Newsletter
Envision Route 7 Bus Rapid Transit concept (via NVTC)

A regional study of the proposed bus rapid transit (BRT) route from Tysons to Alexandria is moving into a new phase that will assess options through the Seven Corners area.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission voted last night (Thursday) to approve a contract for the fourth phase of its Envision Route 7 mobility analysis study, which began in 2013 to evaluate the possibility of bus service between the Spring Hill Metro station and Alexandria’s Mark Center.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors gave their support to NVTC’s plans to continue the study in February and approved a recommended route for the Tysons segment of the BRT line in July.

“As we look to the corridor in segments, Fairfax has done a lot of work from Tysons to the border of Falls Church,” NVTC staff said at yesterday’s meeting. “This picks up on the analysis they’ve done and continues down to Seven Corners.”

The study is expected to take up to 18 months, ending in April 2023. It will be followed by environmental and preliminary engineering design before staff comes back with a strategic framework for the plan. The contract was approved with a $516,800 cap.

According to a report prepared for the meeting:

The Envision Route 7 Phase IV-1 Mobility Study will evaluate and determine the mobility benefits and impacts resulting from the proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) from Tysons to Seven Corners. The overall study objectives for this effort for the section of Route 7 from Tysons to Seven Corners are:

  • To determine the mobility benefits of BRT along Route 7;
  • To gain a better appreciation of the traffic impacts of BRT along Route 7;
  • To gain an understanding of the traffic operational issues with a BRT operating along
    Route 7; and,
  • To facilitate the public understanding of how a BRT would operate along Route 7.

With the 11-mile Route 7 corridor expected to see a 35% growth in population and jobs by 2040, NVTC anticipates that the planned BRT will generate about 30,000 boardings per day, two-thirds of which will be for shopping and recreation, according to the project webpage.

The project is part of a larger effort to create a regional BRT network, with services also planned for Alexandria’s West End and Richmond Highway in Fairfax County.

Photo via Northern Virginia Transportation Commission

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A new website called McLean Today launched last week with the ambitious aim of being a one-stop shop for all things related to events, activities, and shopping around McLean.

The website is a Voltron-like collaboration of several local groups: the McLean Citizens Association, the McLean Chamber of Commerce, the McLean Community Center, the McLean Revitalization Corporation, the McLean Planning Committee, and the McLean Project for the Arts.

“McLean residents and visitors looking for dinner, a local activity, a special gift or a hard-to-find item will find their search simplified by using the recently released McLean Today website,” a press release from the site said. “McLean Today, the collaborative effort of several local community organizations, is a new one-stop site to find many of the activities, events, goods and services that are close to home.”

The site’s lead organizer is local resident Kim Dorgan, who is also on the board of directors for the McLean Revitalization Corporation.

“McLean Today is your go-to source for the latest information on the activities and events, goods and services offered here in our hometown,” Dorgan said in the press release. “There is so much great information out there about what McLean has to offer, but there has been no central source to find what is offered day-in and day-out. With McLean Today, you can find what you need close to home in one place with a single search.”

The site has a selection of local dining options categorized by type. According to the press release, there are over 40 food and drink outlets listed on the site, as well as 100 businesses within walking distance or a “short drive” from McLean.

The McLean Today website launches even as Fairfax County works to do more on a planning and policy level to revitalize McLean’s downtown. The press release also notes that the impact of COVID-19 on local businesses played a role in inspiring the website’s creation.

“The aim of McLean Today is to provide a list of activities and events in one place that have community-wide impact and are of interest to the general public,” Dorgan said. “While its primary focus is the economic center of McLean in the downtown corridor, it will include activities and events throughout all of greater McLean.”

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Heale Medical reception desk rendering (courtesy Heale Medical)

A new primary care medical office is having its grand opening in Tysons today (Tuesday).

Heale Medical is opening at 8300 Boone Boulevard, an office building just south of the Chain Bridge Road and Leesburg Pike interchange, at 11 a.m.

Founder Dr. Amit Newatia told Tysons Reporter that, despite the area’s swelling population, there’s limited access to primary care treatment. There are, at least according to Google, around a dozen medical clinics or general practitioners in Tysons, along with a new emergency room opening next year.

“Despite this population growth, the area suffers from a dearth of options for modern primary care offices that customize care to the individual,” Newatia said. “Traditional primary care offices fail to fully cater to this evolving group of highly discerning patients, especially when it comes to long-term and preventative care. Heale Medical offers a unique perspective on primary care where patients are treated with great dignity and are given incredible empowerment over their health.”

According to the Heale Medical social media page, the office works with all major insurance carriers, though co-pays apply depending on the insurance.

