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Warning Lights, and Thank You Notes, on New Vienna Speeding Signs

Vienna is purchasing new electronic signs that won’t just tell drivers if they’re going over the speed limit — it can send thank you messages to drivers who are going under the limit.

At the Vienna Town Council meeting on Monday, the council approved the purchase of eight new “SpeedAlert” display signs and new traffic management equipment from Herndon-based All Traffic Solutions.

Michael Gallagher, Director of Public Works for Vienna, said new GPS and feedback options make SpeedAlert signs an improvement to the existing speed indicator signs.

“Besides just giving you speed feedback, they collect speed and volume data as well,” said Gallagher. “That allows them to make instantaneous reports. They’re much more powerful than the equipment we currently have.”

Gallagher says the machines can be programed to flash strobe-lights or red and blue lights as a warning to speeding drivers.

“Three of the signs are a little larger and can be used for message boarding,” said Gallagher. “They could have a message if you’re speeding to show down or thank drivers for going the speed limit.”

The new signs cost a total of $59,477 and will supplement the existing supply of speed indicator signs.

“On a per dollar basis, this might be one of the best expenditures we have in terms of responding to citizen concerns and getting them what they want,” said Councilmember Pasha Majdi.

The new signs, which can also display non-speeding-related messages such as safety warnings, were unanimously approved by the council.

Photo via Facebook

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New Jones Branch Connector Set to Partially Open Next Sunday

The Jones Branch Connector will be partially open, with one lane of traffic in each direction, starting next Sunday (Dec. 15).

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) announced the opening today, a slight delay from the earlier opening planned for Dec. 12.

The Jones Branch Connector links Route 123 and I-495, previously only connected at a congested interchange to the south of the project.

When it’s finished, the road will feature two travel lanes and on-street bike lanes in each direction. The road will also have 8-12 foot wide lighted sidewalks and a raised median to accommodate a future Tysons Circulator bus.

Final completion on the project is scheduled for next fall. By 2040, VDOT estimates the road will carry over 32,000 vehicles per day.

Photo via Virginia Department of Transportation

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TRAFFIC ALERT: Jackknifed Tractor Trailer Snarls Traffic on Beltway

Big backups have formed on the Inner Loop of the Beltway due to a jackknifed tractor trailer.

The crash happened in the northbound lanes of I-495 between I-66 and Route 7, north of Merrifield. Two lanes of traffic appear to be getting by the crash scene, based on traffic camera images, but major backups have formed.

One person was reported injured and has been transported to a local hospital.

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Expect HOV Enforcement on I-66 Tonight

The following article excerpt is from our content sharing partner, FairfaxNews.com.

Today — Friday, November 30 — would not be a good day to try to sneak through on the I-66 HOV lanes without either paying the toll or having enough people in your vehicle to avoid it.

Virginia State Police plan to crack down on HOV violators along the portion of I-66 that runs inside the Beltway. The troopers will be out in force during both morning and afternoon rush hours.

HOV hours run Monday through Friday, from 5:30 to 9:30 a.m. eastbound and 3 to 7 p.m. westbound. All vehicles with two or more people are allowed to use the road during rush hours for free, but need an E-ZPass Flex switched to HOV-mode.

Read more at FairfaxNews.com

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Poll: Are You Traveling for Thanksgiving or Christmas?

The day is here — the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, one of the busiest car travel days of the year.

More on just how bad traffic will be from AAA Mid-Atlantic:

Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. is virtually “Zero Hour” if you are traveling clockwise on the Capital Beltway when traffic speeds will be down to about 7 miles per hour (mph), as you crawl toward your Thanksgiving destination, according to projections by INRIX, in collaboration with AAA. Tuesday, the eve of Thanksgiving Eve, is also the absolute worst time to be caught on the Outer Loop of the Capital Beltway, especially during the evening rush hour at 6:15 p.m. Here, travel delays will increase nearly 100 percent and travel speeds will drop to 23 miles per hour, as holiday travelers and commuters co-mingle and converge at one of the biggest bottlenecks in the Washington metro area.

