Tysons, VA

Dominion Energy plans to roll out an autonomous, electric shuttle named “Relay” for testing in Merrifield as early as next week.

The self-driving shuttle will make a loop between the Mosaic District to the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station. Fairfax County and Dominion Energy teamed up last year to start the pilot program to improve connectivity between the station and the shopping center, which are just under one mile apart according to Google Maps.

Peggy Fox, Dominion Energy’s spokesperson, told Tysons Reporter that testing is expected to start soon on the pre-mapped route. “It will be several weeks before we’re able to accept passengers,” Fox said.

Currently, the autonomous shuttle, which was made by the French company EasyMile, is in Alexandria awaiting its move to Merrifield next week, Fox said.

According to Dominion Energy, Relay is the first test of autonomous public transportation in Northern Virginia.

Photos courtesy Dominion Energy

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Updated 7/28/2020 — The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the Memorandum of Agreement today.

Chairman Jeff McKay said that when he and former Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins first worked on the program, they were faced with skepticism about how much it would get used. McKay said that the program has seen “tremendous popularity” and that it helps address equity issues around transportation. 

“This program has been greatly expanded in a short period of time,” McKay said.

Earlier: While Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) will start the school year virtually, county officials want to make sure students will have continued access to free bus passes.

Fairfax County and FCPS teamed up in 2015 to create a pilot program that gives free Fairfax Connector bus passes to middle and high school students.

“Since its inception, nearly two million trips have been taken through the Free Student Bus Pass Program (FSBPP) and as of February 2020, student ridership accounted for approximately 6.5 percent of the total Fairfax Connector ridership,” according to county documents.

More from the county:

Through this innovative program, students can access extracurricular activities, stay after school for support and tutoring, access after school jobs and internships, and visit libraries, museums, and other recreational activities.

The program familiarizes students with public transportation and supports the development of a more multi-modal generation of young adults in the future. This is critical to increasing transit ridership, reducing traffic congestion, and improving mobility around the National Capital Region.

Fairfax County officials are looking to formalize the collaboration so that the program can continue.

The Board of Supervisors is set to vote on Tuesday (July 28) to approve moving forward with a Memorandum of Agreement between the county and FCPS, according to the meeting’s agenda.

Once the agreement is complete, the county will provide free rides on the Fairfax Connector to students with eligible passes and promote the program, while the school system will register, distribute and manage the passes.

In addition to the pilot program with Fairfax Connector, the county also works with the Washington Area Transit Authority (WMATA). In 2018, the county and WMATA expanded the bus pass program to include Justice High School in Falls Church.

Starting with the 2018-2019 school year, students now receive the bus pass in the form of a “specially designed SmarTrip Card,” according to Fairfax County’s website.

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Work for the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project’s Silver Line Phase 1 has been underway in Tysons.

Phase 1 for the Silver Line includes the four stations (McLean, Tysons Corner, Greensboro and Spring Hill) in Tysons along with the Wiehle-Reston East station.

Here is a roundup of recent work in Tysons for the project and what drivers and pedestrians can expect this week.

Near McLean Metro Station

People can expect a lane shift in mid-August for the realignment of Old Meadow Road with Capital One Tower Drive at Dolley Madison Boulevard (Route 123), according to the website.

“The Virginia Department of Transportation and Fairfax County requested the realignment to facilitate traffic crossing Route 123 from the Capital One complex to Old Meadow Road,” the website said. “The change is needed because of impacts caused by Silver Line construction at McLean Metrorail station.”

When the new work starts in August, crews will create a new median on Old Meadow Road at the intersection, necessitating the lane shift. The work at the intersection faced delays due to COVID, the website said.

“Crews continue to install drainage infrastructure, signal equipment, and landscaping along the south side of Old Meadow Road and the east side of Dolley Madison Boulevard to complete that part of the work,” the website said.

Leesburg Pike

Crews plan to wrap up Phase 1 work along Leesburg Pike in Tysons.

By the end of this week, final clean up is expected to be done on asphalt repairs and striping, according to the project’s website.

Recently, contractors finished “upgrades for the latest ADA compliance, repaired cracked sidewalks and repaired curb and gutter along the Phase 1 alignment,” the website said.