Annual membership fees for Heale Medical are $199, but a press release said the practice is offering free membership for the first year for locals who sign up between Sept. 1 and Dec. 1.

The press release noted that patients have access to health an wellness support services, as well as “health screenings, management of acute and urgent illnesses or injuries, and chronic conditions.”

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The new McLean location for grocery chain Lidl will be accompanied by regional favorite pizza and beer chains when it opens sometime next year.

Construction on Lidl, which is replacing the Safeway at 1330 Chain Bridge Road, is now underway, with plans to open next spring.

As first reported by the Washington Business Journal, Reston-based Thompson Hospitality is subleasing some of the space in Lidl to add D.C.-area chains Matchbox — a series of pizzerias spread predominately through Northern Virginia — and Big Buns, a burger eatery with locations in Reston, Ballston, and Shirlington.

According to an email from Connie Collins, senior vice president of the Thompson Retail Food Group, Matchbox and Big Buns are scheduled to open in the second quarter of 2022:

We believe the Mclean customer is quite adept at recognizing quality providing us with the exciting opportunity to deliver best-in-class product and service [by our flagship Matchbox and Big Buns brands] aligned with the needs of a discerning and deserving consumer. Our breadth of menu offerings provided a rounded environment to dine at various times of day and experiences to a wide variety of diners from children to retirees and everyone in between.

Both restaurants will take up a 6,200 square-foot space and will have their own seating areas. Matchbox will also have a patio space, like the pizzeria’s Mosaic District location.

Big Buns confirmed to Tysons Reporter in July that it is adding a location in the Town of Vienna, taking over the site in Danor Plaza previously occupied by Elevation Burger.

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Vienna police car (via Vienna Police Department/Facebook)

It was a busy month in Vienna, with police responding to multiple drunken incidents and violent crimes.

The Vienna Police Department’s Crime Report details incidents cross the town where Vienna Police have responded or made arrests. The police report for the week of Sept. 10-16 said a man was arrested for an intoxicated hit-and-run on Nutley Street in late August.

According to the police report:

Vehicle-1 was traveling northbound on Nutley Street at a high rate of speed. Vehicle-2 was on Tapawingo Road stopped at the traffic light for Nutley Street. Vehicle-1 struck Vehicle-2 as it turned onto Tapawingo. Driver-1 fled the scene of the accident, abandoning the vehicle on Hillcrest Drive. Driver-2 was transported to an area hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

On September 15, after completing their investigation, officers obtained two warrants for Driver-1 charging Felony Hit & Run and Driving While Intoxicated. With the assistance of Fairfax County Police, the officers responded to Driver-1’s residence. Ofc. Reed arrested the 25-year old man from Midlothian Court in Vienna. He was transported to the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center where the warrants were served.

Also in vehicular crime, last month an employee at Loyal Companion (144 Maple Avenue W) came back to their car in the lot and found their brake lines had been cut.

On September 10, an employee reported that on August 23 he left his vehicle legally parked in the lot behind Loyal Companion. When he returned to the vehicle he found that someone had cut his brake lines.

The report also captured several altercations at local restaurants. At Crumbl Cookies (203 Maple Avenue), a former employee returned to the store intoxicated and became verbally abusive toward the staff, and on Sept. 12, police were called on a family having a domestic dispute behind the Chipotle in the same shopping center.

Most notable, though, was an assault at McDonalds that occurred last Monday (Sept. 13).

A customer, who frequently comes into the restaurant and makes inappropriate comments to the employees, made a comment to a female employee that upset her brother who is also an employee. The customer continued to antagonize the male employee, resulting in a physical altercation in the parking lot. The customer left the store before officers arrived. At the request of the manager of the restaurant, officers responded to the customer’s home and trespassed the man from the McDonalds. The man was advised that he may be charged with trespassing if he returns to the premises.

Photo via Vienna Police Department/Facebook

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Silver Line Express proposal, via WMATA

Metro has some bad news for fans of a proposed “Silver Line Express” rail service.

A recent cost-benefit analysis by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) found the project had the lowest cost-effectiveness of the five options being considered to boost capacity and reliability on the Blue, Orange, and Silver lines.

The hypothetical “Silver Line Express” would run through a new tunnel and tracks starting at the West Falls Church Metro station out to a second Rosslyn station in Arlington. The new tunnel could support express service, local service, or some mix of the two, a WMATA report said.

But a WMATA report and discussion at a Metro Board of Directors meeting on Thursday (Sept. 9) indicated the Silver Line Express may never leave the hypothetical stage. The cost-benefit analysis most heavily favored a new Blue Line route down from Union Station down to National Harbor.

