Newsletter

Morning Notes

Car Taxes Due Today — Personal property taxes are due today (Tuesday) for Fairfax County residents, who can pay online or in person at the Fairfax County Government Center until 6 p.m. About 12% of owners saw an increase in their car tax bill this year due pandemic-related supply chain issues. [Fairfax County Government]

Lane Closures Prompted by Pipe Work for New Vienna Police Station — Construction workers started installing stormwater pipes for the new Vienna Police Station yesterday (Monday), necessitating lane closures on Center and Locust streets. The pipe work is expected to be completed by Thursday (Oct. 7). [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

Virginia DMVs Resume Walk-in Service — “After nearly a year and a half of appointment-only service, walk-ins will again be welcome at the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles…When it expands options on Tuesday, customers can choose to either schedule an appointment for services, or opt for walk-in service on alternating days. The changes will be in effect at all 75 of the DMV customer service centers.” [WTOP]

Winning Lottery Ticket Bought in Vienna — “A Powerball ticket purchased in Vienna is one of three that won a $50,000 prize. The three Virginia tickets won prizes in the Sept. 29 drawing. These tickets were bought at the Vienna Shell at 252 Maple Avenue in Vienna, Harris Teeter at 19350 Winmeade Drive in Leesburg, and Kenbridge Market Express at 216 South Broad Street in Kenbridge.” [Patch]

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Morning Notes

Fairfax County Recognizes 9/11 Anniversary — For those who missed it, watch the remembrance ceremony that Fairfax County held on Saturday (Sept. 11) to mark 20 years since the 9/11 attacks. The Town of Vienna commemorated the occasion with a ceremony of its own, and the McLean Community Center posted a “Taps” tribute with comments from local faith leaders.

Virginia DMV to Resume Walk-in Services — “Beginning Oct. 5, Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles customers may choose to schedule an appointment for service or opt for walk-in service on alternating days at all 75 customer service centers…During the pandemic, [the] DMV began operating by appointment only as it reopened offices in May 2020 after a temporary closure due to the rapid spread of COVID-19.” [Inside NoVA]

Robbery Reported in Mosaic District — A man told Fairfax County police on Sept. 4 that an acquaintance had assaulted him and taken his property in the 2900 block of District Avenue in Merrifield. Police arrested the suspect, who fled the scene of the assault, on Sept. 7 and charged him with robbery and malicious wounding. The victim went to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. [FCPD]

Lee Highway Renaming Task Force Meets Tonight — The Confederate Names Task Force appointed to determine whether Fairfax County should rename Lee Highway (Route 29) and Lee-Jackson Memorial Highway (Route 50) will hold its second meeting at 7 p.m. today (Monday). The meeting will be virtual and can be followed online, on Channel 16, or by phone at 703-324-5300. [Fairfax County Government/Twitter]

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Fairfax County residents in need of Department of Motor Vehicle services are finding they need to book an appointment months in advance.

In response to those reported concerns, the county Board of Supervisors agreed on Tuesday (July 27) to contact the state to see how it will address wait times.

Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity said residents have reported that they’re traveling as far as three hours away to South Hill to get DMV services.

“Given that DMV services are essential, Fairfax County residents should not have to wait over a month or be forced to go to other parts of Virginia for an appointment,” Herrity said.

The DMV introduced the appointment system when it reopened sites in May 2020 after a pandemic-induced shutdown. During that time frame, it has also added more online capabilities to help reduce foot traffic.

“We are not yet where we need to be, but we are proud of the progress we’ve made from implementing a brand new appointment system in the height of a global pandemic a little more than a year ago,” DMV spokeswoman Jessica Cowardin said in a statement.

On a recent visit to a DMV center in Tysons, Great Falls resident Barbara Martin found the experience quite different compared to when walk-ins were allowed, which would result in dozens of people crowding into the building.

Martin booked her appointment about a month and a half ago and said she was relieved to be there, expressing appreciation for the staff’s attention to details.

The DMV reopened its Tysons location (1968 Gallows Road) in June 2020 and its Sterling location (100 Free Court) in August 2020. It also opened a new customer service center in Sterling (22360 S. Sterling Blvd., Unit D112) this past January.

“By installing an appointment system we have become more efficient, transactions are conducted quickly and customer wait times have been minimized,” Cowardin wrote. “And appointment availability will continue to increase as we are able to hire and train employees and emerge more fully from the pandemic, which is still ongoing.”

Chai Chala of McLean says he lucked out and only had to wait 10 days for an appointment at the Tysons DMV center, which he visited to register a new car.

“The experience was really nice,” he said, adding his only complaint was the sun’s heat.

Since reopening, the DMV added several services to its website that can save customers a trip to a physical building.

In September, it introduced two-year renewals for driver’s licenses and ID cars by online and mail, and in November, it began online renewals for commercial driver’s licenses. As of February, it also now offers drivers the ability to replace licenses and permits that were lost or stolen.

Customers can also get appointments with DMV Select partner officers, which conduct vehicle-related transactions, as well as DMV Connect, a team of mobile workers whose regular stops include the Fairfax County Government Center.

Cowardin said the DMV intends to keep the appointment system for the foreseeable future, noting that the vast majority of transactions conducted since May 2020 have been conducted remotely.

“During the pandemic, customers shifted the way they conduct business with DMV in that more customers are now conducting DMV business by service delivery methods other than the [customer service centers], such as mail, internet, online dealers or DMV Select partners,” she noted.

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Southbound vehicles on the Capital Beltway in Merrifield travel on regular and express lanes

Virginia is reconsidering the future of funding for transportation infrastructure, as the rise of electric and more fuel-efficient vehicles has cut into the gas tax revenue that helps pay for those projects.

