Expanded SACC Program Returns in August — “As students prepare to get back to class in the fall, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Jeffrey McKay and Fairfax County School Board Chair Stella Pekarsky held a press conference to announce that SACC will be providing before and after school services in 142 locations this year, including two new centers located at Clearview Elementary and McNair Upper Elementary.” [WUSA9]
Metro Pushes Vote on Arrest Ban to September — “Metro’s board on Thursday postponed a vote on a plan that would let transit police ban someone arrested on suspicion of a sex crime or an offense involving a dangerous weapon. The delay came after civil liberties groups and activists voiced opposition to the measure and asked the transit agency to reconsider.” [The Washington Post]
Merrifield Business Association President Lauded — “Fairfax County supervisors on July 27 honored former Greater Merrifield Business Association (GMBA) president Billy Thompson for his decades of community service. Thompson joined GMBA in 1995 and served as its president for seven years. Supervisors credited him with providing support and mentorship to many business owners in Merrifield and Fairfax.” [Sun Gazette]
Vienna to Bring Back Church Street Block Parties — “The Town of Vienna will host the Chillin’ on Church block parties along historic Church Street near the Town Green on Aug. 20 and Sept. 17. The events will run from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. with food, beer and wine, and entertainment. Admission is free.” [Patch]
Metro Extends Service Hours This Weekend — Starting Sunday (July 18), Metro will provide rail service until midnight for the first time since operating hours were reduced at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The transit agency approved a package of fare reductions and service improvements in June aimed at attracting riders as more offices are set to reopen in the fall. [The Washington Post]
Freedom Hill Park to Recognize Historic Carter Family — As part of an interpretive history project, the Fairfax County Park Authority is inviting the public to a traditional land ceremony and sign dedication at Freedom Hill Park in Vienna on July 31. The new signs will tell the story of the multiracial Carter family, whose accomplishments include establishing the First Baptist Church of Vienna and possibly spying for the Union during the Civil War. [FCPA]
Fairfax County School Board Elects New Chair — The school board unanimously approved Sully District representative Stella Pekarsky as its new chair for the 2021-2022 school year. Board members thanked Mason District representative Ricardy Anderson for her time as chair amid the pandemic and noted she will get some much-deserved time with her family. [FCPS]
Food Trucks Stop by Providence Community Center — “Come by the Providence Community Center tomorrow [July 16] from 11am to 1:30pm for some freshly made empanadas by @empanadasdemza! This will make for a great snack over the weekend so make sure you grab some extra to share with your friends and families!” [Supervisor Dalia Palchik/Twitter]
Former Mosby Woods ES Cements New Moniker — The Fairfax school formerly known as Mosby Woods Elementary School officially became Mosaic Elementary School yesterday (Thursday), unveiling a new logo and website. The Fairfax County School Board approved the new name in February to replace Confederate Colonel John S. Mosby as the school’s namesake. [Mosaic ES/Twitter]
Metro Police Didn’t Investigate Thousands of Crime Reports — “Metro police didn’t follow through with more than 3,000 complaints filed between 2010 and 2017, the report from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Office of Inspector General says. They included a variety of felony and misdemeanor offenses such as armed robberies, sexual offenses, kidnappings, assaults and other crimes.” [NBC4]
County Rec Centers Introduce “Pay-As-You-Go” Option — Rec Center users can now pay on a month-to-month basis for membership to the nine facilities, including the Providence center in Falls Church and Spring Hill center in McLean. The Park Authority says this has been a longstanding request from customers, especially younger people on a tighter budget. [Fairfax County Park Authority]
Vehicle Thefts on the Rise, Vienna Police Warn — Northern Virginia has seen increased vehicle tampering incidents and thefts, in some cases involving suspects entering unlocked homes or opening garage doors to steal property and car keys. The Vienna Police Department advises residents to “stay vigilant” and lock all doors and garages. [Vienna Police/Twitter]
Metro Starts Testing New Faregates — As of Friday (June 25), Metro has installed new faregates at six rail stations, including the ones at Dunn Loring and West Falls Church, as part of a one-month pilot that will eventually see more than 1,200 gates replaced systemwide. The new faregates have “enhanced safety features, larger displays, and faster processing that will make passing through the gates quicker and easier.” [WMATA]
Telecom Company Settles Kickback Lawsuit — Level 3 Communications, a telecommunications and Internet service provider company with offices worldwide, including one in McLean, will pay a $12.7 million settlement in a civil lawsuit alleging that its managers accepted kickbacks to direct government contracts to specific contractors. [Patch]
Madison Wins Baseball State Championship — James Madison High School’s baseball team won the fifth state title in school history, the most for any Northern Virginia school, on Saturday (June 26) behind a dominant performance by senior James Triantos, who pitched a complete game with 12 strikeouts and gave up just one hit and one earned run to the Colgan Sharks. [WDVM]
