Tysons, VA

meeting in McLean on the plans to extend the 495 Express Lanes is being rescheduled to a date in April, the Virginia Department of Transportation said.

The meeting was originally set for tonight (Thursday) at Langley High School.

VDOT announced the meeting’s postponement this morning, after saying yesterday that it would be live streamed and filmed.

Several residents raised concerns about the meeting earlier this week, worrying that it could increase the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

VDOT is planning to present the results of the 495 NEXT environmental study and traffic analysis, along with hearing feedback and questions from the public.

Currently, the 495 Express Lanes Northern Extension project — a.k.a. 495 NEXT — would extend the 495 Express Lanes north from the I-495 and Dulles Access Road interchange up to the American Legion Bridge and add two new tolled express lanes in each direction.

“The meeting will be rescheduled for April,” VDOT said. “Details will be provided next week.”

People can submit comments either online, by email, by mail or at the future meeting.

Image via Google Maps

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Updated 3/12/2020 — VDOT announced that the meeting will be postponed to a date in April.

Updated at 7:15 p.m. — A Dranesville District Supervisor email this evening says that the meeting will be live streamed. 

Earlier: For people avoiding meetings to prevent the coronavirus, an upcoming meeting on the plans to extend the 495 Express Lanes will be filmed.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is set to present the results of the I-495 NEXT environmental study and traffic analysis on Thursday, March 12.

The meeting is scheduled to last from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Langley High School (6520 Georgetown Pike). People will have a chance to provide comments and ask questions after the presentation at 7 p.m.

VDOT said in an email today (Wednesday) that the video of the meeting will be available online starting Monday (March 16).

Currently, the 495 Express Lanes Northern Extension project — a.k.a. 495 NEXT — would extend the 495 Express Lanes north from the I-495 and Dulles Access Road interchange up to the American Legion Bridge and add two new tolled express lanes in each direction.

People will have through April 15 to submit comments either online, at the public hearing, by email or by mail.

“Questions or requests for more information can be emailed to [email protected] virginia.gov, and a project representative will respond,” VDOT said.

VDOT said that the meeting would be rescheduled if Fairfax County Public Schools close. If inclement weather happens, the meeting would get moved to next Wednesday, March 18.

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Commuters can expect delays today at the I-495 and I-66 interchange following a tractor-trailer crash early this morning.

The tractor-trailer overturned on I-66, spilling metal debris onto the ramp from northbound I-495 to I-66, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation. The debris punctured another truck, causing a hazmat situation and closures around 4 a.m., VDOT said.

While the ramp from northbound I-495 to I-66 has reopened, VDOT said that commuters this morning will be impacted.

As of 9:10 a.m., drivers can expect delays eastbound on I-66 and two-mile-long backups near I-495, according to VDOT.

“The ramp from I-66 East to I-495 North is partially blocked,” VDOT said. “The ramp from I-495 North to I-66 West is partially blocked.”

Meanwhile, drivers heading north on I-495 can expect traffic congestion and backups stretching about two miles.

Map via Google Maps

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Commuters can expect delays today on I-495 south of Leesburg Pike (Route 7) while truck fire clean-up is underway.

As of 9:43 a.m., the south right outside lane and right shoulder are closed, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

VDOT said that drivers can expect delays. As of 10 a.m., traffic is heavy on I-495 between Leesburg Pike and I-66.

Lauren DeMarco, a Fox 5 reporter, tweeted a video of the traffic back-up and firefighters and medics on the scene around 10:30 p.m. on Monday.

The video captured firefighters working to extinguish the truck fire.

WTOP reported this morning that clean-up is underway.

Map via Google Maps

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Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said he’s supportive of plans to extend the express lanes on I-495, but has major concerns about the timing of the project with Maryland’s piece.

The I-495 Northern Extension Project would expand express lanes from the Dulles Toll Road to the George Washington Memorial Parkway, replace overpasses and noise walls and add a shared-use path. The project could save drivers up to 25 minutes during peak-hour commute times, according to the presentation given at the meeting.

Toll revenues are expected to support the cost of the project, according to the presentation.

Maryland is currently evaluating its options to rebuild and widen the American Legion Bridge, Susan Shaw, from the Virginia Department of Transportation, told the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

Preliminarily, construction could start on Virginia’s portion of the project in 2021 and take three years to finish, Shaw said.

