Metro will maintain its current rail and bus service levels under a proposed Fiscal Year 2022 budget that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board of directors’ finance committee approved yesterday (Thursday).
Since February, Metrorail has been operating at 80% of its service levels prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which prompted a nearly 90% drop in ridership. Metrobus has been operating at 85% of its pre-pandemic service levels after seeing a less pronounced decrease in ridership.
The $4.7 billion operating and capital budget proposed for FY 2022 is being supported by $722.9 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding, including $193.4 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) that Congress enacted in March.
Those funds have enabled WMATA to avoid making the significant service and personnel cuts that had been on the table even after the passage of the second coronavirus relief bill in December. Among the possible cuts was the closure of 19 Metro stations, including the McLean and Greensboro stations.
Tysons Partnership, the nonprofit group that has been overseeing the implementation of Fairfax County’s vision for Tysons, welcomed the news that those potential cuts have been averted.
“After a very uncertain time, we are pleased the federal government provided ample funding for WMATA to cover operating costs for the near future and that Tysons Metro stations will remain open,” Tysons Partnership President and CEO Sol Glasner said. “Now, we and the region need to focus efforts on returning to riding Metro as economic recovery efforts get underway and more retail and hospitality businesses return to normal operations.”
However, the proposed budget will delay funding for service on the long-anticipated second phase of the Silver Line, which expands the transit system from Reston into Loudoun County.
Previously scheduled to open this fall, Silver Line Phase 2 will now begin operations in January 2022 at the earliest as the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority works to resolve ongoing construction issues. MWAA said in March that it will be ready to hand over the project to Metro by Labor Day.
“We are preparing to welcome back customers as part of a return to normalcy, and welcome new customers who have long awaited the convenience of the Silver Line and new stations serving their communities and workplaces,” Metro General Manager and CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld said. “I am especially looking forward to beginning rail service to Dulles Airport as people resume travel to and from the nation’s capital as one of the great destinations in this country.”
Metro’s proposed FY 2022 budget also includes the transfer of five bus routes to Fairfax Connector, which will assume operations of the routes in July in conjunction with a host of other service changes concentrated around Tysons, McLean, and Falls Church.
WMATA says it received more than 22,400 responses during the public comment period on the FY 2022 budget, which lasted from Feb. 20 to March 16. That is the most comments the transit agency has gotten on a budget proposal in the past 10 years.
WMATA’s board of directors is scheduled to give final approval to the proposed FY 2022 budget on April 22. The fiscal year will begin on July 1 and last until June 30, 2022.
Marshall High School Principal Addresses Racial Slur Allegations — In a letter sent to families yesterday (March 17), Principal Augie Frattali acknowledged reports that Marshall students spat and shouted racial slurs during a football game against Wakefield High School on March 5. The full letter, provided to Tysons Reporter by Fairfax County Public Schools, is below.
Dear Marshall Community,
As many of you are aware, there are serious allegations that have been made involving some students within our the Marshall HS Community regarding an incident at a recent football game. These have been shared widely on social media and are very hurtful to all individuals involved.
Please know that we have taken this situation very seriously and are in direct contact with Fairfax County Public School’s Region 2 office and the Office of Equity and Employee Relations.
We have done an intensive investigation into this situation and appropriate actions were taken against individuals by the Virginia High School League from both schools. I also worked collaboratively with the Wakefield HS principal to ensure that there will be an opportunity for the students to join together to discuss their actions and develop a plan moving forward.
Thank you for all you do to support the Marshall High School.
