Newsletter

One person has died after two vehicles crashed in the I-495 North access lanes to Route 50 in West Falls Church this morning (Thursday), Virginia State Police reported.

VSP responded to a crash on the Capital Beltway at 2:59 a.m. According to police, a Volkswagen and dump truck collided in the access lanes, resulting in one confirmed fatality and sending another person to the hospital with life-threatening injuries.

The crash completely blocked the I-495 Inner Loop service road and on ramp, and access to the Inner Loop from both Gallows Road and Route 50 (Arlington Boulevard) was cut off.

The incident was cleared and all travel lanes reopened around 9:12 a.m., but delays lingered with traffic backed up to the I-495 and I-395 interchange in Springfield.

The crash remains under investigation, VSP says.

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Morning Notes

Metro Announces Reduced Service Today — “As part of the investigation into the Blue Line derailment, Metro is holding out of service all of its 7000-series railcars, which is nearly 60% of its rail fleet. Without these railcars, Metro will operate about 40 trains tomorrow — offering a basic service pattern on all lines of trains departing about every 30 minutes.” [WMATA]

Why a Police Helicopter Dropped by Vienna on Friday — “Look what dropped into Vienna today — Fairfax 1, the FCPD helicopter! More than 100 children of police officers who were killed in the line of duty spent the day at the Vienna Community Center to participate in fun activities, including getting a close-up look at Fairfax 1.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

Major I-66 and I-495 Closures Start Tonight — “All lanes of I-66 West approaching Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) will close nightly, Monday through Thursday, October 18-21, for continued bridge beam installation at the I-66/I-495 Interchange…Additionally, multiple lanes will be closed on the northbound I-495 general purpose lanes near I-66, as well as a full closure of the 495 Express Lanes, and associated ramps at the I-66 and I-495 interchange so that this work may be implemented.” [VDOT]

Vienna Hit by Pumpkin-Throwing Spree — Three different Vienna residents told police that someone threw a pumpkin at their parked vehicle overnight between Oct. 12 and 13. The tossed squashes shattered the windshield of a resident in the 500 block of Birch Street, shattered the rear window of a vehicle at 1200 Ross Drive SW, and damaged the trunk of a resident in the 900 block of Echols Street SE. [Vienna Police Department]

McLean District Police Report Robberies — Five or six men with a gun approached a victim in the 7200 block of Arlington Boulevard on Thursday (Oct. 14) and took personal property, according to police. Three days earlier, two men reportedly assaulted an individual and demanded property in the 7900 block of Tysons Corner Center. No injuries were reported in either case. [FCPD]

Volunteers Sought for Tysons Block Party — Celebrate Fairfax is seeking volunteers for its next Tysons Block Party, which will take place at the former Container Store now known as The PARC (8508 Leesburg Pike) on Friday and Saturday (Oct. 22-23). Anyone interested in volunteering can sign up through a form linked in the organization’s Twitter bio. [Celebrate Fairfax/Twitter]

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A portion of I-495 South, also known as the Capital Beltway Outer Loop, will be fully closed during overnight hours starting tomorrow (Oct. 8) so construction crews can continue installing overhead bridge beams at the I-66 interchange in Dunn Loring.

The closure will extend to the I-66 West ramp to I-495 South, the 495 South Express Lanes, and several 495 Express Lanes ramps.

“Drivers traveling on I-66 and I-495 during this time should expect delays and consider using alternate routes,” the Virginia Department of Transportation said in a news release. “Message boards across the region will direct drivers on I-95 and I-495 to use alternate routes those nights.”

Here are more details on the impending closures from VDOT:

I-495 South approaching I-66

  • Two lanes will be closed Friday (Oct. 8) from 10 p.m.-6 a.m., Saturday (Oct. 9) from 10 p.m.-7 a.m., and Sunday (Oct. 10) from 9 p.m.-5:30 a.m.
  • All lanes of I-495 South will be closed Friday and Saturday from midnight to 5 a.m., and Sunday from 11:30 p.m. to 4:30 a.m.

