Newsletter

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation has extended the Oct. 18 deadline for its community survey on proposed changes to bus service in Centreville, Chantilly, Vienna, Tysons, and neighboring areas, including McLean and Falls Church.

The online survey, which is available in English and Spanish, will now be open until next Wednesday (Oct. 27).

Unveiled at virtual public meetings on Sept. 30 and Oct. 7, the preferred plan will enable Fairfax Connector to serve more people, reduce travel times, maintain more reliable schedules, and provide more access to key destinations in the area, according to FCDOT.

“We encourage people to take the survey so they can tell us what is most important to them in the preferred bus plan for the Centreville, Chantilly, Vienna and Tysons areas,” FCDOT Transit Planning Chief Michael Felschow said. “The service belongs to our riders and our goal is to make it dependable, convenient and on-time.”

Fairfax Connector launched its review last year as part of a broader effort to identify service improvements that could be made throughout the transit system. So far, the evaluation has also included looks at the Franconia-Springfield area as well as Reston and Herndon.

County officials initially presented three possible plans: one similar to existing service patterns, one that completely overhauled the service area, and a hybrid. The preferred plan now under consideration is the product of revisions based on community feedback.

The proposed plan encompasses 24 bus routes, including several involving the Tysons area:

  • Route 427 (North Tysons-Spring Hill): A new route between the Spring Hill Metro station and the McLean Governmental Center area, via Jones Branch Drive and Spring Hill Road
  • Route 468 (Vienna-Reston): A new route between the Vienna and future Reston Town Center Metro stations, via Lawyers and Soapstone roads
  • Route 660 (Centreville-Tysons): New, direct express service between the Centreville Park & Ride on Stone Road and the Tysons Metro station, via the Vienna station and I-495 Express Lanes
  • Route 662 (Centreville-Vienna): New off-peak and weekend service between the Centreville Park & Ride and the Vienna Metro station, via I-66
  • Route 671 (Chantilly-Vienna): New off-peak and weekend service with limited stops between Chantilly and the Vienna Metro station, via Route 50
  • Route 722 (McLean-Langley): A new express route between the McLean Metro station and Langley, via Route 123/Dolley Madison Boulevard

Some existing routes in the plan will have better connectivity or more frequent service, such as Route 467 between Dunn Loring and Tysons and Route 461, which travels in a loop through Vienna and Oakton.

A full breakdown of the routes and service maps can be found on FCDOT’s website.

Fairfax Connector is also studying a “flex service concept area” in Vienna and McLean northwest of Route 123 “as a way to provide future on-demand service to and from the four Metro Stations within Tysons,” according to a map showing the preferred plan’s peak service routes.

According to FCDOT, the preferred plan will shave about a minute off the average travel time within the review area compared to its existing Connector service. It will also put an additional 2,700 people within a quarter-mile of the bus system.

The changes will provide more service to population and job centers as well as minority communities and households with an income at or below $50,000, according to the county.

Along with filling out the online survey, community members can also provide input by phone (703-877-5600), email ([email protected]), and mail (Fairfax County Department of Transportation, 4050 Legato Road, Suite 400, Fairfax, VA 22033).

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Updated at 12:15 p.m.The crash site has been cleared, and all travel lanes on George Washington Memorial Parkway are now open with no delays reported as of noon, according to Metropolitan Area Transportation Operations Coordination.

Earlier: A driver was killed in the crash that shut down southbound George Washington Memorial Parkway in McLean this morning (Friday), the U.S. Park Police says.

Park Police officers responded to the one-car crash on the parkway near the entrance to the CIA headquarters at approximately 5:18 a.m. The driver, who was the vehicle’s sole occupant, was pronounced dead at the scene.

“This incident is currently under investigation,” a U.S. Park Police spokesperson said. “Additional information will be provided as it becomes available.”

Traffic closures remain in effect at the I-495 ramps to southbound George Washington Parkway and Turkey Run, according to police.