Tysons Partnership Warns Against Delaying Metro Silver Line Phase 2 — Tysons Partnership President and CEO Sol Glasner argues in a letter to the Metro board that opening the second phase of Metro’s Silver Line is necessary for the “fulfillment of the promise not only of Tysons, but of the entire Silver Line corridor.” The nonprofit says budget constraints should not delay the project’s completion. [Tysons Partnership]
Merrifield Church to Host Free Drive-by Food Distribution Event — “Free boxes of food will be available at First Baptist Church Merrifield (FBCM) on Saturday, March 20, from 11:00 AM until all are distributed. All members and surrounding community are invited to partake of the distribution.” [Greater Merrifield Business Association]
Northern Virginia Reports Uptick in COVID-19 Cases — “The Virginia Department of Health reported 674 new cases in Northern Virginia on Thursday, the most since Feb. 13. The region’s seven-day average of new cases, which peaked Jan. 18 at 1,628.4, had fallen as low as 318.4 on Saturday, but now stands at 407 cases per day.” [Inside NoVA]
Falls Church Healthcare Startup Raises $10 Million — “CMT Solutions, a leader in patient access services for laboratory diagnostics, announced a close on $10.0MM of Series A fundraising…CMT is using these funds to further develop our technology solution, with a new product launch, that will greatly help the healthcare community with diagnostic testing.” [CMT Solutions]
Voting for McLean Community Center Board Begins — Residents of Small District 1A-Dranesville can now request a ballot to vote in the McLean Community Center’s 2021 governing board election. 13 candidates — five adults and eight teenagers — qualified to run for three adult and two teen vacancies. Ballots and affidavits verifying voters’ residency must be returned to MCC by mail or in-person by 5 p.m. on May 15. [McLean Community Center]
Metro Orders New Fleet of Railcars — “Metro has selected Hitachi Rail Washington LLC (“Hitachi Rail”) to build the system’s 8000-series railcars in the U.S. The contract, valued up to an estimated $2.2 billion, includes a base order of 256 railcars, with options to build up to 800 in the fleet. The project is expected to create direct and indirect jobs in the region.” [WMATA]
Vienna Leaders Skeptical of November Municipal Elections — Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill last week that moves all municipal elections to November. Elected officials in the Town of Vienna, which traditionally holds elections in May, argue that having separate local elections makes them less partisan and prevents them from getting overshadowed by state and national races. Supporters of the change say it will save money and ensure better voter turnout. [Sun Gazette]
Virginia Issues Preliminary Guidance for Graduation Ceremonies — Virginia plans to allow in-person graduation ceremonies for high schools and colleges this year. Draft guidelines from the Department of Education state that masks and social distancing will be required, and attendance will be capped at 30% capacity, with a maximum of 5,000 people for outdoor events and 500 people for indoor events. [Patch]
140 Anti-Asian Hate Incidents Reported in D.C. Area in Past Year — “140 hate incidents have been reported against Asian Americans across Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. since March 2020, according to a new report by Stop AAPI Hate…The report comes as eight people, including six Asian American women, were killed in a shooting rampage in the Atlanta area.” [DCist]
McLean Depression Treatment Company Joins NASDAQ — “Greenbrook TMS Inc., the McLean mental health company that first went public two years ago in Canada, is now trading in the U.S. markets. The local depression therapy provider made its debut Tuesday on the Nasdaq under ticker symbol ‘GBNH.'” [Washington Business Journal]
When Virginia Tech canceled plans to expand its West Falls Church campus on Feb. 28, the ripple effects could be felt in three different jurisdictions.
The proposed project to establish a design school and a new headquarters building for the Falls Church construction company HITT Contracting at the Northern Virginia Center had been in the works since 2019. It was expected to be part of a sweeping redevelopment of the area around the West Falls Church Metro station.
Officials with Fairfax County, the City of Falls Church, and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which all oversee land around the rail station, say the collapse of Virginia Tech and HITT’s project has not substantially altered their ambitions for the area, but the full consequences are not yet clear.
Fairfax County’s West Falls Church Transit Station Area Study Task Force has postponed a meeting that was scheduled to take place tonight (Tuesday) until April 6 to give county staff more time to assess the implications of Virginia Tech and HITT’s decision.
“Virginia Tech’s decision does not change the County’s overall vision for the West Falls Church transit station area,” the county said in a statement to Tysons Reporter. “The county is evaluating next steps for the current Plan amendment under review given the recent announcement by Virginia Tech.”
Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust assembled the task force in 2019 to make recommendations for updating the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan for the West Falls Church TSA in light of new development proposals from Virginia Tech and Metro.
