(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) The Fairfax County Department of Transportation got an initial round of public input last week on its study to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety and infrastructure in the area around the West Falls Church Metro station.
The department held virtual meetings on Wednesday and Saturday (Feb. 9 and 12) on the study as the county hopes to address community concerns before developers begin to transform the 24-acre transit station area, attracting more foot and vehicle traffic to the area.
FCDOT planner Timothy Kutz Jr. explained that the study focuses on a 2-mile radius around the Metro station to find gaps in the bicycle network. The study’s scope also encompasses a 1-mile radius for possible pedestrian improvements.
After the presentation, attendees brought up a range of issues, from missing sidewalks to the need for safer crossing methods. Areas of concern included access to the Metro station and nearby Haycock Elementary School, among other destinations.
One example of the need for increased safety was Redd Road, where participants raised concerns about the lack of sidewalks and safe crossing points as well as potential traffic dangers.
According to the study description, improvements there could include a walkway and a bridge that would connect to Redd from both the Idylwood Road and Pimmit Drive sides of the street.
Attendees also questioned if the planned development will make local traffic denser and more hazardous.
“We will be looking at forecasted volumes on select streets in order to determine how a change in traffic given increased development may affect the recommendations we make for active transportation improvements,” Kutz said.
The county launched the study in December after the Board of Supervisors approved comprehensive plan changes in July to allow mixed-use development around the West Falls Church Metro station and the Virginia Tech campus.
The plan allows for a maximum of 1,340 residential units, 301,000 square feet of office space, 48,000 square feet for retail space, and 160,000 square feet for institutional needs.
According to the project’s draft scope of work, the first set of recommendations will be ready to present for community feedback sometime this spring. A final draft of the study is projected to go before the Board of Supervisors in the summer.
Photo via Google Maps
The McLean Citizens Association (MCA) will weigh in tonight (Wednesday) on the bicycle and pedestrian safety projects that it believes Fairfax County should fast-track.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors set a goal on Oct. 5 of spending at least $100 million on bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure improvements through June 30, 2027, stating that federal relief funds have given the county some flexibility to make one-time investments.
In an email to members, MCA says Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust has asked for its help identifying priorities for McLean, as county leaders consider which projects to potentially fund and expedite.
MCA’s transportation committee has identified 14 projects in a draft resolution that its board of directors could vote on during a virtual meeting at 7:30 p.m. President Rob Jackson said changes to those plans could occur, but he suggested proposals should be done so before the meeting to build support.
“Even assuming the $100 million is split evenly among the nine Magisterial Districts, our priorities complete [sic] with projects in the Herndon and Great Falls areas,” Jackson noted in an email. “So, the Committee’s prioritizations and rationale for those priorities are critical.”
In its draft resolution, MCA’s transportation committee cites demand, safety concerns, and connectivity to public transit and schools as factors it considered when choosing projects to designate as priorities.
High Priority Projects
Most of the projects are near Haycock Elementary and Longfellow Middle schools, which the resolution says suffer from cracks and bulges on area sidewalks.
In addition to proposing sidewalk repairs along Westmoreland Street between Gordon Avenue and Haycock Road, the draft resolution focuses on possible improvements north of Haycock Road:
- Repairs to an asphalt trail between Westmoreland and Great Falls Street
- Widening the concrete sidewalk by 1 foot on the bridge over I-66 to accommodate pedestrians walking side-by-side or going in opposite directions
- An engineering study looking at options to make the walkway between the I-66 bridge and Great Falls Street consistently 5 feet in width, reduce sloping, and add a painted crosswalk across the Turner Avenue intersection
Other key projects included in the draft resolution address concerns to the north end of McLean:
- Study a potential pedestrian bridge across Dolley Madison Boulevard and other safety upgrades, such as traffic beacons at the Ingleside Avenue or Elm Street crosswalks
- Repair an asphalt trail along Balls Hill Road between Thrasher Road and Heather Hill Lane
The seventh high-priority project is to construct a sidewalk near Lemon Road Elementary School on Redd Road from Idylwood Road to Reddfield Drive in Pimmit Hills.
