Tysons, VA

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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The Virginia Department of Transportation’s period for public comments on proposed pedestrian and bicycle improvements around the Vienna Metro station will close on Monday (March 29).

VDOT held a virtual public information meeting on March 18 to discuss its plans, which are being developed in conjunction with efforts to construct a network of pedestrian and bicycle facilities along Interstate 66 as part of the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway project.

The I-66 parallel trail network will cover 11 miles between Gallows Road in Dunn Loring and Centreville, connecting existing regional trails — including the Washington & Old Dominion Trail — and adding new pedestrian bridges over I-66, according to Andrew Beacher, VDOT’s preliminary engineering manager for Fairfax and Arlington counties.

“The Vienna Metro bicycle and pedestrian improvements project is a key portion of that larger network that’s going to be implemented in the coming years,” Beacher said. “…It is an extensive planned network that we hope will ultimately serve the community well.”

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation told Tysons Reporter in February that the Vienna Metro portion of the project is being implemented separately, rather than as I-66 is widened, because the trail has to deviate from the interstate “for engineering reasons and for access-to-the-community reasons.”

Divided into three segments between Blake Lane and the Vienna Metro surface parking lot, improvements currently being considered include:

  • The addition of a 10-foot-wide shared-use path on Sutton Road
  • Removal of one eastbound through lane on Country Creek Road and Virginia Center Boulevard, which would create room for a road diet and two-way cycle track and sidewalk on the south side of the road
  • The construction of a new 10-foot-wide shared-use-path on Virginia Center Boulevard close to the westbound I-66 ramp adjacent to the parking lot
  • The installation of new pavement markings and signs
  • Upgraded crosswalks, traffic signal optimization, and other intersection changes

In addition, two new bus stops will be added on Sutton Road “to provide convenient access to Oakton High School faculty, staff, and students,” and six existing stops on Country Creek Road will be relocated to align with the proposed new crosswalk locations, FCDOT project coordinator Caijun Luo said during the March 18 meeting.

At Fairfax County’s request, VDOT is also looking at possible interim solutions to bridge the anticipated gap between the completion of the Transform I-66 improvements in late 2022 and the conclusion of the Vienna Metro project, which is not expected to finish construction until spring 2025.

State transportation planners have proposed restriping Country Creek Road and Virginia Center Boulevard to create a two-way, 10-foot-wide cycle track with a buffer of concrete or flex posts to separate bicyclists from drivers.

According to VDOT project manager Zamir Mirza, it will be harder to implement temporary measures on Sutton Road due to variations in road width, especially approaching the curve near the southern entrances of Oakton High School.

“We are considering design options for this segment, including removing parking on the northwest side of the site for the bicyclists,” Mirza said. “We may need to consider widening the existing sidewalk also, or have a combination of the two options.”

Mirza added that the project website will be updated when VDOT finishes studying the proposed interim options for Sutton Road.

The Vienna Metro improvements project has a total estimated cost of $9.4 million.

A public hearing on the project design will be held this summer before getting approved in the fall. VDOT plans to begin right-of-way acquisitions and utility relocations in the spring of 2022, and construction is expected to begin in summer 2024.

Community members can submit comments to [email protected] or by mail to VDOT’s Northern Virginia District office. VDOT also has a survey to gather feedback.

Image via VDOT

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Morning Notes

Virginia Extends Tax Deadline — Gov. Ralph Northam announced on Friday (March 19) that the state taxation department will extend deadline for filing and paying individual income taxes from May 1 to May 17. The move came shortly after the IRS and Treasury Department pushed the deadline for federal income tax filings and payments from April 15 to May 17. [Virginia Governor’s Office]

Bicycling Still Hazardous in Tysons, Study Finds — A market study commissioned by the Tysons Partnership found a lack of the protected bicycle lanes and connections between neighborhoods and streets needed to make the area friendlier to cyclists. Nearly 10 miles of road in Tysons rank in the Fairfax County Department of Transportation’s most dangerous category, compared to just two miles receiving the highest bikeability rating. [Greater Greater Washington]

Vienna Police Arrest Man Suspected of Burglary — The Vienna Police Department arrested a 58-year-old man on March 15 after receiving calls about a man “pulling on doors, possibly trying to enter businesses in the area” and later entering a resident’s home while they were sleeping. Police are looking for assistance in identifying jewelry and other property that the man allegedly stole. [Vienna Police Department]