While its work was interrupted last spring by the COVID-19 pandemic, the task force has met 20 times over the past two years to evaluate proposed changes related to “the addition of residential and non-residential uses to the TSA, improved connections, and additional parks and open space,” according to Fairfax County.
A draft comprehensive amendment was released on Dec. 9, and a public hearing before the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is expected to take place late this spring, though an exact date has not been set.
“The main goals for development in the West Falls Church transit station area are encouraging use of rail transit, preserving stable neighborhoods, and enhancing the established sense of community,” Fairfax County said. “…The County looks forward to working with Virginia Tech in the future in fulfilling the goals of the transit station area.”
WMATA spokesperson Sherri Ly told Tysons Reporter last week that its plans to bring mixed-use development to a 24-acre site next to the West Falls Church Metro station have not changed.
The proposal calls for a replacement and reconfiguration of the existing station parking lot, along with the addition of 500-700 units of new residential development, 150,000 square feet of office, and 50,000 square feet of retail. Read More
Cases over Bijan Ghaisar’s Death Stall in Court — A federal judge assigned to oversee a criminal case and civil lawsuit against U.S. Park Police officers for the 2017 fatal shooting of McLean resident Bijan Ghaisar “has made no moves to hold any hearings on the cases or provide a pretrial briefing and discovery schedule.” The officers were indicted by a Fairfax County grand jury in October but are seeking to have the cases moved to federal court. [The Washington Post]
Statewide Tornado Drill Scheduled for Today — Virginia will conduct a tornado drill at 9:45 a.m. today (Tuesday) as part of its first-ever Virginia Severe Weather Awareness Week, which started yesterday and will last through March 19. The alert will be issued through NOAA Weather Radio stations as well as local radio, TV, and cable outlets. [Fairfax County Emergency Information]
Falls Church City Council Gives Initial Approval to New Noise Ordinance — The city council voted 7-0 to give a preliminary “OK” to a measure that would permit up to 75 decibels of sound up to 10:30 p.m. in business and industrial areas on Friday and Saturday nights. Dates for a public hearing and final approval have not yet been scheduled. [Falls Church News-Press]
Fairfax County Chairman Criticizes Proposed Metro Cuts — Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay says that Metro’s proposed fiscal year 2022 budget would be “frustrating and could be harmful in both the short- and long-term to Metro and our Northern Virginia economy,” especially in Tysons. Federal relief funds are expected to stave off the cuts, but they have not been officially taken off the table yet. The public comment period ends today at 5 p.m. [Inside NoVA]
James Madison High School Kicks off Renovation — “We have officially kicked off renovation season! Fencing was installed in our main parking lot today. Changed traffic patterns and relocated parking spaces are just the start of what spring will bring us!” [@JamesMadisonHS/Twitter]
McLean Private School Rallies Support for Food Drive — Students, parents, faculty, and staff at The Langley School all chipped in for a three-week food drive to support the D.C. nonprofit So Others Might Eat. The effort produced more than $5,000 in monetary contributions and more than 2,000 donated non-perishable food items. [Sun Gazette]
(Updated at 9:20 a.m.) Fairfax County Gets New General Registrar — “The Fairfax County Electoral Board appointed Scott O. Konopasek as the county’s new general registrar and director of elections at its March 11, 2020, meeting. He will lead the Fairfax County Office of Elections following the retirement of the current registrar Gary Scott who has worked in the office for the past 24 years. Konopasek’s tentative starting date is April 19.” [Fairfax County Government]
Metrobus to Expand Service Starting March 14 — Metro will increase bus service to 80% of pre-pandemic levels starting next week to accommodate increased ridership demand. Some routes, including Route 28A between the Tysons and King Street-Old Town Metro stations, will have service completely restored to pre-pandemic levels, while others will get supplemental buses or have weekend service restored. [WMATA]
Tysons One East Developer Joins Expansion of The Boro — The D.C. developer Akridge has partnered with The Meridian Group on its plans to expand The Boro in Tysons with additional mixed-use development. Akridge is also behind the Tysons One East tower that Fairfax County approved last year for Old Meadow Road near the McLean Metro station. [Bisnow]