Secondary Projects Identified
The resolution also includes a list of secondary projects that MCA would like the county to pursue when possible:
- Repair portions of an asphalt trail along Dolley Madison Boulevard between Old Dominion Drive and Lewinsville Road
- Maintain and upgrade asphalt trail along Georgetown Pike just east of Dead Run Creek
- Repair an asphalt trail along Douglass Drive from Georgetown Pike to Father John Court
- Construct sidewalks along the north side of Birch Road from Birch Grove Court to Kirby Road and on Linway Terrace from the intersection of Old Dominion and Birch
- Create a trail along Lewinsville Road between Swinks Mill Road and Bridle Path Lane
- Conduct a study of a potential trail along the south side of Old Dominion between Balls Hill and a bridge over I-495
Photo via Google Maps
FCPS to Highlight Need for Safe Gun Storage — “Fairfax County Public Schools will notify parents and guardians about Virginia’s new secure firearm storage law, why secure storage is essential, and other ways to prevent gun violence or seek help for a child who could be a threat to themselves or others. The communication will be sent in January and then annually before the start of each school year.” [Karl Frisch]
Lawsuit Accuses FCPD Officers of Sexual Assault and Complicity in Sex Trafficking — “The woman, who is referred to only as Jane Doe because she is a trafficking victim, alleges that the Fairfax County, Virginia, police department, including its former chief Edwin Roessler, knew that some officers were possibly participating in and protecting the ring, but allowed the officers to retire with full pensions rather than prosecute them.” [Reuters]
County Awarded for Mosaic Autonomous Shuttle — “The @fairfaxcounty Relay Shuttle project was presented the Fairfax County TAC Transportation Achievement Award on December 7, 2021. The award is given to the person or group that has made the most significant contribution during the year. The Relay project team accepted the award” [Virginia DRPT/Twitter]
Meet the Tysons Corner Center Santa — Tennessee resident Mike Graham has been serving as Santa at Tysons Corner Center for the past 34 years. He was first sent to the mall by a photo company that was looking for more Santas, and that initial appearance got such “a tremendous response” that the management team asked if he’d like to work with them exclusively. [Northern Virginia Magazine]
McLean 7-Eleven and Merrifield BMW Center Burglarized — Two men entered the 7-Eleven at 8110 Old Dominion Drive around 1:36 a.m. on Dec. 11, implied they had a weapon, and took property. Another commercial burglary was reported on Dec. 12 at the BMW Collison Center at 2730 Dorr Drive after someone forced their way into the business and took property around 10:30 a.m. [FCPD]
Winners of Vienna Holiday Lights Contest Announced — For the 2021 Light Up Vienna contest, first place in the business category as voted on by the town business liaison committee was split between Vienna Rexall Drug Center and Judd Tile. Public voters awarded the People’s Choice prize to Vienna Pet Spaw on Church Street, and 121 Casmar Street SE (also known as Casmar Street Lights) came out on top in the residents category. [Town of Vienna/Facebook]
FCPS Settles Lawsuit Over Treatment of Students with Disabilities — “Three disability rights organizations…and the families of six students with disabilities had sued in 2019, alleging that students with disabilities in Fairfax schools experienced discrimination, trauma and physical harm through the excessive and improper use of seclusion and physical restraint. As part of the agreement reached Tuesday [Nov. 23], Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) will ban all seclusion practices and curtail its use of physical restraint by the next academic year.” [The Washington Post]
Black Friday Shoppers Return to Tysons Corner — Traffic and sales at Tysons Corner Center were roughly on par with 2019 for Black Friday, according to a senior marketing manager for the mall. She said the return of pre-pandemic crowds wasn’t surprising, since the shopping center has seen a steady increase in traffic over the past three weeks. [WTOP]
Fire and Rescue Department Offers Hanukkah Safety Tips — “Hanukkah starts this evening [Sunday] and runs through December 6. It is a joyous time, so please ensure you and your loved ones stay safe as the holiday season is the peak time of year for home candle fires. Get in S.T.E.P. (Safety Takes Every Person) With FCFRD This Holiday Season and candle with care!” [FCFRD]
McLean Rotary Club Recognizes Front-Line Service Workers — “Under the leadership of president John McEvilly, the Rotary Club of McLean has initiated a new program — ‘Dignity of Work’ Award. According to former McLean Rotary President Lynn Heinrichs, who chairs the initiative, the award ‘is designed to recognize and promote the great people working in the McLean community.'” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]
Retirement Puts Vienna Tree Assessments on Hold — “Due to staffing shortages stemming from a retirement, the Town is temporarily unable to conduct tree assessments on private property. Tree assessments on private property are expected to resume in March 2022 after appropriate staffing levels have been restored.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]
Silver Line Phase 2 Ready for Metro — The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is handing the long-delayed project over to Metro after reaching substantial completion on construction. Metro says it needs another six months to complete testing and prepare for riders, suggesting the five new train stations could open in May 2022. [Reston Now]
Vienna Signs Off on Police Station Furniture — “Vienna Town Council members on Nov. 1 agreed to ride a Fairfax County Public Schools contract and buy $162,188 worth of workstations from Interiors by Guernsey to serve all 51 employees at the new police headquarters building.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]
