Morning Notes

County Board Approves PIVOT Grant Program — The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday (June 8) to create a new grant program that will use $25 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to support businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The program will focus on the hotel, food service, retail, and arts and culture industries with applications scheduled to open from June 23 through July 9. [Fairfax County Government]

Armed Robberies Reported in Falls Church — Fairfax County police are investigating a series of armed robberies that have occurred in the 3300 block of Glenmore Drive since Saturday (June 5). In all four cases, a masked man described as white and between 17 to 25 years of age approached victims with a knife and demanded cash or property before running away. [FCPD]

Reckless Driving in Tysons Subject of Capitol Complaint — Architect of the Capitol J. Brett Blanton is under investigation by the agency’s inspector general after a woman “recklessly” drove his work-issued vehicle around Tysons on March 6. A complaint says the vehicle was traveling at a high speed and made an unauthorized stop at Walmart, and the driver “made obscene gestures at the person who reported the incident.” [Roll Call]

Developer Starts Selection Process for Maryland Beltway Project — The development group selected to carry out Maryland’s plan to widen the Capital Beltway at the American Legion Bridge will launch a competitive procurement process on June 16 to identify design and construction contractors. The process will be watched by Virginia, particularly in McLean, as the Commonwealth moves forward with its 495 NEXT project. [Accelerate Maryland Partners]

Reminder: Idylwood Substation Public Hearing Tonight — The State Corporation Commission will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. today (Thursday) on Dominion Energy’s plans to rebuild a substation in Idylwood. The project has been repeatedly delayed, and the utility company has proposed pushing the timeline for completion back even further to 2026. [SCC]

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More than 5,000 people in northern Fairfax County are currently without power, as a thunderstorm pummels the D.C. area.

According to Dominion Energy’s outage map, the largest outages are concentrated in the east Reston and Great Falls area and north of Tysons, where 1,075 customers between Lewinsville Road and Georgetown Pike are without power due to the storm, which started pouring rain earlier this evening (Thursday).

For the Tysons outage, a crew is currently assessing the damage, but Dominion has not determined an estimated time of restoration yet.

In a Severe Thunderstorm Warning issued at 8:21 p.m., the National Weather Service advised residents to move indoors to the lowest part of their residence.

“Large hail and damaging winds and continuous cloud to ground lightning is occurring with these storms. Move indoors immediately,” the NWS said. “Lightning is one of nature’s leading killers. Remember, if you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning.”

Image via Dominion Energy

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Inch by inch, memo by memo, plans for Tysons’ street grid are coming together.

A new memorandum of understanding (MOU) approved at the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday (May 18) could help clear one hurdle that’s been a thorn in the side of infrastructure plans.

As a follow-up to the June 2010 Tysons Corner Comprehensive Plan, Dominion Energy is entering an MOU with Fairfax County that will streamline a complicated part of the development process for new projects.

According to the staff report, Fairfax County has had a memorandum of agreement with the Virginia Department of Transportation since 2011 that commits VDOT to including all streets in the Tysons grid in its maintenance program.

At the same time, Dominion Energy has been working to update its electric distribution infrastructure in Tysons, a process that has been happening in conjunction with the arrival of new development.

“Developers agree to install new distribution duct banks and related equipment connecting to their proposed buildings, consistent with Dominion’s updated infrastructure,” county staff said in a report. “The facilities run parallel to existing streets, streets with modified cross-sections, or newly built streets, typically underneath sidewalk areas or parking lanes.”

Differences between VDOT’s conditions for its street maintenance program and requirements imposed by Dominion Energy for the installation of new distribution facilities has created some uncertainty for developers, the staff report says:

VDOT will not accept new streetscape areas that include easements, and Dominion requires easements where distribution ductbanks and related equipment are installed outside of vehicular lanes. Dominion is not a signatory to the 2011 MOA. Thus, there is uncertainty for developers about Dominion permitting their installations and VDOT accepting the streetscape areas above those installations for maintenance.