CDC Updates Social Distancing Guidance for Schools to Three Feet — “Fairfax Superintendent Scott Brabrand said Friday in a message to parents that the new guidance was “very encouraging,” but under review. He said he will meet with principals and county health officials next week to work on the issue.” [The Washington Post]

Dranesville District Budget Town Hall Tonight — Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust is holding a virtual town hall at 7 p.m. to discuss Fairfax County’s proposed fiscal year 2022 budget. The meeting will be televised on Channel 16, streamed online, and streamed live on Foust’s Facebook page. [Supervisor John Foust/Facebook]

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Bike lanes could soon connect Leesburg Pike and Idylwood Road via Pimmit Drive in Tysons.

The Fairfax County and Virginia transportation departments will hold a virtual public meeting at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow (Wednesday) to gather input on that proposal, along with plans for additional bike lanes in Oakton, as part of the 2021 Providence District paving and restriping program.

According to the Fairfax County Department of Transportation, the proposed Pimmit Drive bike lanes would run from Leesburg Pike to Idyl Lane “where space permits.”

“This proposal will maintain most legal on-street parking on both sides of the road but will remove on-street parking along the Idylwood Plaza frontage to improve road safety,” FCDOT said.

The county is also looking to add bike lanes in both directions on Idyl Lane from Pimmit Drive to Idylwood Road, resulting in a half-mile stretch of bike lanes between Leesburg Pike and Idylwood. FCDOT says the Idyl Lane project would preserve existing on-street parking on the east side of the road but remove it on the west side.

In addition to passing by Idylwood Plaza, the bike lanes would be in fairly close proximity to the Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library and several parks, including Ruckstahl Park, Idylwood Park, and Lemon Road Park, though the latter would still require crossing Route 7.

“The proposed bike lanes on Idyl Lane and the western section of Pimmit Drive will improve bicycle access to Tysons, the McLean Metro [station], and the W&OD [trail],” FCDOT’s active transportation team said in a statement to Tysons Reporter. “This improvement is in line with the recommendations put forward in the Fairfax County Bicycle Master Plan.”

For Providence District, FCDOT is also proposing adding bike lanes on Tobin Road in Annandale as well as Borge Street and Bushman Drive in Oakton.

Community members can register online to attend the meeting, which will be held through WebEx. A video of the meeting presentation will be available online afterwards, and comments can be submitted electronically to FCDOT through March 24.

The Virginia Department of Transportation repaves and stripes roads in Fairfax County every year from April to November as part of its annual maintenance work. The county says it routinely uses the occasion to implement road and crosswalk improvements intended to improve driver, bicycle, and pedestrian safety.

Public meetings on proposed changes in the Dranesville and Hunter Mill districts have been scheduled for March 25 and April 6, respectively.

Images via Google Maps (photo, map)

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Updated at 3:55 p.m. on 2/19/2021 — The virtual public information meeting on the proposed Vienna Metro bicycle and pedestrian improvements has been postponed.

VDOT Northern Virginia spokesperson Kathleen Leonard says the meeting is being rescheduled for late spring, but the project team has not determined an exact date yet, since elements of the project are still being refined.

Earlier: The Virginia Department of Transportation will hold a virtual community meeting next Wednesday (Feb. 24) to discuss a proposal to improve the safety and accessibility of the Vienna Metro station for bicyclists and pedestrians.

The project site is located to the area north of I-66 between Blake Lane and the turn-off into the Metro station’s surface parking lot. It will focus on Sutton Road between Blake Lane and Country Creek Road, as well as a roughly half-mile stretch of Country Creek Road as it turns into Virginia Center Boulevard.

According to VDOT’s project page, the improvements currently being considered include:

  • Shared-use paths along Blake Lane and Sutton Road from the I-66 bridge to Country Creek Road
  • A two-way cycle track with adjacent sidewalk along Country Creek Road/Virginia Center Boulevard from Sutton Road to the Metro North Parking Lot entrance
  • A road diet along Country Creek Road/Virginia Center Boulevard from Sutton Road to the Metro North Parking Lot entrance
  • A realignment of the I-66 westbound ramp to Country Creek Road
  • Traffic signal modifications at the intersections of Sutton Road and Blake Lane, Country Creek Road and the ramp from westbound I-66, and Country Creek Road and Vaden Drive
  • The installation of new pavement markings and signs

The upcoming meeting marks the start of a public comment period that will conclude on Mar. 8, though A public hearing on the project design is not expected to take place until this summer. Under VDOT’s current schedule, the right-of-way acqusition process would start in the spring of 2022, with construction not getting underway until fall 2024.

