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A tractor-trailer overturned on a I-395 South ramp in Springfield, spilling sewage (via VDOT)

A tractor-trailer carrying sewage flipped over on I-395 in Springfield earlier today (Thursday), resulting in a tough morning commute for drivers headed away from D.C.

The Virginia Department of Transportation reported at 7:35 a.m. that the vehicle had overturned and spilled its contents on the southbound I-395 ramp to southbound I-95. All lanes were blocked.

Drivers already on the highway were directed to detour to the Capital Beltway (I-495) or Old Keene Mill Road, while VDOT advised those not yet caught up in the jam to seek alternate routes.

By 8 a.m., vehicles were able to get by on the left shoulder, and VDOT said that there had been no injuries. However, the department revealed that the truck’s contents turned out to be sewage.

“Pls check 511Virginia before you go bc things can get backed up,” the department tweeted.

Per 511Virginia, VDOT’s live traffic camera site, the southbound right shoulder remains closed, and traffic backups extend approximately 1.5 miles, as of 9:38 a.m.

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The cell tower by I-495 at the Old Dominion Drive bridge in McLean (via Google Maps)

(Updated at 3:45 p.m. on 1/5/2023) The search is still on for a new site to host a cell tower in McLean that has to be removed to make room for the widening Capital Beltway.

The monopole, which is owned by American Cell Towers and supports AT&T and T-Mobile service, was officially decommissioned on Dec. 9, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

“Cell providers are working to minimize any potential impacts to existing service, and VDOT is working with the project’s design-build contractor to facilitate a relocated cell tower as soon as possible,” the department told FFXnow.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors expressed concern at a Sept. 30 transportation committee meeting that losing the tower may cause wireless service disruptions, something that AT&T admitted was a possibility.

Fears of disruptions were particularly high after the removal of a cell facility at Lake Anne in Reston resulted in slow, spotty service for residents in that area over the summer, including for 911 calls.

Fortunately, those anticipated issues don’t seem to have come to fruition. Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust’s office, which represents McLean, says it hasn’t gotten any emails from constituents about the decommissioned cell tower, as of Dec. 20.

VDOT had hoped to see the tower relocated by Dec. 31 — an extension from the original deadline of Sept. 30 — but a new location still hasn’t been identified. VDOT didn’t respond by press time when asked if the deadline got extended again.

“[There’s] no timeline yet,” Jane Edmondson, Foust’s chief of staff, said by email. “The County has not yet received an application for a new location.”

Located by the Old Dominion Drive bridge, the 135-foot-tall monopole needs to be moved to make room for the I-495 Northern Extension (495 NEXT) project, which is adding about three miles of toll lanes on the Beltway from the Dulles Toll Road in Tysons to the George Washington Memorial Parkway in McLean.

The project will also replace the Old Dominion bridge, which has one lane each for eastbound and westbound traffic. The new bridge will have two lanes and a 14-foot-wide shared-use path on the south side. (Correction: This article initially said two lanes would be added on the bridge in each direction.)

While touted as necessary to mitigate traffic congestion, 495 NEXT has been criticized by some McLean residents as harmful to their neighborhoods and the environment.

Construction began in mid-2022 and is expected to continue into 2026, with the new express lanes opening in 2025.

Photo via Google Maps

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Work to widen East Spring Street in Herndon is set to begin next year (via VDOT)

The new year will ring in the beginning of a new construction project in Herndon.

Nearly $23 million in improvements to East Spring Street are slated to begin Tuesday (Jan. 3), according to the Town of Herndon.

The project will widen a quarter-mile of Spring Street from just west of Herndon Parkway to Fairfax County Parkway, creating space for additional through and turn lanes. More turn lanes are also under construction at the Spring Street intersection.

“The project, administered by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), will enhance the safety and efficiency of East Spring Street between the Fairfax County and Herndon parkways,” the town said.

The project will also connect the new Herndon Metro station the Washington & Old Dominion Trail through a sidewalk and eight-foot-wide cycle track along northbound Herndon Parkway.