Metropolitan Area Transportation Operations Coordination reported at 5:51 a.m. that all southbound lanes on the parkway were blocked between the Capital Beltway and Route 123, slowing traffic to a crawl.

A traffic camera at the I-495 interchange shows congestion on southbound George Washington Parkway after crash (via VDOT)

Ramps from the Inner and Outer Beltway Loops to George Washington Parkway were also closed, the Virginia Department of Transportation said.

https://twitter.com/VaDOTNOVA/status/1451512631483895818

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The proposed Lincoln Street extension will connect Old Meadow and Magarity roads in Tysons East (via Fairfax County Department of Transportation)

(Updated at 9 a.m. on 10/20/2021) Fairfax County is currently developing an initial design for a new street envisioned as an alternative route into McLean from Tysons East that bypasses Route 123.

The Lincoln Street extension will connect Old Meadow Road with Magarity Road just east of the Dolley Madison Boulevard and I-495 interchange, crossing Scott’s Run Trail and cutting past Westgate Park and Westgate Elementary School.

Part of a larger grid of streets planned to accommodate the development expected to come to Tysons, the extension will help alleviate traffic congestion on Route 123 and give residents new access to neighborhood sites, such as the park and elementary school, as well as the McLean area, according to Fairfax County Department of Transportation Capital Projects Section Chief Michael Guarino.

“That provides a benefit to commuters by just relieving some pressure on those main thoroughfares and allows trips within Tysons to not always need to get on the main road that tends to have very heavy volume, especially during rush hour,” Guarino told Tysons Reporter.

The Lincoln Street project has been underway since at least 2019, when the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved $7 million to fund preliminary engineering work and a feasibility study.

Guarino confirmed that FCDOT has completed the feasibility study and is now updating a preliminary design in preparation for the first public meeting, which the project website says was previously expected to take place in the fall of 2020 but is now scheduled for January 2022.

While the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t directly contribute to the delay, county staff have been using the past year to coordinate with the Virginia Department of Transportation, which will ultimately own and maintain the new road.

Staff also revised the design to enhance the proposed bicycle and pedestrian amenities, Guarino says.

Improvements planned in the project include:

  • Traffic signals at both the Old Meadow Road and Magarity Road intersections
  • A 10-foot-wide asphalt, shared-use walkway on the northeast side of Lincoln Street
  • A 6-foot-wide sidewalk on the south side of Lincoln Street
  • Walkways along Magarity Road, which will connect to the Lincoln Street walkways
  • A bridge over Scotts Run stream

According to Guarino, the design fits into Fairfax County’s “multi-modal” vision for the Tysons street grid, meaning it accommodates pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit, not just cars.

“We have design standards in place in Tysons that do give less weight to vehicular delays than we do in other parts of the county or statewide,” he said. “That’s to balance the needs for the other modes of transportation for a more urban environment.”

Guarino says he hasn’t heard any concerns yet about the new street contributing to cut-through traffic in the residential neighborhoods between Old Meadow and Magarity, though he acknowledged they could crop up at the upcoming public meeting.

The goal of the Tysons street grid is to address those issues by dispersing traffic throughout the area instead of concentrating it on just a handful of streets, which sends drivers looking to avoid the resulting congestion onto neighborhood roads, he explains.

“If you’ve got your major roads like Route 123 that are consistently getting backed up, that does tend to create a lot of cut-through traffic from other roads,” Guarino said. “So, if we can fill out the network, it distributes traffic…Lincoln Street itself won’t be cutting through the neighborhoods, but kind of connecting the neighborhoods, so I’m hoping it will be a benefit.”

The Lincoln Street project carries a total estimated cost of $39.9 million, according to county staff.

The Board of Supervisors voted on Sept. 14 to request $6.8 million from the Virginia Department of Transportation’s fiscal years 2027 and 2028 revenue-sharing program, which gives localities matching funds for highway construction, improvement, and maintenance projects.

The final design and right-of-way acquisition processes are expected to begin after the public meeting in January, with construction currently projected to start in late 2023 or early 2024.

