Newsletter
Dunn Loring power outages on Oct. 29, 2021 (via Dominion Energy)

(Updated at 3 p.m.) Roughly 800 people in Dunn Loring are currently without power as rain continues to fall throughout the D.C. metropolitan area.

While flooding impacts appear to be more concentrated to the east in Arlington, Alexandria, and D.C. so far, Dominion Energy reports that 420 customers around Cedar Lane and Electric Avenue have lost power due to a broken pole.

There is also a power outage in Idylwood affecting 373 customers, though the cause of that outage is pending investigation.

The utility company estimates that power will be restored at both sites between 4 and 9 p.m.

The Fairfax County Police Department confirmed that the following roads have been closed:

As of 3 p.m., Lawyers Road at Hunter Mill Road in Vienna has also been closed due to high waters, according to Fairfax Alerts.

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The old Gallows Road bridge over I-66 (via Google Maps)

Preparations for the upcoming demolition of the Gallows Road bridge over I-66 in Dunn Loring are about to get underway.

Northbound traffic on Gallows will shift to a new bridge during daytime hours tomorrow (Thursday) with southbound traffic expected to follow suit next week, the Virginia Department of Transportation announced yesterday (Tuesday).

VDOT anticipates starting to demolish the existing bridge around Oct. 23, a process that will take 30 to 40 nights.

Here are more details on the traffic changes from VDOT’s news release:

Pedestrians will continue to use the west side of the current bridge until southbound Gallows Road traffic shifts to the new span. At that time, pedestrian access will be shifted to the east side of the new bridge, with detours using the crosswalks at Cottage Street and Avenir Place/Bellforest Drive.

Following this traffic shift, the current Gallows Road Bridge over I-66 will be demolished to allow for construction of the new southbound bridge span. Demolition of the current bridge is anticipated to begin on or about October 23. Most of the bridge is directly over I-66 or the Dunn Loring Metrorail Station and will need to be demolished during the overnight hours, when multiple lanes can be closed on I-66 and the Metrorail Station and tracks can be closed to safely accommodate this work. Demolition activities will occur during the daytime hours when feasible, to minimize impacts to the nearby communities. Additional information and updates about demolition work and traffic closures will be provided on the project website. All work is weather dependent and schedules may shift if inclement conditions occur.

The replacement of the Gallows Road bridge is part of the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway project, which will extend the I-66 Express Lanes more than 22 miles west from the I-495 interchange in Dunn Loring to Gainesville.

The new bridge will feature improved sightlines, bicycle lanes and wider sidewalks in each direction, and connections to the shared-use path that’s being constructed alongside I-66, according to the project website. It’s being built in two phases, with the southbound side expected to be completed next summer.

The overall Transform 66 project is on track to open the new express lanes in December 2022, VDOT confirmed at a public information meeting last week.

“Drivers should be alert for changing traffic patterns on Gallows Road near I-66 as construction continues through 2022,” VDOT said. “Drivers are reminded to slow down and pay attention to lane markings and roadway signs at all times.”

Photo via Google Maps

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A rendering of the new Gallows Road Bridge over I-66 (via VDOT)

Construction crews will soon demolish the Gallows Road bridge over I-66, a process that is expected take 30 to 40 nights, starting on or about next Wednesday (Oct. 13).

The work will involve breaking up the concrete deck with jack hammers, saw cutters and heavy equipment consisting of hoe rams. It’s part of the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway project, which is adding express lanes on the interstate from I-495 in Dunn Loring to Gainesville.

“These are not necessarily 30 to 40 consecutive nights of demolition, and…some demolition activities are less disruptive than others,” said Nancy Smith, a spokesperson for FAM Construction, the design-builder of the project.

The company said at a public information meeting on Monday (Oct. 4) that the demolition will occur after traffic shifts.

Segments over I-66 will be affected overnight — typically 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. — when multiple lanes of the interstate can be closed, Smith said. For work not over I-66, demolition will take place during the daytime.