Periodic lane closures are expected at the 100 block of Spring Street and the 400 block of Herndon Parkway.

A new sidewalk along eastbound Spring Street from Sunset Park Drive to Fairfax County Parkway and enhancements to existing pathways on both sides of spring street are also planned.

The project is expected to wrap up in the fall of 2024.

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A rendering of the planned Hunter Mill Road bridge over Colvin Run with an inset photo of the existing bridge (via VDOT)

A portion of the new Hunter Mill Road bridge over Colvin Run near Vienna is expected to open for traffic this week.

Vehicles will shift onto one lane of the new bridge between Crowell Road (Route 675) and Cobble Mill Road starting around 2 p.m. tomorrow (Friday), the Virginia Department of Transportation announced yesterday.

“One lane of alternating traffic will travel across the newly constructed portion of the bridge while the existing bridge is demolished and the remaining portion of the new bridge is built,” VDOT said in the news release. “The alternating traffic will continue to be controlled by temporary signals.”

The traffic change had initially been anticipated on Wednesday, Dec. 21, but warnings of gnarly winter weather led VDOT to postpone the date. Tomorrow’s opening is dependent on weather as well.

Expected to finish this coming spring, the Colvin Run bridge project is replacing a one-lane structure that was originally built in 1974 and could only hold up to 10 tons.

The new bridge will consist of two travel lanes separated by a median and abutments to set the stage for a trail crossing to the south, though the trail bridge will be built “at a future date” by Fairfax County.

Construction on the bridge replacement began in August 2021. Work ramped up this past September with the addition of some temporary traffic signals and Driveway Assistance Devices (DADs) to help manage thru, residential and construction traffic on the one-lane bridge.

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The East Elden Street widening project is expected to cost around $57 million (via VDOT)

Two major transportation projects in the Town of Herndon are vying for regional funding.

The Town of Herndon is seeking up to $1.5 million from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority for street improvements and a widening of East Elden Street, along with up to $750,000 for improvements to town-wide sidewalks and trails.

The $57.3 million project will widen East Elden Street by accommodating a median and dedicated turn lanes, new travel lanes east of Herndon Parkway and dedicated bicycle lanes.

Streetscaping is also planned, including wider sidewalks, street trees, lighting, accessible pedestrian signals, and updated bus stop amenities. Decorative crosswalks will be installed, and the Sugarland Run Crossing will be updated with a bridge to tackle flooding, according to the town’s website.

Bicycle lanes will be added from Monroe Street to Herndon Parkway. A cycle track from Herndon Parkway to Fairfax County Parkway is also planned to “combine the user experience of a separated path with the on-street infrastructure of a conventional bike lane,” according to VDOT.

Intended to manage traffic in a congested area, the project is in the engineering design phase, according to the website.

“Between downtown Herndon and the Fairfax County Parkway, the street has seen increased congestion and reduced vehicular mobility in recent decades,” the town’s website says.

Construction on the duct bank is scheduled to begin in early 2023, and construction on widening is set to begin in early 2025, according to VDOT.

Funds, if approved, would be allocated through the Virginia Department of Transportation for fiscal year 2029 federal funding.

The project was approved on the Herndon Town Council’s consent agenda at a Dec. 13 meeting.

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Trees along Live Oak Drive in McLean have been cut down so the Beltway can be widened (photo by April Georgelas)

The project to extend the I-495 Express Lanes north toward the American Legion Bridge has been under construction for half a year now, but some McLean residents remain as determined as ever to fight the Beltway’s encroachment into their neighborhoods.

Residents along Live Oak Drive in particular have consistently argued that they will face the most disruptions from the I-495 Northern Extension (495 NEXT) without getting the congestion relief benefits touted by the Virginia Department of Transportation.

The latest blow came at the sight of workers cutting down trees that serve as a buffer between Live Oak and two existing I-495 (Capital Beltway) and George Washington Memorial Parkway ramps.

