Morning Notes

MCA Supports Proposal to Replace Office Building — “The McLean Citizens Association’s board of directors on July 7 passed a resolution generally supportive of a proposed townhouse development at 7700 Leesburg Pike, but sought changes to bolster pedestrian safety and discourage cut-through traffic.” [Sun Gazette]

Lack of Transparency Frustrates Justice Park Advocates — Documents obtained by the community group Justice for Justice Park, which opposes a proposal to convert part of the Falls Church park into a parking lot, show that county park and school officials had been negotiating a land transfer for two years without telling the public. The group argues a master plan amendment should be required before any moves are made. [The Annandale Blog]

New Jersey Driver Wanted for Assault on Police Officer — According to the Fairfax County Police Department’s weekly report, a police officer was treated at a hospital for minor injuries after attempting to arrest a man who was driving a vehicle without the owner’s permission. The incident occurred in the 2000 block of Peach Orchard Drive in Tysons on July 3, and the man has not been located yet. [FCPD]

Vienna Named Bicycle-Friendly Community — The Town of Vienna has been recognized by the League of American Bicyclists as a bronze-level Bicycle-Friendly Community, an award given to “communities that demonstrate a strong commitment to bicycling by creating transportation and recreational resources that benefit residents and improve the quality of life.” [Town of Vienna]

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More Capital Bikeshare stations are in the works for the Tysons area, specifically in Merrifield and Vienna.

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation has proposed adding 10 new stations in the following locations, including what would be the bike-sharing service’s first stand at the Vienna Metro station:

  • Caboose Commons
  • Circle Woods Drive and Lee Highway
  • Gatehouse Road and Telestar Court
  • Hartland Road and Harte Place
  • Inova Fairfax Medical Campus
  • Javier Road and Arlington Boulevard
  • Kingsbridge Drive and Beech Grove Drive
  • Mission Square Drive
  • Prosperity Flats
  • Vienna Metro South Entrance

The expansion would bring the Tysons area up to 29 Bikeshare stations, including 15 in Tysons and one at the West Falls Church Metro stop. Fairfax County also has 16 stations in Reston, which is getting its own expansion starting in July.

Fairfax County is eager to expand Bikeshare in Merrifield, because the three existing stations that were installed there in 2019 have proven successful, generating some of the most trips per site in the county prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to FCDOT spokesperson Robin Geiger.

Vienna has been considered a candidate for Bikeshare since at least 2018, when the county worked with the town, the City of Fairfax, and George Mason University on a feasibility study.

“Plans to expand to the Vienna Metrorail station are underway to provide connectivity to the surrounding community,” Geiger said by email. “The Vienna area stations will also help provide access to the City of Fairfax, who is working to bring CaBi to their part of the region as well.”

While it is not included in Fairfax County’s expansion, Town of Vienna spokesperson Karen Thayer says the Virginia Department of Transportation has granted the town’s request for funding to add Bikeshare stations at multiple locations, including the Town Green and community center.

The total project cost will be $272,400, which covers engineering and design, equipment, and installation.

“We are currently waiting for VDOT to complete its internal process and respond with an agreement,” Thayer said.

For the county project, Geiger says transportation officials looked at a variety of factors when selecting the proposed locations, including the density of development and the potential to generate a lot of trips. The need for bicycling infrastructure is also considered “in an effort to improve transportation equity,” she says.

“On a more granular level, we like to place stations in areas that are already paved — on-street parking lanes are often easy for [installation] and future servicing, and has only a small impact on available car parking,” Geiger wrote, adding that docks typically take up no more than one or two parking spots.

The Merrifield expansion will be primarily funded with a $497,100 I-66 Commuter Choice grant, though that won’t cover the full cost of the project, which Geiger says is currently estimated to be around $600,000.

While Bikeshare usage in the Tysons area consistently rose prior to the pandemic, COVID-19 sank both ridership and membership numbers systemwide as people limited travel and many started working from home.

“At its worst, early in the pandemic membership was around 20% of ridership when compared to past years,” Geiger said by email. “Most of the lost trips were by annual members who were commuting by bicycle.”