Daylight Saving Time Ends Sunday — “Remember, we move our clocks back one hour early Sunday morning! You also need to remember that when you change your clock, our firefighters and paramedics want you to check your smoke alarms to ensure they are working.” [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department]
Tysons Bowlero Holds Grand Opening — After getting a soft launch in October, the new Bowlero at Tysons Galleria will hold an official grand opening celebration starting at noon tomorrow (Saturday). The party will include free bowling, arcade play, food specials, and giveways. [Bowlero/Facebook]
Fairfax Connector Offers Metro Alternatives — With Metrorail service limited throughout the rest of the week, Fairfax Connector is reminding commuters that it offers express service to the Pentagon or downtown D.C. from five sites, including the Vienna Metro station on route 698. [Fairfax Connector]
Proposed Redistricting Maps Now Available — “The Board of Supervisors authorized a public hearing on Nov. 9 to consider proposed redistricting plans…There were 64 plans submitted in total by the board-appointed committee established to recommend new maps and the public, and these plans may be reviewed through an online dashboard.” [Fairfax County Government]
International Earthquake Drill Coming Tomorrow — “Every year, ShakeOut Day is the largest earthquake drill ever…What we do to prepare now before the next big earthquake will determine how well we can survive and recover. ShakeOut will occur in houses, workplaces, schools and public spaces at 10:21 a.m. local time on Oct. 21.” [Fairfax County Emergency Information]
County Opens Graham Road “Traffic Garden” — Fairfax County recently introduced a traffic garden near the Graham Road Community Center in West Falls Church to promote traffic safety education. The facility features an intersection with crosswalks and two-way lanes, mimicking real-life street conditions so kids can learn the rules of the road free of hazards. [Fairfax County Health Department]
Wolf Trap Accepting Grant Applications from Local Arts Teachers — “The Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts is accepting applications for this year’s Grants for High School Performing Arts Teachers Program. The grants are available to teachers across the D.C. area. The grant application deadline is Nov. 15, and grantees will be named in December for the 2021-22 school year.” [Patch]
Metro is no stranger to safety challenges.
Last week’s train derailment in Arlington was just the latest in a long history of perilous, occasionally fatal incidents that have plagued the D.C. region’s primary transit system, from track fires and smoke-filled tunnels to the Red Line crash that killed nine people in 2009.
While no injuries were reported from the derailment, the ensuing investigation disrupted rail service on the Blue, Orange, and Silver lines throughout the week.
Initial findings of that investigation are now in, and they could be a devastating blow to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s campaign to lure passengers back after the COVID-19 pandemic sent ridership tumbling last year.
Metro pulled nearly 60% of its fleet out of operations Sunday night (Oct. 17) after the National Transportation Safety Board uncovered wheel axle defects on multiple 7000-series trains, which were introduced in 2015. The federal agency reported today (Monday) that these issues have occurred at least 31 times since 2017, including twice on the derailed car before it actually went off the tracks.
With use of the 6000 trains already suspended due to recent car separations, Metro was left with just a few dozen trains today and reduced service to just one six-car train every 30 minutes, resulting in crowded trains, platforms, and buses.
— Metro Reasons (@MetroReasons) October 18, 2021
While WMATA hasn’t announced its upcoming service plans yet, it seems like a safe bet that the challenges facing the transit system won’t be solved overnight.
Metro says they plan to have more service information out within the next few hours.
But that being said, this region is in big trouble if this is a months-long issue. https://t.co/oiMAXGkMZl
— Jordan Pascale🎙️ (@JWPascale) October 18, 2021
How will Metro’s safety issues and new service limitations affect your travel plans going forward? If you were a regular rider, will you continue that habit or seek alternatives when possible?
The former leader of an insurance industry-funded nonprofit aimed at reducing highway deaths was seriously injured in a crash that took the life of a 29-year-old woman on I-95 earlier this month.
Adrian K. Lund, 72, retired from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in 2017 but has been listed as a trustee of a U.K. charity called Towards Zero Foundation, which works internationally to try to end all road fatalities and advance other safety efforts.
On Aug. 7, Lund, a McLean resident, was driving a 2020 BMW 540i southbound on I-95 in Springfield near the Old Keene Mill Road exit, south of the Beltway, around the time that 29-year-old Reston resident Stephanie D. Garcia made an illegal U-turn on the highway, according to Virginia State Police.
Police provided the following details:
Garcia was also driving a BMW, a 2016 228i, and was in the I-95 Express Lanes when the vehicle ran off the left side of the interstate and made the U-turn in the shoulder.
Based on witness accounts, the BMW then stopped on the southbound shoulder facing north. It then pulled back into the Express Lanes and struck Lund’s vehicle head-on.
The impact of the crash, which occurred at 6:59 a.m., caused Garcia’s BMW to spin around and strike the Jersey wall, and Lund’s vehicle overturned and came to rest on the right shoulder.
While Lund was wearing a seatbelt, Garcia wasn’t and was thrown from the car. She was taken to Fairfax Inova Hospital, where she died from her injuries the following day on Aug. 8.
