Tysons Corner, VA

(Updated 1:50 p.m.) A crash on I-66 is causing substantial delays near Vienna with one lane closed in each direction.

The crash was reported around 1:35 p.m., with one eastbound lane closed, then a westbound lane closed a few minutes later at the same mile marker.

Emergency crews are on-site assisting a vehicle in the median. Traffic is still moving in either direction, but with residual slowdowns in either direction.

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Virginia State Police is investigating a chain reaction crash on I-66 near Oakton that happened during last night’s evening rush hour.

The crash — near the Chain Bridge Road exit — involved 14 vehicles, two of which caught fire after the wreck, but only one minor injury was reported.

“At approximately 5:50 p.m., Virginia State Police received a call about a two-vehicle crash in the eastbound lanes of I-66 near Exit 60,” said VSP spokeswoman Corinne Geller. “As oncoming traffic swerved to avoid those vehicles and then one another, a chain-reaction crash occurred. In the end, there were 12 vehicles in the chain reaction crash. The last two vehicles caught fire.”

Geller says the crash is still under investigation but charges against at least one of the drivers are pending.

Photo courtesy Virginia State Police

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Northern Virginia boasts the state’s first modular roundabout — a new traffic management technology that could become part of everyday life in Tysons.

Drivers venturing out to Annandale might have noticed something unusual at the intersection of Ravensworth Road and Jayhawk Street. This avian-named crossing is home to Virginia’s first-ever modular mini-roundabout, a new type of intersection design that could see much more widespread use across the region, including in Tysons.

Before last May, the intersection had only had stop signs on Jayhawk. But traffic was increasing, and cars turning from Jayhawk onto Ravensworth were having to struggle to turn enter the road safely. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) decided they needed to do something to keep cars moving.

“The primary purpose of the roundabout was to allow side streets to have safer access onto the main road,” explained Terry Yates, Assistant Transportation and Land Use Director for VDOT in Arlington and Fairfax Counties. The goal was achieved: the time that cars spend waiting to turn onto the main road has dropped by almost 90%.

They could have installed traffic lights, which would probably have cost around $600,000. Or they could have installed a conventional concrete mini-roundabout, probably around $300,000. The concrete mini-roundabout would have both been safer for pedestrians and minimized the effect that pedestrians have on vehicle traffic compared to a full-scale roundabout or a traffic signal. Dr. Wei Zhang, researcher for the Federal Highway Administration, noted that the roundabout design (whether modular or concrete) “cuts down the exposed crossing distance for pedestrians by 75%.”

For a long time, those were the only choices. But the new modular mini-roundabout is unique because it is made out of a special plastic rather than concrete. That gives it a number of enormous advantages.

First, it brings down the cost — tremendously. This design cost only $137,000 of VDOT money, although it would have been a little more expensive without materials donated by the Federal Highway Administration.

Second, installation is easy. Setting up the intersection took only two weeks, slightly less than a comparable non-modular project in Vienna. There were no impacts on utility lines or right-of-ways, and only minor impacts to the pavement.

Third, it’s eco-friendly. The plastic material is made from recycled milk jugs, reducing not only costs but also pollution. That environmental friendliness doesn’t come at any kind of cost to effectiveness: the material in question is durable and strong enough that it’s used industrially for railroad cross-ties.

The design is still experimental. In fact, the first such modular mini-roundabouts anywhere in the country were only built about two years ago in Georgia. As such, VDOT is keeping a close eye on the project. Yates explained: “We are monitoring it about every 4 months. We discuss its performance with Fairfax County Police, Fairfax County DOT, Fairfax County Government and internal VDOT sections.”

The solution isn’t perfect: VDOT has yet to develop a snow-removal procedure, and some drivers complain that the design is difficult to see at night.

Although the roundabout was built to be easily removed, Yates clarified that it “may not be temporary.” If the design continues to function as effectively as it has for the past ten months, there’s no reason it shouldn’t stay as it is — and no reason why it might not be emulated elsewhere, especially in Tysons.

In Tysons, VDOT owns and maintains most roads, meaning they could easily replicate this success. Dr. Zhang has said that “transportation departments may be able to consider similar modular roundabouts as an option where safety and congestion improvements are needed quickly.”

With Tysons slated to grow to 100,000 residents and 200,000 jobs in the next thirty years, this cheap, safe, effective intersection design could be coming to local streets in the near future.

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(Updated at 2:45 p.m.) An accident on the Beltway just north of Tysons has northbound traffic cut down to just 1-2 lanes as crews work to contain a large diesel spill.

The incident occurred around 1:30 p.m. just north of the Dulles Toll Road.

Fairfax Fire and Rescue says the spill came from a saddle tank of an 18-wheeler box truck. Hazmat crews have contained the spill, but three lanes remain closed.

