Tysons, VA

Update at 11 p.m. — Power was restored earlier tonight. The cause of the outage was an issue with a transmission line.

Earlier: The Dominion power outage map is red throughout the Tysons area — primarily east of the Beltway — as today’s storms leave thousands without power.

All of Pimmit Hills, McLean, and much of Merrifield and Falls Church have been left in the dark. The cause of the outage is still listed as “pending investigation.” The restoration time was estimated as between 5-10 p.m.

The area is under a flood watch as downpours continue from Hurricane Zeta, closing down several roads in the area.

“I can tell you our crews are out working on the problem, trying to get everyone’s power back,” said Dominion spokeswoman Peggy Fox.

Image via Dominion Power

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Fairfax County and Virginia state officials kicked off passenger service on Thursday (Oct. 22) for Relay, the first test of autonomous technology in public transportation in the Washington, D.C., metro area.

“Won’t it be great to look back and say, ‘We remember the day in 2020 when we were sitting in the Mosaic and this Relay vehicle successfully proved to the country that you can do this in a safe way and also look toward future innovations in transportation,” Jeffrey McKay, the chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, said.

Relay, a 100% electric, autonomous vehicle, runs 10 miles per hour from the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metrorail Station to the Barnes and Noble in the Mosaic District. It makes the trip every 15 to 20 minutes, Monday through Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Relay can transport up to 12 passengers — six seated and six standing — but to encourage social-distancing, it will currently only take three passengers and a safety attendant at a time. The shuttle is fully accessible for people with disabilities.

The project represents a public-private partnership between Fairfax County and Dominion Energy aimed at improving road safety, encouraging the use of public transit, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It received a $200,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation and a $50,000 match from Fairfax County. The county is contracting with Transdev to manage the operations of Relay.

EDENS, the developer of the Mosaic District, provides shuttle storage and stop improvements. The Virginia Department of Transportation provided signage, lane striping and bus stops.

The ribbon-cutting event held Thursday, three months after its first test run, was abuzz with officials talking about the future and innovation.

Mark Webb, the chief innovation officer for Dominion Energy, said Relay “is just plain cool.”

“It’s the sort of thing we’d see in a Star Wars movie or Blade Runner movie without lift-off capabilities,” said Webb, whose company purchased the shuttle and contracted with EasyMile, a driverless technology company that mapped the route and manufactured the vehicle.

Even without the futuristic promises, Relay improves road safety, extends public transit, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions, Webb said.

Connecting the two ends of the Mosaic District will encourage people to ride public transit who are dissuaded by getting to and from transit stops, said Catherine McGhee, the director of research and innovation for the Virginia Transportation Research Council.

“Relay serves a real purpose. It’s not a one-off demonstration in a parking lot,” she said. “It is part of the transit ecosystem here in Fairfax County.”

Officials also reminisced about the underutilized, industrial, dull feel of the Mosaic District before serious efforts were undertaken to develop it, spearheaded by Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Virginia).

“Without a Mosaic, there would be no Relay. There would be no autonomous vehicle project,” McKay said.

Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik wants to see the development extend to the older, industrial, and partially vacant zone in between the two Relay stops.

“I really hope it will help develop the areas between the two stops,” Palchik said. “We don’t stop here.”

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(Updated at 10:43 on 10/21/2020) Members of the public will get to ride “Relay,” Merrifield’s new autonomous, electric shuttle service, for the first time this Thursday (Oct. 22), the Fairfax County Department of Transportation announced on Monday.

The shuttle will transport its first public riders along its designated route between the Mosaic District and the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro Station at the conclusion of a celebration that will also feature comments by Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D), and other officials.

Face coverings and observance of social distancing protocols will be mandatory for attendees.

“We’re all really excited about it,” Fairfax County Economic Initiatives Coordinator Eta Nahapetian said. “It’s been so hard with the pandemic. It’s so many less people [at the Mosaic District]. All the retail businesses are suffering, and this is actually, hopefully a really good opportunity for some good news.”