The newly approved MOU is intended to alleviate some of that uncertainty over where developers can and can’t build new streetscapes without stepping on the tangled web of local easements.

Under the MOU, Fairfax County will pay for future relocations of electric distribution ductbanks and related equipment that are needed by the county or VDOT, while Dominion will cover any relocations that it needs. Private developers will still pay for new ductbanks and relocations necessitated by their projects.

“This arrangement prevents Dominion from requiring easements in streetscape areas intended as county right-of-way, thereby ensuring ultimate acceptance by VDOT into its secondary street system, pursuant to the 2011 MOA,” county staff explained in its report.

VDOT has not officially signed the MOU, but the agency has endorsed it and committed to continuing to honor the 2011 agreement with Fairfax County, according to county staff.

The board of supervisors unanimously approved the motion, but at the meeting, Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said there have been frustrations with Dominion failing to meet its timelines and obligations.

“One of the ways that we make sure we’re managing cost going through this is proper planning,” Fairfax County Director of Land Development Services Bill Hicks said. “We’re working close, hand in hand, with VDOT and their long-running plans and Dominion Energy with their long-range plans.”

William Marsh, Tysons coordinator for Land Development Services, said the MOU will hopefully help to streamline permitting.

“Developers will continue to pay for development in Tysons, but [we] want to provide them permitting efficiency,” Marsh said.

Photo via Dominion Energy/Facebook

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Residents will have a new opportunity this summer to express their thoughts on Dominion Energy’s long-delayed effort to rebuild the Idylwood Substation at Shreve Road in Falls Church.

The State Corporation Commission has scheduled a hearing for June 10 at 7 p.m. after Fairfax County requested one in response to a new construction schedule that Dominion proposed earlier this year.

“My office and Fairfax County have strongly advocated for a new public hearing due to Dominion’s substantially delayed construction schedule,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said in a newsletter. “This will be an opportunity for the community to convey concerns and frustrations.”

Dominion will replace the existing substation that was built in the 1950s with a new “gas insulated substation” that accommodates growth in the area without expanding the substation’s footprint, a Dominion Energy spokeswoman said during a community meeting earlier this year.

The project dates back to 2014, but the timeline for completion has kept getting pushed out.

“The length of construction time estimated by the company has tripled — from three years in 2017 to now almost nine years in total,” the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors said in a response to Dominion’s application to the SCC for a new in-service date. “The ‘end date’ that the residents were looking forward to — the date by which the daily disruption to their lives would be over — has jumped from mid-2020 to the end of 2026.”

During the virtual community meeting on Jan. 27, the Dominion spokesperson attributed the project delays to the permitting process, as well as an adjustment in scope and staffing changes. It is also a complex project, she said.

“Since Idylwood Substation is in an important area, it is necessary we keep most of the equipment energized while we work to keep reliable power in the Northern Virginia area,” her presentation said. “To perform this safely, we must work in limited space and even temporarily relocate certain equipment at times to install new equipment.”

This year, Dominion plans to tackle updating the building and begin construction on the first phase of a permanent brick wall along Shreve Road.

In its response submitted to the SCC on Feb. 23, the Board of Supervisors expressed appreciation for the status updates over the last eight months but said maintains its concerns “about the lack of urgency in the company’s commitment to actually completing this project.”

“The disruption and uncertainty of this process has taken a daily toll on the Idylwood community for years in the past and is now projected to continue for years in the future,” the board said. “The community deserves another chance to be heard publicly, especially given the radically different construction estimation that the company is now requesting this Commission approve.”

Here are the details for participating in the upcoming public hearing :

Telephonic Public Hearing Details:

Date: June 10, 2021 at 7 p.m.

To submit testimony:

To register to speak as a public witness in the proceeding, please submit the online Public Witness Form directly, OR complete and email PDF for PUR-2017-00002. Deadline to sign up is June 8.