House Fire in Vienna Extinguished — “Units on scene of a house fire in the 10400 block of Hunt Country Lane. First arriving reported smoke showing from two story home. Small fire located and extinguished. All occupants safe. Crews checking for extension.” [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department/Twitter]
McLean Student Wins State Journalism Competition — “McLean High School senior Marina Qu has been named the 2021 Virginia Journalist of the Year by the Virginia Association of Journalism Teachers and Advisers. Qu serves as editor-in-chief of The Highlander newsmagazine and The Tartan literary magazine; she has been on both publications’ staff for three years.” [FCPS]
FEMA Gives Virginia Funding for COVID-19 Vaccinations — “The Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded $38.6 million in funding to support COVID-19 vaccination efforts in Virginia. A grant of $1,814,688 will be used to pay for staff needed to administer vaccines, while a grant of $36,750,003 has been made available to establish a number of mobile vaccine sites across the state.” [Patch]
Vienna Decks Out “Love” Sign for St. Patrick’s Day — “Friends of the Washington & Old Dominion Trail Trail Patrol volunteer was kind enough to pose for this. #LOVEViennaVA sign has been decorated for St. Patrick’s Day, so snap away #spring #March.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]
Staff photo by Jay Westcott
Federal American Recovery Plan Will Prevent Metro Budget Cuts — Metro will not need to make the drastic service and personnel cuts proposed in its fiscal year 2022 budget, thanks to Congress’ approval of a new COVID-19 relief package that includes $1.4 billion for D.C. region transit agencies. The potential changes, which included closures of the McLean and Greensboro stations, would have taken effect in January 2022 if the advertised budget got approved. [WMATA]
Thomas Jefferson Admissions Changes Spur New Federal Lawsuit — “Fairfax County Public Schools is facing a second lawsuit over changes officials made last year to the admissions process at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, its flagship STEM magnet school. The suit, filed in federal court Wednesday, alleges the changes are discriminatory against Asian Americans and therefore violate the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.” [The Washington Post]
Ramp Closure Planned for I-495/I-66 at Fairview Park — The ramp from southbound Interstate 495 to westbound Interstate 66 will be closed from 11 p.m. Saturday (March 13) to 7 a.m. Sunday, and again on 10 p.m. Sunday to 4 a.m. Monday. The ramp will have two exit lanes when it reopens, one of which has been closed since late January for the construction of a new ramp as part of the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway project. [Patch]
Vienna Town Council Debates Undergrounding Utilities — “Placing utility lines underground in Vienna’s Maple Avenue corridor would beautify the streetscape and improve service reliability, but at a steep cost. According to a feasibility study…presented at the Vienna Town Council’s March 8 work session, utility undergrounding in 10 locations would cost an estimated $22 million – the equivalent of about half of the town’s general-fund budget for one year.” [Sun Gazette]
Capital One Appoints New Board Members — “McLean banking giant Capital One Financial Corp. (NYSE: COF) has appointed executives from Facebook Inc. and Nike Inc. to its board of directors, the company said Tuesday. In May, shareholders will vote on the election of Ime Archibong, head of new product experimentation at Facebook, and Craig Williams, president of Jordan Brand at Nike.” [Washington Business Journal]
Vienna Fire Department to Host Two Inova Blood Drives — The Vienna Volunteer Fire Department (400 Center St. S) will hold two blood drives this spring for Inova, one from 1-7 p.m. on March 25 and the second from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on April 2. Face coverings are required at both events. [@ViennaVFD/Twitter]
Public Hearings on Metro Budget Begin Today — The Metro Board of Directors is holding virtual public hearings this week on the transit agency’s proposed FY 2022 budget, which could significantly reduce rail service and close 22 stations, including the McLean station. The first meeting starts at 11 a.m. today, and the hearing scheduled for 6 p.m. on Wednesday (March 10) will focus on changes in Virginia. [WMATA]
Police Report More Commercial Burglaries in Tysons Area — Between Feb. 27 and March 4, Fairfax County police responded to burglaries at Sunoco (8030 Lee Highway), Grand Mart (6326 Arlington Blvd.), Ba Le Bakery (2822 Graham Rd.), Exxon (2081 Chain Bridge Rd.), and Macy’s (8000 Tysons Corner Center). [Fairfax County Police Department]