Traffic along the northbound HOT lanes is not affected. Video from the overhead (below) shows heavy traffic building prior to the accident scene. Congestion is backed up for northbound I-495 at least to Leesburg Pike.

The incident conjures fresh memories of last week’s tanker crash that shut down traffic on the Beltway for hours, though so far traffic has been able to squeeze by on the lefthand side of the highway’s main lanes.

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After the Beltway was paralyzed by a tanker crash near the American Legion Bridge last Thursday, questions have again surfaced about the possibility of a new connection between Northern Virginia and Maryland.

Potential solutions have included expanding the proposed “Purple Line” from Maryland down to Tysons. But this type of connection doesn’t come without a share of difficulties, and Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust says Virginia can’t afford to take its eye off the more attainable prize of fixing the American Legion Bridge first.

“The first priority has to be fixing the issues at the American Legion Bridge,” Foust said. “We have the cooperation of Maryland on that. But based on what just happened with the shutdown, it’s critical that we consider building a parallel bridge as opposed to just widening the one we have. That gives us some redundancy in the event of a crash like this or a terrorist attack, so we don’t shut down Northern Virginia.”

But an expansion of the American Legion Bridge, much less an entirely new one, has raised concerns that another crossing would add new roads through the Montgomery County Agricultural Reserve on the Maryland side, though some have said this impact is likely overblown.

“It raises serious environmental issues that have to be addressed, but it takes both sides of the river to cooperate and agree,” Foust said. “Historically, Virginia has been more inclined to do it than Maryland, who has been more insistent that they do not want another bridge.”

Frank Shafroth, director of the Center for State and Local Leadership at George Mason University, said there’s political momentum to push for the new connection despite the obstacles.

“Foust is correct about the challenge — not a challenge all that different from the initial challenge of the Beltway itself,” Shafroth said. “But leaders in this region have demonstrated, over the years, a practical ability to be creative in resolving these kinds of governance challenges: they tend to be far more practical than many federal elected officials, and much more accountable to constituents.”

Foust is far from alone in pushing for a new route over the Potomac. Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity expressed frustrations at the crash’s impact on regional traffic on Twitter.

In an ideal world, Foust said he would like to see more transit options on the Beltway, like dedicated bus lanes. However, transit options like a new Metro line are too far off to consider in transportation plans, Foust argues.

“I don’t think we can wait to get light or heavy rail to make that route from Maryland to Virginia,” Foust said. “We have to move forward with the bridge if possible, and provide the ability to add rail at a later date.”

Virginia recently approved new express lanes that will extend to the American Legion Bridge. Though unlikely to do much to relieve the crush of rush hour traffic, Foust says the lanes should offer some relief by giving Beltway drivers headed to the George Washington Parkway rather than the American Legion Bridge another option to get around traffic.

“But nobody thinks we’re going to solve the problem until Maryland does what they need to do with regards to that bridge and the capacity for the Beltway on the Maryland side,” Foust said. “Virginia is prepared to move forward. Maryland I think is talking as early as 2022 to begin construction, but realistically they have a lot of issues to resolve first. But I think [this crash] put an exclamation point on the fact that we need a solution.”

In January, Maryland’s highway administrator Greg Slater told WUSA9 that a new bridge should be built within the next few years and that it was a top priority of Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.

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(Updated at 4:50 p.m.) Traffic in the Tysons and McLean areas is extraordinarily heavy due to the tanker truck crash on the Beltway.

With the Inner Loop completely blocked before the American Legion Bridge — and the closure and hazmat cleanup expected to continue for hours — traffic is spilling onto other local arteries and bridges.

(As of 3:45 p.m., a single lane of the Inner Loop had been temporarily opened to allow some traffic through.)

A solid line of very heavy traffic has been reported on eastbound Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road) from downtown McLean to Chain Bridge, which is also jammed. Arlington County Police have been called to the intersection of Chain Bridge Road and N. Glebe Road to assist with gridlocked traffic.

Elsewhere in McLean, Route 193 (Georgetown Pike) is a virtual parking lot between the Beltway and Route 123. The northbound GW Parkway exit to the Inner Loop is closed, following an earlier, complete closure from Route 123 to the Beltway. And in Arlington, police are responding to reports of very heavy traffic in Rosslyn approaching the Key Bridge.

The Inner Loop itself, meanwhile, is a solid line of slow-to-stopped traffic from Merrifield to the crash scene. VDOT is advising motorists to avoid it altogether.

Virginia State Police say they’ve deployed additional resources to the area to help with traffic control. Drivers should “plan ahead for detours and delays,” VSP said in a press release, which notes that charges are pending in connection to the crash.

At 1:52 p.m. Thursday (March 28), Virginia State Police responded to a crash involving an overturned tanker truck. The crash occurred in the northbound lanes of I-495 at the American Legion Bridge. Another vehicle struck the tanker truck as it overturned in the roadway. Neither the driver of the truck nor other vehicle was injured.