Ramp from I-66 West to I-495 South

  • The ramp will be closed Friday and Saturday nights from 10 p.m.-5 a.m., and Sunday night from 11:30 p.m.-4:30 a.m.
  • 495 Express Lanes and ramps will be closed from 10 p.m.-5 a.m. every night.

Traffic will be detoured onto I-66 West to the Nutley Street exit in Vienna before looping onto I-66 East back toward I-495 South.

Traffic from the I-495 South and I-66 interchange will be detoured to Nutley Street overnight on Oct. 8-10 (via VDOT)

VDOT notes that the construction work depends on the weather and could be rescheduled if there are inclement conditions.

This will be the third consecutive weekend of construction-related closures on I-495 after recent lane closures on the Beltway at the Dulles Toll Road interchange in Tysons for joint bridge work there.

This weekend’s beam installation is part of work on a new flyover ramp that will connect I-495 North to I-66 West, one of several changes coming to the interchange courtesy of the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway project to add toll lanes on I-66 from Dunn Loring to Gainesville.

According to VDOT, the reconfigured interchange will provide access to and from the 495 Express Lanes to the new I-66 Express Lanes, enable drivers to switch between express and general-purpose lanes when changing roadways, and replace existing noise walls while adding new ones on I-66 near Idylwood Park.

Work has been ongoing throughout the I-66 corridor since 2018. Just this past weekend, two new ramps from Nutley Street to I-66 West opened to traffic in Vienna. The express lanes are expected to open to traffic in December 2022.

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Another piece of the I-495 Northern Extension project (495 NEXT) has fallen into place.

Toll lanes operator Transurban has selected the Connecticut-based Lane Construction as the contractor that will design and build 2.5 miles of new express lanes from Tysons to the American Legion Bridge area in McLean, the Virginia Department of Transportation announced yesterday (Tuesday).

Transurban previously worked with Lane Construction on the 395, 95, and existing 495 Express Lanes, according to a press release from the contractor.

VDOT also said that it has executed a comprehensive agreement with Transurban, which operates the existing I-495 Express Lanes that currently stop just north of the Dulles Toll Road.

“This project is the latest extension of the Commonwealth’s 90+ mile express lane network planned for Northern Virginia,” Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine said in the press release. “Through 495 NEXT and the on-going investments in multimodal options, I believe we will unlock one of the most congested highways, significantly improve the region’s transportation network, and contribute to economic growth and opportunity.”

With an estimated cost of $600 million, approximately $440 million of which is for design and construction, 495 NEXT will add two express lanes in each direction as part of an agreement with Maryland aimed at relieving congestion on the Capital Beltway by adding more toll lanes and replacing and widening the American Legion Bridge.

Other elements of the project include:

  • Funding for new bus service between Tysons and Montgomery County, including $5.2 million from the state to purchase the vehicles and a $2.2 million annual commitment from Transurban for operations
  • Four miles of new bicycle and pedestrian connections, including a shared-use path parallel to I-495 from Lewinsville Road to near Live Oak Drive
  • Replacement or rehabilitation of seven bridges with sidewalks, bicycle lanes, and crossings at Old Dominion Road, Georgetown Pike, Live Oak Drive, and Lewinsville Road
  • Replacement of nine existing noise walls and the construction of a new noise wall along Live Oak Drive near the George Washington Memorial Parkway interchange
  • New storm water management facilities along I-495 and funding for Scott’s Run stream restoration efforts

According to VDOT, the planned bus service across the American Legion Bridge “is projected to move more than 170,000 riders each year and remove 4.7 million passenger miles from the road, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by more than 1,650 metric tons each year.”

VDOT anticipates reaching a financial close for 495 NEXT in December with a final design and the start of construction coming in 2022, despite continued uncertainty about whether Maryland’s toll lanes project will get approved.

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, who represents the McLean area, has maintained that VDOT should wait until Maryland gets federal approvals for its project before starting construction on 495 NEXT.

