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Fresh off sidewalk improvements opening west of the Tysons Corner Center Mall, plans for bicycle and pedestrian improvements east of the mall just been approved and are moving forward towards a 2020 completion.

The new path would run along Old Meadow Road south from Route 123 through the rapidly redeveloping Tysons East to a bridge that would connect to the Tysons Corner Center mall.

The new path would offer a connection to the mall for the new residential and commercial developments proposed for the area. The project would also include a 10-foot shared-use path connected to other paths and sidewalks in the area.

“The project received design approval in December 2018,” said Abraham Lerner, associate manager of special project development with the Virginia Department of Transportation. “We are working on the final design… The main focus in the next two months is on advancing the engineering design of the pedestrian-bicycle bridge over the Beltway.”

Lerner said the final design process uses the alignments approved but with refinements and additional details to ensure the facility aligns with current standards.

According to Lerner, if the project continues as scheduled, VDOT will begin looking at right-of-way acquisition for the project starting in spring. Utility relocation is scheduled to run from November 2019 until April 2020, with construction from April to November 2020.

Images via VDOT

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Foot by foot, Tysons is getting a little more walkable.

Tomorrow afternoon, Fairfax County will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for two new sidewalks along Leesburg Pike (Route 7) under Chain Bridge Road (Route 123). The new sidewalk connects the Pike 7 shopping center and The Boro development with the retail and restaurants west of the Tysons Corner Center mall.

According to the Fairfax County Department of Transportation press release:

The sidewalks are part of the Dulles corridor bicycle and pedestrian access improvements and provide enhanced pedestrian access along Leesburg Pike with 1,100 feet of sidewalk on the north side and 800 feet of sidewalk on the south side. These improvements were designed by the Fairfax County Department of Transportation; constructed by the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES); and funded under the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Locally Administered Project (LAP) program.

The ribbon-cutting is scheduled for 1 p.m. tomorrow and to be attended by several members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and Sol Glasner, president and CEO of the Tysons Partnership.

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A new bus route will connect the Vienna Metrorail Station to the Pentagon via I-66, starting on Jan. 22.

The new express Route 698 will operate during weekday rush hours only, with ten trips in the morning and evening. The route, approved by the Board of Supervisors in November, will be supported by the Commuter Choice Program and I-66 toll revenues.

The first bus will leave Vienna at 5:40 a.m. and the last bus will arrive in Vienna at 6:46 p.m.

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation also announced the Fairfax Connector’s holiday schedule. While most Fairfax Connector buses will not be operating on Christmas Day, the following bus lines in the Tysons area will not operate on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Day:

Photo via Facebook

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A proposal to restore late-night Metro hours, cut three years ago to allow for more evening maintenance, was delayed last night (Thursday) at the end of a rough week for the Silver Line.

Prior to 2016, Metro closed at midnight on weekdays and 3 a.m. on weekends, but in 2016 the evening hours were reduced as part of the “SafeTrack” maintenance project to an 11:30 p.m. closing time Monday-Thursday, 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 11 p.m. on Sundays. But those changes had only been scheduled to last one year, and in 2017 the reduced service hours were renewed for another two years.

While there had been talk of restoring the earlier service hours, the Metro Board of Directors deferred a vote over restoring late hours until early 2019 to allow for greater study on how the hours would impact track maintenance.

Track maintenance is a particularly pertinent issue for those who live along the Silver Line. On Tuesday, service on the Silver Line was reduced from the Wiehle station to Ballston after a cracked rail forced trains to single-track in the middle of the afternoon rush.

D.C. Council members have repeatedly stated concerns that the lack of late-night Metro service left hospitality and restaurant workers without a means of getting home.

Frank Shafroth, the director of the Center for State and Local Leadership at George Mason University, said ensuring reliability is currently a higher priority for the Metro than restoring late night hours.

“The difficult challenge is the recognition that the growth of Uber et al has created pricing challenges for Metro, so Metro’s key issue in order to remain fiscally fit is to ensure riders of its reliability,” said Shafroth in an email. “Currently, whenever I go to [the George Washington University Hospital], it is 15 minutes by walking and Metro: there is no way I could do that, find parking competitively. [The Board] is focused precisely on the critical issue of making reliability its priority. Once that is certain, then it can build on that to restore late night hours.”