Information on lane closures and other travel changes will be posted on the project website, which also has provides information via email notifications and traffic alerts.

The demolition timeline extends into the late fall due to weather and other factors, but no demolition work will occur over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Project officials previously expected the demolition work to start in mid-August. VDOT told Tysons Reporter that the slippage in the schedule is not expected to impact the overall project schedule.

The new I-66 express lanes are still slated to open in December 2022.

The Gallows Road bridge is just feet above the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station, requiring coordinating with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

To minimize impacts, crews will haul concrete away to be processed off site, position work area lighting to face toward the roadway and away from residences, implement “dust control measures,” and monitor construction vibrations and noise, Smith said.

At Monday’s information meeting, however, neighbors compared previous construction to an earthquake and reported that vehicles have been running red lights amid “frustration and confusion” as traffic goes over the bridge.

VDOT megaprojects director Susan Shaw said she would coordinate with their team to notify county police about the safety concerns.

Among the traffic adjustments, FAM Construction reported that:

  • Northbound bridge traffic will shift to the new bridge starting next week or around that time
  • Southbound bridge traffic will shift into a temporary alignment onto the new bridge on or about the week of Oct. 18
  • Pedestrian access will remain on the west side of the old bridge until southbound travel lanes shift on or about the week of Oct. 18. Once those southbound lanes shift to the new bridge, pedestrian routes will be on the east side of the bridge
  • The shift in travel lanes on Gallows Road does not affect the entrance at Stenwood Elementary School as the changes are south of the school entrance

Updates will be posted to outside.transform66.org/gallowsroad as demolition progresses.

Community members can share questions about construction by calling 703-662-3892 or emailing [email protected] or [email protected]

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Morning Notes

Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Stops by Dunn Loring — Glenn Youngkin, the Republican nominee for Virginia’s governor, announced his policy priorities yesterday (Monday) outside the construction company CJ Coakley Co. Inc. in Dunn Loring. The package includes $1.8 billion in one-time tax cuts, a pledge to create 400,000 new jobs, raises for school teachers, and the addition of 20 new charter schools. Opponent Terry McAuliffe called the plan “out of touch the state’s fiscal reality.” [The Washington Post]

Nonprofit to Open Office in Vienna Church — “A nonprofit focused on providing a day program for adults with disabilities is opening a new administrative office at The Church of the Good Shepherd in Vienna. The grand opening of the SPARC office will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 1 at the church, located at 2351 Hunter Mill Road.” [Patch]

Mosaic District Gym to Host Vaccine Clinic — “@fairfaxhealth will have a Pop-up COVID-19 Vax Clinic at nearby XSport Fitness (8190 Strawberry Lane) on Tuesday, 8/31 from 3PM-7PM. The 1st (or 2nd) dose Pfizer jab will be available to anyone ages 12+ for free. Walk-ins welcome, or make an appt” [City of Falls Church/Twitter]

Vienna Ben & Jerry’s Offers Free Ice Cream for Solar Art Contest — The Ben & Jerry’s in Vienna has partnered with Ipsun Solar on the solar panel company’s fourth Sunny Summer Art Contest, where kids can submit artwork inspired by the sun and the need to find solutions to climate change. All participants will get a coupon for a free ice cream cone from Ben & Jerry’s Vienna, and winners will get gift cards. [Ipsun Solar]

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Updated at 4:05 p.m. — The situation involving a man experiencing mental health issues at Avenir Place this afternoon has now been resolved.

“Officers were able to peacefully resolve this situation and the man was safely taken into custody,” Fairfax County police told Tysons Reporter. “He will receive the appropriate resources.”

The police department added that all officers at the scene “should be clearing out shortly if they have not already done so.”

Earlier: Fairfax County police officers are currently gathered near the Dunn Loring Metro station in response to calls about a man reportedly experiencing a mental health crisis, the department confirmed.

