Tysons, VA

Flashing beacons have been installed at the Washington & Old Dominion Trail crossing on Shreve Road in Falls Church, offering a glimmer of hope that bigger changes are coming to a road that has been plagued by safety and traffic issues for years.

The Virginia Department of Transportation added two solar and battery-powered flashing yellow lights to existing yellow bicycle-and-pedestrian warning signs facing each direction on Shreve Road on Oct. 28.

The new beacons are temporary, intended as a “second warning” after drivers pass permanent warning beacons that can be found several hundred feed prior to the crossing, according to VDOT spokesperson Kathleen Leonard.

Operational around the clock, the temporary flashing beacons were installed to quickly address concerns about bicycle and pedestrian safety on Shreve Road. Community members have been particularly adamant about the need for improvements since a female pedestrian was killed in a crash in August 2019.

“This is a positive safety development for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists accessing the Shreve Road corridor,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said. “The flashing light will improve visibility and operate on solar and battery power.”

Palchik also announced on Wednesday that a more substantial change for Shreve Road is closer to fruition with the Commonwealth Transportation Board’s approval of a Safe Routes to School grant for Fairfax County’s proposed Shrevewood Elementary School project.

With the Safe Routes to School grant, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation plans to add three new marked crosswalks:

  • Across Shreve Road at Fairwood Lane
  • Across Shreve at the elementary school’s eastern driveway
  • Across Virginia Lane at Virginia Avenue

Each crosswalk will include connections to existing sidewalks and paths, signs, markings, and curb ramps and extensions.

According to FCDOT, Shreve Road currently has no marked crosswalks for over half a mile that provide access to the school from northern neighborhoods and the W&OD Trail, despite an abundance of pedestrian and bike facilities along the road and many nearby streets.

The Shrevewood project was driven by the community and has gotten support from the school’s parent-teacher association and principal as well as the Falls Hill Civic Association and other homeowners’ and civic associations, according to FCDOT communications head Robin Geiger.

Geiger says the project has not been developed enough for a timeline to be established.

By improving safety, Safe Routes to School aims to encourage students to exercise instead of taking cars to school. About 30 percent of Fairfax County’s elementary and middle schools take part in the program.

“These improvements will help students become more physically active and healthy and make Shreve Road safer for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists alike,” Providence District School Board representative Karl Frisch said.

VDOT is currently exploring additional safety improvements along Shreve Road through its Shreve Road Corridor Study, which launched earlier this year after months of advocacy by the Shreve Road Community Working Group.

With the National Park Service considering improvements to the W&OD crossing, VDOT’s study team is refining its recommendations based on public input after presenting them at a virtual public meeting on Oct. 7.

“At this time the study does not set construction dates for any of the alternatives,” Leonard said. “The purpose of this study is to develop proposed improvements that localities can pursue for funding, and to consider including in their comprehensive plans.”

Photo via Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik/Facebook

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The Virginia Department of Transportation is now soliciting public input on its draft proposals for potential safety and operational improvements on Route 50 until Oct. 30.

The Route 50 Strategically Targeted Affordable Roadway Solutions (STARS) study centers on the three miles of Arlington Boulevard between Jaguar Trail and Wilson Boulevard (Route 613) in the Falls Church area of Fairfax County.

Released in an online presentation on Oct. 13, the proposed improvements include:

  • Pedestrian enhancements at Jaguar, Allen Street, Graham Road, Woodlawn Avenue, Annandale Road, the area between Marshall Street and East Tripps Run Road, and the Thomas Jefferson Library area
  • Turn lane improvements at Allen, Graham, and South Street
  • Access management improvements throughout the corridor, including a widened median in the Thomas Jefferson Library area, and extended medians at Allen, Graham, Annandale, and the area between Marshall and East Tripps Run

VDOT says its proposed improvements are primarily designed to reduce pedestrian crashes and improve safety without making significant changes to the roadway. Possible costs range from $2.5 million to $12 million depending on whether they would require any construction.

VDOT launched the Route 50 STARS study back in June 2019 and held a public information meeting on Oct. 21, 2019. An online survey conducted last October drew 962 participants, who identified traffic congestion, pedestrian safety, and travel time reliability as their top three issues with Route 50.