VDOT says the tree clearings were necessary to make room for the Beltway widening, a new retaining wall adjacent to I-495, and a planned noise wall adjacent to Live Oak Drive. But residents fear the redesigned interchange will be a new “Mixing Bowl,” the tangle of ramps and overpasses where I-495, I-395 and I-95 meet in Springfield.

“VDOT/Transurban are trying to shove through a new ‘Springfield Mixing Bowl’ right here in McLean,” Northern Virginia Citizens Association President Debra Butler said in a recent email to members. “Future demolition and construction will impact both sides of 495 at Georgetown Pike, Live Oak Drive, Langley Swim Club, Scotts Run Nature Preserve with a new ‘McLean Mixing Bowl’ with ramps as high as 271 feet [above sea level].”

Discussions of potential legislation underway

Organized in opposition to 495 NEXT, the association held a meeting at the Langley Swim & Tennis Club on Friday (Dec. 16) to discuss the tree removals and their issues with the project’s size.

Attendees at the meeting included Del. Kathleen Murphy (D-34) and state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31), who have started talking to Virginia Secretary of Transportation W. Sheppard Miller III about options for addressing resident concerns.

The association has suggested allowing commercial trucks in the I-495 Express Lanes, where they’re currently prohibited, and having them get on and off in Tysons instead of McLean, eliminating the need for some flyover ramps.

VDOT says a planned exchange ramp allowing vehicles to exit the toll lanes at the GW Parkway is intended for all vehicles, though one purpose is to give trucks from Maryland access to the general purpose lanes.

Legislators could also introduce a bill with new controls on public-private partnerships like the one between VDOT and express lanes operator Transurban, improving transparency and limiting their ability to substantially change a project’s design after a public hearing, Butler says.

Murphy confirmed she and Favola are having discussions about potential legislation, but no concrete proposals have formed yet, even with a Jan. 1 deadline to submit bills for the 2023 General Assembly session looming.

“Those are certainly things we are going to bring to the attention of the secretary of transportation to see what possibilities are available, and as soon as we finish those conversations, we’ll have a better idea,” she told FFXnow. Read More

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The intersection of Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road) and Tysons Blvd outside Tysons Corner Center (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Talks are underway to design a street-level crossing across Route 123 at Tysons Blvd, a daunting challenge that would — at least in theory — improve access to Tysons Corner Center for pedestrians, bicyclists and others.

Fairfax County, the Virginia Department of Transportation and Macerich, the mall owner and developer, are currently hashing out an agreement for the crossing as an alternative to the existing pedestrian bridge that links the mall’s plaza to the Tysons Metro station on the other side of Route 123, also known as Chain Bridge Road.

“We’re not there yet, but we are diligently working to find the best and safest street-level crossing there as well, because just that bridge is not the best way to have a crossing,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said when sharing the news at last month’s World Day of Remembrance ceremony honoring pedestrians killed in vehicle crashes.

Exactly what a safe Chain Bridge Road crossing might look like remains to be decided.

According to Palchik, the discussions began in the wake of 74-year-old Annandale resident Filadelfo Ramos Marquez’s death in a crash on Dec. 30, 2021.

At the time, police noted that Ramos Marquez wasn’t using a crosswalk when he got hit by the driver of a 2010 Toyota Camry going south on Chain Bridge. However, the closest crosswalk to the mall is two-tenths of a mile to the south at International Drive. Reaching it means crossing a bus entrance for the Metro and multiple gas station driveways on a narrow, sometimes uneven sidewalk.

The Metro walkway isn’t particularly convenient either except for those actually planning to take a train, and it’s not open 24 hours a day like it was supposed to be, Palchik told FFXnow.

“We’re still figuring that out,” she said when asked what a safe crossing would look like. “I think VDOT has one idea of what it would be, we have one idea, Macerich has another idea.”

Palchik says the crossing should include a pedestrian refuge in the middle of Route 123 so people at least have a place to stop, and lights will “definitely” be needed. Right now, the Tysons Blvd intersection only has traffic lights to direct vehicles with no signs or signals to indicate pedestrians might be present.