To access audio for the hearing:

Visit: https://scc.virginia.gov/pages/Webcasting

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Updated at 6:05 p.m. — High winds have led to a surge in 9-1-1 and non-emergency public safety calls in Fairfax County.

The county is urging people to call 9-1-1 only if there is an emergency.

At least 76 traffic incidents have also been reported due to the ongoing weather, including events at the Route 50 and Prosperity Avenue intersection, according to Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik.

Earlier: More than 2,000 people in Tysons have lost power due to strong wind gusts that have pummeled Northern Virginia this afternoon (Friday).

According to Dominion Energy’s outage map, one of the biggest outages in the Tysons area is north of the Dulles Toll Road to the Potomac River, where 1,073 customers are currently without power. A crew has been dispatched to the area, but the cause of this outage is pending investigation.

An additional 1,084 people along Route 7 between I-495 and Spring Hill Road have also lost power. The outage has already been attributed to the wind storm, and a Dominion crew is awaiting assignment.

Two separate outages in the area around Wolf Trap National Park have collectively affected 1,195 customers.

Among those affected by the Route 7 outage is the Tysons District Taco (1500 Cornerside Blvd), which announced at 5:34 p.m. that it has closed until further notice after losing power.

Dominion Energy estimates that power could be restored throughout the area any time between 7 p.m. and midnight.

The National Weather Service issued a Wind Advisory that took effect at noon and was later upgraded to a High Wind Warning, which will remain in effect until 2 a.m. tomorrow (Saturday). Even though no rain or thunder was anticipated, the agency issued a Severe Thunderstorm Warning at 4:38 p.m., saying that wind gusts could reach up to 60 miles per hour.

“Damaging winds will cause some trees and large branches to fall,” the NWS said. “This could injure those outdoors, as well as damage homes and vehicles. Roadways may become blocked by downed trees. Localized power outages are possible. Unsecured light objects may become projectiles.”

The Severe Thunderstorm Warning expired at 5:15 p.m., but local residents could be dealing with the storm’s impact well into this evening.

Image via Dominion Energy

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(Updated at 10:50 a.m.) Students at Kilmer Middle School and Kilmer Center in Vienna are all learning virtually today (Friday) after both schools lost power this morning.

Karl Frisch, who represents Providence District on the Fairfax County School Board, said on Twitter that parents and guardians have been notified about the power outage, and students were sent home to “commence synchronous learning with their teachers.”

Dominion Energy’s outage map indicates that there is an ongoing outage near Kilmer Middle School that took out power for 133 customers.

According to the map, crews are currently working to resolve the outage, which is being attributed to “emergency work.” The current estimated time of restoration is sometime between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. today.

Fairfax County Public Schools spokesperson Lucy Caldwell confirmed that the school system contacted Kilmer parents to let them know that students are being transported home starting at 11 a.m. due to a power loss in the building at 8100 Wolftrap Road.

“FCPS is [in] contact with Dominion Power and are working to address the issue as quickly as possible. We are not sure of the timeframe of the repair,” Caldwell said.

She noted that virtual students “will also be impacted since teachers were unable to deliver concurrent instruction” from the building.

Tysons Reporter reached out to Dominion Energy for comment but did not hear back before publication.

Map via Dominion Energy

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Morning Notes

Virginia Not Affected by Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Issues — Quality issues that forced Johnson & Johnson to recently discard 15 million COVID-19 vaccine doses will not affect the shipments that Virginia receives this week, Virginia Vaccination Coordinator Dr. Danny Avula said on Friday. The Commonwealth will receive more than 200,000 total doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. [WTOP]

Car Stolen from Tysons Nissan Dealership — A 2021 Mazda 6 parked inside the Priority Nissan Tysons dealership at 8525 Leesburg Pike was stolen on March 26. In a separte incident, police located a Ford that they believe was involved in a burglary of an Exxon (801 Dolly Madison Blvd.) in McLean last week. [FCPD]