According to VDOT, Route 50 sees over 50,000 vehicles a day on average, and drivers often experience delays during peak hours, especially at the Graham Road and Annandale Road intersections. It also features 10 pedestrian crosswalks and 12 bus stops, while accommodating 60 Metro buses per day during the work week.

The annual crash rate on Route 50 is 32% to 43% higher than the average rate for the other primary highways in Northern Virginia.

“While they were not a large percentage of the reported crashes, pedestrian crashes accounted for many of the fatal crashes and severe-injury crashes in the corridor,” VDOT said in its video presentation.

VDOT had planned to present its initial draft recommendations this past spring, but limitations on large in-person meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic led the department to delay the presentation and deliver it virtually instead.

Community members can provide input on the recommendations by taking an online survey or sending comments to VDOT by email at [email protected] They can also be mailed to VDOT traffic engineer Bobby Mangalath at 4975 Alliance Drive, Fairfax, VA 22030.

A report with the study’s final recommendations is expected to be released this coming winter.

VDOT emphasizes that the purpose of the study, which has a cost of $280,000, is to give Fairfax County options to consider when making funding requests and developing its comprehensive plan, but no decisions will be made on which projects, if any, will be implemented.

Staff photo by Catherine Moran, image via VDOT

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The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) unveiled suggestions for ways to address speeding and safety concerns on Shreve Road in Falls Church during a virtual public information meeting on Oct. 7.

Possible improvements range from minor alterations, such as optical speed bars and vegetation management, to potentially complex projects, like Shrevewood Elementary School roundabouts.

Led by VDOT and the consulting firm Kittelson & Associates, the Shreve Road Corridor Study team emphasized that its goal is to give the City of Falls Church and Fairfax County options to consider, not to make decisions on funding or construction.

“This is a planning-level study,” VDOT transportation planning manager Amir Shahpar said. “The purpose of this study is to develop proposed improvements for localities to apply for funding for some or all of the recommendations.”

VDOT launched the Shreve Road Corridor Study on Mar. 25 in response to the advocacy efforts of the Shreve Road Community Working Group, which formed after a woman was killed in a hit and run at the intersection with Hickory Street in August 2019.

The study focuses on the two-mile section of Shreve that connects Route 29 with Route 7. That stretch averages up to 10,000 vehicles a day, according to VDOT, raising concerns about traffic speed and pedestrian and bicycle safety in the surrounding neighborhoods.

To address the Hickory Curve, the study team proposed adding optical speed bars, enhanced signage, and other means of slowing traffic ahead of the curve; moving the pedestrian pathway; clearing vegetation to improve visibility; or creating a barrier curb and gutter.

VDOT also considered installing additional guardrails to shield pedestrians from motorists but found that they are “not warranted” for that particular location, Kittelson engineering associate Amelia Martin says.

Options for improvements outside Shrevewood Elementary include building roundabouts or removing the street median, but the area’s topography, the presence of utilities, and other factors would make those complicated undertakings. Read More

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Prompted by the pandemic, a Tysons based company is stepping up to fill orders for personal protective equipment in the D.C. area.

Personal Protective Equipment USA offers a variety of products including face shields, sneeze guards, custom masks and gloves, the website said.

So far, notable local customers include Vienna Va Foodies, Inca Social and The Town of Vienna, according to owner Ramiro Parada.

“Vienna Foodies have already ordered close to 1000 masks from us to raise funds for first responders and underprivileged families,” Parada said. “It’s been a great hit.”

Though the fundraiser is now closed, according to the Vienna Va Foodies Facebook page, the group was selling red, baby blue and black masks for $10 each.

Unlike similar products, the masks by Personal Protective Equipment USA include “Nano Silver Antimicrobial Technology” which Parada said is supposed to be more comfortable and breathable.

Along with Vienna based groups, over 700 orders have been placed with businesses in the D.C. area so far.

“Orders keep pouring in,” he said.

In the near future, Parada said the company will be doing its own fundraiser to collect toys for kids at the Children’s Hospital in Fairfax. After his own son was previously diagnosed with stage four cancer at age three, Parada decided to help other kids fighting for their lives.

Anyone who is interested in placing an order can visit the shop’s website.

Photo via Personal Protective Equipment USA/ Facebook

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As restaurants look to serve diners indoors safely during the pandemic, Silver Diner has started using a new system to keep the interiors of its restaurants sanitized.

