celebrates Fourth Anniversary — “It was January 2019 when George Mason University became the first college campus in the United States to offer autonomous food delivery through Starship Technologies. Now Mason and Starship are celebrating four years of autonomous robot deliveries.” [GMU]

It’s Wednesday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 42 and low of 32. Sunrise at 7:16 am and sunset at 5:31 pm. [Weather.gov]

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