Tysons, VA

The Virginia Department of Transportation is moving forward with plans to overhaul the intersection of Towlston Road and Leesburg Pike (Route 7), but despite requests from local residents, the highway’s speed limit will not be reduced after construction is finished.

VDOT officials say the need to move traffic to and from Tysons will keep the speed limit on Route 7 at 55 miles per hour.

VDOT discussed the changes coming to the Route 7 and Towlston intersection at a virtual town hall hosted by the Great Falls Citizens Association on March 31.

The need for improvements to the intersection emerged in the aftermath of a fatal crash in December. At the meeting, officials said the incident occurred when a vehicle traveling southbound on Towlston Road attempted a left turn onto Leesburg Pike. A distracted driver ran through the red light and struck the turning vehicle.

“What the community is seeking is an assurance that the intersection will be as safe as possible when VDOT completes its work under the widening project,” GFCA executive board director Mike Barclay said.

Barclay said that the intersection improvements need to ensure that, when a car turns left on Route 7 from Towlston, the driver “will have an unimpeded view of traffic traveling west on Route 7.”

Public feedback at the meeting ranged from urges to reduce the speed limit to a call to convert the intersection into a four-way stop.

Some of those concerns, particularly regarding sight-lines, should be waylaid by the current project to widen Route 7 from Reston to Tysons, VDOT said.

As part of the project, extended turn lanes will be added to Leesburg Pike to make it easier for trucks to turn onto Towlston Road, a response to the common complaint that trucks turning at the intersection often block several lanes of traffic.

Steve Kuntz, transportation business unit manager for consultant Dewberry, said sight-lines at the intersection will be improved as part of ongoing work at the intersection.

“We’re still not in the final configuration,” Kuntz said. “It is still a work in progress. We want to make sure everyone recognizes: what you see today is not the permanent configuration.”

But VDOT said there are no plans to reduce the speed limit on Leesburg Pike.

“Reducing speed on Route 7 is not an option,” VDOT district construction engineer Bill Cutler said. “It’s a highway to Tysons and needs to be able to move people along.”

However, changes will be made to Towlston Road, which will be reduced to 25 miles per hour near the intersection.

Cutler said VDOT will also be working with the contractor and the operations center to optimize timing at the signal as part of a broader effort to synchronize signals throughout the Route 7 corridor.

“We expect that this will function well,” Cutler said. “Now, it won’t function perfectly because we’re in Northern Virginia. Nothing functions perfectly, but it should function better than it has in the past. We’ll take counts and see how that holds up compared to our forecasts, and certainly to reality.”

Photo via Google Maps

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A luxury townhome developer wants to supplant an office complex on Leesburg Pike in Tysons with more than 100 units of housing.

EYA Development has submitted a rezoning application and development plan to Fairfax County seeking to build 104 single-family, attached dwellings on a 6.7-acre site at 7700 Leesburg Pike that is now occupied by a 150,000 square-foot commercial building that was constructed in 1976. The property owner, S.C. Herman & Associates, is also listed as an applicant.

Existing tenants include the Ismaili Cultural Center, the weight loss service SimplySlim Medical, the accounting firm Gilliland & Associates, a telecommunications contractor called McEnroe Voice and Data, and the private Standard College of Nursing.

Submitted on Dec. 15 and accepted by the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning last Friday (March 5), the application proposes rezoning the commercial site to the planned development housing district.

Under a PDH-16 zoning, the site would have a maximum density of 16 dwelling units per acre and require 281 parking spaces, which EYA says would be provided with two garage spaces for each housing unit and 73 surface spaces.

According to the conceptual development plan, the development would exceed open space requirements with 93,688 square feet of open space, including 38,688 square feet of recreational open space.

The plan features three dedicated open spaces on the north end of the site: a central courtyard with a pergola and terraces called The Green, a fitness area, and a playspace with a cherry tree grove, rain gardens, and birdhouses.

In terms of infrastructure, the development will include internal private roads with an exit to the south onto Leesburg Pike, and the site plan envisions 10-foot crosswalks across George C. Marshall Drive and a future road to the property’s east side that is included in the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan.

EYA notes in the plan that illustrations showing the future road are to demonstrate that the proposed development can accommodate the road but “is not a commitment for the applicant to construct the future road or infrastructure.”

The developer also says its proposal would not preclude any potential widenings of Leesburg Pike, and it plans to dedicate a portion of the site area for future road improvements introduced by a Route 7 bus rapid transit system.