“Obviously, solving the congestion issues at the American Legion bridge are just absolutely essential that we do that,” Foust said at the Transportation Committee meeting on Tuesday. “This project doesn’t solve the congestion problems.”

While Foust said that the project is a “necessary piece of the puzzle that will do that,” he said that most of the relief will come from increasing capacity and widening the Beltway from Maryland.

Foust said he thinks it would be a “huge mistake” to start the Virginia part of the project before it can get aligned with Maryland’s timeframe.

“Timing is everything here,” Foust said. “You’ve got to get this coordinated better with what they’re doing in Maryland or a bad situation is going to get worse.”

A public meeting on the project is set for March 12 at Langley High School (6520 Georgetown Pike) from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Public comments will be accepted through March 30, although Shaw said the public can reach out anytime after that.

“You want to extend the express lanes, but that’s not a good enough public purpose reason for doing this,” Foust said.

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Updated at 1:15 p.m. — Shortly after 1 p.m., the lanes reopened, MATOC tweeted. Drivers can expect delays up to 2.5 miles. 

Earlier: Drivers can expect delays from a tractor-trailer crash on I-495, which has caused the closure of several northbound lanes.

The crash is located along the highway north of Leesburg Pike (Route 7), according to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). The crash happened shortly after 12:30 p.m., according to a tweet from the Metropolitan Area Transportation Operations Coordination Program.

The left, left-center and right-center lanes on northbound I-495 are currently closed, according to VDOT.

As of 1:10 p.m., traffic is backed up from I-66 to the Dulles Access Road along northbound I-495, according to Google Maps.

Map via Google Maps

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(Updated at 10:15 a.m.) Tysons area commuters heading to and from Maryland on the Beltway may see some relief from the constant traffic woes.

The governors of Virginia and Maryland announced an agreement Tuesday morning that would see the construction of a new American Legion Bridge.

The agreement to rebuild the bridge is being billed as “historic” and “a big win for Northern Virginia, the metro region, and our entire Commonwealth” by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D).

The new bridge will “relieve congestion at one of the country’s worst traffic chokepoints,” according to a press release, below. “The project is expected to cut commuting time in half for many travelers, reduce congestion in the regular lanes by 25 percent, provide 40 percent more lane capacity over the old bridge, and include bicycle and pedestrian paths across the Potomac River.”

The new bridge will be build on largely the same footprint as the existing bridge, but with two new express lanes in both directions. The initial stages of construction could begin as early as 2021.

More via a press release from the governor’s office:

Governor Ralph Northam (D-VA) and Governor Larry Hogan (R-MD) today announced a bi-state, bipartisan accord to create a new, unified Capital Beltway, replace the aging American Legion Bridge and relieve congestion at one of the country’s worst traffic chokepoints. The two governors made the announcement at the annual Capital Region Transportation Forum in Washington, DC.

“A new bridge means commuters will get to work and back home faster,” said Governor Northam. “Our teams have identified a way to fix one of the worst traffic hot spots in the country. This demonstrates what can get done when leaders come together to find shared solutions to tough regional problems. This is about helping people see their families more, grow their businesses, and further unlock the region’s vast economic potential.”

“The ‘Capital Beltway Accord’ is a once-in-a-generation achievement for the capital region,” said Governor Hogan. “A bipartisan, commonsense, interstate agreement such as this has eluded elected leaders throughout the region for many decades. Together with our partners in Virginia, we are building a foundation for even greater economic growth, greater opportunity for our citizens, and advancing real, lasting, transformative improvements for the entire Washington metropolitan region.”

The project complements ongoing plans by both governors in their jurisdictions–advancing a region-wide vision for a seamless network of reliable travel options around the Capital Beltway, and along Interstates 270 and 95, 395, and 66.

The project is expected to cut commuting time in half for many travelers, reduce congestion in the regular lanes by 25 percent, provide 40 percent more lane capacity over the old bridge, and include bicycle and pedestrian paths across the Potomac River.

The American Legion Bridge has been operating beyond its capacity for nearly four decades. Daily traffic has grown 390 percent since the bridge opened in 1962, with 235,000 vehicles using it daily. More than 40 percent of the region’s population travels this segment of the Capital Beltway, and the region expects to grow by another 1.2 million people by 2040. Both governors have made it a top priority to identify a long-term, seamless solution for the Capital Beltway.