Thanksgiving Eve, Wednesday November 21, is the worst day and time to travel for holiday travelers taking Interstate 95 North, Interstate 270 North, and U.S. 50 East, according to data from INRIX. There are 15 freeway segments to eschew. Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic. Then there are the hotspots to circumvent and circumnavigate during the getaway period. […]

“With 1.2 million Washington area residents hitting the highways for the holiday, travel delays will become a contagion on area freeways and highways on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and on Thanksgiving Eve, as virtually everyone experiences a significant increase in travel times and traffic congestion,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “Holiday traffic, and any poor soul caught up in it, will creep, crawl and slither along. Given this, holiday travelers will be forced to add ‘extra buffer time’ to their trips to reach their Thanksgiving destinations on time.”

That brings us to our poll question: we’re wondering if Tysons Reporter readers will be heading out of town for holiday, despite the big traffic rush, or staying here. Also, while we’re at it, what about Christmas travel?

Regardless of whether you’re driving, flying or otherwise, let us know if you’re heading out of town for the holidays.

Table via AAA Mid-Atlantic

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Snow Causes Early Morning Closures, But Streets Largely Clear in Tysons Area

Despite some early morning setbacks, traffic around Tysons seems back to normal.

While there are road closures in other parts of the county, Fairfax County Police have reported no closures in the McLean Police District. As of 10 a.m. most roads through Tysons seem to be running smoothly — all things considered.

Police have warned that crashes are on the rise throughout Fairfax. Crashes have been reported near Merrifield, causing some congestion in the westbound lanes. A crash was also reported on Dulles Toll Road around 10:10 a.m., closing the north right lane and causing some congestion.

Earlier this morning, Twitter users reported express lanes near Tysons were closed and traffic was bumper to bumper.

Others warned that snow was sticking to the Beltway. Snow plows have since been spotted on traffic cameras working their way through Tysons streets.

Photo via Fairfax Police Department

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McLean Citizens Association to Consider VDOT Ramp Closure

(Updated at 6:50 p.m.) There’s skepticism in McLean about a plan to close Beltway access during weekday afternoons, but the McLean Citizens Association may vote to support a pilot phase for the project.

Tomorrow evening, the McLean Citizens Association (MCA) Board of Directors is scheduled to vote whether or not to endorse the Virginia Department of Transportation’s (VDOT) pilot program for a controversial proposal to close the northbound ramp from Georgetown Pike onto the Beltway during evening rush hour.

The MCA Board of Directors meeting is open to the public and will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the McLean Government Center (1437 Balls Hill Rd).

The logic of the MCA’s resolution is that the four-month inconvenience of testing the closure is better than a more permanent change based on traffic model predictions alone. Among alternatives proposed by the MCA to closing access to the Beltway would be tolling the ramp.

The proposal stems from the heavy amount of cut-through traffic driving through the largely residential McLean streets to avoid traffic jams on the Beltway. The northbound ramp from Route 193 (Georgetown Pike) onto the Beltway in McLean is the last entrance before the American Legion Bridge, a major bottleneck for regional traffic.

The problem has been exacerbated by the rise of apps like Waze and Google Maps, which encourage Maryland commuters to use McLean streets as a shortcut, according to local residents.

VDOT’s proposed pilot program would close the northbound ramp from 1-7 p.m. on weekdays for a four-month trial, during which VDOT would collect data on whether the closure was successful in reducing cut-through traffic.

VDOT has previously held two meetings on the subject, during which most of the feedback was critical of the proposal. Residents in McLean and Great Falls said the proposal would force residents to take a more inconvenient route to access the Beltway.

The MCA’s resolution expresses support for the VDOT proposal on the grounds of testing the proposal rather than relying on traffic models alone. The resolution says that the testing the proposal as a pilot project would show the real-life impact of the change.

Also under consideration is an alternative proposal put forward by one member of the MCA, which calls for VDOT to halt all consideration of the project entirely.