In other Silver Line news, the already behind-schedule expansion project also faces further delays as hundreds of rail ties installed along the second phase of the project were discovered to be flawed.

A man who faked records to hide faulty Silver Line concrete panels was convicted, and sentenced to one year in prison and required to pay $700,567.11 in restitution.

Despite this, Metro ridership is still on the rise in Tysons despite downward trends for the rest of the system.

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The latest in a series of proposed sidewalks to make McLean more walkable is a pair of quarter-mile long sidewalks along Kirby Road near Chesterbrook.

One project, north of Chesterbrook, is planned to add a roughly 5-6 feet wide sidewalk with a curb and gutter along the south/east side of Kirby Road between Chesterbrook Road and Mori Street. A crude path currently exists along the roadside, though in parts it blends with the right shoulder lane.

A community meeting on the northern extension is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 11, at 7 p.m. in the Chesterbrook Elementary School cafeteria. The meeting will feature a presentation of the project’s preliminary design and offer the public a chance to ask questions and provide input.

The new sidewalk improvements will also include a pedestrian crossing and median refuge at the intersection with Mori Street, connecting the sidewalk to the shared use trail on the west side of Kirby Road.

To the south, the sidewalk will connect with an existing path separated from the road that leads into Chesterbrook neighborhood and shopping center along Old Dominion Drive. To the north, the new sidewalk won’t quite reach the Marie Butler Leven Preserve, but the park is accessible from the trail on the west side of the street.

A new sidewalk is also currently planned for Kirby Road on the other side of Chesterbrook, connecting Chesterbrook Elementary School to Halsey Road. Like the northern sidewalk, the southern extension covers a quarter-mile with a proposed 5-6 foot width.

At a Nov. 9 meeting on the southern Kirby Road sidewalk improvements, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation presented a plan that would include new concrete infrastructure improvements along the roadside. The white painted fences along Kirby Road may be removed and replaced during the construction.

The construction schedule for the north project is unknown, but the southern sidewalk extension is scheduled for final design in early 2019 and construction later that year.

Photo via Google Maps

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Fairfax is eyeing bikeshare expansion along Route 123 from Tysons to Fairfax City, and Vienna is right in the middle.

At last night’s (Monday) Vienna Town Council meeting, Zan Frackelton, a transportation planner with Toole Design, updated the Town Council on an ongoing feasibility study considering whether bikeshare will work for Vienna and other localities along the corridor. The study is a collaboration between the Town of Vienna, George Mason University, and both Fairfax County and City.

Frackelton said Vienna’s relatively flat topography and a sprinkling of bike infrastructure make it a conducive to hosting a bikeshare system.

“We believe bikeshare is feasible in this area, but it requires some supporting actions,” said Frackelton, “such as ongoing improvements to the bicycle network to ensure people using this system have safe places to ride and reviewing policies as needed related to bicycling.”

While the red and gold Capital Bikeshare is the leading contender to fill the Vienna gap, Frackelton said it was also worth noting that the bikeshare market is becoming increasingly crowded with options, including the increasingly popular electric scooters.

“[Capital Bikeshare] is ideal for short, one-way trips,” said Frackelton. “But other systems are coming onto the scene, like dockless bikeshare and scooters, where you start your trip using an app and end where you want.”

However, Frackelton said Capital Bikeshare was the most logical choice for Vienna. With the expansion of the Capital Bikeshare in surrounding localities like Tysons and Reston, Frackelton also said Vienna was a logical next step for the Capital Bikeshare.

If Vienna does decide to go with electric scooters or e-bikes, which Capital Bikeshare is beginning to offer, Frackelton said the town will also have to consider new policies governing use of such devices. While Frackelton said the town could consider moving to dockless vehicles in the future, Frackelton said there’s not enough space on local roads to support that yet.

Among concerns raised by the Town Council was speeding on trails, which is not typically a concern for bicyclists but a potential problem if local bicycle trails become saturated with electric bicycles and scooters.

Town Council members also noted concerns that many of the late-night scootering in Washington, D.C. was done without lights or reflective gear that makes them difficult to see for cars. Frackelton said the study would look into these concerns as the study continues.

Frackelton said Fairfax County is planning to move forward with grant applications for funding for Capital Bikeshare stations and begin finalizing locations in 2019.