The tanker is loaded with approximately 8,500 gallons of fuel, which must be unloaded/pumped into another tanker before the overturned vehicle can be brought upright and removed from the scene.

Additional Virginia State Police resources have responded to the scene and manage traffic control. VSP is working with VDOT, U.S. Park Police, and Fairfax County Police to detour and redirect travel throughout the area. Motorists are advised to avoid the Inner Loop, northbound I-495 Express Lanes  and the northbound lanes of the American Legion Bridge through evening rush hour.

The crash remains under investigation. Charges are pending.

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Update at 3:55 p.m. — Tow crews are on scene and one far left lane is now temporarily squeezing by the crash, but VDOT says it will soon completely close the highway again. The closure, which is expected to last throughout the rush hour, is causing serious traffic issues across the area.

The Inner Loop of the Beltway is closed for an extended period of time due to a truck crash prior to the American Legion Bridge.

Fairfax County Fire and Rescue say the tanker truck, which overturned on northbound I-495 near the Great Falls exit, is “actively leaking” 8,500 gallons of hazardous fluid, initially reported to be fuel.

Hazmat crews are “aggressively” working to contain the leak, but the Inner Loop is expected to remain closed for at least two hours and possibly longer, well into the evening rush hour.

Only one minor injury was reported.

The crash was caught on a dashcam, per a video posted on social media.

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Fairfax County thinks you might need some additional reminders about how quickly you’re driving.

At a Transportation Committee meeting on Tuesday, county staff unveiled plans to initiate a pilot program to install new pole-mounted speed display signs.

The signs will track data on cars driving on roads with high levels of speeding, while displaying the speed of passing drivers.

The pilot program will run for one year, with four signs purchased. Two signs will be posted at locations around the county, one facing in each direction, and over the year they will be rotated so each district has the sign at least once.

The signs will be posted at each location for six weeks total, with four weeks of being active with one week dark before and after to collect data on whether the signs have an impact on speeding.

Supervisor Pat Herrity noted that the signs would help the County track data for speed studies. Following inquiries, staff reaffirmed that the signs would not take photos of speeding cars or track license plates.

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust noted that approaching the installation as a pilot project seemed redundant, since it’s a well-established technology used by other jurisdictions.

“It seems to me like we’re reinventing the wheel in a lot of ways,” said Foust. “These things have been around for a long time, and we’re treating it like we have to study this or analyze that. We need these things. They work.”

Supervisor Dan Storck was similarly dubious of staff’s assertion that there was limited data on the effectiveness of the signs, given that Arlington County has installed similar signs.

While the current plan is to continually rotate the location of the signs, Foust said the County will likely be able to identify problem areas where the signs will likely need to be put up and left.

Photo via Flickr/Loozrboy

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A new study of the Maple Avenue corridor shows Vienna’s most dangerous intersections and details extensive gaps in the town’s sidewalk network.

At an April 1 work session, the Vienna Town Council is scheduled to discuss the initial results of study by planning consulting firm Kimley-Horn.

The report also showed three major traffic crash hotspots calculated over three years: where Maple Avenue intersects with Nutley Street, Courthouse Road, and Park Street.

The study shows that while Maple Avenue has extensive sidewalk coverage, streets one block away like Windover Avenue and Glen Avenue on the west end or East Street and Mashie Drive at the east end of town are completely without sidewalks.

Church Street, another major street through the town, only has sidewalks on one side of the street between Park Street and Beulah Road.

In a finding that will surprise few Vienna residents, Maple Avenue is overcrowded. The report said daily traffic on the street topped 30,000 vehicles per day, on the high end of the study’s scale.

The street’s traffic density was worst between Nutley Street and Follin Lane, the main stretch through town.

Maple Avenue also sees high levels of bicycle traffic. It os ranked by the report at “level of traffic stress 4,” the highest category available, meaning that it is exceedingly uncomfortable and stressful for cyclists to use.

Nearly every major road feeding into the street, like Nutley Street and Park Street, as well as the aforementioned Church Street also saw high levels of car traffic and cyclist stress.

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The eastbound lane of Linway Terrace, a two-way street in McLean just north of Chesterbrook, is scheduled to be closed between Bryan Branch Road and Linway Park Drive for much of next week.

The closures will last from Monday, March 25 through Thursday, March 28, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). The closures are planned to last from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. each day for stormwater pipe replacement.

“Linway Terrace will have alternating one-lane traffic via flagging,” VDOT wrote in a press release. “Drivers can expect delays and are advised to use alternate routes.”

Linway Terrance isn’t the only street nearby with roadwork planned soon. Kirby Road, just to the east of Linway Terrace, will likely experience closures as a new sidewalk and other improvements are constructed later this year.

Photo of Linway Terrace via Google Maps. Map of work zone via VDOT.

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