Tysons, VA

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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Updated at 1:45 p.m. — The power outage that has affected hundreds of people in the McLean and Arlington area was the result of an equipment failure, Dominion Energy spokesperson Peggy Fox told Tysons Reporter.

Fox says the equipment has been repaired, but crews are still working to restore power to some customers, Dominion’s outage map shows.

Earlier: More than 700 people in McLean and Arlington just to the west of George Washington Memorial Parkway have lost power.

The outage has affected 738 customers from Kirby Road to the north and past Glebe Road to the south.

A Dominion Energy crew is currently assessing damage and investigating the cause of the outage. Power is expected to be restored between 1-4 p.m., according to the utility company’s power outage map.

Image via Dominion Energy

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Fairfax County Public Schools is getting its first electric school bus today as part of a statewide initiative led by Dominion Energy.

The bus is expected to arrive at the Stonecroft Transportation Center in Chantilly. It is the first of eight vehicles that FCPS will receive from Dominion in an initial deployment of 50 buses throughout Virginia.

FCPS says it anticipates getting the remaining seven buses by the end of January.

Made by Thomas Built Buses, the new vehicles will join Fairfax County’s fleet of approximately 1,625 diesel-fueled school buses, one of the largest in the country.

“Electric school buses in FCPS will benefit not only the school division and its community, but the entire national capital area,” FCPS says. “…They will help reduce carbon emissions, serve as a resource for national emergency planning efforts, and provide stability and capacity to the grid with meeting increasing energy demands.”

While electric buses are more expensive to purchase than diesel ones, they are cheaper to maintain and operate. FCPS is covering the difference in the initial cost with a grant from Dominion Energy, which also funded the installation of electric charging infrastructure at the Stonecroft facility and is responsible for maintaining the equipment.

FCPS says training for bus drivers, maintenance technicians, and other staff will start once the first bus arrives. The vehicles will undergo testing before being assigned to routes in early to mid-April, though whether there will be any students for them to transport at that time remains to be seen.

The arrival of Fairfax County’s first electric bus is a welcome step forward for community members and public officials who have been advocating for a transition to electric vehicles, citing health and financial benefits as well as environmental ones.

One of the most prominent advocates for electric school buses has been the Fairfax County branch of the national climate advocacy group Mothers Out Front, which launched a campaign in 2019 calling on FCPS to commit to converting its entire fleet to electric power by 2024.

“We are so excited for Fairfax to get its electric school buses on the ground and running,” Mothers Out Front Fairfax co-leader Barbara Monacella said in a statement. “…Every electric school bus we add to our fleet reduces the air pollution from diesel that harms our kids’ health, and brings us closer to our goal of converting every bus in order to reduce emissions and fight climate change.”

The community advocacy group has teamed up again with Del. Mark Keam (D-35th) on legislation that would create a state fund for school districts to purchase electric buses, a move aimed at addressing concerns about the amount of control Dominion has over the current initiative.

Last year, lawmakers opted to pursue the utility company’s pilot program instead, but Monacella says Keam will reintroduce his bill when the Virginia General Assembly convenes for its 2021 session on Wednesday (Jan. 13).

“We applaud the buses Fairfax has added, and we hope to add more through the state grant fund in the future,” Monacella said. “With every electric bus we add, we move the needle for our kids’ health and their future in the face of climate change.”

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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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