Tysons, VA

The Virginia Department of Transportation is moving forward with plans to overhaul the intersection of Towlston Road and Leesburg Pike (Route 7), but despite requests from local residents, the highway’s speed limit will not be reduced after construction is finished.

VDOT officials say the need to move traffic to and from Tysons will keep the speed limit on Route 7 at 55 miles per hour.

VDOT discussed the changes coming to the Route 7 and Towlston intersection at a virtual town hall hosted by the Great Falls Citizens Association on March 31.

The need for improvements to the intersection emerged in the aftermath of a fatal crash in December. At the meeting, officials said the incident occurred when a vehicle traveling southbound on Towlston Road attempted a left turn onto Leesburg Pike. A distracted driver ran through the red light and struck the turning vehicle.

“What the community is seeking is an assurance that the intersection will be as safe as possible when VDOT completes its work under the widening project,” GFCA executive board director Mike Barclay said.

Barclay said that the intersection improvements need to ensure that, when a car turns left on Route 7 from Towlston, the driver “will have an unimpeded view of traffic traveling west on Route 7.”

Public feedback at the meeting ranged from urges to reduce the speed limit to a call to convert the intersection into a four-way stop.

Some of those concerns, particularly regarding sight-lines, should be waylaid by the current project to widen Route 7 from Reston to Tysons, VDOT said.

As part of the project, extended turn lanes will be added to Leesburg Pike to make it easier for trucks to turn onto Towlston Road, a response to the common complaint that trucks turning at the intersection often block several lanes of traffic.

Steve Kuntz, transportation business unit manager for consultant Dewberry, said sight-lines at the intersection will be improved as part of ongoing work at the intersection.

“We’re still not in the final configuration,” Kuntz said. “It is still a work in progress. We want to make sure everyone recognizes: what you see today is not the permanent configuration.”

But VDOT said there are no plans to reduce the speed limit on Leesburg Pike.

“Reducing speed on Route 7 is not an option,” VDOT district construction engineer Bill Cutler said. “It’s a highway to Tysons and needs to be able to move people along.”

However, changes will be made to Towlston Road, which will be reduced to 25 miles per hour near the intersection.

Cutler said VDOT will also be working with the contractor and the operations center to optimize timing at the signal as part of a broader effort to synchronize signals throughout the Route 7 corridor.

“We expect that this will function well,” Cutler said. “Now, it won’t function perfectly because we’re in Northern Virginia. Nothing functions perfectly, but it should function better than it has in the past. We’ll take counts and see how that holds up compared to our forecasts, and certainly to reality.”

Photo via Google Maps

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Plans to overhaul the area around the West Falls Church Metro station are slowly coming together, but some deep divisions over what shape that future will take remain, even as Fairfax County’s three-year effort to update its vision for the area nears a conclusion.

Appointed by Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust in 2019, the West Falls Church Transit Station Area Task Force is a small group with a big task: help determine what the approximately 24 acres of transit-accessible land should look like.

In the group’s penultimate meeting last night, one of the primary points of contention was how Virginia Tech’s 7.5-acre campus on Haycock Road should be separated from residences.

Dwyn Taylor, representing Virginia Tech, was left to address the fallout of the university’s decision not to move forward with plans to expand its Northern Virginia Center with a design school and other facilities.

What will or won’t be built at the site is still up in the air, and Taylor was pressed by task force member Paul Rothstein about how any future construction will divide the campus from nearby residential properties like The Villages.

Taylor answered that he couldn’t provide too many specifics on what the alignment of the campus will look like, because it was still being determined what the curriculum of the school will be.

“What does your curriculum have to do with buffering?” Rothstein said. “So it’s acceptable to you to be fronting right next to our community? Virginia Tech was not a very good neighbor to us. We asked specific questions and never got very good answers…I [hope Taylor] will take back to project executives that it’s important for Virginia Tech to consider being good neighbors to the community they say they’re proud to be part of.”

Task force chair David Wuehrmann noted that buffers are included in the proposed draft amendment to Fairfax County’s comprehensive plan, which was last updated on April 1, but Rothstein said his concern is that what constitutes a barrier is left vague.