Fairfax County saw a 50% decrease in Bikeshare riders in 2020 overall compared to 2019.

Geiger says ridership levels started to pick back up last summer, primarily from non-members, meaning people who were utilizing the service for a single trip or day instead of getting an ongoing subscription.

“Usage patterns systemwide changed as well, with fewer trips to Metro stations, but more to recreational locations, and grocery stores,” she said.

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If you’re passing a cyclist or group of riders in a vehicle, you’ll soon have to change lanes a lot more.

A new law going into effect July 1 will require drivers to switch lanes if they can’t maintain three feet of distance when passing cyclists.

The Fairfax County Police Department says this means motorists may have to cross double yellow lines, imploring people to “share the road.” Police told Tysons Reporter that they hope people will abide by the new legislation and help keep everyone safe on roadways.

“I think it’s going to be huge in the long run,” Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling President Bruce Wright said Monday while stopping during a bicycle ride on the Washington & Old Dominion Trail. He acknowledged that the change may require some education.

Wright says the new law means that vehicles will generally need to shift lanes, because lanes in the state are typically 11 or 12 feet wide.

“In effect, almost every lane in Virginia will require a motorist to safely pass,” he said.

The state law was adopted in February after General Assembly legislators removed a provision that would have allowed cyclists to treat stop signs like a yield sign.

Some states, including Delaware, allow the so-called “Idaho stop” for bicycle riders. Like Virginia, Washington, D.C., considered the stop-as-yield measure but also declined to adopt it.

The new law also ends a requirement for cyclists to file into a single lane when being passed.

Tensions between cyclists and drivers played out on the county police department’s Facebook post about the issue. Several people noted cyclists should obey traffic laws, too.

Wright says those online arguments between cyclists and drivers are similar to honking as well as dangerous behaviors on the road.

“There’s so much animosity, and it’s aggressive,” Wright said.

Some people on social media questioned whether double yellow lines should ever be crossed.

Current law already allows drivers to cross double yellow lines when passing others, including cyclists, skateboarders, and scooters. Another provision involves giving enough distance to mopeds, animal-drawn vehicles, and more when drivers pass them.

Pedestrian and bicycle safety is a persistent concern in Fairfax County, where seven pedestrians and two cyclists have died in car crashes so far this year. Whether these new laws help alleviate those issues remains to be seen.

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Getting to and from Metro stations can be a harrowing experience for pedestrians and cyclists, and the Fairfax County Planning Commission and others want something to be done about it.

The planning commissioners have called on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to require Metro, the state and county transportation departments, and more to “work immediately” to make safety and accessibility improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists to transit stations.

“This is a call for action by the public to improve pedestrian/bicycle access to metro stations as envisioned in the comprehensive plan,” Hunter Mill District Planning Commissioner John Carter said when introducing a motion during the commission’s meeting on May 19.

The measure calls for numerous changes, such as:

  • Providing wide sidewalks at intersections within walking distance of transit stations,
  • Making turns on roads tighter at intersections to slow traffic down,
  • Providing a “double ramp” for people with disabilities instead of single ramp that’s currently in use directing pedestrians to the middle of intersections,
  • Avoiding extra turning lanes at intersections with high volumes of pedestrians
  • Providing closely spaced street trees between curb and sidewalk areas to protect pedestrians.

The motion passed, with 10 members voting for it and at-large member Timothy Sargeant, abstaining. Sargeant did not respond to a message seeking comment on why he voted that way.

“Failure to act will cause pedestrian access to continue to be ‘significantly challenged’ and ridership on the metro station to be reduced,” Carter said.

He introduced the motion during the commission’s discussion on whether to approve changes to the mixed-use Reston Gateway development being constructed near the upcoming Reston Town Center Metro station, but he noted that the issues seen there could apply to other locations as well.

Supervisor Walter Alcorn, whose Hunter Mill District includes the Reston Gateway project, agrees that the main crosswalk serving the Reston Town Center station is not pedestrian-friendly.

“The rail project used cookie-cutter designs,” he said, adding that a walkway over the road has been proposed but could be years away from coming to fruition.