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Local residents looking to catch a bus to New York City no longer have to take the trip to Union Station or Chinatown.

OurBus, a bus service founded in 2016 offering intercity and commuter routes, will run a new route from Tysons to New York City starting this Sunday (Nov. 18).

“We saw a terrific opportunity to provide local Tyson’s residents a more efficient, less stressful travel option to NYC,” said Axel Hellman, co-founder of OurBus, in a press release.  “Rather than traveling to a city center such as Arlington or D.C., and paying for parking, our customers can board our buses close to their home and work.”

Tickets for the maiden voyage from Tysons to New York are $25. The bus picks up on Dolley Madison Boulevard in front of the McLean Metro Station at 1 p.m. and will drop off at Park Avenue S. between 26th and 27th Streets in New York at 5:40 p.m.

Hellman said the bus tickets are more affordable than flying or other forms of travel, which is true, although it’s worth noting that tickets from Washington, D.C. earlier that morning are notably cheaper with a 7 a.m. trip for $15 and an 8:30 a.m. trip for $10.

The company also offers full refunds if the booking is canceled up to 25 hours prior to departure time and can exchange tickets for different departure times within 24 hours.

Photo via Facebook

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McLean may not be as fully walkable as residents would like, but one stretch of road is stepping in the right direction.

According to a Twitter post by District Supervisor John Foust, construction finished last week on a new sidewalk along Dolly Madison Highway (Route 123) near downtown McLean.

The sidewalk construction is part of a broader effort to install new walkways across McLean.

Foust said the new sidewalks are part of an effort to complete a missing link and provide safer pedestrian access to the bus stop near Kurtz Road.

According to Foust, the construction will continue with new sidewalks on Dolly Madison Highway between Old Dominion. A Sept. 25 update on transportation projects estimated the Kurtz Road area sidewalks to be fully completed next spring and cost $450,000.

Additional sidewalks further along Dolly Madison Boulevard will be completed later that summer, also costing $450,000.

Photo via Twitter

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While the Silver Line may be bringing new market tenants to Reston and Tysons, so far it’s had little impact on changing commutes.

According to a new study by JLL, an investment management company, 1.1 million square feet of new office space has emerged in Tysons within a half-mile of a Metrorail station. Rents for higher-end office space on-Metro in Tysons also comes at a 16% premium compared to off-Metro locations.

But while Metro ridership has continued to increase in Tysons, the study notes that nearby residents using the Metro to commute has increased less than 10 percent since the Metro opened. Some of this can likely be attributed to a lack of parking at the stations, which Fairfax County Supervisor John Foust, who represents McLean, said keeps many residents in his districts from using the Metro to commute.

Further west, Reston has seen a similar impact on office markets. According to the study:

“In the Wiehle micromarket, average Class A rents have increased 30% since 2012, and Reston also saw the delivery of its first Trophy building on-Metro — 1900 Reston Metro Plaza — with asking rents in the $50 p.s.f. range, a rate not seen before in the Toll Road market outside Reston Town Center.”

Like their neighbors in Tysons, Reston residents have been slow to give up their cars. Of commuters, less than 10 percent coming from Reston use the Metro.

More residential developments planned over the next few years near the Metro in both Reston and Tysons which will likely result in a gradually increasing amount of Metro ridership in both locations.

The study also notes that companies moving to and growing in the area, particularly in the tech sector, could also bring more Metro ridership to the area by reverse commuters: people living in Washington, D.C. or Arlington and traveling out to Tysons.

Image via JLL

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Sameride, a rideshare app that connects commuters on the same route, has opened up new lines running through Tysons.

With Sameride, app users can either drive or sign up as passengers along a commuter route. Multiple passengers means free access to HOV / HOT express lanes that would otherwise be tolled. App users input their home or office zip codes and can browse commuting route options.

One line runs from Stafford and Fredericksburg to Tysons. There are commuter lot locations throughout Stafford and Fredericksburg for pickup, while any destination inside Tysons can be selected. According to Samride, riders save an estimated $230 each month on the trip compared to train or bus fares and $1,450 per month in potential tolls compared to driving solo.

The other route runs from Woodbridge to Tysons. Like the first route, there are lot locations throughout Woodbridge for pickup and any destination in Tysons can be selected. Average cost per month for train or bus fare would be $280 or $1,110 in tolled express lanes.

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