The project will replace the existing lanes in each direction across the Potomac River and add two new Express Lanes in each direction for approximately three miles between the George Washington Memorial Parkway in Virginia to the vicinity of River Road in Maryland. New bicycle and pedestrian access will connect trails on both sides of the Potomac River. The project is being designed predominantly within the footprint of the existing bridge and right-of-way to minimize impact to travelers, the environment, and surrounding communities. No homes or businesses are expected to require relocation.

“This is once-in-a-generation project that will improve accessibility throughout the region,” said Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “This is a milestone in regional cooperation. We in Virginia look forward to working hand-in-hand with Maryland to deliver this transformative transportation solution.”

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved yesterday (Tuesday) plans to urbanize a Merrifield office park engulfed by I-495, Lee Hwy and Route 50.

The changes to the Merrifield Suburban Center will turn Fairview Park into a mixed-use development with more office space, multi-family homes, a hotel, retail and recreational uses.

Additionally, the changes urge developers to include affordable housing dwelling units or workforce dwelling units, along with senior living and student housing options.

The changes to the plan will also alter an area catty-corner to Fairview Park near the Inova Fairfax Hospital.

Fairview Park currently has offices — including the four-story-tall HIIT Contracting building — by a lake and residential communities. A tributary of Holmes Run runs along the southern edge of the area. Northrop Grumman Federal Credit Union and the 2941 restaurant are nearby.

“The justification for the nomination states that the existing single-use office park model that was successful in the 1980s is no longer competitive with mixed-use work environments that provide retail and service amenities, as well as the opportunity to live near work,” according to a staff report.

Elizabeth Baker, a senior land use planner for Walsh, Colucci, Lubeley & Walsh, previously told the Planning Commission that only three of the eight previously planned office buildings have been built for Fairview Park, which had a 29% office vacancy rate last year.

Baker told the supervisors last night that Fairview Park’s offices were the “gold standard” in the 1980s. While the office park has been well maintained, she said that retaining tenants has been a struggle.

Charlie Hall, a Falls Church resident who chaired the task force that helped to evaluate the proposed changes, told the supervisors that the new vision “closely align with the task force’s recommendations.”

“Every major dispute has been resolved,” Hall said. “This is exactly what [the taskforce] wanted to come out of this.”

Hall urged the board to make an immediate commitment to improving the public sector in the nearby area to keep pace with the increased number of people from the upcoming urbanization, echoing concerns from residents worried about worsening traffic and housing congestion, along with added strain on overcrowded schools.

Providence District Supervisor Linda Smyth said that it’s important to make sure that Merrifield — the center of Fairfax County — does not become a “congestion center” that will hurt not only locals, but also people traveling through that area.

The board approved the proposal, along with five follow-on motions from the Planning Commission, which include:

  • conducting a multi-modal transportation study
  • conducting a study of the connectivity barriers created by I-495
  • working with property owners to reduce single-occupancy car trips
  • working with Fairfax County Public Schools staff to determine school capacity needs
  • developing a funding plan for transportation projects recommended in the Merrifield Suburban Center Comprehensive Plan

“Merrifield has been a success and the idea here was to keep the success going,” Smith said.

Image via Fairfax County, map via Google Maps

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Updated at 2:30 p.m. — The crash was cleared at 2:26 p.m., 511 Northern Virginia tweeted. 

Earlier: A crash on I-495 in McLean is causing travel delays for drivers headed toward the American Legion Bridge.

The crash is located just south of the Georgetown Pike. Around 2:05 p.m., a nearby traffic camera showed a car on a tow truck.

The north left lane is currently closed, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Drivers can expect delays, according to VDOT. As of 2:10 p.m., northbound traffic is slowly moving from Route 738 to the bridge.

Image via Google Maps

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Updated at 11:35 a.m. — All travel lanes on I-495 reopened around 10:30 a.m. 

Earlier: A multi-car crash on I-495 is causing substantial delays in Tysons.

Shortly after 9:30 a.m., the north right outside lane and right shoulder closed, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Drivers can expect delays, according to VDOT. As of 9:50 a.m., traffic is crawling along northbound I-495 up to Route 123.

First image via VDOT, second image via Google Maps

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