When touring the area a couple weeks ago, Alcorn asked the Fairfax County Department of Transportation to identify short-term improvements to occur before the station opens, which isn’t expected to happen until early 2022.

“I want to make sure riders can readily get to the stations on day one and every day thereafter,” he said.

Pedestrian and bicyclist advocacy groups expressed support for the commission’s call for change.

Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling President Bruce Wright says some progress has been made to improve safety, but numerous deficiencies remain. The Greensboro station in Tysons, for example, not only lacks access from Gosnell Road and Westpark Drive, the roads are outright dangerous, he says.

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Morning Notes

Fairfax County Updates COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard — The Fairfax County Health Department launched an updated version of its vaccine dashboard yesterday (Tuesday) with data on administered doses, how many people have gotten vaccinated, demographic breakdowns, and other information. [FCHD]

Fairfax County Indoor Ski Facility Could Be First of Many — Alpine-X, developers of the planned Fairfax Peak indoor ski and snowboarding facility in Lorton, hopes to expand the concept to more than 20 other locations around the U.S. and Canada. The Fairfax County facility will be the flagship with a luxury hotel, a gravity-powered mountain coaster, zip lines, and food and beverage outlets planned for the area. [Patch]

Bike Lanes Proposed on Chain Bridge Road — The Fairfax County Department of Transportation will hold a virtual meeting at 6:30 p.m. on June 8 to discuss striping changes that would create bicycle lanes on several roads. Among the proposals is the addition of bicycle lanes “where space allows” on Chain Bridge Road from Colonial Lane to Great Falls Street in McLean. [FCDOT]

Falls Church Councilmember Won’t Seek Reelection — Ross Litkenhous, who is serving his first term on the Falls Church City Council, announced on Monday (May 24) that he will not run for a second term when four seats are on the ballot in November. He cited a need to focus on a new company that he recently launched, but he plans to stay involved by applying for the city’s economic development authority or planning commission after his term ends. [Falls Church News-Press]

Del. Simon Addresses Greater Merrifield Business Association — Del. Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church) highlighted the Virginia General Assembly’s work to address the COVID-19 pandemic, an estimated $500 million budget surplus, and bills that dealt with eviction prevention, stormwater management funding, and electric vehicle rebates in a recent presentation to the GMBA. [Sun Gazette]

Falls Church Hires New Public Works Superintendent — “The City of Falls Church welcomes Herb Holmes as the new Superintendent of Public Works. Throughout April, Holmes shadowed the incumbent, Robert Goff, who will retire on July 1 after 40 years of service…Holmes most recently served as the Superintendent of Streets for the City of Alexandria, Virginia.” [City of Falls Church]

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Fairfax County wants the public to weigh in on the projects that it plans to submit for funding as part of the Transportation Alternatives initiative, a federal program that gives grants to smaller community projects that expand non-motorized travel or enhance transportation infrastructure.

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation is reviewing four projects that it has proposed submitting for the federal grants: the Vienna/Fairfax-GMU Metro Station bicycle connection, Safe Routes to School projects for Shrevewood and Bush Hill elementary schools, and the Mason Neck Trail.

The virtual meeting will occur at 6 p.m. on Thursday (May 27). County staff will give a presentation at the meeting and provide a Q&A session. Attendees can join online or call 1-844-621-3956 with access code 173 919 2128.

FCDOT spokesperson Robin Geiger said that, once projects are identified, the county often seeks multiple funding sources due to the competitive nature of grants.

The Shrevewood Elementary Safe Routes to Schools project has been the beneficiary of a Transportation Alternatives grant before. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors accepted $560,000 from the Virginia Department of Transportation in March to support the project, which will add crosswalks, curb ramps, and other improvements outside the school in Falls Church.

The Metro station bicycle project will add dedicated bicycle facilities to Virginia Center Boulevard and Country Creek Road from Nutley Street to Sutton Road, county staff said. It will also include a connection to the I-66 parallel trail being planned with the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway project through protected bike lanes, narrowing an existing median and adding trail connections, according to the county.

The Transportation Alternatives initiative is overseen by the Federal Highway Administration. Projects through the program can assist students, people with disabilities, pedestrians, cyclists and others by adding sidewalks, lighting, and other safety-related infrastructure.