Lane Closures in Tysons

People will also see several lane closures this week in Tysons from today (Monday) to Thursday (July 23) from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. and on Friday (July 24) from 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

The closures include:

  • left turn lane from 300 feet before Westwood Center Drive to Leesburg Pike.
  • right lane from Route 267 to Westwood Center Drive
  • left lane from 300 feet before Westpark Road to 400 feet after Westpark Road
  • right lane from 600 feet before Spring Hill Road to 300 feet after Spring Hill Road
  • right lane from 300 feet before Tyco Road to 300 feet before Dulles Toll Road exit ramp

The closures are for manhole and sidewalk repairs and underdrain installation.

Photo courtesy Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project

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Updated 7/23/2020 — VDOT announced today that the work on the W&OD Trail at Idylwood Park will be postponed “for additional project coordination.” 

Earlier: Starting next week, cyclists and pedestrians won’t be able to travel the W&OD Trail near Idylwood Park for nearly the rest of the year.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) announced that the trail is expected to temporarily close on Monday, July 27, through early December. The five-month closure is needed for construction on a retaining wall and ramp widening for the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway Project, VDOT said.

Various detours will be in place. Pedestrians will be told to cut through Idylwood Park by using footpaths and the parking lot, while cyclists will be directed to Virginia Lane and Nottingham Drive, VDOT said.

VDOT noted that the work is dependent on the weather and could get rescheduled.

Map via VDOT

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Repairs are almost done along Leesburg Pike in Tysons as part of the Silver Line’s first phase.

The Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project shared photos of the concrete work on a new ramp along westbound Leesburg Pike, finished sidewalk repairs near the Spring Hill Metro station and finished work on the sidewalk, curb and gutter near Spring Hill Road.

Silver Line Phase 1 includes the four stations (McLean, Tysons Corner, Greensboro and Spring Hill) in Tysons along with the Wiehle-Reston East station.

“Crews will finish repairs along Route 7 and will complete final clean up and punch list items by the end of June according to a project executive,” according to the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project.

Previously, the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project shared updates in April on crews placing concrete near Leesburg Pike for a new ADA ramp and excavation work along Old Meadow Road.

Photos courtesy Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project

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After construction-related closures, commuters can expect several Silver Line stations to reopen ahead of schedule, according to a press release from the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority.

On Aug. 16, WMATA plans to reopen the McLean, Tysons Corner, Greensboro, Spring Hill and Wiehle-Reston East stations along with the West Falls Church station.

“Assuming the platform work continues at its current pace, the remaining three west-of-Ballston stations (Vienna, Dunn Loring, and East Falls Church) are expected to reopen around Labor Day,” the press release added.

The timely completion of the projects can partially be contributed to the drop in ridership due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the press release said, adding that ridership is down 90% from this time last year.

“Metro has been working to efficiently use track access time during a period of historically low ridership,” the press release said. “Earlier this year, the transit agency combined Orange Line platform reconstruction and Silver Line signal integration into a multi-month summer shutdown of the nine rail stations west of Ballston”

Free shuttle busses will replace trains until the stations reopen, the press release said. “However, Vienna and Dunn Loring customers will be able to connect to Metrorail at West Falls Church, rather than Ballston.”

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Two Metro stations in Tysons will receive shuttle bus service as part of Metro’s plans to reopen more than a dozen stations this Sunday (June 28).

Metro announced yesterday (Monday) that the Greensboro and McLean stations in Tysons, along with the East Falls Church station are the three stations that will soon have shuttle buses but still won’t offer rail service.

A dozen other stations, including Clarendon, Smithsonian and College Park, will reopen this Sunday with rail service. “Beginning Monday, June 29, buses will be added to the system’s 14 busiest bus lines to provide more capacity and more frequent service as the region reopens,” according to Metro.

Metro closed 15 stations earlier this year due to limited cleaning supplies and decreased ridership. Once the stations reopen this Sunday, Arlington Cemetery will be the only station left without regular service, Metro said.

Meanwhile, Orange and Silver stations west of Ballston are undergoing work this summer, including platform reconstruction and work connecting Phase 2 of the Silver Line.

