Newsletter

The weekend is almost here. Before you peek into the spirit realm or head to bed for some much-needed sleep, let’s revisit recent news from the Tysons area that you might’ve missed.

These were the most-read stories on Tysons Reporter this week:

  1. Bowlero opens at Tysons Galleria, begins drawing visitors
  2. Police: Person killed in vehicle crash on I-495 North in West Falls Church
  3. Vienna-area chiropractor sexually harassed patients, state medicine board found
  4. JUST IN: Police seek help identifying suspect after 73-year-old shot in West Falls Church
  5. Pet of the Week: Petey, a shy terrier sweetie who lost his owner to COVID-19

Ideas for stories we should cover can be sent to [email protected] or submitted as an anonymous tip. Photos of scenes from around the community are welcome too, with credit always given to the photographer.

You can find previous rundowns of top stories on the site.

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The Fairfax County Department of Transportation has extended the Oct. 18 deadline for its community survey on proposed changes to bus service in Centreville, Chantilly, Vienna, Tysons, and neighboring areas, including McLean and Falls Church.

The online survey, which is available in English and Spanish, will now be open until next Wednesday (Oct. 27).

Unveiled at virtual public meetings on Sept. 30 and Oct. 7, the preferred plan will enable Fairfax Connector to serve more people, reduce travel times, maintain more reliable schedules, and provide more access to key destinations in the area, according to FCDOT.

“We encourage people to take the survey so they can tell us what is most important to them in the preferred bus plan for the Centreville, Chantilly, Vienna and Tysons areas,” FCDOT Transit Planning Chief Michael Felschow said. “The service belongs to our riders and our goal is to make it dependable, convenient and on-time.”

Fairfax Connector launched its review last year as part of a broader effort to identify service improvements that could be made throughout the transit system. So far, the evaluation has also included looks at the Franconia-Springfield area as well as Reston and Herndon.

County officials initially presented three possible plans: one similar to existing service patterns, one that completely overhauled the service area, and a hybrid. The preferred plan now under consideration is the product of revisions based on community feedback.

The proposed plan encompasses 24 bus routes, including several involving the Tysons area:

  • Route 427 (North Tysons-Spring Hill): A new route between the Spring Hill Metro station and the McLean Governmental Center area, via Jones Branch Drive and Spring Hill Road
  • Route 468 (Vienna-Reston): A new route between the Vienna and future Reston Town Center Metro stations, via Lawyers and Soapstone roads
  • Route 660 (Centreville-Tysons): New, direct express service between the Centreville Park & Ride on Stone Road and the Tysons Metro station, via the Vienna station and I-495 Express Lanes
  • Route 662 (Centreville-Vienna): New off-peak and weekend service between the Centreville Park & Ride and the Vienna Metro station, via I-66
  • Route 671 (Chantilly-Vienna): New off-peak and weekend service with limited stops between Chantilly and the Vienna Metro station, via Route 50
  • Route 722 (McLean-Langley): A new express route between the McLean Metro station and Langley, via Route 123/Dolley Madison Boulevard

Some existing routes in the plan will have better connectivity or more frequent service, such as Route 467 between Dunn Loring and Tysons and Route 461, which travels in a loop through Vienna and Oakton.

A full breakdown of the routes and service maps can be found on FCDOT’s website.

Fairfax Connector is also studying a “flex service concept area” in Vienna and McLean northwest of Route 123 “as a way to provide future on-demand service to and from the four Metro Stations within Tysons,” according to a map showing the preferred plan’s peak service routes.

According to FCDOT, the preferred plan will shave about a minute off the average travel time within the review area compared to its existing Connector service. It will also put an additional 2,700 people within a quarter-mile of the bus system.

The changes will provide more service to population and job centers as well as minority communities and households with an income at or below $50,000, according to the county.

Along with filling out the online survey, community members can also provide input by phone (703-877-5600), email ([email protected]), and mail (Fairfax County Department of Transportation, 4050 Legato Road, Suite 400, Fairfax, VA 22033).

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Portales Aloso waited an hour on Tuesday (Oct. 19) for a Metro train from Reston into D.C. The wait on Wednesday was 20 minutes.

He was among countless commuters in the D.C. area who faced travel delays this week after the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority pulled more than half of its railcars from service due to reported safety issues.

The issues involving deficient wheel axles came to officials’ attention after a Blue Line train derailed in Arlington on Oct. 12, prompting mass inspections and a National Transportation Safety Board investigation.