“To the best of our knowledge, the proposed development will not pose any adverse impacts on adjacent properties,” the applicants say in the development plan.

Photo via Google Maps

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Nosie Barrier being installed along Route 7, between Reston Avenue and Utterback Store Road (Photo courtesy of VDOT)

A major project to widen nearly seven miles of Route 7 between Reston Avenue and Jarrett Valley Drive remains on track for completion by July 31, 2024.

It is also expected to be completed within its $314 million budget, Virginia Department of Transportation spokesperson Jennifer McCord confirms.

The improvements include widening the heavily-trafficked road — also known as Leesburg Pike — from four to six lanes between Reston and Tysons, adding shared-use paths for pedestrians and bikers, and making major design changes to intersections.

It’s all being done within the guidelines of the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan.

Discussions about the project began nearly a decade ago, and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved it in 2017. Workers broke ground on construction in June 2019. It’s expected to take just over five years to complete.

Over the last two months, construction has continued at different sections of the road.

While much of the construction activity currently underway is focused in the Reston and Great Falls sections of the project, crews in the Tysons segment between Faulkner Drive and Jarrett Valley Drive have been working to relocate a water main between Beulah Road and Towlston Road.

Eastbound traffic on Route 7 between Lewinsville Road and Jarrett Valley Drive in McLean has been shifted north to accommodate construction.

Landscaping work and third-party utility relocations are underway throughout the roadway.

Periodic traffic changes and lane closures are expected to occur throughout the corridor as construction continues.

While COVID-19 has limited crews’ ability to work side-by-side, the decreased traffic volume — particularly in the earlier part of the pandemic — has allowed VDOT to extend work hours.

Photo courtesy VDOT

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Monday Morning Notes

Car Crash Shuts Down Eastbound Leesburg Pike — A car crash around 6:48 a.m. on Leesburg Pike near Colvin Run Road forced the eastbound lanes to close. First responder crews extricated a person who was trapped in a car and transported them to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. The crash has now been cleared, and the road is back open. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department/Twitter]

Madison Girls’ Basketball Team Wins State Championship — The Warhawks beat Osbourn Park 54-48 on Saturday (Feb. 20) to earn James Madison High School’s first girls basketball state title since 1993. The team was within a game of the championship last year, but the final contest was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. [The Washington Post]

Leesburg Pike Bus Stop to Be Skipped Due to Construction — “Effective February 24, 2021: Until further notice stop #2674 (Leesburg Pike and Lyons St) will be skipped due to ongoing construction on Leesburg Pike. We encourage you to use alternatives a thank you for your patience.” [Fairfax Connector/Twitter]

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved developer Dittmar’s request to add a public park and some 480 parking spaces to Westpark Plaza.

The 2.9-acre site is located at 8401 Westpark Drive north of Leesburg Pike. The parking portion of the interim plans for the site will be in place for five years, while the park will remain during the first phase of redevelopment.

Dittmar’s grand plans to replace the demolished Best Western Hotel that previously occupied the site with two residential buildings, a new hotel, and retail were approved in 2018, but the project is currently idling.

Currently, the property is an asphalt parking lot that the Meridian Group used as a construction staging and parking while work on The Boro development was underway.

The plans for interim parking and a pop-up park have been in place since last summer. The Fairfax County Planning Commission approved the proposal on Dec. 9 before the Board of Supervisors gave the final green light on Tuesday (Jan. 26).

“It is the intent of Dittmar, the owner and applicant, to proceed with ultimate redevelopment,” Walsh Colucci senior land use planner Elizabeth Baker said during Tuesday’s public hearing. “They appreciate having these interim uses.”

The theme of the 16,500-square foot park will be an outdoor reading area, complete with a Little Free Library. It will also have space for food trucks, some phone charging stations, sidewalk chalk art, and other amenities, Dittmar says in its development plans.

The park will activate Westpark Plaza and complement the public spaces at The Boro to the north of the site, Alexis Robinson, a staff coordinator in the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning, said during the staff presentation on Tuesday.

It will remain in place during phase one, which will primarily involve the construction of one of the two planned residential buildings with retail.

Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik called the outdoor reading room idea “unique and creative,” and she hopes it will inspire more interesting park concepts as the county plans for more public spaces.

“I believe this will be a great addition to the neighborhood,” Palchik said. “It will provide families a new opportunity to engage and be active outdoors, which as we have seen especially this year is in high demand.”