“I believe 495 NEXT should not go forward unless and until Maryland gets approval for its project to increase capacity of the American Legion Bridge and to add lanes on the Maryland Beltway,” Foust said in a statement to Tysons Reporter. “I am disappointed that VDOT and the CTB have decided to go forward without waiting. However, given their decision to go forward, I’m glad they chose Transurban. I have worked with them in the past and I believe they are qualified to deliver the project.”

Initial results from Tysons Reporter’s extremely unscientific poll on the project show a roughly even split between people who completely oppose 495 NEXT and those who decidedly support it, with the former gaining a slight edge. Other respondents indicated that they could support the proposal but have reservations due to the timing or inclusion of amenities for forms of travel other than driving.

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By this time next year, the I-495 Northern Extension project (495 NEXT) could be under construction.

The Virginia Department of Transportation secured required federal approvals in July for its $550 million effort to add express lanes on three miles of interstate from Tysons to the American Legion Bridge area in McLean.

With that hurdle surmounted, state transportation officials expect to advance the project fairly quickly over the next year, awarding a design-build contract this winter and finalizing the design next year. Right-of-way acquisitions and construction work could also start in 2022, putting the toll lanes on track to begin operations in 2025.

While traffic volumes are projected to increase roughly the same amount regardless of whether 495 NEXT is implemented, VDOT says extending the I-495 Express Lanes toward the American Legion Bridge will reduce travel times and congestion, moving 2,500 more people per hour through the corridor when they open in 2025.

A chart showing how extending the I-495 Express Lanes will improve travel times, according to VDOT (via VDOT)

The project also includes transit in the form of new bus service between Tysons and Montgomery County, a trail for bicyclists and pedestrians parallel to I-495, and funds to assist with stormwater management and stream restoration efforts along Scott’s Run.

However, 495 NEXT has encountered some resistance from McLean residents concerned about its potential impact on their neighborhoods, and environmental advocates.

An environmental assessment found that the project will affect 4.11 acres of Scott’s Run Nature Preserve, 19.8 acres of wetlands, and more than two acres of land around George Washington Memorial Parkway, though the Federal Highway Administration (FWHA) and National Park Service (NPS) determined that the effects could be mitigated enough to be outweighed by the benefits.

Some residents and elected officials have questioned whether that would be the case, though, if Maryland’s plans to replace the American Legion Bridge and widen its part of the Beltway fall through, which remains a possibility even after the state approved a pre-development contract.

Now that it’s getting closer to becoming a reality, how do you feel about 495 NEXT?

Would the project make your life easier, or are you more concerned about the inevitable environmental and neighborhood impacts of a major infrastructure project? Should Virginia hit pause until Maryland fully commits?

Chart via VDOT

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Plans to extend the I-495 Express Lanes three miles north from the Dulles Toll Road in Tysons to the George Washington Memorial Parkway in McLean are moving full steam ahead.

Now backed by federal approvals, the 495 Northern Extension project (495 NEXT) is on track to develop a more detailed design this fall, Virginia Department of Transportation officials told Fairfax County leaders and community members at separate meetings last week.

With a financial close on a contract projected to come this winter and the design getting finalized next year, VDOT anticipates starting the right-of-way acquisition process and construction in 2022. The new toll lanes are scheduled to open in 2025.

While the project has faced skepticism over whether its benefits will outweigh the impact of construction on the environment and neighborhoods, state transportation officials say expanding the Capital Beltway to the American Legion Bridge — and, ideally, beyond it into Maryland — will provide needed relief at one of the worst traffic bottlenecks in the D.C. region.

“I’ve never heard anyone say the American Legion Bridge is great,” VDOT Chief Deputy Commissioner Rob Cary said during a virtual public information meeting on Wednesday (Sept. 29). “It’s an issue. Everybody knows it’s an issue, and this project is going to move forward and fix that.”

The timelines for Virginia and Maryland’s projects to add toll lanes on the Capital Beltway (via VDOT)

The additional capacity created by the new express lanes will allow for transit across the Potomac River that’s currently stymied by the amount of congestion on and around the bridge, VDOT Northern Virginia Regional Transportation Program Susan Shaw told the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ Transportation Committee last Tuesday (Sept. 28).