The estimated total cost of the project is $6.5 million, though VDOT says that could change as the design is further developed.

According to Chris Wells, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation’s Active Transportation Program manager, the proposed Vienna Metro improvements stem from VDOT’s plans to construct a trail along I-66 as part of its Transform 66 Outside the Beltway project, which is adding express lanes on the highway between Gainesville and I-495 in Dunn Loring.

While most of the trail will be built as I-66 is widened, this particular segment has to separate from the interstate “for engineering reasons and for access-to-the-community reasons,” Wells says.

Next week’s virtual information meeting will start at 7 p.m. A link to register for the meeting and a brief survey for community members to share their thoughts on the project can be found on the VDOT website.

If inclement weather prompts a cancellation, the meeting will be rescheduled to Mar. 8.

Image via VDOT

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Thursday Morning Notes

Fairfax County Cancels Vaccine Clinics Due to Storm — The Fairfax County Health Department has canceled the COVID-19 vaccination clinics it had scheduled for today, with the National Weather Service predicting snow and ice will make travel difficult. People who had appointments will receive an email with a link to reschedule. [Fairfax County Government]

Fairfax County and Falls Church City Close for Winter Storm — Fairfax County government offices and courts are closed today, and employees have been granted emergency administrative leave. The City of Falls Church has shuttered all city buildings, including the community center and library, but virtual services are still available. The City “cautions residents to stay home and off the roads as conditions are very icy.” [Fairfax County Government, City of Falls Church]

FCPS Cancels All Classes and Other School Activities — Fairfax County Public School buildings are closed today, and all in-person and virtual classes have been canceled, along with other activities on school grounds. The Fairfax County School Board will still hold a virtual meeting tonight starting at 7 p.m. [FCPS]

Virginia to Allow Up to 250 People at Outdoor Sporting Events — “Virginia governor Ralph Northam announced Wednesday he will expand the number of spectators allowed at outdoor sporting events to 250 people. The expansion of capacity limits will be officially implemented Monday.” [Washingtonian]

Bicycling Advocates Praise Fairview Park Nursing School Plan — The Fairfax County Planning Commission approved the Arizona College of Nursing’s proposal to create a school in an office building on Fairview Park Drive in Falls Church on Jan. 27. The project agreement includes a commitment to provide space for a future shared-use bridge over I-495 and install bicycle racks outside the building. [Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling]

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Updated at 11:45 a.m. — The fatality and crash numbers in this article from the DMV reflect statistics for Northern Virginia, not just Fairfax County as previously stated. The Fairfax County Police Department says that the county’s fatality and crash rates are much lower.

With 38 pedestrian fatalities, 2019 was the deadliest year in the last decade to walk in Northern Virginia, according to Virginia DMV data.

The number of deaths dropped to 29 in 2020, but the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and county transportation officials are still working on strategies to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety with a countywide initiative.

“Unfortunately our incidents of pedestrian fatalities and crashes continue to be at unacceptable levels,” FCDOT bicycle and pedestrian program manager Chris Wells said during a transportation committee meeting yesterday (Tuesday). “Due to a number of factors, those numbers are trending up — not just in Fairfax, but in Virginia and across the United States.”

Bicycling is safer, but crash rates are still high: 216 crashes in 2019, and 157 in 2020.

Wells added that certain portions of Fairfax County’s population are disproportionately affected by pedestrian crashes, a trend that has been documented nationwide.

The county hopes to reverse these statistics. Wells told supervisors that FCDOT and VDOT have recently improved walking and cycling conditions by programming head starts into signals for pedestrians, re-striping four-lane roads as two-lane roads, and installing rapid-flashing beacons for crosswalks without lights.

VDOT awarded FCDOT $1.2 million last year to install nine more flashing beacons, bringing the county’s total to 17, Wells said.

VDOT also has a pedestrian safety action plan for improving safety along particularly dangerous corridors. In Fairfax County, the highest-priority roads are Columbia Pike, Little River Turnpike, Richmond Highway, Lee Highway, Lee-Jackson Memorial Highway, Braddock Road, and Ox Road.