Tysons Reporter received a tip that there was a “huge police presence” outside Harris Teeter around 1 p.m., including at least 15 to 20 marked and unmarked police vehicles. The tipster said that both entries to the grocery store on Avenir Place and Prosperity Avenue had been blocked off.

The Fairfax County Police Department says that officers responded to the 2600 block of Avenir Place after receiving reports of “a man who is experiencing a mental health crisis.”

“Officers are working to peacefully deescalate the situation and provide necessary resources to the man,” the FCPD said. “Preliminarily, the man is believed to be alone in the apartment.”

The department did not respond by press time when asked whether the streets in the area have been opened, but it says that the incident “has not been classified as a barricade” at this time.

“We will provide an additional update as the situation evolves,” the FCPD said.

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Construction on the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway project will continue disrupting travel at the I-66 and I-496 interchange in Dunn Loring this week.

Overnight lane closures and traffic stoppages will begin at 10 p.m. today (Monday) on I-495 South, whose general purpose lanes will be reduced to a single travel lane from Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) approaching I-66 to accommodate overhead bridge work and partial demolition of the I-66 West bridge over I-495 South.

The Virginia Department of Transportation says drivers should expect periodic stoppages of up to 20 minutes between midnight and 4 a.m., though the lane closures will last until 5 a.m. on Tuesday. The 495 Express Lanes will not be affected.

The 495 lane closures will take effect again during the same time frame on Thursday (April 8) and Friday (April 9).

That final day will coincide with more substantial closures planned for I-66.

On Friday and Saturday (April 10), all westbound lanes approaching I-495 will be closed from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. so that construction crews can install bridge beams for new ramps at the I-66/I-495 interchange, VDOT says. The ramps to I-66 West from 495 North and the 495 South Express Lanes will also be closed.

“Drivers traveling on I-66 and I-495 during this time should expect delays and should consider using alternate routes,” VDOT said.

Here are the details on those closures from VDOT:

I-66 West at I-495

  • All I-66 West travel lanes will be closed at I-495 from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. both nights.
  • All westbound I-66 thru-traffic will be directed to exit the interstate at Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) West, travel about one mile to the ramp for I-495 South, and then follow signs to I-66 West.
  • The ramp from I-66 West to I-495 South will remain open.
  • All lanes will reopen by 6 a.m.

Ramp from I-495 North to I-66 West

  • The ramp will be closed from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. nightly.
  • Traffic will be detoured farther north to Route 7 West, stay to the right to I-495 South, and then follow signs to I-66 West.
  • The ramp will reopen by 6 a.m.

Ramp from the 495 Express Lanes South to I-66 West

  • The ramp will be closed from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. nightly.
  • Overhead variable message boards in the Express Lanes will direct traffic to an alternate route.

The I-66 and I-495 closures both stem from ongoing efforts to reconstruct the interchange as part of the Transform 66 project, which will extend the I-66 Express Lanes 22.5 miles from Dunn Loring to Gainesville.

“Improvements at the interchange include adding access to and from the existing 495 Express Lanes and the new I-66 Express Lanes, as well as building new connections between express and general-purpose lanes,” VDOT said.

Images via Google Maps, VDOT

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It took an unprecedented shift to distance learning for Shrevewood Elementary School to drop below capacity for the first time since 2012.

After nearly a decade of parent and community advocacy, however, a long-term solution for overcrowding at the Falls Church-based school is finally in sight.

The Fairfax County School Board voted this week to repurpose the Dunn Loring Administration Center as an elementary school using $36.8 million in school bond funds.

That money had previously been earmarked for a new school in the Fairfax/Oakton area to lessen overcrowding at Mosby Woods and Oakton elementary schools, which has since subsided.

Providence District School Board Representative Karl Frisch proposed the plan last year after meeting with parents in the communities affected by the crowding.

“We’ve been pushed to the next year for so long,” Shrevewood Elementary PTA President Kate Coho said. “If we could get the ball rolling, that would be great.”