The reduced service levels will continue through at least Oct. 31, WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld announced at a media briefing today (Friday).

“We understand it has been a difficult week for people who depend on Metro in the region, and acknowledge the challenges our customers are experiencing,” Wiedefeld said. “We are working as quickly and safely as possible to inspect every wheel on the 7000-series railcars and it’s important to get that right.”

Metro says it is working to bring older trains into service to offset the absence of the 748 cars in its 7000-series fleet, bringing some 2000-series railcars out of storage and finishing maintenance repairs on the 6000 series.

The transit agency still has 100 cars in the 7000-series fleet remaining for inspection, and it currently has no estimate for when full service will be restored.

WMATA is encouraging riders to use its bus service, though Wiedefeld told media that Metrobus is operating at about 97% capacity.

Multiple Fairfax Connector bus drivers told FFXnow earlier this week that, despite the Metro delays, they didn’t notice any differences in the number of passengers on their routes, suggesting riders haven’t opted for other public transit as an alternative.

Salim Furth, a senior fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center who has analyzed how the pandemic could prompt long-term commuting changes, is pessimistic about the chances of Metro’s situation improving, at least in the near-term.

“This is bad, scary, and might get much, much worse before it gets better,” he said Monday on Twitter.

He’s encouraging policymakers and WMATA to plan now for worst-case scenarios and heavily focus on expanded bus service and pop-up bus lanes.

A Metro spokesperson told FFXnow that the service issues are not expected to impact the delivery of phase two of the Silver Line next year.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay says the county is investing in transit with projects over the next few years to cut congestion and incentivize public transportation, including bus rapid transit systems on Richmond Highway and Route 7.

“Ultimately, this incident demonstrates the need for extensive and accessible public transit infrastructure,” McKay said in a statement.

Still, there is no immediate plan to add bus drivers or routes to Fairfax Connector, the largest bus system in Northern Virginia, said transportation department spokesperson Robin Geiger.

She noted the system has room on express bus routes to D.C. and the Pentagon to accommodate additional riders, providing one alternative to rail.

Further down the road, Fairfax Connector is planning to add new express bus routes between Reston and Arlington using I-66 toll money. The county got a final approval on its application to the Commonwealth Transportation Board on Wednesday.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, which ranks the I-66 Commuter Choice program projects, reviewed the proposal last year. The approval will cover the costs of acquiring six new buses.

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A rendering shows what a transformed Tysons Galleria would look like with a new service center and electric vehicle business on the ground floor (via Fairfax County)

Luxury electric vehicle manufacturer Lucid Motors passed a crucial step yesterday (Wednesday) toward getting its first service and delivery center in the D.C. area.

The company is seeking to open a venue in the basement of the former Macy’s at Tysons Galleria, converting the store doors and indoor space to allow vehicles to drive inside for servicing.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission voted on Wednesday (Oct. 20) to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the special exception proposal, which would give Lucid Motors five service bays and two vehicle display areas. Delivery service would also occur there.

Outside, 10 electric vehicle charging stations would be available for customers and the public in a nearby parking area, bringing the mall up to 22 stations.

“Like Tesla and other companies, this will be a big step forward in helping to further improve the environment and offer customers and area residents an alternative choice to the internal combustion engine,” said Bernie Suchicital, a land use planner with the law firm Walsh, Colucci, Lubeley & Walsh.

The firm is representing the applicant Tysons Galleria Anchor Acquisition LLC, which is connected to Brookfield Properties, the real estate company that took over the mall in 2018.

“The architecture will be contemporary in style, in keeping with the rest of the building, and will include a glass storefront at the corner of the building as it wraps toward International Drive,” an Oct. 7 staff report said.

A Board of Supervisors public hearing on the application has been scheduled for Nov. 9.

Lucid Motors plans to operate seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. with no on-site vehicle sales, according to the county. The company’s least-expensive vehicle starts at around $70,000 when a tax credit is applied, according to TechCrunch.

County staff recommend that the location also be restricted from offering rentals.

Walsh Colucci senior land use planner Elizabeth Baker noted in an Aug. 13 letter that the location will allow customers to configure and experience a new Lucid vehicle virtually as well as in person.

The company would also have 40 parking spots at the mall to store new and serviced vehicles.

The planned service center is part of the Tysons Galleria’s ongoing redevelopment of its former Macy’s store. Next to the proposed location, Bowlero opened earlier this month on the ground floor.

Lucid Motors is also working to open a studio this year at nearby Tysons Corner Center, which has asked Fairfax County to allow vehicle sales for up to eight businesses in its parking garages.

