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Boats docked at Lake Anne Plaza (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Cellular service issues continue to plague residents in the Lake Anne area of Reston, but a recently added, temporary truck will at least ensure AT&T customers can call 911.

A spokesperson for AT&T said that since Friday (July 29) — when information about the outage was first released — the company has been trying to restore an antenna in the area.

AT&T says it is working on placing a temporary cellular support truck in the Lake Anne area to help give customers a boost and improve service until the issue is resolved.

“We have deployed temporary emergency coverage for first responders, and are working as quickly as possible to restore full service in the area. We sincerely apologize for this inconvenience,” an AT&T spokesperson told FFXnow.

The company did not provide information on when the issue was first identified and what efforts have been made to restore the site.

However, Fairfax County said in a statement that it worked with the telecommunications company “to expedite placement of a cellular support vehicle” that was put in place Saturday morning (July 30).

“The AT&T cellular support vehicle allows for residents to call 9-1-1 and provides cellular coverage for public safety,” county spokesperson Tony Castrilli said. “The full restoration for AT&T customers in Lake Anne is scheduled to be completed in two weeks.”

The problem comes after Verizon and other cell carriers removed a cell phone communications facility at the rooftop of Lake Anne Fellowship House, which is set to be demolished next year.

Fairfax County is encouraging residents to use a landline or make calls through the WiFi on devices where that’s an option.

A spokesperson for Verizon said the company is actively looking for a replacement site. Its original plans fell earlier this year. Since then, the company says that it has been looking for another site but with no success.

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Richmond Highway (via Fairfax County)

A project to underground Richmond Highway utilities may be buried due to cost, construction delays, and the risk it poses to federal funding for other projects happening along the corridor.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors weighed the pros and cons of undergrounding utilities along the highway, also known as Route 1, at an economic initiatives committee meeting on Tuesday (July 26).

Undergrounding utilities is a fairly common (and supported) practice, but the Route 1 proposal is complicated by two other major infrastructure projects in the corridor: the highway widening and the build-out of a bus rapid transit (BRT) service.

While the board didn’t take any definitive action on Tuesday, it was clear that a number of committee members, including Chairman Jeff McKay, were leaning towards scrapping the project altogether.

“It feels a little bit like ‘why wouldn’t we do it?’ if you just look at it on the surface, but as we dug into it today quite a bit…it makes it a little bit clearer how unclear it is,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said.

In a presentation, staff said the county would be solely responsible for financing any undergrounding, with no assistance from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) or the Federal Transit Authority (FTA).

Undergrounding utilities could also result in a two-year delay for the Route 1 widening and BRT projects, tacking on an extra year each for design work and construction. That would push the completion date for the widening to 2031 and for the BRT to 2032.

Utility undergrounding would also increase the cost of the two projects by at least $264 million, requiring an additional $136 million for the actual construction and potentially another $128 million to account for inflation during the two-year delay.

Potential costs of Richmond Highway utility undergrounding (via Fairfax County)

To raise the needed funds, county staff proposed working with the General Assembly to implement a utility “surcharge.” A $1 per month surcharge for residents and a 2.5% surcharge on commercial properties that could reach a maximum of 6.67% would bring in $40 million in revenue annually.

However, a surcharge would require an agreement with utility companies, mainly Dominion Energy, Verizon, Cox, and NOVEC. Even if an agreement is reached, it could take 12 to 18 months for the companies to sign off through their own “internal legal review” processes, delaying the undergrounding even more.

According to staff, undergrounding utilities could also result in the loss of $334 million in federal funding that the FTA is providing for the BRT project. Read More

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