A VDOT spokesperson confirmed the department “is planning pedestrian enhancements due to the volume of pedestrian traffic and proximity to transit,” but no design details are available yet since the project “is still in early stages.”

VDOT also said Macerich is planning to modify a part of an intersection at the mall. When asked about its plans, a spokesperson for the real estate developer directed comments instead to Palchik’s office and the Fairfax County Department of Transportation, which didn’t respond to an inquiry by press time.

The developer’s proposal to replace the now-vacant Lord & Taylor store with a mixed-use tower was revised again last month to include “a grand portal” through the tower that will better connect Tysons Corner Center’s elevated plaza to the street below.

The mall’s next phase of development will also include a 10-foot-wide trail from the Metro bus bays to International Drive, according to the updated application filed with Fairfax County on Nov. 21.

The proposed staircase and additional streetscaping were added in anticipation of a future street-level crossing at Tysons Blvd, the Washington Business Journal reported.

Acknowledging that congestion can be a concern on Chain Bridge, both going north to the Capital Beltway and south toward Vienna, Palchik says a safe, more accessible crossing is still necessary, as walkability remains a challenge in Tysons.

“We do want to continue to build that as an urban city and core, and that means people walking [and] rolling across not just internal streets, but Route 123 and Route 7,” Palchik said.

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(Updated at 10:40 a.m. on 12/5/2022) Even with one month left, 2022 is the deadliest year for Fairfax County pedestrians in more than a decade.

Through October, vehicle crashes have killed 22 people on streets and highways in the county — the most since at least 2010, the earliest year in Virginia’s Traffic Records Electronic Data System (TREDS). The previous high came in 2018 and 2019, when there were 17 fatalities each.

The state data doesn’t appear to include the teen who died last Wednesday (Nov. 16) after being hit while crossing Columbia Pike in Bailey’s Crossroads.

The teen was among the almost two dozen people represented at Oakton High School on Sunday (Nov. 20) by electronic candles and empty chairs covered by shroud-like white sheets. A Fairfax Families for Safe Streets (Fairfax FSS) volunteer read their names in a hushed cafeteria for the community group’s World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims ceremony.

“We have experienced many more tragedies than we are able to name individually today,” Fairfax FSS volunteer and board member Chris French said, noting that the list didn’t include 18 non-pedestrians killed on county roads or people who survived crashes but still suffered physically, financially and emotionally.

Started by European nonprofits in 1995, World Day of Remembrance is commemorated on the third Sunday of every November as an occasion to mourn those lost and a call to take action to prevent future losses. FFS also had events in Alexandria and Arlington.

Fairfax FSS urged local and state officials to make safety improvements throughout the area, especially in corridors known to be dangerous to pedestrians like Columbia Pike and Blake Lane — where two Oakton High School students were killed and a third was seriously injured in June.

  • Installing automated speed enforcement at all schools
  • Deploying proven safety measures around schools and activity centers, such as rapid flashing beacons, HAWK or pedestrian hybrid beacons, and lighting at unsignalized crossings
  • Implementing a dedicated safe routes infrastructure plan for all Fairfax County schools
  • Implementing speed management solutions on all high injury and multilane arterials, for example, speed feedback signs, road diets
  • Improvements to pedestrian signals and timing for pedestrians to cross high traffic streets safely
  • Installing crosswalks and accessible ramps to all approaches at signalized crossings

Speed cameras likely coming

Fairfax County is moving to make that first demand at least a reality. Spurred in part by the fatal Oakton crash, the Board of Supervisors is expected to approve a speed camera pilot program after a public hearing on Dec. 6. Read More

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A mini-van takes the new I-66 Express Lanes in the Centreville area (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

If you plan on driving the newly extended I-66 Express Lanes next month, make sure there are at least two other people in the car to avoid paying a toll.

The entire length of the I-66 toll lanes will shift from HOV2 to HOV3 in early December, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) recently announced.