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Updated at 12:15 p.m.The crash site has been cleared, and all travel lanes on George Washington Memorial Parkway are now open with no delays reported as of noon, according to Metropolitan Area Transportation Operations Coordination.

Earlier: A driver was killed in the crash that shut down southbound George Washington Memorial Parkway in McLean this morning (Friday), the U.S. Park Police says.

Park Police officers responded to the one-car crash on the parkway near the entrance to the CIA headquarters at approximately 5:18 a.m. The driver, who was the vehicle’s sole occupant, was pronounced dead at the scene.

“This incident is currently under investigation,” a U.S. Park Police spokesperson said. “Additional information will be provided as it becomes available.”

Traffic closures remain in effect at the I-495 ramps to southbound George Washington Parkway and Turkey Run, according to police.

Metropolitan Area Transportation Operations Coordination reported at 5:51 a.m. that all southbound lanes on the parkway were blocked between the Capital Beltway and Route 123, slowing traffic to a crawl.

A traffic camera at the I-495 interchange shows congestion on southbound George Washington Parkway after crash (via VDOT)

Ramps from the Inner and Outer Beltway Loops to George Washington Parkway were also closed, the Virginia Department of Transportation said.

https://twitter.com/VaDOTNOVA/status/1451512631483895818

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Morning Notes

Wiehle Metro Station to Close This Weekend — “Head Up! This weekend, WMATA is closing the Wiehle-Reston East Metrorail Station for integration of Phase 2 of the Silver Line with the existing Silver Line. During the planned closure, free Metrobus shuttles will go between Wiehle-Reston East & Spring Hill Metrorail Stations” [Fairfax Connector/Twitter]

FCPS Enrollment Still Below Pre-Pandemic Levels — “Fairfax County Public Schools officials reported a total of 178,595 students in classes on Sept. 30…That figure is down from 179,741 recorded in June when the 2020-21 school year ended, and is well down from the 189,010 students counted in class at the start of the 2019-20 school year.” [Sun Gazette]

A Going-Out Guide to Tysons — “This kind of place-making from scratch has become common in the Washington area…but it’s interesting to see it happening in Tysons, once defined as an ‘Edge City’ because, while it was technically located in Washington’s suburbs, large crowds commuted into Tysons in the morning, and left again at night. Now, there might just be more reasons to stay.” [The Washington Post]

How to Celebrate Another COVID Halloween — “While trick-or-treaters under 12 aren’t eligible for vaccine yet, this fun tradition can be done safely if families keep activities outdoors, wear a cloth or surgical mask (don’t rely on a costume mask to protect you), avoid crowded doorsteps, and wash hands before eating candy.” [Fairfax County Health Department]

Local Health Startup Has Big Plans — “Kinometrix Inc., a Fairfax County startup whose software help hospitals prevent patient falls, is making some big changes and kicking off a funding round to expand nationally. The company, originally part of Inova Health System’s accelerator until that program shut down in late 2019, is shooting to raise at least $3 million.” [Washington Business Journal]

Drug Take Back Day Is Tomorrow — The Fairfax County Police Department will collected unused and expired prescription drugs tomorrow (Saturday) for National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, which comes twice a year. Collection sites will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the county’s police district stations, including in McLean, and Reston Hospital Center. [Patch]

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Maybe a haunted hallway? (via Gregg Scott/Flickr)

Janie Daum sometimes wishes she never got involved investigating the paranormal and speaking with spirits.

“Most people that want to do it, they get obsessed with it,” she told FFX Now. “They want more. They want to be touched. They want to hear them. They want to see them. And that’s not always going to happen.”

Daum has been running Northern Virginia Paranormal out of her home in Vienna for about 12 years. She works with a medium to investigate all sorts of disturbances: ghostly run-ins at homes, moving furniture at department stores, odd happenings at old museums.

She specializes in electronic voice phenomenon (EVP), the recording of sounds that could be the voices of spirits.

“I’m still the kind of person that’s on the fence about a lot of things. There’s no just black and white,” Daum said. “There is just a lot of gray area and you just have to listen to what you’re hearing from the spirits, what you’re recording and playing back.”

Daum’s interest in the paranormal was sparked partly by her 18-year-old daughter. They watched the TV show “Paranormal State” together and decided to go on a trip to investigate a purportedly haunted bar in Long Island.

“I got an EVP from a man who said his name was Tommy,” she said. “And that kind of got me hooked.”