Police said yesterday (Thursday) that they are still investigating the crash and awaiting a final report from a medical examiner.
Lund spent over three decades of his career at the Arlington-headquartered Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. He took on the role of president in 2006 and testified before a Congressional commerce subcommittee in 2017 on truck-related deaths.
IIHS spokesperson Joe Young said staff were aware of the crash, and he believed Lund left the hospital, where police said he was treated for serious injuries, shortly after the crash.
Young said last week that he learned from staff that Lund was recovering at home.
Lund has continued to advocate for safety efforts and regularly shares news about related issues on Twitter.
If you’re passing a cyclist or group of riders in a vehicle, you’ll soon have to change lanes a lot more.
A new law going into effect July 1 will require drivers to switch lanes if they can’t maintain three feet of distance when passing cyclists.
The Fairfax County Police Department says this means motorists may have to cross double yellow lines, imploring people to “share the road.” Police told Tysons Reporter that they hope people will abide by the new legislation and help keep everyone safe on roadways.
“I think it’s going to be huge in the long run,” Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling President Bruce Wright said Monday while stopping during a bicycle ride on the Washington & Old Dominion Trail. He acknowledged that the change may require some education.
Wright says the new law means that vehicles will generally need to shift lanes, because lanes in the state are typically 11 or 12 feet wide.
“In effect, almost every lane in Virginia will require a motorist to safely pass,” he said.
The state law was adopted in February after General Assembly legislators removed a provision that would have allowed cyclists to treat stop signs like a yield sign.
Some states, including Delaware, allow the so-called “Idaho stop” for bicycle riders. Like Virginia, Washington, D.C., considered the stop-as-yield measure but also declined to adopt it.
The new law also ends a requirement for cyclists to file into a single lane when being passed.
Tensions between cyclists and drivers played out on the county police department’s Facebook post about the issue. Several people noted cyclists should obey traffic laws, too.
Wright says those online arguments between cyclists and drivers are similar to honking as well as dangerous behaviors on the road.
“There’s so much animosity, and it’s aggressive,” Wright said.
Some people on social media questioned whether double yellow lines should ever be crossed.
Current law already allows drivers to cross double yellow lines when passing others, including cyclists, skateboarders, and scooters. Another provision involves giving enough distance to mopeds, animal-drawn vehicles, and more when drivers pass them.
Pedestrian and bicycle safety is a persistent concern in Fairfax County, where seven pedestrians and two cyclists have died in car crashes so far this year. Whether these new laws help alleviate those issues remains to be seen.
Getting to and from Metro stations can be a harrowing experience for pedestrians and cyclists, and the Fairfax County Planning Commission and others want something to be done about it.
The planning commissioners have called on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to require Metro, the state and county transportation departments, and more to “work immediately” to make safety and accessibility improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists to transit stations.
“This is a call for action by the public to improve pedestrian/bicycle access to metro stations as envisioned in the comprehensive plan,” Hunter Mill District Planning Commissioner John Carter said when introducing a motion during the commission’s meeting on May 19.
The measure calls for numerous changes, such as:
- Providing wide sidewalks at intersections within walking distance of transit stations,
- Making turns on roads tighter at intersections to slow traffic down,
- Providing a “double ramp” for people with disabilities instead of single ramp that’s currently in use directing pedestrians to the middle of intersections,
- Avoiding extra turning lanes at intersections with high volumes of pedestrians
- Providing closely spaced street trees between curb and sidewalk areas to protect pedestrians.
The motion passed, with 10 members voting for it and at-large member Timothy Sargeant, abstaining. Sargeant did not respond to a message seeking comment on why he voted that way.
“Failure to act will cause pedestrian access to continue to be ‘significantly challenged’ and ridership on the metro station to be reduced,” Carter said.
He introduced the motion during the commission’s discussion on whether to approve changes to the mixed-use Reston Gateway development being constructed near the upcoming Reston Town Center Metro station, but he noted that the issues seen there could apply to other locations as well.
Supervisor Walter Alcorn, whose Hunter Mill District includes the Reston Gateway project, agrees that the main crosswalk serving the Reston Town Center station is not pedestrian-friendly.
“The rail project used cookie-cutter designs,” he said, adding that a walkway over the road has been proposed but could be years away from coming to fruition.
When touring the area a couple weeks ago, Alcorn asked the Fairfax County Department of Transportation to identify short-term improvements to occur before the station opens, which isn’t expected to happen until early 2022.
“I want to make sure riders can readily get to the stations on day one and every day thereafter,” he said.
Pedestrian and bicyclist advocacy groups expressed support for the commission’s call for change.
Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling President Bruce Wright says some progress has been made to improve safety, but numerous deficiencies remain. The Greensboro station in Tysons, for example, not only lacks access from Gosnell Road and Westpark Drive, the roads are outright dangerous, he says.