Photo by Michelle Goldchain

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Morning Notes

Fairfax County School Board Adopts Budget — The Fairfax County Public Schools fiscal year 2022 budget includes funding for 50 new positions for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students, school-based technology specialists, and 18 new social worker and psychologist positions to meet state requirements. It also covers technology support fees previously charged to families and a 2% market rate adjustment for all employees. [FCPS]

Bike to Work Day Is Here — The D.C. area’s annual initiative to encourage people to ride their bicycles to work marks its 20th anniversary today. The Tysons area has pit stops at Tysons Corner Center, the Mosaic District, and the MITRE Corporation headquarters in McLean, where cyclists can pick up a complimentary T-shirt, win giveaways, and in some cases, get a free bicycle tune-up. [Bike to Work Day]

Park Police Chief Calls Ghaisar Shooting “Tragic” — Park Police Chief Pamela Smith called the 2017 shooting of McLean resident Bijan Ghaisar “tragic” yesterday (Thursday) when announcing that the agency will outfit all officers with body-worn cameras by the end of this year. She didn’t comment on Fairfax County and Virginia prosecutors’ recent request that the Justice Department take up the case against the Park Police officers, which is now in federal court. [WTOP]

Scott’s Run Security to Intensify on Memorial Day — The Fairfax County Park Authority will increase the presence of security at Scott’s Run Nature Preserve in McLean starting on Memorial Day (May 31). Security personnel will be on site throughout the week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. to enforce park rules, including the prohibition of alcohol and glass bottles and safety measures in the waterfall area. [Patch]

Mill Street Building Sold for $5 Million — The 23,000 square-foot building at 319 Mill Street in Vienna was sold last week to a local businessman identified as MITCO Mill Street LLC. Zoned for retail or industrial use and occupied by three long-term tenants, the property is part of an effort to revive Mill Street with new retail businesses, including a Cubesmart that’s now under construction. [Vienna Business Association]

McLean American Legion Post Honored — “It took an extra year because of pandemic-related delays, but American Legion Post 270 in McLean and its former commander, W. Glenn Yarborough, on May 19 finally received ceremonial copies of honorary resolutions passed last year by the General Assembly.” [Sun Gazette]

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The Weekly Planner is a roundup of interesting events coming up over the next week in the Tysons area.

We’ve searched the web for events of note in Tysons, Vienna, Merrifield, McLean, and Falls Church. Know of any we’ve missed? Tell us!

Tuesday (May 18)

  • Fit4Mom Stroller Strides — 9:30-10:30 a.m. at the Mosaic District (2910 District Ave) — Fit4Mom Stroller Strides is a 60-minute workout that includes strength training, cardio, and core restoration, along with entertainment for the little ones in your stroller. Classes meet in Strawberry Park in front of Mom & Pop. Register online. Your first session is free. A second class will be held on Thursday (May 20) at the same time.
  • Mainstreaming African American History in the Schools (Online) — 7 p.m. — Come join a discussion on integrating local African American history into Falls Church City Public Schools curriculum. Panelists include Falls Church Historical Commission Chair Ronald Anzalone, Vice Chair Edwin B. Henderson II, and FCCPS Superintendent Dr. Peter Noonan. Topics of discussion will include the school renaming efforts. Email Pete Sullivan for the Zoom link.

Thursday (May 20)

  • Epidemics of the Past — 9:30-10:30 a.m. at Historic Huntley (6918 Harrison Lane) — Learn about epidemics of the past and how they’ve shaped the society we live in today. The program will be outdoors and costs $8 per person. Register online and call 703-768-2525 for more information.
  • A Conversation with Author Angie Kim (Online) — 7-8 p.m. — Angie Kim, author of the Edgar Award winner Miracle Creek, will have a public Q&A discussion on issues and experiences that have shaped her life and work as an Asian American. Registration is required. A Zoom link will be sent 24 hours in advance of the event.