That wasn’t the first time, though, that Daum experienced something unexplainable. After her grandfather’s funeral, she spotted him walking down the hall of their home.

“There are little things in my life that kind of drew me to this direction,” she said.

Though she had some hesitations, Daum says her investigations stem from a desire to help folks in need, both those on this mortal coil and those that have left it.

“I always try and find out [the spirit’s] names, who they’re attached to, and if there’s any message that they need to get to a living being that is still walking the Earth, and if there’s a way we can help them,” she said.

Most spirits don’t mean any harm, she says. They are simply lost, stuck, or otherwise can’t go through to the light. However, spirits have the same character traits they did when they were alive.

“If they were an S.O.B. in life, they’re still an S.O.B. on the other side,” said Daum.

She prioritizes investigations for families with children. For instance, when a child repeatedly talks about a man who comes out of their closet and claims to be a doctor, that family needs her expertise.

“If it’s a repeating thing that is continuously happening, it’s not just a child’s imagination,” she said.

While Daum doesn’t like to reveal specifics out of respect for her clients’ privacy, she does more investigations in Loudoun County and rural Maryland than Fairfax County.

Fairfax County is more affluent with newer buildings, she explains. Plus, some are embarrassed about calling paranormal investigators.

“Even if they have issues, things happening that they can’t explain, they don’t want anybody to know about it,” Daum said.

That being said, she’s willing to share some stories about businesses that have since closed — like the Amphora Restaurant near her home in Vienna.

“I knew George[Bilidas] the owner and I was there after his death,” Daum said. “And he [was] there. He actually came and sat in the booth next to me and playing with a bunch of keys in his hand.”

There was also the time she got called to investigate the women’s restroom at the now-closed Lord & Taylor’s at Tysons Corner Center, which has recently been repurposed as a mass vaccination site.

“The woman who worked at the register there, which was just outside the ladies’ restrooms, would see the clothes on the racks move,” Daum said. “One customer was in the ladies’ bathroom and heard a chair being dragged across the floor.”

She went to the store and attempted to do EVP readings, but the music from the overhead speaker was too loud. When she asked to have it turned down, mall management wasn’t exactly on board.

Other cases have involved televisions randomly turning on at a teacher’s house in Fairfax, employees being bothered at a Fairfax County-owned building, and a Herndon neighborhood built on farmland.

“The farmer lost his land because of taxes,” Daum said. “He’s still around and he’s upset.”

After a bit of lull in 2020, she says calls for her investigative services have picked up again. She’s happy to help anyone who believes they have spirits in their home or workplace. Northern Virginia Paranormal can be reached via Facebook or by email at [email protected] or [email protected].

If you do encounter a spirit during this Halloween season or any other, Daum has some advice.

“We have to…always respect these spirits and treat them as if they’re a person. Some of them don’t even know that they’re deceased. Some of them think they’re still alive,” she said. “And they have feelings. You can hurt their feelings by the things you say to them. So, you do really have to be careful.”

Photo via Gregg Scott/Flickr

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Compensation increases for employees and real estate tax cuts for residents are on the table, as the extra money keeps rolling in for the Town of Vienna.

In addition to receiving $8.5 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds this summer, the town ended the last fiscal year (July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021) with $900,000 in surplus revenue, staff told the Vienna Town Council in a conference session on Monday (Oct. 18).

“We’re in this position because we cut our budget. We cut our revenues to deal with the pandemic. We had to cut our expenditures,” Finance Director Marion Serfass said. “But then our revenues came in in some key areas pretty darn close to what we had budgeted, so that gave us a nice surplus.”

According to town staff, Vienna got higher-than-expected revenue from sales taxes, business licenses, zoning permit fees, and state and federal revenues in FY 2020-2021. In addition, position vacancies helped keep costs down.

Vienna’s budget committee presented three options for allocating the surplus funds.

Scenario 1

The town could follow its traditional practice of putting half of any surplus in a rainy day fund and using the other half to cover currently unfunded priorities:

  • $125,000 to fix pay compression for 41 employees
  • $175,000 for street paving work
  • $50,000 for tree maintenance and beautification
  • $100,000 to address 2022 budget corrections

Scenario 2

Because the rainy day reserve is already above where it needs to be, town staff proposed instead “returning” some money to employees and taxpayers. If the town allocates all $900,000 in the current fiscal year, it could:

  • Cover the unfunded priorities above, except paving would get just $75,000
  • $280,000 to give residents a half-cent tax rebate
  • $270,000 to give employees a 3% salary increase starting on Jan. 1, 2022

Scenario 3

The town could also hold $550,000 to spend next fiscal year, while still covering the unfunded priorities now:

  • $280,000 to reduce the real estate tax rate by half a cent
  • $270,000 to increase employee salaries by 3% starting on July 1, 2022

Serfass noted that the surplus could be spent on any priorities, but she suggested paving and tree maintenance because the town council had previously floated those as areas that could use more money.