The regional chain says that it is the first U.S. restaurant to install an air purification system that uses three technologies — ultraviolet light, bipolar ionization technology and HEPA filtration, according to a press release.

The systems were installed at all of Silver Diner’s locations by last Wednesday (Aug. 12), according to co-founder and head chef Ype Von Hengst.

“I think that in this world you’ve got to adapt and change to fit what’s needed,” Hengst said. “It’s our responsibility as restaurateurs to create a new norm.”

Already, Hengst said that both the Reston and Tysons locations have seen a substantial jump in customers who feel safe about eating inside.

Silver Diner spent roughly $500,000 on the system for the restaurants, according to Hengst, who added that the cost was worth it to protect staff and customers. The air purification system was designed by Veteran LED, a veteran-owned lighting and energy management firm.

The technology has been used before in hospitals, schools and medical care facilities but never a restaurant, according to a press release.

Depending on size, each location has a large air purifier filer that covers roughly 1,000 cubic feet of air and then smaller purifiers that support roughly 250 feet of additional cubic footage, according to Hengst.

“Germicidal UV-C lights installed throughout the HVAC system work to disinfect air and surfaces inside the system. Heavy-duty handheld UV-C light sterilizers are being used on high touch areas as part of the closing duties of the staff,” the press release said. “At night, when the restaurant is closed, the interior is bathed in germicidal UV-C light to help kill pathogens in the air and sterilize surfaces.”

Hengst said that the UV-C ceiling fixture runs for one hour each night. The restaurant claims that the system gets rid of 99.9% of the encountered pathogens.

While UV-C lights have been used as a disinfectant for decades and researchers found it can deactivate coronaviruses, the dosage, time duration and distance from the source can all impact how effective the lights are, Discover Magazine reported.

It’s unclear how effective UV treatment is against COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency cannot confirm whether it may be effective.

Additionally, Silver Diner locations are going to continue using personal protective equipment, printing menus on anti-microbial paper, requiring temperature checks, social distancing and following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to Hengst.

Before the pandemic hit the NoVA area, Hengst said that he was beginning to notice a roughly 10% profit increase at both the Reston and Tysons locations, which he attributed to population growth in the areas.

Since Silver Diner installed the new technology last week, Hengst said that more and more people are requesting to sit inside, though it is too early to see if sales are increasing again.

In the months to come, Hengst said he hopes more restaurants can use the technology to “help open up the world again.”

Photos courtesy Silver Diner

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Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler Jr. defended his department’s longstanding use of force policies and commitment to the sanctity of human life as national protests call for dramatic police reforms.

At a meeting with county officials today (Tuesday), Roessler stated that FCPD’s policies surrounding use of force, the use of chokeholds, and de-escalation are well ahead of many reforms requested by protestors across the country.

Currently, chokeholds are not allowed as a use of force options. De-escalation is required when possible and officers are trained two times per year in order to reinforce the use of force continuum and training. Shooting at moving vehicles is prohibited unless there is a “threat of death or serious injury” to the officer or another person, according to police documents.

“These reform endeavors have not ended as we continue told ourselves accountable,” he said.

FCPD’s use of force policy aims to gain voluntary compliance from the other person using seven core pillars, which include principles like self-control, empathy, balance, realism, and a commitment to lack of humiliation.

study on FCPD’s use of force culture is underway. The report, which is conducted by the University of Texas at San Antonio researchers, was prompted by another study that found roughly 40 percent of all use-of-force incidents involved Black individuals.

Earlier the month, FCPD officer Tyler Timberlake was charged on three counts of assault and battery in what FCPD said was an “unacceptable” use of force.

When prompted by Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay, Roessler noted that FCPD’s training requirements “typically exceed state mandates.”

The county is currently working on implementing a county-wide body-worn camera program. Although the Reston District Station and three other stations have body-worn cameras, the full implementation of the program was delayed due to budgetary concerns.

Recent events, including the killing of George Floyd, have prompted the board to expedite funding for the program. An updated plan will be developed by the end of the month, according to FCPD.

FCPD is also testing a new technology that would automatically turn on the body-worn camera when an officer takes a gun out of the holster.