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Updated at 4:50 p.m. — The gas leak at Dolley Madison Library has stopped, and all Fairfax County Fire and Rescue units have returned to service, the department has reported.

Washington Gas said in a statement that it discovered a gas line had been damaged by a contractor, but the company was able to stop the flow of gas around 3:30 p.m., and it’s now working to repair the line. There has been no impact to customers other than the library, and service will be restored there after repairs are complete.

Earlier: Dolley Madison Library and the McLean Community Center have been evacuated due to a gas leak at the library, the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department says.

Both facilities have been closed, as has a stretch of Ingleside Avenue by Oak Ridge Avenue.

Fire department units are currently on the scene at 1244 Oak Ridge Avenue in McLean. The department says a gas pipeline was struck by workers, but so far, the identity of the workers and the project they were involved with is unclear.

In a 2:33 p.m. update, FCFRD shared that the line is 2 inches in size, and the leak had been stabilized with no injuries reported. Washington Gas has arrived at the scene and is currently working to stop the leak.

MCC says the Old Firehouse Center will still be open for its after school program.

Traffic on Ingleside Avenue by Oak Ridge is being diverted.

David Taube contributed to this report.

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Morning Notes

Drop in Domestic Violence Cases Could Be Misleading — “Fairfax County Police data obtained by WTOP showed domestic violence decreased by roughly 190 cases each year since 2019. However, Saly Fayez, who oversees its victim services division, said it’s likely because the crime is underreported…Fayez said the pandemic kept victims from reporting, skewed the data, and gave abusers another tool of control.” [WTOP]

Fish Die-Off Reported in Chantilly Area — “We have received reports of a fish die-off in Rocky Run in the Greenbriar area. Fairfax County Stormwater Management the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, which investigates such incidents, have been notified. Our thanks to those who have reported the issue to us.” [Fairfax County Park Authority/Twitter]

MCA Wants to Keep McLean Together With Redistricting — “The Greater McLean area should be kept intact when new Fairfax County magisterial districts are redrawn, according to a Sept. 18 letter from the McLean Citizens Association to the 2021 Fairfax County Redistricting Advisory Committee…MCA’s membership area includes not only McLean, but also portions of Tysons, Falls Church and Great Falls.” [Sun Gazette]

Health Department Launches Literacy Initiative — “The Fairfax County Health Department has begun a new initiative to improve health literacy among local African-American, African and Hispanic communities. Named ‘Stronger Partnership, Stronger Community: Using Health Literacy to Increase Resilience (Stronger2),’ the program seeks to improve health outcomes by cultivating an individual’s ability to find, understand and use health information and services in a manner that is culturally and linguistically appropriate.” [FCHD]

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a pair of agreements yesterday (Tuesday) that will send $1 million in I-66 toll revenues to Metro for the planned project to build a second entrance at its McLean station.

“I’m looking forward to this improvement,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said just before the unanimous vote. She also thanked county transportation staff for their work.

The funds will be awarded by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission as part of its I-66 Commuter Choice program, which launched in 2017 to allocate a dedicated portion of I-66 Express Lanes revenue to transit and capital improvement projects in the corridor.

NVTC included the McLean Metrorail station entrance project in the most recent round of Commuter Choice funding, which spanned July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021 and was approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board on Dec. 10.

The new entrance will be located on Scotts Crossing Road in anticipation of increased activity north of the station from the burgeoning Capital One Center mixed-use development, according to a project description in yesterday’s board package.

“With up to 2,000 prospective residents moving into the redeveloping area north of the current station, this project will create a shorter, more convenient walk to the Metro and increase its visibility,” the document says.

Ridership at the McLean Metro station had been on the rise prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which decimated ridership levels and revenue across the board last year to the point where the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority considered shuttering 19 stations, including McLean.

As of August, weekday train ridership was still only at 26% of pre-pandemic levels, though usage of both rail and bus services has been increasing since February. WMATA’s estimate of 230,000 train riders for Oct. 1 was the highest of the year so far.