Inova and UVA Open New Medical Campus in Fairfax — The University of Virginia School of Medicine welcomed its first class of 36 medical students to a new campus developed in partnership with Inova Health Systems. Students will primarily train on the Inova Fairfax Medical Campus in Falls Church, but they will have opportunities to work across the nonprofit healthcare system’s facilities. [Inside NoVA]
School Board Votes to Advance Solar Panel Program — The Fairfax County School Board voted unanimously to move forward with a program to install solar panels on school buildings in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and electricity costs. Discussions are currently underway for projects at three schools, but Fairfax County’s original request for proposals included 87 sites. [Fairfax County Public Schools]
Deadline Approaching for McLean Community Center Governing Board Candidates — Petitions to become a candidate for a seat on MCC’s governing board must be submitted by 5 p.m. this Friday (March 12). There are three open seats on the board for adults and two for youth. [McLean Community Center/Twitter]
Virginia to Get Newly Authorized Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine — Virginia will receive a first shipment of 69,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine this week. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for the one-dose vaccine on Saturday (Feb. 27). [Virginia Department of Health]
State Eases Some COVID-19 Restrictions — With new COVID-19 cases trending downward, Gov. Ralph Northam announced on Feb. 24 that, starting today, there will no longer be a 10 p.m. curfew on bar and restaurant alcohol sales. The size limit on outdoor social gatherings has also been raised to 25 people, and outdoor entertainment and amusement parks can operate at a capacity of 30% or 1,000 people. [WTOP]
Galleria Florist Relocates in Falls Church — “Galleria Florist is moving to 248 W. Broad Street in Falls Church on March 1. Galleria will continue to provide online and delivery service but will not open in the new space for walk-in business until April 1.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Vienna Summer Camp Registration Opens — “The Town of Vienna’s Parks and Recreation will open summer camp registration on March 1 to Town of Vienna residents and a week later to non-Town residents. Camps will follow COVID-19 guidelines set in the governor’s Forward Virginia plan.” [Patch]
Reminder: Metro Lost and Found Policy Changes Today — “Beginning March 1, Metro’s lost and found department will work to reunite customers with lost wallets and electronics (such as phones, tablets, and laptops) only. All other items lost in the system will be disposed of, donated to charity, destroyed, or auctioned.” [WMATA]
Staff Photo by Jay Westcott
Virginia to Become First Southern State to Abolish Death Penalty — “State lawmakers gave final approval Monday to legislation that will end capital punishment in Virginia, a dramatic turnaround for a state that has executed more people in its long history than any other. The legislation repealing the death penalty now heads to Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, who has said he will sign it into law, making Virginia the 23rd state to stop executions.” [AP News]
Bank Proposed to Replace Peet’s Coffee in Vienna — The Town of Vienna Board of Zoning Appeals is scheduled to consider a conditional use permit to turn the former Peet’s Coffee on Maple Avenue into a drive-thru Burke & Herbert Bank on Mar. 17. Peet’s permanently closed its store in Vienna last summer. [Vienna Patch]
Fairfax County Lowers Flags to Commemorate COVID-19 Victims — “The U.S., Virginia and Fairfax County flags are lowered to half-staff in respect and memory of the more than 500,000 Americans, including over 7,400 Virginians, who have died from COVID-19. The flags will remain at half-staff until sunset Friday, Feb. 26.” [Fairfax County Government/Twitter]
Metro Seeks Public Input on Budget — The public comment period for Metro’s FY 2022 budget is officially open. With rail ridership down 90% and bus ridership down 60% during the pandemic, the proposed budget could close 22 stations, consolidate bus lines, reduce train and bus service, and result in employee layoffs. The comment period ends at 5 p.m. on Mar. 16. [Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority]
Black Ice Makes Travel Hazardous — With temperatures at or below freezing, roads could have slick spots through mid-morning. Police urge caution as icy roadways have been reported throughout Fairfax County. [NWS/Twitter, Fairfax County Police Department/Twitter]