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Idylwood residents will officially have to wait another five years for relief from construction on a power substation project that was originally slated for a May 31, 2020 completion.

The State Corporation Commission granted an extension to Dominion Energy last Wednesday (Sept. 8), letting the utility company take until Dec. 31, 2026 to finish a project that has become a headache for surrounding neighborhoods.

“I think the neighborhood is resigned and tired after 8 years,” Lori Jeffrey, president of the Holly Crest Community Association Board of Directors, said by email. “It’s always been uphill and we know that Dominion will ultimately get what they ask for.”

The project involves upgrading the Idylwood power substation at Shreve Road that was originally built in the late 1950s and reducing the facility’s footprint from 3.99 acres to 2.27 acres, according to Dominion.

The company filed application paperwork with Fairfax County in 2014, got SCC approval for the project in 2017, and ramped up pre-construction activities in 2018. The SCC’s initial order required the rebuild to be complete in 2020 but allowed room for an extension.

“We are committed to keeping this complex and necessary project on schedule,” Dominion spokesperson Peggy Fox said in a statement. “Ensuring the community’s energy needs go uninterrupted is a priority.

Adding that “much of the work is orchestrated around energized equipment,” Fox said that unexpected circumstances always occur during construction, but Dominion is taking precautions to limit delays and will adhere to its commitment to the neighborhood to limit weekend work.

Previously, the company justified the amount of time sought for the rebuild by citing the complexity of the project and longer-than-exected permitting processes, among other factors, acknowledging that it had underestimated parts of the timeline.

The extension comes after residents voiced concerns about delays in the project and questioned whether Dominion was being honest about its work.

During an SCC hearing in June that was requested by Fairfax County officials, residents spoke about the project lasting for years and questioned how trustworthy the company is when it presents information.

In a concession to residents’ frustrations, the commission’s timeline extension approval comes with a requirement that Dominion post quarterly construction updates on its website for the project.

“I think our constant pressure has also ensured that [Dominion] will build the wall on Shreve road this fall, years before the other 3 sides,” Jeffrey wrote. “This will help mitigate the appearance of the construction for everyone but the residents immediately adjacent to the substation.”

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Map of power outages in McLean due to storm on Aug. 26, 2021 (via Dominion Energy)

(Updated at 4:45 p.m.) A thunderstorm that has reportedly dropped hail in nearby Arlington County and D.C. has also knocked out power for more than 3,000 McLean residents.

A Severe Thunderstorm Warning was issued for northeastern Fairfax County, though it was scheduled to end at 4:45 p.m.

According to Dominion Energy’s outage map, power outages attributed to failed circuits were affecting 1,638 customers around Ingleside and Langley as well as 839 customers in the area around the Route 123 and George Washington Memorial Parkway interchange.

Another 703 customers in downtown McLean are also without power, though a cause is still under investigation.

Crews are awaiting assignment, and an estimated time of restoration for the power outages is pending investigation, according to Dominion.

In addition, traffic delays may be coming after a downed tree was reported on the southbound GW Parkway after Route 123.

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Almost 7,000 people in Fairfax County still have no electricity after a thunderstorm took out trees and wires late last night (Wednesday).

According to PowerOutage.US, 6,920 Dominion Energy customers in the county are experiencing a power outage as of 9:10 a.m. Dominion’s outage map shows that, while there are scattered outages farther south, the vast majority of those without power are in McLean and Falls Church.

Crews are working on and investigating many of the reported outages. The estimated time of restoration is noon to 5 p.m. for those in the Langley and Scott’s Run area and 6-11 p.m. for the many outages in McLean southeast of Route 123 and West Falls Church.

“Our plan includes all resources engaged w/ over 50 bucket trucks,” Dominion spokesperson Peggy Fox said on Twitter. “Stay away from downed lines — assume energized.”

The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department warns that people should stay away from any downed wires. Fallen trees can be reported to 9-1-1 if it is a life-threatening situation or the Virginia Department of Transportation if they are impeding roads, though removal of trees on private property is the owner’s responsibility.

According to the National Weather Service, more storms are expected to hit the D.C. area this afternoon and evening, with the possibility of flash flooding and even a tornado.

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Morning Notes

Governor to Throw First Pitch for Little League Tournament — The 2021 Virginia State Little League Majors Tournament kicks off at 5:30 p.m. today in Vienna with a Parade of Champions led by the Washington Nationals Racing Presidents. Opening ceremonies begin at 6:15 p.m. at Yeonas Park with Gov. Ralph Northam and Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert throwing out the first pitch. [Town of Vienna/Facebook]

Idylwood Substation Timeline Extension Supported — A State Corporation Commission hearing examiner recommended approval of Dominion Energy’s request to extend the timeline for construction on its Idylwood substation until Dec. 31, 2026. The project has frustrated residents, but Holly Crest Community Association President Lori Jeffrey expressed hope when contacted by Tysons Reporter that requiring the utility company to file quarterly construction status updates will bring some degree of accountability and prevent a repeat of this past spring. [SCC]

Merger Floated for Tysons Company — Tysons-headquartered Cvent, a private event-management company with around 4,000 employees, will merge with Dragoneer Growth Opportunities Corp. II and become publicly traded, according to The Wall Street Journal. “The company isn’t commenting on WSJ speculation at this time,” spokesperson Nevin Reilly told Tysons Reporter. [WSJ]

Police Department Adds First Data Director — “Fairfax County Chief of Police Kevin Davis has hired Dr. Noah Fritz as the Department’s new Director of Crime Control Strategies & Data Analytics. Dr. Fritz will be a key contributor to Davis’ data-driven strategy, which aims to guide FCPD’s approach to fair and effective policing through the collection, analysis and sharing of statistical information.” [FCPD]

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A map of a power outage in McLean, caused by a tree that fell on utility wires on Spring Hill Road (via Dominion Energy)

(Updated at 11:35 a.m.) 302 people in McLean are without power after a tree fell and took out some utility wires on Spring Hill Road overnight.