“Here’s some things that fall into the category of things we wanted to do but haven’t had enough money to do them,” she said. “We could always put more money in paving. We’re only getting the index of ‘fair’…We know we have issues with trees.”

The council gave its support for funding those needs as well as holding money for a tax rate reduction in July instead of an immediate rebate.

“I know it’s not much either way, but I think [a rate reduction] has more value than mailing somebody a pretty small check,” Councilmember Ed Somers said.

The council proved skeptical, however, when it came to the proposed 3% salary increase, since it would be a recurring expense paid for with a one-time surplus.

“If you are using long-term money for short-term gain, I have never seen that work,” Councilmember Steve Potter said, adding that he would be more comfortable offering bonuses or another incentive to help recruit and retain workers.

According to Michelle Crabtree, Vienna’s human resources director, other jurisidictions have seen some success in using bonuses to recruit employees, particularly police officers and commercially licensed drivers.

“We’ve had a high turnover in public works,” she said. “We’ve lost eight people this year, and seven of them said it was one hundred percent because they could find more money elsewhere.”

Noting that Vienna is hardly alone in having labor challenges, Councilmember Nisha Patel said she would support bonuses targeted toward the positions facing the biggest hiring and retention issues.

“If we have additional funds that can go to staff, maybe we should use those more wisely to attract and retain, as opposed to just spreading it out,” Patel said.

The Vienna Town Council will hold a public hearing on the surplus funds on Nov. 15.

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One person has died after two vehicles crashed in the I-495 North access lanes to Route 50 in West Falls Church this morning (Thursday), Virginia State Police reported.

VSP responded to a crash on the Capital Beltway at 2:59 a.m. According to police, a Volkswagen and dump truck collided in the access lanes, resulting in one confirmed fatality and sending another person to the hospital with life-threatening injuries.

The crash completely blocked the I-495 Inner Loop service road and on ramp, and access to the Inner Loop from both Gallows Road and Route 50 (Arlington Boulevard) was cut off.

The incident was cleared and all travel lanes reopened around 9:12 a.m., but delays lingered with traffic backed up to the I-495 and I-395 interchange in Springfield.

The crash remains under investigation, VSP says.

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An Italian restaurant named after a Virginia-born cowboy and featuring a “Hell’s Kitchen” chef is slated to open on Nov. 8, Jack’s Ranch tells Tysons Reporter.

The restaurant, located at the Lumen apartments (1755 Tysons Central Street), will feature “smoked meats, salumi and cheeses procured from the finest artisans in the world and prepared by culinary masters,” along with hand-made pasta and certified Roman and Napolitano pizza, according to its website.

The executive chef is Declan Horgan, who has worked in Dublin and D.C. restaurants and appeared on the 19th season of “Hell’s Kitchen.” His past patrons have included former first lady Michelle Obama, who ordered fish and chips from a restaurant he ran before going to an Erykah Badu concert. His TikTok account has also turned heads.

Jack’s Ranch spokesperson Jennifer Grinnell shared the following:

We are happy to say that we are on track for opening to the public Monday, November 8. Our kitchen equipment is installed (including two giant smokers for smoked meats, our Stefano Ferrara pizza oven for certified Roman and Neapolitan pizzas and top-of-the-line pasta machine for house-made pasta), Executive Chef Declan Horgan is finalizing the menu and we are definitely hiring.

Job openings listed online include a bartender, dining room server, and dining room host.

The restaurant is named after John Omohundro, also known as Texas Jack, a 19th century figure who was born near Palmyra and ended up moving to Texas, where he found fame on the stage and had his life illustrated in dime novels. He also met and married an Italian dancer and actress, Josephine Morlacchi.

The addition comes from restaurateur Steve Roberts, an Air Force veteran who started Texas Jack’s Barbecue in Arlington. However, Texas Jack’s Barbecue partner Paul Capetanakis said the two restaurants are separate.

According to its website, the Tysons venue will also feature a Josephine’s Italian Market and Café with “gourmet smoked meats and cheeses, sandwiches, our fresh pasta and house-made sauces, salumi, coffee and wine selections.”

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