VDOT has committed to introducing bus service between Tysons and Montgomery County in Maryland as recommended by a study that the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation and Maryland Department of Transportation completed in March.

VDOT will provide $5.2 million to purchase buses, and contracted Express Lanes operator Transurban has agreed to cover the transit service’s operating costs with $2.2 million per year once tolling begins, according to the presentation delivered at both of last week’s meetings.

At Fairfax County’s urging, the state has been looking at the possibility of launching the bus service before the new toll lanes open, especially since Shaw admits conditions “will be degraded some” during construction, which could last into fall 2027, when Maryland expects to open its Beltway toll lanes.

“Those years of degradation are what really concern us,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said at the transportation committee meeting. “So, getting ahead on transit and a program to really get people on transit, out of their cars during that congestion, I think, would be very helpful to be successful.”

However, it will be difficult to provide consistent, timely bus service until the express lanes are available, Shaw says. Read More

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Morning Notes

Capital One Hall Opens — Tysons’ new performing arts venue, which also serves as a corporate event space for Capital One, officially opens its doors to the public today (Friday), with singer Josh Groban putting on the first show at 8 p.m. The theater and classroom facilities will be available to local arts, nonprofit, and charitable community groups at specially negotiated rates by Fairfax County. [Fairfax County Government]

I-495 Lane Closures Start in Tysons Tonight — “The right lane of the southbound I-495 (Capital Beltway Outer Loop) general purpose lanes will be closed along the three bridges over the Dulles Toll Road (Route 267), weather permitting, from 10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 1 to 5 a.m. Monday, Oct. 4 for bridge joint work…The two right lanes of the southbound I-495 general purpose lanes are scheduled to be closed overnight.” [VDOT]

Founders Row Part 2 Moves Forward — The Falls Church City Council voted 4-3 to let a second phase of Founders Row proceed, potentially bringing 2.07 acres of mixed-use development to the corner of S. West and West Broad streets. Supporters cited developer Mill Creek’s affordable housing commitment and other concessions, while opponents expressed concern about the project’s limited commercial component. [Falls Church News-Press]

Vienna Assisted Living Facility Cuts Ribbon — Silverstone Senior Living and Watermark Retirement Communities executives, public officials, and community members held a ribbon cutting ceremony and reception yesterday (Thursday) for The Providence, a 154-unit assisted living and memory care community that opened in MetroWest near the Vienna Metro station in March. [The Providence Fairfax]

McLean VFD Marks Anniversary With Coloring Contest — The McLean Volunteer Fire Department is holding a coloring contest for local elementary school students in honor of its 100th anniversary and to recognize October as Fire Prevention Month. Students can download an image of the fire station, color it, and mail it to the address on the webpage. Selected in a drawing at the end of the month, the winner will get a visit to their street by the department’s antique Pirsch fire truck. [McLean VFD]

Vienna and Herndon Compete in Caboose Challenge — “The Towns of Vienna and Herndon are facing off in a Caboose to Caboose challenge in October. Residents are encouraged to sign up and participate in the challenge: walk or ride along the Washington and Old Dominion Trail from the Vienna Caboose to the Herndon Caboose or vice versa.” [Patch]

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The Capital Beltway will have slightly less room to accommodate drivers in Tysons this weekend, with construction work shutting down one lane starting tonight (Friday).

The Virginia Department of Transportation announced yesterday (Thursday) that it will close the right general purpose lane on southbound I-495 over the Dulles Toll Road (Route 267) from 10 p.m. today to 5 a.m. Monday (Sept. 27) for bridge joint work.

The Beltway’s two right southbound lanes will also be closed overnight during the weekend, according to the following schedule from VDOT’s news release:

  • 11 p.m. Friday (Sept. 24) to 7 a.m. Saturday (Sept. 25)
  • 11 p.m. Saturday (Sept. 25) to 7 a.m. Sunday (Sept. 26)
  • 11 p.m. Sunday (Sept. 26) to 5 a.m. Monday (Sept. 27)

“At least two lanes of southbound I-495 will remain open at all times,” VDOT says. “Also remaining open will be the southbound I-495 general purpose lanes ramp to the westbound Dulles Toll Road (Exit 45A), and the southbound I-495 ramp to eastbound Route 267 (Exit 45B).”