WMATA will be responsible for constructing the new McLean station entrance, which carries a total budget of $1.3 million. The actual costs could change once the procurement and contractor selection process begins, according to WMATA spokesperson Sherri Ly.

Capital One contributed $300,000 to the project, which was part of a proffer agreement with Fairfax County for its headquarters campus redevelopment. That money includes $100,000 for preliminary engineering and $200,000 for construction costs, according to county documents.

In order for NVTC to transfer the $1 million in Commuter Choice funds, Fairfax County had to sign off on separate project agreements with NVTC and WMATA that set the conditions tied to the money, including requirements that Metro provide regular status updates to the county and notify county staff of any potential cost overruns.

Ly says the agency’s board of directors is scheduled to vote on whether to approve its project agreement with the county when it meets on Oct. 28.

“Under the proposed agreement, Metro would build the entrance which is funded by Fairfax County,” Ly said. “The design work for the entrance is already done and construction would begin once funding and permitting is complete and a contractor selected through the procurement process.”

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A new website called McLean Today launched last week with the ambitious aim of being a one-stop shop for all things related to events, activities, and shopping around McLean.

The website is a Voltron-like collaboration of several local groups: the McLean Citizens Association, the McLean Chamber of Commerce, the McLean Community Center, the McLean Revitalization Corporation, the McLean Planning Committee, and the McLean Project for the Arts.

“McLean residents and visitors looking for dinner, a local activity, a special gift or a hard-to-find item will find their search simplified by using the recently released McLean Today website,” a press release from the site said. “McLean Today, the collaborative effort of several local community organizations, is a new one-stop site to find many of the activities, events, goods and services that are close to home.”

The site’s lead organizer is local resident Kim Dorgan, who is also on the board of directors for the McLean Revitalization Corporation.

“McLean Today is your go-to source for the latest information on the activities and events, goods and services offered here in our hometown,” Dorgan said in the press release. “There is so much great information out there about what McLean has to offer, but there has been no central source to find what is offered day-in and day-out. With McLean Today, you can find what you need close to home in one place with a single search.”

The site has a selection of local dining options categorized by type. According to the press release, there are over 40 food and drink outlets listed on the site, as well as 100 businesses within walking distance or a “short drive” from McLean.

The McLean Today website launches even as Fairfax County works to do more on a planning and policy level to revitalize McLean’s downtown. The press release also notes that the impact of COVID-19 on local businesses played a role in inspiring the website’s creation.

“The aim of McLean Today is to provide a list of activities and events in one place that have community-wide impact and are of interest to the general public,” Dorgan said. “While its primary focus is the economic center of McLean in the downtown corridor, it will include activities and events throughout all of greater McLean.”

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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

Two Injured in Fire at CIA HQ — Two CIA employees were transported to a hospital for possible smoke inhalation after a fire broke out at the agency’s headquarters in McLean on Saturday (Oct. 2). The “small building fire” was extinguished by sprinklers around 12:30 a.m., according to the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, and the cause hasn’t been determined. [WTOP]

Parents Protest Outside McAuliffe Campaign Office — Fairfax County police responded to a protest of about 20 people outside Terry McAuliffe’s campaign office on Jones Branch Drive in McLean on Friday (Oct. 1). A passerby told Tysons Reporter that the parents, who police said “were peacefully demonstrating,” were “incensed” by the Democratic gubernatorial nominee saying in a recent debate that he doesn’t think “parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

Founders Row Welcomes First Residents — “After a decade since the project was first proposed, the first 20 residents began moving in this Monday [Sept. 27] to the massive 4.3 acre Founders Row development project at the intersection of W. Broad and N. West Street in the City of Falls Church.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Tysons Corner Bloomingdale’s Burgled — “COMMERICAL BURGLARY: 8100 Tysons Corner Center (Bloomingdales), 9/27/21, 4:40 a.m. Someone forced entry into the business and took property.” [Fairfax County Police Department]

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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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