Starting Dec. 5, only those with traveling with three or more people will be able to use the lanes for free. This is a change from the previous standard of two or more passengers.

Single riders or those traveling with just two passengers will have to pay a toll, with the price varying based on traffic volumes (known as “dynamic tolling”).

The change will apply to the entire 32-mile length of the I-66 Express Lanes, including the existing 9-mile section inside the Beltway (I-495) from Dunn Loring to Route 29 in Rosslyn. A new Beltway ramp to I-66 just opened this week.

That portion of I-66 operates as HOV on weekdays during peak hours and in peak directions. Otherwise, the express lanes are free and have no occupancy requirement.

Hours of operation for I-66 Express Lanes inside of the Beltway (screenshot via VDOT)

VDOT also notes that, in order to use the lanes during rush hour, drivers need an E-ZPass transponder.

The state transportation agency said in a press release that the new requirements are “consistent with HOV requirements on the other express lanes in Northern Virginia.”

In a statement to FFXnow, a VDOT spokesperson said consistency and federal environmental standards were the biggest reasons for the change:

This change supports the National Capital Region’s Transportation Planning Board’s policy to change HOV-2 to HOV-3 throughout the region in order to move more people with fewer vehicles and comply with the federal Clean Air Act Amendment. This change is also consistent with the other express lanes in Northern Virginia on I-95, I-395, and I-495, and is aligned with Virginia’s policy that HOV-3 be the requirement for toll-free travel on all privately-operated express lanes in Virginia. This rule applies to I-66 Express Lanes Outside the Beltway, which are operated by I-66 Express Mobility Partners under a public-private partnership with the Commonwealth.

The switch from HOV2 to HOV3 was first approved in 2016 by Virginia’s Commonwealth Transportation Board.

The portion of the express lanes inside the Beltway opened five years ago, accompanied by a good amount of griping about the high toll prices.

The 22-mile section outside of the Beltway is almost fully operational after about six years of work. A 9-mile stretch from Route 28 in Centreville to Route 29 in Gainesville opened in early September, and the westbound lanes from I-495 in Dunn Loring to Route 28 became operational yesterday.

The eastbound lanes could open as early as tomorrow, a few weeks ahead of schedule, VDOT says. Work in the corridor will continue through mid-2023 on other elements of the Transform 66 project, including new interchanges and a parallel shared-use path.

A version of this story appeared earlier on FFXnow’s sister site, ARLnow.

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I-495 North is getting a new ramp to the I-66 West general purpose lanes, while the existing ramp will lead to the new I-66 Express Lanes (via VDOT)

Updated at 3:25 p.m. — The switch to the new I-495 North ramp to I-66 is now scheduled to be implemented tomorrow night and will be in place early Wednesday morning (Nov. 16), VDOT says.

Earlier: The Capital Beltway is getting a new ramp in Dunn Loring, as the Virginia Department of Transportation prepares to open another segment of the extended I-66 Express Lanes.

A new, permanent ramp and exit from the northbound I-495 Express Lanes to the general purpose lanes on I-66 West was scheduled to open this morning, VDOT announced Friday (Nov. 11).

The ramp is located on the right side of the Beltway, about 500 feet north of the existing ramp, and loops around the interchange.

The existing ramp closed today but will reopen on or around Saturday (Nov. 19) as the new connection from the 495 North Express Lanes to the new 66 Express Lanes West, according to VDOT, though the exact date could vary depending on the weather.

The department announced last week that the westbound I-66 toll lanes from I-495 to Route 28 in Centreville will open to traffic this Saturday, with the eastbound lanes following by the end of November.

The Transform 66 Outside the Beltway project has been in the works since 2016, adding 22 miles to the I-66 toll lanes while reconfiguring interchanges and creating a shared-use trail in the corridor. A 9-mile stretch of lanes opened between Gainesville and Centreville in September.

Starting Dec. 5, the entire I-66 Express Lanes system will require vehicles to have three or more occupants to qualify as high-occupancy so they can use the lanes toll-free.

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