In the past, parents focused on a new boundary process to offset a mini-baby boom in the neighborhoods around Shrevewood.

Coho remembers that a mother began drawing attention to the school’s overcrowding about four years ago. The school was put in line to get a boundary study the following year, but FCPS dropped that provision from its capital planning program until Frisch put it back in last January.

“Then COVID-19 happened, so we’ve obviously been kicked down the road again,” she said.

Coho and fellow parent Jeremy Hancock, whose daughter is in third grade at Shrevewood, both embrace the Dunn Loring plan.

“A school boundary change has always appeared like the most likely or easy thing, but it’s encouraging that we have a longer-term solution,” Hancock said.

Coho said administrators have found creative ways to mitigate the crowding, but the school experience still suffers.

Some kids eat and play early or late in the day to avoid maxing out the cafeteria and the playgrounds. Sixth graders learn in seven temporary classrooms, and some elective courses like art and music are located out there, too.

School-wide activities are “basically impossible,” Coho said.

The 12-acre campus has no space for an addition or more trailers, which are located in the middle of the playground and extend all the way to a hill on the back-end of the school, she said.

The school was last expanded in 1998, when the building was updated to meet current design standards.

“Shrevewood ES has had a slight capacity deficit of 102% beginning in [School Year] 2012-13 and a substantial capacity deficit of 116% beginning in SY 2017-18,” FCPS spokesperson Lucy Caldwell said in an email.

Since 2012, the following work has been done:

  • 2013-14: Added temporary classrooms
  • 2015-16: Divided two classrooms into four classrooms
  • 2016-17: Added temporary classrooms
  • 2019-20: Assigned newly identified primary students to the enhanced autism program at Freedom Hill Elementary School instead of Shrevewood
  • 2019-20: Added additional parking

Moving special education programs would effectively free up a few classrooms, but it is “a tricky issue,” Coho said. “It is a difficult situation to put special-needs children in.”

Meanwhile, Hancock, who serves as president of the Falls Hill Civic Association, is also working with the Virginia Department of Transportation to address safety concerns on Shreve Road, which compounds the overcrowding issue.

Because the road’s big intersections and adjacent neighborhoods are designed for driving, there are no sidewalks or protections for pedestrians and cyclists using the Washington & Old Dominion bike trail.

Hancock argues that the chronic lack of parking — a symptom of overcrowding — could be mitigated by safe walking routes.

“It’s such a long term process,” he said.

Photo by Michelle Goldchain

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On Tuesday morning, the Fairfax County School Board approved a proposal to convert the Dunn Loring Administration Center into an elementary school.

All 10 board members who were present supported the measure. Two members were absent at the time of the vote.

The move is intended to relieve overcrowding at Shrevewood Elementary School in Falls Church and avoid the need to make multiple boundary adjustments.

“We want to limit the disruption to the community, and potentially facing several adjustments is not a path we want to go down,” Providence District Representative Karl Frisch told the board.

Fairfax County Public Schools staff support the plan but want to avoid setting a firm timeline to keep their focus on returning to school, he said. Once planning starts, a new school could be ready in five years.

“This is one of the first steps that needs to be done to deal with the development going on in that area,” Dranesville District Representative Elaine Tholen said.

Today, the Dunn Loring center houses some special education services and programs for parents, but it previously served as an elementary school from 1939 to 1978.

Converting it back will cost $36.8 million in school bond funds. The school board will be using funds that were earmarked for a new school in the Fairfax/Oakton area, which was intended to lessen overcrowding at Mosby Woods and Oakton elementary schools.

The student populations at those schools have since dropped below capacity, Frisch said. Meanwhile, Shrevewood is “bursting at the seams” and could reach 120% capacity by 2025.

The school was first identified as slightly overcrowded in 2012, and became substantially overcrowded in 2017, FCPS spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell said. Since 2012, the school has taken steps to ease crowding, such as adding space, trailers and more parking, she said.