The first state-funded, autonomous, electric vehicle designed for public transportation to be tested in Virginia, Relay will operate free of charge from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays.

While the shuttle can accommodate up to 12 passengers, ridership will generally be limited to four people – three passengers and a vehicle safety operator – when it launches to ensure compliance with COVID-19 social distancing protocols.

Nahapetian says the county is considering whether to have some flexibility with the ridership cap for families or other groups who have been staying together in the same household during the pandemic.

Fairfax County first announced that it had partnered with Dominion Energy to pilot a driverless, electric shuttle in the Merrifield area on June 19, 2019.

Other partners on the project include Mosaic District developer EDENS and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, which provided a $250,000 grant matched by $50,000 from Fairfax County. Dominion paid for the shuttle and related charging infrastructure, and Transdev is responsible for managing the operations and maintainance of the vehicle.

Since the Relay shuttle went on its first test run on July 28, Fairfax County and Dominion have tweaked the technology and enhanced the infrastructure along its route, adding more signs and engineering a traffic signal priority at the two intersections where it will cross traffic.

“We’ve been working through all those details during the past several months,” Nahapetian said.

The autonomous electric shuttle demonstration project is expected to last about a year.

In addition to using that time to gauge public opinion of its experiment with driverless vehicles, Fairfax County will gather data on the technology used in the pilot through an independent research study conducted by Virginia Transportation Research Council and Virginia Tech.

The county has also partnered with George Mason University’s School of Business for a separate study on “human factors” of the project, such as how the shuttle is being used and how it affects Merrifield’s economy.

Research on the Relay shuttle’s economic impact could be especially meaningful as it launches amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, which forced many restaurants and retail businesses in the Mosaic District and elsewhere to close earlier this year.

“Hopefully, there will be a lot of interesting technology findings and economic findings that come out of the project,” Nahapetian said. “Can we use this technology as a first-mile/last-mile [option]? We are so single-occupant-vehicle dependent. We need to change that.”

Correction: This article has been edited to state that the company responsible for managing the operations and maintenance of the Relay shuttle is Transdev, not Transurban as previously stated.

Photo courtesy Peggy Fox/Dominion Energy

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Updated 4:30 p.m. (Sept.11) — Dominion Energy plans to send the plans to the SCC for review by Oct. 1. 

Dominion Energy has proposed a new underground electric transmission line to keep up with growing demand.

The 230-kilowatt line would replace an existing above-ground power line from Tyco Road to the area southwest of Leesburg Pike and Spring Hill Road, according to a presentation at last night’s community engagement meeting.

“There are currently over 60 million square feet of pending and approved zoning applications in Tysons,” documentation from Dominion Energy said. “This rapid growth requires updated infrastructure to meet the increased demand for energy.”

The upcoming substations will support mixed-use developments such as Dominion Square East, Dominion Square West and Sunburst Developments.

In regards to the upcoming development The View, a spokesperson said at the meeting that Dominion Energy is working with project developers and construction crews to create a timeline since the two projects will intersect.

During public comment at the meeting, people expressed concerned about delays for commuters which might be caused by the project.

“The plan will be to work closely with VDOT to maintain the traffic in the area,” a spokesperson said, adding that the majority of work will likely be done on off-hours, in order to avoid heavy traffic. “If we do have to close two lanes, the work will be done at night.”

If approved, Dominion Energy expects the project to be complete by 2025, a spokesperson said, adding that the company wants to send the plans to the State Corporation Commission by Oct. 1 for review.

Image courtesy Dominion Energy

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(Updated 10:25 a.m.) Downed power lines and a fallen tree have shut down Old Dominion Drive and caused a small power outage in McLean.

Fairfax County sent out an alert about the road closure at Old Dominion Dive between Briar Ridge and Franklin Park roads shortly before 10 a.m.

Dominion Energy’s power outage map says that 60 customers are affected by the outage and that power is expected to get restored by 3 p.m. today.

Fairfax County police said in a tweet that people should expect extended delays and avoid the area.