Dominion Energy Leader Dies After Sudden, Quiet Retirement — “Thomas F. Farrell II, a lawyer who rose to the top of Dominion Energy to dominate Virginia business and politics, has died at age 66, the day after relinquishing his role as executive board chairman of the energy company he had ruled for 15 years.” [The Daily Progress]

Madison Student Athletes Find Success Over Spring Break — “Spring break was only a week and we managed to clinch three Concorde District titles: Football, Field Hockey and Co-Ed Golf. These athletes & coaches surmounted shortened seasons, playing in non-traditional months (and weather) and health protocols to become CHAMPS in their sport” [James Madison High School/Twitter]

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Dominion Energy plans to have new electric vehicle charging stations up and running in Northern Virginia this year, joining five other utility providers to create an interstate charging network that could extend from D.C. to western Texas.

The provider announced last week that it is partnering with American Electric Power, Duke Energy, Entergy Corporation, Southern Co., and the Tennessee Valley Authority to form the Electric Highway Coalition, which will provide electric vehicle charging infrastructure along major highways within their service territories.

About 18 million EVs could be on U.S. roads by 2030, according to estimates from The Edison Electric Institute. But while charging options becoming more plentiful to support everyday travel, anxiety remains among drivers about how to tackle long-distance road trips.

Dominion wants to enable electric long-distance travel for customers and its company fleet on major interstates and other well-traveled roadways, spokesperson Peggy Fox said. The charging stations will be capable of getting drivers back on the road in approximately 20-30 minutes.

“For example, in Virginia, we want to enable EV drivers to travel from the mountains to the beach or from the nation’s capital to the Virginia coast,” she said.

New stations in Fairfax County could be along I-66, I-95 and 495, and other well-traveled roads, she added. The stations will be about 100 miles apart or less, but exact locations and a concrete timeline have yet to be established.

“The partner utilities have started discussions to collaborate on site locations, site partners, design, and equipment,” Fox said.

Dominion will be coordinating with the other utility partners to provide sufficient charging capacity while using existing infrastructure and avoiding duplication, she said. The utility company plans to have a minimum of two charging stations at each location.

It has also been working with the state and locally with Fairfax County government to electrify transit. It rolled out electric school buses in January, and in October, it debuted a self-driving shuttle that runs between Dunn Loring Metro Station and Mosaic District.

Del. Mark Keam (D-35th), who represents part of Tysons and has supported many environment-focused bills, said he welcomes Dominion’s new partnership as a “good news story,” but the General Assembly approved a number of bills in its recent legislative session to indicate the state government is serious about electrifying transit, too.

“No company is going to go do things on their own, without knowing what the state will do as a partner,” Keam said. “Us providing that level of priority allows Dominion to say, ‘OK, here’s what we will do.'”

Virginia will join a dozen other states that have adopted clean car standards requiring low- and zero-emission vehicles to be available, he said. It will also be providing a “small but still meaningful rebate” for those looking to buy one.

Keam says Dominion’s plans could work in tandem with approved bills supporting the expansion of charging infrastructure. Legislators also requested a statewide study of transit equity, and Keam successfully introduced a bill to establish a state electric school bus fund.

“We’ve really put Virginia on the map,” he said.

Still, Keam added that Dominion’s role in electrifying transit should be an ongoing discussion. It owns substantial infrastructure and supplies much of Virginia’s power, so the utility needs to be included, but state lawmakers have been unable to agree on a regulatory approach.

“We have to look at all of this with clear eyes,” he said.

Image via Dominion Energy

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All Town of Vienna government offices and facilities will be closed tomorrow (Thursday) as the D.C. region braces for a winter storm that could deliver up to six inches of snow and a quarter inch of ice.

The town-wide closure extends to the Vienna Community Center, and all parks and recreation classes and programs have been canceled, along with Thursday trash pick-up services.