One of the few examples of landscape buffering included in the plan is a “linear park,” which Rothstein says could constitute much less than what anyone on the task force is imagining unless specified otherwise.

“If it’s a linear trail, like W&OD trail, that’s not really a buffer,” Rothstein said. “It’s nice language, but nothing says [the] buffer will be at least X. It sounds nice, but there are no teeth in it.”

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Merrifield Fire Station Renovation Underway — “Renovation at Station 30, Merrifield, coming along nicely. Reno includes a 440 sq ft addition. Station remains totally operationally during this time w/trailer for personnel in back. Truck 430 temporarily at Station 34. Current estimated occupancy is first quarter of 2022.” [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department/Twitter]

Vienna Reminds Locals Not to Put Yard Waste in Plastic Bags — “Vienna residents, please be aware of this new rule. Place yard waste – that’s grass clippings, leaves, weeds, vines, and other such materials – loose in reusable containers or in paper bags made specifically for yard waste and available at hardware stores.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

Northern Virginia Office Vacancy Tops 20% — “As a whole, per CBRE, Greater Washington posted 1.4 million square feet of negative absorption over the past quarter, compared to a more modest 129,713 square feet of positive absorption in the first quarter of 2020.” [Washington Business Journal]

McLean Community Center Plans Environmental Action Event — “The McLean Community Center is hosting what it calls an ‘environmental action event’ for local residents on Saturday, April 17 from 9 a.m. to noon.” [Sun Gazette]

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The Town of Vienna is funding a sidewalk project that aims to make the town a little more pedestrian-friendly, but walkability remains a big topic throughout the car-heavy Tysons area.

With coronavirus shutting down most international travel, more emphasis was put on traveling by foot around neighborhoods. In Tysons, that led to temporarily closing a section of Tysons Blvd last year to accommodate more pedestrian traffic.

At the northern end of the area, McLean is also in the process over updating some of its busted sidewalks to help make walking around downtown less of a chore.

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Morning Notes

(Updated at 5:05 p.m. on 4/2/2021) Vienna Urges Locals to ‘Bee’ Aware of Honeybee Swarms — “A swarm of honeybees is a sight to see this spring, but don’t panic. A swarm isn’t dangerous unless provoked. But if you feel a colony or swarm is in a place it shouldn’t be, contact the Northern Virginia Beekeepers Association at novabees.org.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

Virginia Bans Police from Using Facial Recognition Software — “The legislation, which won unusually broad bipartisan support, prohibits all local law enforcement agencies and campus police departments from purchasing or using facial recognition technology unless it is expressly authorized by the state legislature.” [AP]

McLean High School PTSA Hosting Silver Diner Fundraiser — “Enjoy Spring break with our “first Thursday of each month” fundraiser at Tysons @Silver_Diner, Thursday, April 1st from 5-8 pm. Enjoy new menu items while supporting our school!” [McLean PTSA/Twitter]

Board of Supervisors Looking for Input for Police Chief Search — “Next Tuesday, April 6, @SupervisorLusk and I are holding a public input session on the selection of our new Police Chief. Provide your comments on what you hope to see in our next police chief ahead of time or live.” [Jeff McKay/Twitter]

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Morning Notes

Sameday Health in Tysons Offers Vaccinations — “Vaccinations began this week at Sameday Health‘s Tysons location, a parking lot at 1981 Chain Bridge Road. This is the same location offering PCR and rapid testing. In a few weeks, the location will transition from a testing and vaccination site to solely a vaccination site.” [Patch]

Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department Sees Increase in Emergency Incidents — “Firefighters/Paramedics responded to 1,985 incidents last week! An increase of almost 5.5% in overall incidents from previous week.” [FCFRD/Twitter]

WeWork Offers Two Months Rent-Free at Tysons Space — “The company is offering two months of free private office space at select locations in the D.C. region with a six-month commitment or three months free with a commitment of 12 months…Outside of the District, only WeWork’s locations at the University of Maryland, in Ballston, and Tysons are participating.” [Washington Business Journal]

Ribbon Cutting Held for Greenheart Juice in Vienna — “Thank you to everyone who attend the Greenheart Juice Shop ribbon cutting last Friday, and welcome to Town” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