One option the Commonwealth has started pursuing is a “mileage-based user fee” that drivers would pay depending on how much or little they travel. Drivers could opt into the voluntary system in lieu of paying a mandatory highway use fee that first took effect on July 1, 2020.

State Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd District) says the highway use fee — which applies to cars that average at least 25 miles per gallon and is calculated based on the fuels tax at the time of a vehicle’s registration and the average number of miles it travels in the state — is a precursor to Virginia’s planned mileage-based user fee program.

“For most of the past decade, Virginia, like the rest of the country, has been wrestling with the challenge of identifying the best approach to generating sufficient revenues to support transportation investments,” she said in a statement. “As cars have become more fuel efficient and electric vehicle adoption increases, it is increasingly difficult to strike the right balance of raising adequate revenues from traditional sources and adhering to a usage-based philosophy of highway financing.”

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles is currently fielding requests from private contractors to operate the program, which it anticipates rolling out in July 2022. Led by the DMV, a workgroup tasked with developing the program is slated to deliver an interim report to the Commonwealth this December.

The working group is identifying all requirements to Virginia’s mileage-based user fee program with “a priority on consumer privacy protection and equity,” DMV spokesperson Jessica Cowardin said in a statement.

Seeking new ways to fund road repairs and transit projects, Virginia established the mileage-based fee program in April 2020 when the General Assembly adopted a major transportation bill that also established the highway use fee and raised gas taxes for the first time in more than three decades.

The bill also lowered vehicle registration fees by $10 and repealed an annual $64 fee for electric and alternative fuel vehicles.

The changes, which include tying the gas tax rate to the Consumer Price Index to keep up with inflation starting next year, will help Virginia diversify its funding sources to offset stagnant or declining gas tax revenue, state legislators say.

The consultant KPMG previously estimated that Virginia would lose nearly 33% of its gas tax revenues by 2030 due to fuel efficiency, or approximately $260 million.

“Neither the [Highway Use Fee] nor the EV Registration fee are intended to suppress the sales of fuel efficient or electric vehicles, but simply recapture the average annual revenue from the foregone gas taxes,” Howell said.

The idea of taxing drivers based on how much they travel instead of the fuel they use has been gaining traction throughout the U.S. over the past decade.

Despite inflation, the federal gas tax rate has been locked in at 18.4 cents per gallon since it went up from 14.1 cents in 1993, meaning there’s less money to fund highway improvements.

“Many cars are not using gas at all, such as electric, so that system of highway finance has been coming apart for a long time,” said Jonathan Gifford, director of George Mason University’s Center for Transportation Public-Private Partnership Policy in Arlington.

If Virginia wants to encourage a transition to clean energy and electric vehicles, which “is absolutely essential to addressing climate change, we will need to look to other options” to pay for transportation projects, Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance President Jason Stanford says. Read More

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Tysons DMV Has Reopened — Starting today, the location at 1968 Gallows Road will be open by appointment only from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday. [Patch]

More Outdoor Areas Open at Public Schools — “In accordance with Fairfax County’s Phase 1 reopening guidelines, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) is reopening additional outdoor areas on school grounds to the community, effective Friday, May 29. Reopening on May 29 will be athletic fields (for walking and recreational use from 8 a.m. to sundown) and gardens.” [FCPS]

Art Aid — “ARTSFAIRFAX [Thursday] announced $100,000 in available funding through the newly created Emergency Relief and Recovery Grant Program. Funding will provide critical support to Fairfax County and the Cities of Fairfax and Falls Church arts organizations and Fairfax County individual artists most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The online grant application… closes on June 29, 2020.” [Patch]

Public Hearing on Controversial Zoning Code Tonight — “The Vienna Town Council plans to hold a public hearing on Monday about what to do about the contentious Maple Avenue Commercial (MAC) zone.” [Tysons Reporter]

Phase 2 May Start Soon — “Gov. Ralph Northam said Thursday that more of the state’s COVID-19 restrictions could be lifted as soon as June 5… Northern Virginia leaders said earlier this week they’d be interested in moving to Phase Two at the same time as the rest of the state.” [Inside NoVa]

Booze Delivery? — “At some point in the near future, the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority is hoping to execute the first home liquor delivery in its 86-year history.” [Inside NoVa]

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Morning Notes

Dense Fog Advisory for Fairfax Co. — “A Dense Fog Advisory has been issued until Noon today for portions of the region. If driving, slow down, use your headlights, and leave plenty of distance ahead of you.” [Twitter, Twitter]

State Offices, Courts Closed Today — Courts and DMV offices are closed today across Virginia for the state holiday known as Lee-Jackson Day. More closures are planned Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Vienna Ash Trees Devastated by Insect — A “Vienna Town Council agenda item on Jan. 7 revealed a harsh truth: An invasive insect called the emerald ash borer utterly has laid waste to the town’s ash trees. The insects have killed every ash tree in town, Vienna Parks and Recreation Director Leslie Herman told the Council.” [InsideNova, Tysons Reporter]

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Morning Notes

Final Plea to Save Claude Moore Farm — “As the National Park Service’s planned closing of Claude Moore Colonial Farm gets closer, Friends of Claude Moore Colonial Farm is pleading for the public and lawmakers to take action. The living history farm depicting life in 1771, will close on Dec. 21.” [Patch]

Tysons DMV Office Closing Temporarily — “The Tysons customer-service center of the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles will be closed through mid-December for renovation. The facility, located at 1968 Gallows Road, will close on Dec. 1.” [InsideNova]

Blustery Day Today — Expect cold temperatures and high, gusty winds today. Fairfax County Fire and Rescue is asking residents to be safe, as a Wind Advisory is in effect until 4 p.m. [Capital Weather Gang, Fairfax County Fire & Rescue, Twitter]

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