Dominion Energy spokesperson Peggy Fox says the fallen tree broke one pole and two cross-arms, bringing down four spans of wire.

Spring Hill Road has been closed between Georgetown Pike and Old Dominion Drive so that crews can work to address the downed pole and restore power, WTOP reported.

According to Dominion’s outage map, a crew is currently assessing the damage caused by the tree, and the estimated time of restoration is between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., a timeframe confirmed by Fox.

The Spring Hill Recreation Center (1239 Spring Hill Road) is temporarily closed due to the ongoing power outage, according to the Fairfax County Park Authority.

“Summer camps have been relocated to the school next door,” the park authority said on social media. “Indoor classes are temporarily canceled. Outdoor classes are being held as scheduled, but check with your instructor.”

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Site of power outage affecting 1,215 people in Tysons’ Pimmit neighborhood after July 1, 2021 storm (via Dominion Energy)

Updated at 4:40 p.m. — Metrorail service has been restored between the Vienna and West Falls Church stations after the transit system encountered power issues at its Dunn Loring station.

“Residual delays continue in both directions,” Metro says.

Updated at 1:40 p.m. — The I-66 eastbound and westbound left lanes in the Vienna/Oakton area have now reopened, the Virginia Department of Transportation says.

Earlier: More than a thousand people in the Pimmit area of Tysons are currently without power after a thunderstorm rattled the D.C. region last night (Thursday).

According to Dominion Energy’s outage map, the most substantial power outage in the Tysons area involves 1,215 customers in the Pimmit neighborhood west of Leesburg Pike, specifically along George C. Marshall Drive.

Those affected include the Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library, which will not open at 10 a.m. today as scheduled.

Dominion is attributing the outage to the storm and says crews have been dispatched. The estimated time of restoration is between 6 and 11 p.m.

As of 9 a.m. today (Friday), there were 6,699 customers in Northern Virginia without power, primarily in Fairfax and Arlington counties. Overall, the storm produced 33,000 power outages in the area, according to Dominion spokesperson Peggy Fox.

“Due to much damage from last night’s storm, it’ll take most of day for our @DominionEnergy crews to repair all the damage & get everyone’s power back,” Fox said in a tweet. “Thank you for your patience!”

Metro announced just after 5 a.m. that the power issues had affected its Dunn Loring-Merrifield station, requiring a suspension of train service between the Vienna and West Falls Church stations. Shuttle buses are being provided to serve that section of the Orange Line.

As of 9:30 a.m., service has not been restored yet.

In addition, the Virginia Department of Transportation says the Interstate 66 east and westbound left lanes have been closed at the new split near the 61-mile marker in Vienna so that crews can clear standing water left by last night’s rain.

The I-66 westbound ramp to Nutley Street was also temporarily but reopened around 7:35 a.m.

According to The Washington Post, the National Weather Service is investigating whether a tornado touched down after a tornado warning was issued last night for neighboring Arlington County and D.C.

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(Updated at 6 p.m.) Fairfax County’s first venture into self-driving public transportation has encountered impatient drivers and other difficulties, but the autonomous shuttle in Merrifield could still serve as a roadmap for expansion and future projects.

Operating between the Mosaic District and Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station since October, the high-tech Relay service navigates through bustling areas and amongst shoppers, giving free rides and demonstrating the possibilities offered by autonomous vehicles.

Eta Nahapetian, a manager with the Fairfax County Department of Economic Initiatives, remembers watching “Star Trek” as a kid, along with flying cars in the animated TV show “The Jetsons.”

“Here we are, trying to make some of those childhood cartoons a reality,” she said on June 10 during a webinar about autonomous technology, “Creating an Autonomous Vehicle Ecosystem in Virginia.”

Sarah Husain, a transportation planner with the Fairfax County Department of Transportation, said the technology has elicited high interest from the community for how it helps people with disabilities.

During the presentation, Husain also described some of the challenges that have emerged during the pilot project, which is a joint effort between the county and Dominion Energy.

She said drivers can get impatient and illegally pass it, so officials with the project worked on adding signage and enlisted the Fairfax County Police Department to help with the issue.

In response to complaints about vehicles passing the autonomous shuttle, the McLean District Station has assigned officers to conduct extra patrol and enforcement to address drivers “speeding or passing Relay,” the FCPD said.

“We’d like to ask for our community’s patience when driving behind the shuttle,” police said. “Relay should only be passed, with care, when a full lane is available.”

According to the county, “Do not pass” signage was installed alongside Eskridge Road and Merrilee Drive in March 2021. Stickers with the same message were also placed on the shuttle.

“We sought out these challenges with the pilot,” Husain said, noting several solutions that came forth, such as installing monitoring devices that detect if the shuttle needs more time to pass through an intersection.

The technology remains limited in some ways. For instance, if an idled vehicle, such as a parked car, is in the way, a shuttle attendant has to take over in manual mode to advance the shuttle.

The shuttle runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday from the Dunn Loring station to the Barnes & Noble in the Mosaic District. It’s designed to fill the “first/last mile” need in public transportation, connecting travelers to their ultimate destinations.

Fairfax County is seeking additional funding to continue Relay’s length of service and expand the routes that it serves. The pilot project is slated to end in August.

Dominion Energy, which supplied the shuttle, says an expansion of the pilot is among many options that it is considering for future uses of automated vehicle technology.

“Dominion Energy is considering other opportunities that may include an expansion of the current project,” Dominion Innovation Strategist Julie Manzari said. “The purpose of the pilot is to learn and gather information that will help us adjust or pivot to other concepts.”

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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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