Vienna Seeks Playwrights for Festival — “The Town of Vienna is calling all Actors and Playwrights ages 16+ in the DMV! The Vienna Playwriting Festival is looking for 6 actors and 6 short plays. Please email [email protected] for details. Submission deadline is June 30.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]
Metro to Phase Out Diesel Buses — The Metro Board of Directors approved a plan yesterday (Thursday) to phase out buses powered by diesel and natural gas over the next two decades with the goal of having a zero-emissions fleet by 2045. The transit agency will start adding electric buses in 2023 and cease purchases of emission-producing buses by 2030, a timeline that critics argued is too slow. [The Washington Post]
Approval of West Falls Church Plan Anticipated — “The Fairfax County Planning Commission, at its scheduled meeting next week, is expected to endorse the proposed amendment to the county’s comprehensive plan that will open up the potential for a large-scale coordinated development of WMATA’s West Falls Church Metro station property and adjacent property occupied by Virginia Tech.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Mosaic District to Open Rollerskating Rink — The Mosaic District in Merrifield will hold a grand opening celebration for its new Skateland rink from 5:30 to 10 p.m. tomorrow (Saturday). The disco-themed event will feature live music from the band Groovalicious and support Pride Month with 50% of ticket sales going to FCPS Pride. [EDENS]
Madison Baseball Vies for State Title — James Madison High School’s baseball team is set to compete in the 2021 Virginia High School League Class 6 state tournament tomorrow after defeating Lake Braddock 6-0 on Tuesday (June 22). If the Warhawks win, it would be the program’s first state championship since 2015 and its fourth ever. [Sun Gazette]
Metro service changes announced last week — including increased services, late night hours, and reduced fares — are being praised by many in the community.
On Thursday (June 10), the Metro Board approved a host of improvements with the intention of luring back riders after more than a year of reduced services and free-falling ridership.
The changes include more frequent service during both peak and non-peak times, extending operating hours until 1 a.m. on weekends, a flat $2 weekend rate, and free transfers between bus and rail.
The changes will take effect starting Labor Day weekend, the traditional end of the summer.
“These are all very positive changes,” Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn told Reston Now. “The only thing that made these service improvements possible is the money from our federal partners. Because Congress stepped up and delivered, we’re able to make these service improvements and, frankly, do what needs to be done to help build back ridership.”
Metro received nearly $723 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds, including $193 million from the American Rescue Plan enacted in March. These funds not only prevented severe cuts, but allowed Metro to increase services while cutting fares.
Local labor unions are also pleased with the changes, including ATU Local 689, which represents more than 10,000 regional transit workers and said it “strongly supports” the service increases.
“We know that public transit is a safe and effective way for riders to get where they need to go, but we have to do the work to rebuild rider confidence,” ATU Local 689 President Raymond Jackson wrote in an email to Reston Now. “The first step to this is making sure that passengers know there will always be a bus or train there for them when they need it. That requires full service. We’re proud that WMATA took this step.”
Alcorn says that, during the pandemic, cuts to service were a “significant hardship” for those who couldn’t work from home, like hospitality workers, who often need rail and bus service at different times than those in other industries.
“We realized that, in the middle of the pandemic, that there’s still a lot of folks that depend on transit to get to work and to do what they need to do to get around,” Alcorn said.
John Boardman is executive secretary and treasurer for Local 25, a union that represents about 7,000 people who work in hotels, casinos, and restaurants in the D.C. metro region. He says expanding services is inherently beneficial to their members.
“Our jobs are not 9 to 5 jobs. They start early in the morning and can go late into night,” Boardman said. “More transportation and longer hours helps our workforce. Reliable transportation is one of the issues that affects people’s ability to get back to work.”
Increased service and fare cuts will also greatly benefit those most vulnerable in the community, such as the clients the D.C. Reentry Action Network, a regional organization that assists people being released from prison.
“Any reduction in the cost of transportation would contribute greatly to reducing the already tremendous hurdles one faces when returning home,” founder Paula Thompson told The Washington Post.
Metro admits it could still take years for ridership to return to pre-pandemic levels. A graph presented at the transit agency’s June 10 board of directors meeting estimates that even by the end of 2024, ridership may still be off by as much as 25% from late 2019 levels.
But it’s hoped that these changes could at least spur gradual growth. Read More
Bus riders in McLean and Falls Church can expect an increase in service next month, as Fairfax Connector prepares to take over multiple Metrobus routes, including four that had ceased operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Starting on July 10, the Fairfax County bus system will assume control of five routes from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Some changes to existing Fairfax Connector routes, including two that connect the Tysons Corner and Dunn Loring Metro stations, will also take effect.