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Friday Morning Notes

Vienna Girl Makes Eagle Scout History — “A Vienna eighth-grade student has achieved something few girls have: she’s become one of the nation’s first and youngest female Eagle Scouts.” [WJLA]

Tysons Corner Metro Station Closed for Coronavirus Cleaning — “Video posted to social media shows cleaning crews in full biohazard suits spraying the Tysons Corner station about 4 p.m. Tuesday.” [NBC4]

Vienna Planning Commission Approves New Subdivision — “A proposed six-house subdivision in southwest Vienna received a unanimous recommendation to the Vienna Town Council Nov. 4 from the town’s Planning Commission.” [Inside Nova]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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For the fourth year in a row, the Tysons 2050 event has put forward a rosy view of the future of the area, but this year, those lofty dreams are weighted down by some harsh realities about challenges ahead for Tysons.

Sponsored by the Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce, the event features voices from different industries around Tysons discussing what lies ahead for the region. Those experts recognized that the future is harder to predict this year. COVID-19 is on the rise again nationally and locally, and the onset of winter is leaving many businesses that had gone outside for activities scrambling for new solutions.

“What happens to offices and malls?” asked Sol Glasner, CEO of the Tysons Partnership. “I don’t know, and you shouldn’t listen to anyone who says they do know. The crystal ball is murky.”

Glasner said offices may need to be reconfigured, but he doesn’t believe the need for office space will fully disappear any more than retail will.

“Our shopping areas have proven adept to changing to consumer patterns,” Glasner said.

Mike Whatley, vice president of the National Restaurant Association, says one of the advantages for Tysons-area restaurants and retail is having more flexibility in using their space than their counterparts in D.C., like larger sidewalks for curbside pick-up.

“The ability to have extra space, to have extra flexibility, means restaurants will survive and thrive,” Whatley said. “When people are looking now and post-pandemic at where they want to live, you have to have that vibrant restaurant scene and culture.”

Whatley said one of the keys to surviving the season will be embracing going digital.

“Restaurants that survive are the ones that are embracing tech [and] communicating with customers,” Whatley said. “You do see a lot of them in the Tysons community, ones that are able to reach out to customers.”

Tony Hudgins, Vice President of TransitScreen, said ghost kitchens — food vendors that don’t operate out of a restaurant space — could take up a bigger role in the restaurant scene after the pandemic. Read More

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Drive-in movies have come back into fashion with coronavirus making traditional theaters unsafe. Now, Wolf Trap National Park is hosting a drive-in movie night on Friday to help support some local parent-teacher groups.

Wolf Trap will be showing Trolls 2 at on Friday, Nov. 13. Tickets are $20 per car with proof of purchase emailed.

The event is co-sponsored by the Terraset PTO and Buzz Aldrin PTA.

The lot is scheduled to open at 5:30 p.m. and access closes at 6:15 p.m. The movie scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m.

The movie will be screened in the East Parking Lot of the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts.

Food will also be available from three food trucks during the movie:

  • Dangerous Dawn’s Diner (Cheesesteaks, Grilled Cheese and Tator Tots)
  • Red’s BBQ (BBQ Foods)
  • Lattimore’s Funnel Cake Truck (Funnel Cake and Fried Oreos)

Photo via Wolf Trap/Facebook

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Monday Morning Notes

NoVa Leads State in COVID-19 New Cases — “There has been an uptick of cases in Northern Virginia for over a week and an increase in the southwest region during October.” [Patch]

The Boro Wins Regional Development Awards — “KETTLER, one of Greater Washington, D.C.’s leading real estate services companies, announces the acceptance of multiple awards for Rise and Bolden Apartments, and Verse Condominiums located at The Boro in Tysons, Virginia.” [InsideNova]

Tysons Corner Center Announces Contact-Free Santa — “Santa and his helpers will be back at Tysons Corner Center, but there will be some changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” [Yahoo]

Macerich Secures Loan for New Residential Tower in Tysons — “While reporting its financial results for the third quarter on Thursday, Macerich Co. (MAC), a self-administered real estate investment trust, said its joint venture has secured a commitment for a $95 million loan on Tysons Vita, the residential tower at Tysons Corner.” [Nasdaq]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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