The Silver Line Express carries an estimated cost of $20-25 billion, about the same as a new Blue Line route, but the report indicated that the express line would generate fewer new weekday trips — 139,000 compared to 180,000 for the new Blue Line — and receive less in annual fare — $119.4 million versus $154.2 million.

“When you look at the performance, the new Blue Line to national harbor offers highest impacts and highest benefits while lower cost alternatives have fewer benefits,” Mac Phillips, a principal planner and senior transportation economist-analyst for WMATA, told the Metro Board.

A cost-effectiveness ranking of the projects found the Silver Line Express to be the least cost-effective proposal, and only sitting at “medium-high” in terms of benefits.

Other options to expand capacity and ridership proposed by the study, which launched in 2019, include realigning the Blue Line at the second Rosslyn station to Greenbelt in Maryland and separating the Orange and Silver lines at Clarendon to create a second Silver Line connection at the proposed new Rosslyn station.

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4/15/20: Silver Line Phase 1 crews place concrete for new ADA ramp along eastbound Route 7 (courtesy Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project)

On paper, the Silver Line Phase 2 expansion should be “substantially completed” by November or December this year, but doubts expressed by the construction contractor about that timeline have filtered up to the Metro Board of Directors, where there are worries that construction delays could have a ripple effect.

At a meeting yesterday (Thursday), board members questioned staff about the status of construction following a disagreement between Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) and Capital Rail Constructors (CRC).

“We have seen some reports that Capital Rail Constructors, the main Silver Line contractor, is telling MWAA that substantial completion date is something like May 2022,” said Metro Board member Matt Letourneau. “MWAA has stuck to November/December 2021 completion date. As of now, that’s still our understanding and what we’re operating on, correct?”

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority staff said they are still operating on the November or December timeframe for substantial completion laid out by MWAA. Andy Off, executive vice president for capital delivery, said substantial completion is still expected for later this year.

Even so, this wouldn’t be the first time the Silver Line has missed a deadline, and other Metro projects have also seen significant delays recently.

Off said testing with trains started on Aug. 21 and has been going well, potentially bringing the project closer to operational readiness testing, a process projected to take 60 days after substantial completion. However, that timeline is not set in stone and depends on how testing goes.

“We’re hesitant to get too far out in front of the timeline,” Off said.

After that, WMATA moves into a 90-day period for pre-revenue service activity — things like outfitting the kiosks, updating signage, and assigning staff.

The uncertain timing is a particularly sticky issue when it comes to hiring of new staff for the Silver Line expansion, who the Metro Board warned could be paid to sit around waiting for construction to finish.

“It seems like we don’t have an end date, so we’re training all these people early, but what happens when we’re not ready to go forward with operating the silver line?” board member Tom Bulger said. “What happens to those employees? Do they just sit around?”

WMATA Chief Operations Officer Joe Leader said the process of hiring and training staff takes time and, in the final stages of construction, needs to run in parallel with testing and other tasks in order for the Silver Line extension to be fully staffed when it opens.

“It’s an issue we’re dealing with with MWAA,” Leader said. “One of the things important to keep in mind: lead time for training employees takes time, just hiring them can take months to go through background check and medical. A Metro transit police officer can take up to ten months to train.”

Leader said WMATA will continue to monitor the substantial completion date to decide when to start moving forward with hiring and training.

“Based on what we’re hearing,” Leader said, “we need to continue to bring people onboard.

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Among a crowd of pizza crafters applying fixtures with eyedroppers or a brush, chef Andy Brown did what he did best: make the same kind of pizza he’d make if he were any given Friday at the shop.

That’s how Andy’s Pizza, a small regional chain with a location in Tysons Galleria, took home the first-place prize in the traditional pizza category of the International Pizza Challenge last month.

“The whole point of the traditional category is: what do you do really great at 7 p.m. on a Friday?” said Emily Brown, Andy’s cousin and co-owner of Andy’s Pizza. “Maybe it was a risky move, but we just did what we put out on Friday. No paint brushes, no eye-droppers.”

Originally introduced in 2007, the International Pizza Challenge is the largest pizza-making competition in the U.S. It unfolded this year from Aug. 17-19 as part of the 37th annual International Pizza Expo.

Part of the rules for the traditional category is to use no more than two toppings, but as Emily explained, traditional doesn’t necessarily mean simple. There’s a specific process behind the scenes that goes into making the pizza.

“We do a 72-hour minimum cold fermented crust,” Emily said. “For our sauce, we have a beautiful red sauce with a pinch of salt, and we use the best cheese money can buy — mozzarella from Grande Cheese. Our crust is blistered, and we use a special technique to keep it chewy and soft while being crisp on the bottom.”

Emily suspects it was the blistered crust that helped Andy’s Pizza stand out from the competition.