Image via Google Maps, map via Dominion Energy

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A power outage is affecting hundreds in McLean just south of Scott’s Run Nature Preserve.

The outage stretches from Georgetown Pike to Route 694, just west of I-495. Dominion Energy’s power outage map says that 466 customers are impacted.

The outage was caused by the storm that hit the D.C. region today, according to Dominion.

The energy company expects power to be restored between 3-8 p.m.

Map via Dominion Energy

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Two power outages are currently impacting more than 2,500 Dominion Energy customers along the Dulles Toll Road and I-66 in the McLean area.

One outage, which is affecting 1,721 customers, stretches from Route 123 to the East Falls Church Metro station on the eastern side of the Dulles Toll Road.

Meanwhile, the other one is just above the West Falls Church Metro station — where I-66 and the Dulles Toll Road connect. That outage is impacting 824 customers.

Tropical Storm Isaias caused both of the outages, according to Dominion Energy’s power outage map. Dominion Energy anticipates the power will be restored between noon-5 p.m.

Map via Dominion Energy

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“Relay,” a new autonomous electric shuttle, made its first test run throughout Merrifield’s Mosaic District yesterday. 

Relay is a free, driverless transportation option that will take people from the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro Station to the Mosaic District. 

Yesterday’s testing was the beginning of a mapping process to teach the vehicle its route. In the learning process, the shuttle needs to stay on its route down to the millimeter, according to Dominion Energy’s Innovation Strategist Julie Manzari.

Testing and mapping usually take a few weeks or more with autonomous shuttles depending on the complicated nature of the route, according to Manzari. The route Relay will be taking is especially interesting due to busy roads. 

The project was launched by Fairfax County and Dominion Energy in partnership with EDENS, Virginia’s Department of Rail and Public Transportation and Department of Transportation, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and George Mason University.

Transdev will be in charge of the management and maintenance of the vehicle, which was made by EasyMile, according to the county’s website

In a YouTube video, EasyMile engineer Nathan Ramsey said that the shuttle has several different braking systems, uses GPS and has a LiDAR system, which observes the environment with infrared lasers.

“Using LiDAR, the vehicle can’t miss objects. It will see everything around it, and it will respond accordingly,” Ramsey said. “So if it needs to slow down or stop because somebody runs out in front of it — even if they dart out in front of it just a couple, mere feet — the vehicle will have no trouble stopping or slowing.”

Ramsey said that he believes the shuttle is safer than human drivers, noting that the technology can respond safely to human error.

The shuttle will be enforcing mask requirements and separation as much as possible to ensure COVID-19 safety. They plan on keeping a seat between each passenger and requiring passengers to wear their seatbelts, according to Manzari. 

“We have a lot of enthusiasm around the project,” said Manzari. “People are very curious about autonomous vehicles.”

Photo courtesy Peggy Fox/Dominion Energy

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Power outages are affecting roughly 1,500 Dominion Energy customers in the Falls Church area today.

The larger outage stretches from the Westwood Park to Williamsburg neighborhoods, according to Dominion Energy’s power outage map. The smaller one is between Shreve and Graham roads.

The causes of the outages have not been determined yet. Dominion Energy expects power to be restored between 6-9 p.m.

Map via Dominion Energy

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Dominion Energy plans to roll out an autonomous, electric shuttle named “Relay” for testing in Merrifield as early as next week.

The self-driving shuttle will make a loop between the Mosaic District to the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station. Fairfax County and Dominion Energy teamed up last year to start the pilot program to improve connectivity between the station and the shopping center, which are just under one mile apart according to Google Maps.

Peggy Fox, Dominion Energy’s spokesperson, told Tysons Reporter that testing is expected to start soon on the pre-mapped route. “It will be several weeks before we’re able to accept passengers,” Fox said.

Currently, the autonomous shuttle, which was made by the French company EasyMile, is in Alexandria awaiting its move to Merrifield next week, Fox said.

According to Dominion Energy, Relay is the first test of autonomous public transportation in Northern Virginia.

Photos courtesy Dominion Energy

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