“Fairfax Connector will restore and provide enhanced service on these routes serving key areas in Fairfax County with connections to the McLean, East Falls Church, West Falls Church, and the Pentagon Metrorail Stations,” the Fairfax County Department of Transportation said in a news release yesterday (Wednesday).
FCDOT says the former Metrobus routes serve approximately 69,000 residents and provide access to more than 36,000 jobs in the county.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the new routes and the changes to existing routes on March 23.
Here are the routes that Fairfax Connector is taking over from WMATA, according to the county:
Route 703: Pimmit Hills – West Falls Church (replaces Metrobus Route 3T)
- Provides weekday and Saturday service, linking Pimmit Hills and Tysons to the McLean and West Falls Church Metrorail Stations.
- Operates every 30 minutes during weekday rush hours, and every 60 minutes during weekday non-rush hours and on Saturdays.
Route 715: East Falls Church – Dolly Madison (replaces Metrobus Route 15K)
- Provides weekday rush hour service every 30 minutes with improved connectivity linking McLean, Salona Village and Chesterbrook Gardens to the East Falls Church Metrorail Station.
Route 803: Annandale Road – East Falls Church (replaces Metrobus Route 3A)
- Provides weekday and Saturday service, linking Lake Barcroft, Annandale, and North Springfield to the East Falls Church Metrorail Station.
- Operates every 30 minutes during weekday rush hours; every 40 to 60 minutes during weekday non-rush hours; and every 45 minutes on weekends.
Route 834: Pentagon – Northern Virginia Community College’s Annandale Campus Route (replaces Metrobus Route 29C)
- Provides weekday rush hour service every 30 minutes linking the Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale and Lincolnia to the Pentagon Metrorail Station.
- Express service – $4.25.
Route 835: Braeburn Drive – Pentagon – Route 835 (replaces Metrobus Route 29W)
- Provides weekday rush hour service every 30 minutes linking the Northern Virginia Community College and Willow Woods communities to the Pentagon Metrorail Station.
- Express service – $4.25.
Service on all of those routes had been discontinued due to the pandemic, except for Metrobus Route 3A, which saw a reduced service levels.
Effective July 10, Fairfax Connector will also make a “minor operational adjustment” on Route 462 that it says will improve connectivity between the Tysons and Dunn Loring Metro stations, while increasing access along Maple Avenue in Vienna. Buses will run every 30 minutes during weekdays and weekends on that route.
In addition, Route 467, which also links the Tysons and Dunn Loring Metro stations, will start operating every 40 minutes throughout the week with the addition of Sunday service.
The route has been realigned to serve Maple Avenue, as well as Old Courthouse Road to Gallows Road, after a newly reconstructed Cedar Lane Bridge over I-66 opened to traffic in December.
Photo via Fairfax Connector/Facebook
Memorial Day is just around the corner on Monday (May 31), and the federal holiday will bring a few closures of public buildings in the Tysons area.
Fairfax County Government:
- County government offices will be closed on May 31.
Fairfax County Courts:
- The Fairfax Circuit, General District, and Juvenile and Domestic Relations District courts will be closed all day on May 31.
Town of Vienna
- Town offices will be closed all day.
- The Vienna Community Center hours will change to 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on May 31.
- The holiday will not affect waste collection. Residents scheduled for pick-up on Mondays can place their waste by the curb as normal.
City of Falls Church:
- All city offices and services, including City Hall, the Mary Riley Styles Public Library, and the Community Center will be closed.
- Fairfax County Public Schools will be closed for Memorial Day.
County Libraries, Recreation Centers, Parks:
- All Fairfax County library branches will be closed.
- All Fairfax County RECenters will operate at their regular hours.
- Colvin Run Mill and Sully Historic Site grounds will be open from noon to 4 p.m. for strolling, but all the buildings will be closed.
- The E.C. Lawrence, Hidden Oaks, Hidden Pond, and Huntley Meadows nature centers will be open from noon until 5 p.m. on May 31.
- The Riverbend Park visitor center will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- The McLean Community Center will be closed for Memorial Day.
- Fairfax Connector buses will operate on a Sunday service schedule. Check the link for details on specific routes.
- WMATA Metrorail service will operate from 7 a.m.-11 p.m. on Saturday and from 8 a.m.-11 p.m. on Sunday and Monday.
- WMATA Metrobus will operate on a Sunday service schedule.
County Trash and Recycling:
The arduous journey toward a re-imagined West Falls Church Transit Station Area is drawing to a close with the last two approvals slated for this summer.
“I want to thank the entire team for two-and-a-half years of dedicated work on behalf of the Dranesville district,” Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said during a community meeting on Tuesday (May 11). “This has been a long, difficult process, and as a consequence, the product is much better. The time was well spent. The product is good — and getting better — and we still have some time.”
The development plan will go before the Fairfax County Planning Commission on June 16 and the Board of Supervisors on July 13. The plan was narrowly approved by a task force that voted 5-3-1 earlier this month.