Officials said that work on roads in Fairfax County is a lengthy process compared to other jurisdictions, because VDOT owns the roads.

“They’ve really stepped up this year to help us to advance pedestrian safety in a way that we have not seen in years past,” FCDOT Director Tom Biesiadny said.

Looking ahead, supervisors suggested introducing better lighting and longer crossing times at mid-block crosswalks. They are also still interested in reducing speeds in the county.

FCDOT officials said a multiagency group, including transportation officials and attorneys, is working through the logistics of speed cameras. Meanwhile, VDOT is preparing to examine where speed limits can be lowered.

Fairfax County has also been experimenting with closing street lanes to provide more room for walking and cycling. A pilot project that closed one lane on a half-mile section of Tysons Boulevard to motor vehicles ran from May 29 to Nov. 23 of last year, and a partial lane closure on Government Center Parkway has been in place since Aug. 31.

Chart and map via Virginia DMV data dashboards

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Work on Metro’s Bike and Ride facility for the Vienna Metro Station is finally nearing the finish line.

More than five years after it started, major construction on the project has now been completed, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority spokesperson Ian Jannetta says.

“The Bike & Ride is being readied for customer use, including inspections and final project activities (such as integrating access control to the Metro network),” Jannetta told Tysons Reporter in an email on Oct. 30. “As soon as we have a date for when customers can use the facility, we will announce it.”

The Vienna facility is Metro’s second Bike and Ride in Fairfax County after one opened at the East Falls Church Metro Station in August. The two stations will have a combined 184 spaces for riders to park their bicycles before hopping on a train or bus.

Metro’s bike parking facilities are monitored around-the-clock by security cameras and include “fix-it stations” with a tire pump, tools, and a stand for making basic repairs and adjustments, according to WMATA.

In order to access the facilities, customers need a registered SmarTrip and must fill out an online form about 24 to 48 hours in advance of their visit, though the bike and rides are free to use.

Metro’s Bike and Ride facilities were recently the subject of a critical report by the WMATA Office of the Inspector General, which reviewed the projects after receiving public complaints and a request for information from a U.S. Senate subcommittee on federal spending oversight.

Released on Oct. 16, the report found that WMATA has spent over $5.9 million on three Bike and Ride facilities that collectively provide 304 parking spaces, amounting to approximately $19,400 per space.

The inspector general also criticized the prolonged construction schedule on the Vienna and East Falls Church facilities, the lack of timely communication with the public, and gaps in financial records for the projects.

Metro started developing Bike and Ride facilities in 2011 as part of a capital program designed to expand bicycle and pedestrian amenities at its stations.

While work on a Bike and Ride at College Park in Washington, D.C., started in August 2011 and finished in May 2012, the East Falls Church and Vienna projects were delayed by construction issues and contractor disputes, including a termination of the original contract in 2016.

Jannetta says WMATA has overhauled its structure for managing capital programs since the East Falls Church and Vienna Bike and Rides started construction in February 2015.

“While it took longer than it should have to get a new contractor on board, the issues were ultimately resolved, delivering bike capacity that will benefit current Metro riders and generations of environmentally conscious riders to come,” Jannetta said.

Photo via WMATA

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Many local businesses around the region are struggling, but Conte’s Bike Shop is taking advantage of a curious windfall for local bike stores to open a new Falls Church location on Friday (Oct. 30).

The new 3,800 square-foot shop at 1118 West Broad Street will include a bike fitting studio and performance testing.

“The store’s expansion comes at a time when bike shops across the country are experiencing an increase in demand for products due to the pandemic,” a spokesperson said in a press release. “Conte’s larger space will be better equipped to meet the needs of the community.”

The shop will offer bicycles from the Cannondale, Specialized, BMC, and Pinarello brands

“We are very excited to be in our new location,” says David Conte, co-owner of the company. “Our Conte’s Bike Shop team is ready to welcome back new and familiar faces. Along with being in a much more robust shopping center, our new space will neighbor Road Runner Sports. Having the two stores next door to each other will bring excellent symmetry for anyone who is outdoor-minded. We can’t wait to continue serving the Falls Church community in our expanded location.”

Photo via Conte’s Bike Shop/Facebook

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