Photo via Virginia Department of Transportation

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Improvements Planned for Crash-Prone McLean Intersection

The Balls Hill Road and Old Dominion Drive intersection can be a headache for anyone driving through McLean, but plans are underway to make major changes to the troublesome conjunction.

A meeting is scheduled for Thursday (Nov. 15) to update the public on the Balls Hill Road and Old Dominion Drive Realignment Project.

Currently, the road faces substantial queuing during rush hours, caused in part by poor intersection design and insufficient sight-lines for drivers at the intersection. Between 2010-2015 there were 29 total crashes in the vicinity of the intersection.

Two new by-right developments approved in the area, Mehr Farms and Summerstone, are likely to add more traffic to the already congested streets.

The improvements are part of a broader series of traffic projects underway across McLean.

The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in at Cooper Middle School (977 Balls Hill Road).

According to the Fairfax County Department of Transportation, there are several traffic alternatives being considered for the site:

  • T-Intersection: This would solve queuing issues at the site while having a relatively small footprint. But this shift could also have an impact at the Balls Hill Road intersection with Dulany Hill Drive nearby.
  • Roundabout: This would allow the intersection to maintain the historic look of the intersection and maintain the state standards of design at the lowest cost. But roundabouts have been shown to have a substantial learning curve for drivers. The intersection would also have to undergo significant topographical changes and it would impact three homes currently under construction at the Mehr Farms development.
  • Dedicated Left Turn Lanes: This would be lower in cost than the T-Intersection and have a smaller footprint than the roundabout, but the turn onto Old Dominion Drive would be a quasi U-turn. The new turn lanes would also significantly impact the nearby Korean Presbyterian Church and the Mehr Farms development.

The design is expected to be finalized this fall, with design and right-of-way acquisition occurring between 2019 and 2023. Construction on the traffic alternative is scheduled to start in spring 2023 and continue until fall 2024.

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Crash Closes Georgetown Pike in McLean

A two-vehicle crash closed Georgetown Pike in both directions during this morning’s rush hour.

The crash happened at Dogue Hill Lane in McLean, just east of Langley High School. One person was hospitalized following the wreck, according to Fairfax County Fire and Rescue.

Georgetown Pike was reported to be back open about 10-15 minutes after authorities first tweeted about the closure.

Map via Google Maps

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McLean Cut-Through Conundrum Returns Next Week

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is looking for public input on ideas to cut down congestion in McLean.

At 7 p.m. on Oct. 18 in McLean High School, VDOT will hold its second meeting on a series of proposals to improve traffic in the area. Among the potential solutions is limiting access to and from Georgetown Pike from McLean, a proposal that drew controversy at an earlier meeting in August when hundreds of residents showed up to voice concerns that the plan would eliminate access to the Beltway from McLean.

A VDOT press release says the organization plans to give an update at the meeting in response to comments from the first meeting.

Several short-term solutions have already been implemented in McLean, including installation of traffic cameras and increased signage. Small traffic improvements have also been made throughout McLean, including widening the shoulder on westbound Route 193.

Intermediate solutions listed by VDOT include:

  • Begin cut-through restriction process with Dead Run/Carper neighborhood, two neighborhoods in McLean that met the volume criteria for Fairfax County’s cut-through restriction process.
  • Improve the Balls Hill Road and Georgetown Pike intersection, an intersection frequently congested with traffic turning onto the Beltway.
  • Additional coordination with local stakeholders and Fairfax County Public Schools to improve safety around Cooper Middle School, which is only 300 yards from the the Beltway and the congested Balls Hill Road and Georgetown Pike intersection.
  • Make improvements to Douglass Drive and Georgetown Pike intersection, currently an intersection of two busy two-lane streets whose only traffic control measure is stop signs on Douglass Drive.

The longer-term solutions involve coordinating with Maryland on regional transit projects, namely improving the American Legion Bridge. The American Legion Bridge is a chokepoint for traffic going to and from Tysons, but making substantial improvements is going to be a challenge.

Images via VDOT

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