Repurposing the Dunn Loring center is a more viable long-term solution than redrawing boundaries, Shrevewood Elementary PTA president Kate Coho told Tysons Reporter.

“Dunn Loring provides the long-term solution to the problem that’s only going to get worse in this immediate area, as we see housing continuing to go up,” she said.

At-large school board member Abrar Omeish said Shrevewood’s over-capacity is not as stark as schools like Glen Forest Elementary School, which has “more kids in trailers than in the building” and a 75% poverty rate.

“When people say that we focus more on schools that have more than the ones that don’t, I can’t refute that,” she said.

Hunter Mill Representative Melanie Meren said no solution will serve everyone, but this repurposing option is available now.

“I thought this would be a more straightforward conversation,” she said.

The Fairfax County School Board currently does not have any official policies dictating a public process for reallocating bond funds to different projects than the ones they were intended to support when approved by voters.

Frisch held two community meetings in December on the Dunn Loring repurposing proposal, one for the Shrevewood community and one for the Mosby Woods/Oakton area. However, the school board’s guidebook does not require those meetings or even a forum discussion for proposals to change how bond funds are allocated.

As part of the approval, the school board also directed its governance committee, which is chaired by Frisch, to look at developing a mechanism for a public process to ensure more clarity and transparency for future projects such as this one.

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Wednesday Morning Notes

Mixed-Use Development Near Dunn Loring Metro Sold — Avenir Place developer Mill Creek Residential has sold the property to two different buyers, with the residential portion going to Pantzer Properties and the retail going to Asana Partners. Asana says it “plans to pursue some physical changes to the retail, upgrading the outdoor areas and adding more gathering places.” [Washington Business Journal]

What Census Data Tells Us About Growth in Tysons — The Tysons Census Designated Place has added more than 7,000 new residents since 2010. Key changes include the number of people of Asian descent, who now make up 40% of the population, and people who speak a language other than English at home, a group that now constitutes more than half of all residents. [Greater Greater Washington]

Northam Allocates Additional $20 Million to Economic Recovery Fund — “This new funding will bring the program total to $120 million and will enable more than 300 small business and nonprofit organizations that applied before the last round of funding was exhausted in early December to receive grants.” [Office of the Governor]

Fire and Rescue Department Finishes Annual Holiday Toy Drive — “Via partners/donors, between 3,000-4K toys were given to over 55 schools, shelters and non-profits throughout Fairfax County.” [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department/Twitter]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Fairfax Connector is enhancing its service for two routes between the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station and Tysons Corner.

The Fairfax County bus system announced today (Friday) that the anticipated Dec. 23 opening of a new Cedar Lane bridge over Interstate 66 gives it the ability to restore Routes 462 and 467 to their previous routing and scheduling, effective Jan. 4.

Route 467 will also have Sunday service “due to increased passenger demand,” Fairfax Connector says.

The enhanced Dunn Loring-Tysons routes are one of several service changes that Connector passengers can expect starting on Jan. 4.

On that day, Fairfax Connector will begin resuming fare collection following a months-long hiatus that began in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Riders must also return to boarding from the front door after entry shifted to the rear doors in an effort to limit close contact between passengers and drivers and mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The move comes as doses of two vaccines produced by Moderna and Pfizer are delivered in Virginia and throughout the country to front-line health care workers and individuals in long-term care facilities.

Metro will also begin resuming the collection of bus fares on Jan. 3.

In order to protect passengers and bus operators, the county has installed polycarbonate driver shields on buses. Face coverings continue to be mandatory inside buses.

Connector staff have distributed 66,000 face coverings to passengers without masks since May. Riders are encouraged to practice social distancing when possible, stay at home if they are sick, and wash hands often with soap and water.

Transdev, the bus systems operations continue, continues to step up cleaning and disinfecting of bus interiors and commonly used areas like door handles and handrails, according to the county.

Angela Woolsey contributed to this report

Staff photo by Jay Westcott, photo courtesy Fairfax County Department of Transportation

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