A Board of Architectural Review meeting that was scheduled to take place at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow has been postponed.

“This decision was necessary to ensure the safety of Town employees and because it is anticipated that all staff hands will be needed for snow removal,” the Town said in a statement.

The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning for Fairfax County and the rest of the D.C. area starting at 3 a.m. tomorrow and lasting until 6 a.m. Friday.

Residents are being advised not to travel, and Dominion Energy says it is preparing for potential multiple-day power outages throughout the state, including in Northern Virginia.

Metro will operate buses on a moderate snow service plan, while maintaining regular weekday rail operations, though de-icer trains and heaters will be utilized.

Fairfax Connector will offer full service tomorrow, but some routes will be detoured and could be further modified or suspended based on road conditions. A full list of missed stops can be found on the transit service’s website.

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The Fairfax Symphony Orchestra (FSO) is one of five arts organizations in Virginia to receive an ArtStar award from Dominion Energy this year.

The FSO announced on Jan. 27 that it had received a $10,000 grant from the utility company to support its “Link Up” music education program, which was developed by the Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall as a curriculum for students in third through fifth grade.

Dominion Energy created the ArtStar awards to “celebrate the contributions of arts organizations through their collaboration with schools and communities across the Commonwealth of Virginia,” according to the company’s website.

The awards went to one nonprofit arts and education organization with an annual budget under $1 million in each of Virginia’s five regions, making FSO the winner for the Northern region. Recipients were selected based on the artistic merit, innovation, and community impact of the program they submitted.

The other 2021 winners were Arts for Learning in Norfolk, Art for the Journey in Richmond, Halestone Foundation in Lexington, and The Origin Project in Big Stone Gap.

“These organizations show ways the creative spirit continues to thrive, whether through outdoor, virtual or digital programming,” Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation President Hunter A. Applewhite said. “Virginia is very fortunate to have these talented organizations committed to serving their local communities and youth.”

Based out of the Merrifield area, the Fairfax Symphony (2667 Prosperity Ave.) says it is the largest symphonic performing arts organization in Northern Virginia. It serves more than 15,000 people every season through performances and educational programs.

This was the fourth year that FSO provided the Link Up program to local schools, but the 2020-2021 school year was the first time that the curriculum was made available for free and virtually, leading to a 1,000% increase in the number of teachers who registered for the program, according to the orchestra.

Developed more than 30 years ago by Carnegie Hall, Link Up pairs orchestras with local elementary schools so students can learn about music and how to play an instrument or sing, culminating in a performance alongside the professional orchestra. The 2020-2021 program was shared by more than 120 partner organizations in the U.S. and around the world.

With the theme of “The Orchestra Swings,” FSO’s program focused on the connection between classical and jazz music, and featured the work of musicians like Duke Ellington, Florence Price, George Gershwin, and Leonard Bernstein.

While the move was necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the FSO says shifting Link Up to a virtual format allowed it to expand the program’s reach not just within Fairfax County Public Schools, which has been a partner for over 40 years, but also to schools in other jurisdictions, including Loudoun and Prince William counties as well as the City of Alexandria.

More than 10,000 students in 60 schools from around the D.C. region are participating in FSO’s Link Up program this year. The orchestra places a particular emphasis on included Title I schools, where at least 40% of students come from low-income families.

The program will conclude in May with a pre-recorded concert that will be shared in virtual classrooms. Students will accompany the FSO by singing along and playing recorders.

FSO Executive Director Jonathan Kerr says the organization is “thrilled and honored” to be a Dominion ArtStar award recipient.

“Our commitment to our community is stronger than ever, only strengthened by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Kerr said. “By sharing our concerts and education programs virtually, we are filling a critical need for quality arts programs to entertain, educate, inspire, sustain, and unite the communities we serve.”

Photo courtesy Dominion Energy

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