When the proposed plan was presented to the community for the first time on Tuesday, however, some residents expressed concerns about traffic along Haycock Road, pedestrian safety, and distance from Virginia Tech’s property.
“I’m not anti-development, but I’m really concerned,” one attendee said. “I’ve been trying to get our streets to be safer as they’re crowded with cars.”
Predicting that the new I-66 exit ramp will pour traffic into the new community, she asked staff to find a way to make it inconvenient to “pop out onto Haycock Road” for those looking to get to Tysons, DC or Arlington “as fast as possible.”
“I know every area is screaming for sidewalks, but one thing you could do is paint the speed limit or look at other creative, inexpensive ways that communities have found to reduce the speed and the number of cut-thru cars, and make better buffers and calming measures for people who live here, pay taxes and are part of the community,” she said.
The draft plan includes language directing the county to develop a West Falls Church Active Transportation Plan with recommendations for transportation improvements that will increase connectivity, fill in missing or inadequate facilities, and promote walking and bicycling.
“County staff are working on this,” county transportation planner Tim Kutz said. “A follow-up motion will be approved after the plan amendment goes forward and we’ll be reaching out in the fall to continue engaging with you. Getting your perspective is going to be critical in developing recommendations to increase active transportation in the area.”
The plan includes mitigation measures for what people perceive as “bad traffic,” with signal timing, new signals and reconfigured intersections, county planner Bryan Botello said.
Residents worried there was little to ensure the local government implements those changes, but staff said these changes will happen when developers come into the picture.
“The improvements approved are recommendations that would happen when the development team is actually going to the rezoning and development review stage,” senior transportation planner Bob Pikora said. “The comprehensive plan informs what we will be doing in the zoning and review phases, but the developments will be up to the development team.”
More landscaped buffers and green spaces have been added to the plan, according to staff.
New plans have not materialized for the Virginia Tech property after the university nixed a project to expand its Northern Virginia Center with a design school and other facilities. But some task force members were keen to get a buffer between the campus and nearby housing.
“We’ve added an additional landscaped buffer between Virginia Tech and the Villages condominium, and added additional language that strengthens the buffer, and creates a linear park,” Botello said.
Housing will be separated from Virginia Tech by landscaped buffers, a pedestrian walkway, a road and streetscaping, according to the plan.
The new plan envisions a sequence of parks through the area instead of the courtyard featured in the current comprehensive plan.
“There are really a lack of options for accessible parks south of I-66, so it was certainly a priority for us when we were drafting the plan,” Botello said, noting that the park areas shown below could take the form of pocket parks, urban greens, or a civic plaza.
A recreational park is envisioned at the northeast corner of the study area, at the corner of Haycock Road and Metro Access Road.
Images via Fairfax County
Virginia to Lift All Capacity Restrictions on June 15 — If COVID-19 cases continue to decline, Gov. Ralph Northam will lift all remaining capacity limits on businesses on June 15, as suggested last week. He has not decided whether to extend the state of emergency set to expire on June 30, a move that would be necessary to keep mask requirements in place. [WTOP]
Metro Will Expand Bus Service in June — Starting June 6, Metrobus will provide late-night service until 2 a.m. on 36 of its busiest routes, and some other routes will have service increased, in some cases to pre-pandemic levels. The changes will bring the overall bus system to 85% of its pre-pandemic service levels after Metrobus averaged about 180,000 passenger trips per day on weekdays in April. [WMATA]
Citizen Catches Rabid Cat in Falls Church — Falls Church City is urging residents to contact the police or Fairfax County Health Department if they’ve been bitten or scratched by a cat in the past two weeks after a stray gray-and-white domestic long-haired cat tested positive for rabies. The cat was first spotted “in the 100 block of Gresham Place on May 2 and again in the 100 block of W. Jefferson Street on May 3 where it injured a citizen who was able to capture it.” [City of Falls Church]
Reminder: Wolf Trap Tickets Go on Sale Today — Tickets for Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts’ initial batch of summer performances will be on sale starting at 10 a.m. Highlighted by a 50th anniversary gala concert, these will be the first live, in-person events at the venue since December 2019. [Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts]
New Mural Coming to The Boro — Work has begun on a mural by Baltimore artists Jessie and Katy that will grace the Leesburg Pike side of The Loft, an office building in the Tysons mixed-use development. Expected to be completed later this spring, the mural will be among the largest in the D.C. area at 400 feet long and 80 feet high. [The Boro/press release]
Falls Church Dentist Moves to Larger Location — “Congratulations to Dr. Ramineh Kangarloo and the team at Gentle Touch Dentistry For All Ages for expanding to a larger location in the Providence District! Thank you for serving the community and finding ways to give back.” [Supervisor Dalia Palchik/Twitter]
Photo by Joanne Liebig