Friday (May 21)

Sunday (May 23)

  • Virtual Afternoon Tea (Online) — 2 p.m. — Green Spring Gardens is hosting its weekly virtual tea. This week’s topic is personal grooming throughout history. Learn about how bathing was a public affair for years and how it turned into a private event. Register online for the Zoom link. For more information, call 703-941-7987.

Photo via Angie Kim/Twitter

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Morning Notes

New Cancer Treatment Facility to Open in Merrifield — “Virginia Cancer Specialists, which operates 10 locations in Northern Virginia, will be opening its new 60,000-square-foot facility on April 13 in the Merrifield area. The new center located at 8613 Lee Highway will replace the VCS’ current center at 8503 Arlington Blvd.” [Patch]

Tour de Hunter Mill Coming to Vienna — Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn will host the inaugural district-wide bicycle tour, which will take cyclists from Reston to Vienna and back again through the Spring Hill Metro station in Tysons. The event will take place on May 15 with a $25 registration fee for anyone 16 and older. [Hunter Mill District Supervisor’s Office]

Vienna State Senator Skeptical of Marijuana Legalization — Gov. Ralph Northam’s proposal to amend a bill legalizing marijuana to make it effective on July 1 appears to have enough support to pass when the Virginia General Assembly reconvenes this month, but State Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) says he’s “not a fan of setting up a marijuana industry in this state, which appears to be the purpose of the legislation.” [Associated Press/WTOP]

Online Forum Scheduled for Vienna Town Council Candidates — An online candidate forum for the upcoming Vienna Town Council election on May 4 will be recorded and available to view starting on April 12. The event will be posted to the town government’s YouTube channel and air on TV regularly until the election. [Sun Gazette]

Tysons Company to Bring Broadband to the Arctic — “OneWeb plans to start offering broadband from space in the Arctic region this fall, a capability the company hopes will attract U.S. military and other national government customers…Following the latest launch of 36 satellites on March 25, OneWeb has 146 in operation.” [Space News]

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The Fairfax County Department of Transportation will host a series of virtual discussions next month for community members to share their thoughts on walking, bicycling, and other modes of travel that don’t involve getting inside a car.

The community conversations are intended to give county staff insight into people’s travel habits and areas where the county could improve bicycle and pedestrian access or facilities as part of FCDOT’s efforts to develop a new ActiveFairfax Transportation Plan.

“Community input is critical to the success of this planning effort,” FCDOT spokesperson Anna Nissinen said in a statement. “We want to hear all perspectives, from families biking and walking within the community to individuals who use scooters and bike share as part of their commute. This is the only way to create a comprehensive and functional plan that truly supports the needs of the community.”

12 online meetings have been scheduled, starting with an evening conversation for Mason District residents on April 8. The meetings focused on the Tysons area include:

There will also be a meeting in Spanish on April 15 at 7 p.m. and two “Lunch and Learn” sessions at noon on April 13 and 23.

A recording of the event and the presentation will be available on the ActiveFairfax webpage for anyone unable to attend a meeting. There is also an online survey for community members to share their perspective on barriers to non-motorized travel, potential trail and bicycle network improvements, and other topics.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors directed FCDOT to review its plan for active transportation — defined by the county as “self-propelled, human-powered travel” such as walking, cycling, or using a scooter or wheelchair — in January 2020.

Launched last summer, the project is divided into two phases. First, FCDOT is developing a vision statement laying out the county’s goals, evaluating existing conditions, and creating a plan for a systematic safety program. Then, the department will come up with recommendations, including potential comprehensive plan updates and project and policy prioritization.

Local officials have been looking at ways to enhance Fairfax County’s bikeability and walkability, particularly in urbanizing areas like Tysons and Reston, to improve safety and reflect people’s evolving travel habits.

The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board’s most recent Regional Travel Survey found that the number of bicycle trips in the D.C. area has doubled over the past decade, though the amount of daily walking trips has remained steady.

“The plan will establish a vision and a roadmap for implementation of safe, convenient, and enjoyable streets, sidewalks, bike facilities, and trails in Fairfax County for people of all ages and abilities,” Nissinen said. “The plan will support livable street design through the development of a transportation network that connects people to where they live, work, play, learn and take transit.”

Photo by Michelle Goldchain

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