In addition to the reopened stations, Metro riders can expect bus service realignment starting Monday, June 29.

More from Metro:

Metrobus customers on the region’s busiest routes will notice more frequent buses, less crowding, and more regular service beginning Monday, June 29. An additional 136 trips are being added across 14 routes: 54, 70, 92, 30N, 30S, A4, A6, A8, P6, V4, W4, F4, P12, and T18.

To make these improvements possible, Metro will temporarily suspend bus service on four routes that currently have extremely low ridership — NH2, C14, G2 and M6. Customers along these routes are asked to use other Metrobus routes nearby.

Starting Monday, weekday service will be improved with additional buses on the 54, 70, 92, 30N, 30S, A4, A6, A8, P6, V4, W4, F4, P12, and T18.

Service will be temporarily suspended on the NH2, C14, G2 and M6. Use alternate bus service nearby.

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People can provide feedback on Fairfax Connector’s proposed service changes for this fall, which include expanded service from the McLean Metro stop.

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) is asking people to submit input via an online survey, email ([email protected]), phone (703-339-7200, TTY 703-339-1608) or mail, according to the county’s website.

“FCDOT normally conducts several community input meetings on proposed changes to Fairfax Connector service, but as a result of current public gathering restrictions due to COVID-19, transit staff recorded a presentation which is available online for viewing instead,” the website said.

The proposed service changes include several routes — the existing 334, 340/341 and 721 routes and the new 722, 350 and 351 routes.

More about the proposed changes to the Tysons-area routes:

Route 721: Chain Bridge Road – McLean Metrorail Station – Includes expanded weekday midday service every 30-minutes from the McLean Metrorail Station to the George Bush Center for Intelligence (GBCI) facility in Langley, Virginia. The buses will operate with 30-minute headways.

Route 722: McLean Metrorail Station – GBCI – Includes new weekday express service every 15 minutes during morning and afternoon peak hours between the McLean Metrorail Station and the GBCI facility in Langley.

People can submit comments until Friday, June 5. A presentation on the proposed changes on YouTube, the routes’ draft schedules and a PowerPoint presentation are available online.

FCDOT plans to present the final proposed changes to the county’s Board of Supervisors in July and, if the board approves them, the changes will go into effect by or before Oct. 31, the email said.

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When Metro kicks off its summer work tomorrow (Saturday), drivers can find free parking at three Orange Line stations in the Tysons area.

The free parking will be available at the West Falls Church, Dunn Loring and Vienna stations during the shutdown. The West Falls Church station’s parking will be cut in half, but the other two stations won’t have capacity limits, according to the project’s website.

People who have reserved parking spots will still be billed for their spots, the website said.

The East Falls Church station will be closed for the summer work and won’t offer any parking, although the Kiss & Ride will allow pick-ups and drop-offs.

For cyclists, bike racks and lockers will still be offered at the stations during the summer work, except for at the East Falls Church station where some racks have been moved.

All Orange and Silver line stations west of the Ballston station will be closed starting tomorrow. The work, which is expected to last through the fall, includes platform reconstruction on the Orange Line and the connection of the upcoming stations to the Silver Line.

Image via Google Maps

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With sunnier and warmer days ahead, a portion of Tysons Blvd is poised to become a space for cyclists and pedestrians looking for more room to social distance.

Robin Geiger, a spokesperson for the Fairfax County Transportation Department (FCDOT), mentioned the plans during a town hall with county officials yesterday.

“We’re going to close a portion of Tysons Blvd to allow for safer biking and pedestrian access for exercise, to increase social distancing, so people can get around Tysons,” Geiger said.

The upcoming closure is part of a pilot project with Tysons Partnership, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and the Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling, Geiger said. While Geiger did not say when the partial road closure is expected or which portion will be closed, she said that FCDOT will announce more information soon.

Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik praised the project, saying that “it does take quite a bit of coordination” for the county and VDOT to work on road projects.

“I’m just thrilled,” Palchik said.

Closing roads to give cyclists and pedestrians more space during the pandemic has been gaining traction around the U.S., WAMU reported.

“I know bikes are being sold quite a bit these days,” Palchik said, adding that “we take this opportunity to improve our bikeability and walkability.”

Image via Google Maps

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