“A lot of people do that ferment, and a lot of people use that cheese, so it’s really the blister,” Emily said.

Meanwhile, the pizzeria just started serving its first vegan pies. Emily says they were previously unimpressed with the quality of artificial cheeses, but they found the right one with Vertage in Ivy City in D.C.

Emily also helped spearhead the pizzeria’s beer menu, which has started to see a gradual comeback after lunch and happy-hour crowds took a hit with office workers staying home during the pandemic.

“Tonight, people came out from D.C. and were like ‘how did you get this beer?'” Emily said. “Our bread and butter was office, and they were gone and started to trickle back…You still don’t get that automatic 50-person-on-a-Tuesday Capital One happy hour yet, so you have to work really hard not to let that program slip. If you do something hard enough, people will notice.”

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Arbor day tree planting in 2017 (via Falls Church Village Preservation and Improvement Society)

The City of Falls Church and the Falls Church Village Preservation and Improvement Society (VPIS) are planning to plant 30 new trees this fall and could use some of your input on where to put them.

Charles Prince, City of Falls Church Arborist, says the planting effort is part of a multi-year push to spruce up much of the city, and the 30-tree goal is intended to be mindful of the limited scale of volunteer operations.

“The Department of Public Works has a goal of 100 trees per year that started this past July,” Prince said by email. “100 is the number of trees planted for the City’s first Arbor Day. Right now we have limited resources due to volunteer event restrictions (COVID) and until our in house crew is hired we are down three people that would normally assist with planting. Setting a goal of 30 trees using a tree contractor lets us work towards our goal while being mindful of budget.”

While the target goal of 100 trees per year is new, Prince says Falls Church has had an annual tree planting program in place for over two decades.

“This is a successful and popular annual program that has been in place since 2000 and has resulted in 1,400 trees thanks to many, many volunteers,” Prince said.

Prince said the program has helped make the tree canopy a core part of the city’s DNA, noting that Falls Church has been designated a Tree City USA by the National Arbor Day Foundation for 42 consecutive years.

“The distinction honors the City’s commitment to community forestry,” Prince said. “In fact, the City was the first community in Virginia to be recognized as a Tree City and has the longest state record for this annual national award. The City had the first Arbor Day in the state in 1892 after a hurricane hit Falls Church.”

Prince said the trees program helps provide several benefits, from shade and filtering CO2 to reducing stormwater runoff and certain health benefits.

For residents hoping to get a tree from the city to plant, Prince said there are a few restrictions, including that requests must come from Falls Church City residents. Falls Church addresses outside city limits don’t count.

Sites also must have room for a shade tree within 15 feet of the street with no interfering utilities, and they can’t be subject to a required landscaping plan.

Requests must be submitted to the city or VPIS by Sept. 6 to be eligible for the fall planting.

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A new little “village” neighborhood could soon be built on three-vacant parcels on Courthouse Road Southwest behind a Maple Avenue strip mall.

At a meeting tomorrow (Wednesday), the Town of Vienna Planning Commission is scheduled to review an application to build six two-family buildings with a total of 12 residential units and a clubhouse on what is today a vacant three-parcel lot.

As part of the application, developer JDA Custom Homes is requesting to use up to 60% of the lot, an increase over the 25% currently allowed.

The development at 117 and 121 Courthouse Road SW would be located behind a small shopping center that includes Lotus Garden and Pure Barre.

“The proposed development is a cottage-housing style development where a small group of generally smaller homes are centered around a common area,” the staff report said. “The architectural style of the two-family dwellings will be similar to the architecture often seen with cottage housing developments, which includes a relatively short building height, a compact footprint, and a maximum of one and a half stories.”

Each unit in the new development would also include a two-car garage on the basement level accessible on a loop around the residences. Parallel visitor parking would be located along that same service drive.

JDA Custom Homes first pitched the idea of building cottage housing on Courthouse Road in December, but at that time, the Vienna Town Council took issue with the developer bringing forward a new proposal just weeks after it had approved dividing the lot into three plots for single-family homes.

Now, JDA is seeking to get the site rezoned again for multi-family, low-density development.

The staff report notes that the subject parcels have been designated for “low-density residential” and “mixed-use” zoning in Vienna’s Future Land Use Plan. It says the proposed change would not constitute spot zoning, because it would help separate the commercial activity on Maple from the nearby single-family houses.

“The Comprehensive Plan includes language that supports the proposed development as a transition from commercial development to single-family detached residential,” the report says. “It also specifically supports village housing (also known as cottage court housing) as a desired type of housing.”

A smaller form of housing that falls in between single-family houses and apartments, cottage housing is among the changes being contemplated as part of the town’s Code Create Vienna zoning code overhaul, which is expected to be completed this winter.

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