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Morning Notes

Starr Hill Biergarten OpensStarr Hill Brewery opened its new Tysons beer garden at 11 a.m. on Saturday (Aug. 21) with live music, craft beer, and more. The 5,000 square-foot venue is part of Capital One Center’s The Perch skypark, which will celebrate its grand opening with a three-day music festival in mid-September. [Starr Hill/Instagram]

See FCPS Photos from First Day of School — “Today was a great day to be in Fairfax County Public Schools! Almost 180,000 students returned to our buildings this morning, excited and ready to learn. Enjoy some highlights from #FirstDayFairfax and #FCPSReturningStrong on social media, or visit our website for more photos.” [FCPS]

Construction Firm Adds Vienna OfficeSkanska USA has signed a five-year lease for a 3,129 square-foot office at 8521 Leesburg Pike in Vienna to expand its civil practice in the mid-Atlantic region. Executive Vice President Michael Viggiano says “the rapidly changing Tysons region has been an area of investment” for the construction company “for many years,” pointing to its involvement in projects like The Heming at Scotts Run and The Boro. [Commercial Observer]

Visit Fairfax Leader Details Pandemic’s Impact on Hospitality — “The COVID-19 pandemic still is wreaking havoc upon the region’s hospitality industry and full recovery may be a good distance off, the president and CEO of Visit Fairfax told Greater McLean Chamber of Commerce members Aug. 19…Biggar predicted it would be at least mid-2022 — and perhaps sometime in 2023 — before business travel recovered.” [Sun Gazette]

Falls Church Community Center Closed — “FYI: the Community Center is closed this week (Aug. 23 – Aug. 29) for their annual deep clean. It’s good timing, since the building has an eau de sweaty camper essence right now.” [City of Falls Church/Twitter]

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Several local chambers of commerce have come out in favor of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s much-debated 495 NEXT project, which will extend the I-495 Express Lanes approximately three miles from the Dulles Toll Road interchange to the American Legion Bridge.

The Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce announced its endorsement of the project yesterday (Monday). It was joined by the Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Greater McLean Chamber of Commerce, as well as chambers representing Reston, Springfield, Mount Vernon, the City of Alexandria, Arlington County, and Prince William County.

The organizations, which represent businesses that collectively employ about 600,000 people across Northern Virginia, say expanding the 495 Express Lanes will help reduce one of the region’s biggest chokepoints and generally improve local travel conditions, particularly in the Tysons area and in between Virginia and Maryland.

“The I-495 expansion will bring a much-needed economic boost to the area and provide long-term economic benefits,” Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Julie Coons said. “It will also add new transit choices that will help attract more businesses and help existing businesses flourish.”

According to the NOVA Chamber of Commerce, the 495 NEXT project is expected to create an estimated 6,300 new jobs and generate $880 million in economic activity during its development and construction.

VDOT is currently waiting for the Federal Highway Administration to issue a decision on the project based on an environmental assessment that was released last February. If the assessment is approved, the state agency expects to issue a contract, finalize the design, and start construction later this year.

The 495 NEXT project is being developed in parallel with a Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation study of transit options for the I-495 and American Legion Bridge corridor. State officials have proposed expanding bus service between Northern Virginia, particularly Tysons, and Maryland, though a final report is not expected to come out until March.

“The expanded transit service will help Tysons reach its long-term goals to reduce congestion and increase accessibility for Tyson’s residents, businesses, employees, and consumers, improving our quality of life and economic outlook,” Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce President and Chairman Andrew Clark said.

VDOT says that the 495 NEXT project will enable 2,500 more people per hour to move through the corridor starting in 2025.

However, it would be able to move even more people if Maryland finishes its plans to introduce toll lanes on the American Legion Bridge, leading some to question why the timelines for the two projects are not aligned. The environmental assessment for Maryland’s managed toll lanes study is not scheduled to be completed until this fall.

Community members and public officials have also raised concerns about the project’s potential impact on surrounding neighborhoods and the environment, especially when it comes to water quality.

The chambers of commerce that have backed 495 NEXT say it is necessary to “set the stage” for improvements to the American Legion Bridge, which currently sees over 230,000 trips per day.

“For years, neighborhoods in McLean have been inundated by cut-through regional commuters seeking to avoid the endemic Beltway backups approaching the American Legion Bridge,” Greater McLean Chamber of Commerce President Paul Kohlenberger said. “495 NEXT will alleviate this cut-through traffic, increase travel time reliability, and offer additional travel choices to the residents, customers and workers of the Greater McLean area.”

Photo via Google Maps

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Moments of cross-aisle praise are rare, but there was one in Tysons today (Friday).

Amid criticism of the state of national politics, in a speech at Fleming’s Steakhouse (1960 Chain Bridge Road), Sen. Mark Warner (D) took a moment to praise President Donald Trump for retaining funding for the Metro in his federal budget proposal.

“I was not pleased with President’s budget on a variety of items, but I was pleased — even though discretionary spending was cut — that it included $150 million for the Metro,” Warner said. “It’s very important that we retain that.”

Warner was in Tysons for the spring chairman’s luncheon with the Greater McLean Chamber of Commerce to oversee the installation of the new board for the organization.

In some remarks after the installation, Warner spoke on a range of topics, from Facebook to the potential decline and fall of American capitalism.

Warner said regulation has been slow to keep up with companies like Facebook and Google, saying that in the face of the Russian interference through social media in the American elections it was time to take a look at more regulation.

“Today, 60 percent of Americans get all their news from Facebook and Google,” said Warner. “I wonder whether we need to start thinking about these platform companies as media. The content that comes to us across these platforms can be used to spread an enormous amount of lies. Facebook and Google have as much power as Standard Oil did at the beginning of the [20th century].”

Warner also noted that the way the military funded will have to evolve to face 21st century threats. Warner, the ranking member of the Committee on Intelligence, said that China and Russia spend less on their militaries than the United States but are investing more heavily in hacking.

“I worry we’re buying too much 20th century stuff when most of the conflict in the 21st century will be in cybersecurity, disinformation, and space,” said Warner. “Our peers are equal in those domains.”

More broadly, Warner reiterated earlier comments that American capitalism would have to evolve or face extinction.

“I don’t think modern American capitalism is working for our people,” Warner said. “It doesn’t mean you throw out the system, but it means we have to have an honest debate over what the economy that works for everyone looks like… If we don’t find an economy that gives people a fair shot, we’re going to end up with unease and people who will give up on the system.”

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