Image via Walsh Colucci

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Fairfax Connector has suspended service to bus stop 2605 on Leesburg Pike and Laurel Hill Road until December to accommodate construction on Route 7.

The temporary bus stop closure took immediate effect around noon today, and it is expected to last until approximately the end of 2021, the Fairfax County transit system says.

According to Fairfax Connector, the suspension of service was necessitated by a traffic switch that began this week on Leesburg Pike between Lewinsville Road and Jarrett Valley Drive in the McLean area.

The Virginia Department of Transportation initiated a lane shift and closed direct access to Route 7 from Laurel Hill and Old Ash Grove as part of its Route 7 corridor improvement project, which is widening the highway between Tysons and Reston. The traffic changes will be in effect until late 2021.

Fairfax Connector advises passengers to use stop 2673 as an alternative to the closed stop. Stop 2673 is located near the intersection of Leesburg Pike and Lewinsville Road across from the McLean Bible Church.

Photo via Google Maps

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Driver Hospitalized After Leesburg Pike Crash — Eastbound Route 7 closed for much of the morning yesterday (Monday) while police investigated a crash near Gosnell Road in Tysons. The highway reopened around 1 p.m., but a driver was hospitalized, and the crash investigation remains ongoing. [Fairfax County Police Department/Twitter]

Fairfax Water Extends Deadline for Utility Relief — Fairfax Water announced last week that applications for its Municipal Utility Relief Program will now be accepted through December 1, 2021, or until funding runs out. Applicants must confirm that they are experiencing financial challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Visit Fairfax Water’s website for more details. [City of Falls Church]

McLean Powerball Player Wins $2 Million — “The Virginia lottery player in McLean won $2 million by matching the first five numbers and only missing the Powerball number in the Jan. 13 drawing.” [Patch]

McLean Community Center Seeks Governing Board Candidates — MCC is looking for district residents to serve on its 2021-2022 governing board, which sets policy, approves budgets, and oversees the community center’s programs. Both adult and youth candidates must obtain 10 signatures and return their petition to MCC by 5 p.m. on Mar. 12. [McLean Community Center]

Staff photo by Angela Woolsey

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The woman who died from injuries sustained in a two-vehicle crash on Leesburg Pike on Sunday (Dec. 6) was Holly Kuga, a 72-year-old resident of Great Falls, the Fairfax County Police Department reported this afternoon (Tuesday).

According to Fairfax County police, the fatal crash occurred around 11 a.m. at the intersection of Leesburg Pike and Towlston Road in Vienna, when Kuga attempted to turn left from southbound Towlston onto Leesburg Pike.

The driver of a 2017 GMC Sierra who was traveling west on Leesburg crashed into Kuga’s 2012 Honda Accord as she was going through the intersection.

Kuga was transported to a hospital, where she succumbed to her injuries.

“Detectives are continuing to investigate whether speed, alcohol or drugs were factors in the crash,” the FCPD said. “Charges are pending further investigation.”

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Monday Morning Notes

Fairfax County Park Authority Director Announces Retirement Plans — “The executive director of the Fairfax County Park Authority in Virginia announced his plans to retire in February 2021 on Friday. Kirk Kincannon has served with the FCPA since 2014, and did a 10-year stint with the agency earlier in his career.” [WTOP]

Westbound Route 7 Roadwork Prompts Lane Shift — “Beginning on or about Monday, Dec. 7, drivers on westbound Route 7 will experience a lane shift to the north (away from the median) between Jarrett Valley Drive and Lewinsville Road as crews continue to build the improvements along Route 7 that will add a third lane and shared-use paths in each direction.” [Virginia Department of Transportation]

Tysons Annual Report Shows Mixed Results on Housing — “The 2020 report provides some important updates on housing construction in Tysons, and it also provides an opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of the plan’s income-restricted housing requirements.” [Greater Greater Washington]

Staff Photo by Jay Westcott

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Updated at 9:30 a.m. on 12/7/2020 — An adult woman involved in yesterday’s vehicle crash on Leesburg Pike died in the hospital, Fairfax County police reported.

Leesburg Pike reopened around 1:50 p.m. yesterday (Sunday). The crash remains under investigation.

Earlier: Leesburg Pike is currently closed in both directions around Towlston Road in Vienna due to a crash involving two vehicles.

One person has been taken to the hospital with serious injuries, according to the Fairfax County Police Department, which is investigating the incident.

“Please use an alternate route,” police said Sunday morning.

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