In other I-495 news, state transportation officials will hold a virtual public information meeting this coming Wednesday (Sept. 29) to share updates on the 495 NEXT project, which will extend the Beltway’s express lanes from the Dulles Toll Road interchange to the American Legion Bridge area in McLean.

This will be VDOT’s first public meeting on the project since it received approvals from the Federal Highway Administration and National Park Service in July stating that the anticipated environmental impact will be minimal compared to its potential to improve travel in the corridor.

Since 495 NEXT got the federal approvals, Maryland has advanced its side of the effort to widen the Beltway, with the state’s public works board approving a design contract for the toll lanes in August.

Fairfax County officials have maintained that Virginia has to coordinate the 495 NEXT project with Maryland in order for its benefits for reducing traffic congestion and improving travel times to be realized.

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Eastbound I-66 is being detoured onto Nutley Street after a multi-vehicle crash near I-495 in Merrifield (via VDOT 511)

(Updated at 1:05 p.m.) Three people died in a multi-vehicle crash that closed off eastbound I-66 in Merrifield throughout this morning (Thursday).

All lanes on I-66 have now reopened, the Virginia Department of Transportation reported at 12:16 p.m.

According to the Virginia State Police, a tractor-trailer and two passenger vehicles collided on I-66 just before the I-495 interchange around 3:06 a.m. Police have confirmed three fatalities: an adult female driver and two children.

Police have determined that a Honda SUV traveling east on I-66 lost control near the 64-mile marker at the Capital Beltway, the VSP said in a report:

The Honda struck a Toyota SUV and then continued off the right side of the interstate. When the Honda struck the guardrail, it then re-entered the eastbound lanes of I-66 and struck the Toyota SUV a second time. The Honda continued off the left side of the interstate and struck the guardrail, after which it spun back into the eastbound lanes of I-66. An eastbound tractor-trailer swerved to the right to avoid the spinning Honda, but the two vehicles collided.

The three people who died at the scene were all in the Honda SUV.

“State police is still in the process of confirming their identities and notifying next of kin,” the VSP said.

Two other juveniles are getting treatment at Fairfax Inova Hospital for non-life threatening injuries. The adult male driver of the Toyota SUV was also transported to a nearby hospital for treatment of injuries that police say were not life-threatening.

The tractor-trailer driver, identified as an adult man, was not injured in the crash.

The crash investigation closed all eastbound I-66 lanes at 64.7 mile marker near the Capital Beltway, resulting in traffic backups that, at one point, stretched back to Fairfax County Parkway at Fair Lakes.

Drivers were detoured onto Nutley Street in Vienna, as VDOT warned motorists to expect delays. The investigation into the crash is still ongoing.

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Morning Notes

Police Arrest Suspect in Tysons Sexual Assault — “Fairfax County Police have arrested and charged a man in a July sexual assault at a Tysons hotel…Patrick Michael Chaloupka, 38, of Woodbridge, was arrested Thursday at his home. He was charged with rape and abduction with intent to defile and is being held at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center without bond.” [Patch]

Patrick Henry Park and Ride Up for Transit Funding — A park-and-ride lot for Patrick Henry Library in Vienna is one of four projects under consideration for the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission’s I-66 Commuter Choice program, which uses toll fees to fund transit improvements. NVTC staff haven’t recommended the Patrick Henry proposal for funding, citing the $5 million cost, but the public can comment on the proposals until Sept. 17. [Reston Now]

495 NEXT Public Meeting Set for This Month — “VDOT will hold a virtual Public Information Meeting on Wednesday, September 29, 2021, beginning at 6:30 p.m. to present the latest updates and information related to the 495 NEXT Project. The project is advancing to the design and construction phase, following…the receipt of a ‘Finding of No Significant Impact‘ from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and National Park Service on its environmental assessment, and an approval from FHWA on its interchange justification report.” [Virginia Department of Transportation]

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