Major Paul Cleveland noted that the department follows a co-produced policing model, which relies on community support and input to develop policing practices in line with community expectations.

Currently, the police department is taking a look at ensuring its internal culture emphasizes the well-being of officers and de-escalatory practices.

He says FCPD will continue to monitor ways to improve its practices.

“Reform is the right way to go,” he said.

Image via Fairfax County

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(Updated at 6:25 p.m.) Locals way have to wait a little longer than expected for safety solutions along Shreve Road in the Falls Church area due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The road, which runs through the City of Falls Church and Fairfax County, has lately been the focus of safety concerns from local residents and the Shreve Road Community Working Group.

A study is underway by the Virginia Department of Transportation to address the road’s issues. Allison Richter, the liaison to Fairfax and Arlington counties for VDOT, gave an update on the study during a virtual town hall on Monday (May 4).

“We expect there are going to be some solutions that will have to take a little longer,” she said.

Richter said that the COVID-19 pandemic and Virginia’s stay-at-home order have hampered data collection.

“[VDOT is] not doing traffic counts because it’s not as it normally is,” she said. “We’re a little bit held back in some of our studies.”

Status of Projects Along Shreve Road 

So far, the traffic engineering group has reviewed and replaced “obsolete signs,” Richter said.

Dalia Palchik, the Providence District representative on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, said during the meeting that the county is waiting for contractors to finish work near the intersection of Shreve Road and Virginia Lane.

Additionally, she said NoVa Parks is working with an engineer to address work at the W&OD Trail crossing and Shreve Road.

Palchik said that drivers should keep an eye out for lane closures near Gordon Road and Route 7 due to pipe installation.

Providence District School Board Member Karl Frisch said in his email newsletter today that 10 new parking spots have been added to Shrevewood Elementary School.

“Weather permitting, phase two will begin on May 15. When completed, about 17 new spots will have been added,” Frisch said.

Palchik said that the meeting that the new spaces will “help get the cars off of Shreve and into the school.”

Next Steps for Safety Solutions

The study is aiming to identify short- and long-term solutions, along with areas where upgrades are needed and people have continually reported issues, Richter said.

VDOT has lowered the speed from 35 to 30 miles per hour from Leesburg Pike (Route 7) to Wieland Place. Richter said that calls from residents to reduce the speed further to 25 miles per hour is still a possibility.

“I’m not going to rule that out, but we’ll also be looking at other measures like increasing enforcement or traffic calming tools,” she said, adding that a speed study was done in 2019.

People can expect the final report sometime in November, according to Richter’s presentation.

Public Support Sought for Grant Application

The Shreve Road Community Working Group’s website notes that people can submit comments on a grant application to Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA).

According to the group’s website, the $6.9 million transportation grant would be used to:

  • install a 10-foot multi-use path and 6-foot planting strip along Shreve Road
  • add a crosswalk near the intersection of Shreve and Gordon roads
  • add a landscape buffer and lighting changes

People have until May 24 to submit comments online or via email at [email protected]

Image via Google Maps

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors plans to tackle traffic problems along Old Meadow Road as the Tysons One East project advances.

Yesterday, the board approved a rezoning request to increase the floor area ratio for a planned office tower near the McLean Metro station.

Akridge and the Ronald D. Paul Companies are plan to develop 1690 Old Meadow Road, a triangular spot between Dolley Madison Blvd and the Old Meadow Road, into a 15-story tower with Class A offices, restaurant, retail space, parking podium and outdoor terrace.

The development was held up by the acquisition of a public right-of-way.

“This application was filed on land area inclusive of VDOT right-of-way which was in the process of being acquired by the applicant,” according to county documents. “While VDOT on behalf of the Commonwealth concurred in the filing of the application, they generally will not sign the proffers, and would not in this case.”

Now that the right-of-way woes have been resolved, the county, developers and residents are trying to find ways to change the Old Meadow Road.

Scott Adams, the attorney with McGuireWoods who is representing the developer, said that the project includes a proffer for a traffic signal improvement at Colshire Meadow Drive and funds to build and improve roads in Tysons.

Amy Tozzi with the Old Meadow Coalition told the county officials during the public hearing yesterday that nearby residents have traffic and safety concerns that they worry won’t get addressed by the project.

“We understand all development is messy, but it shouldn’t imperil existing communities,” she said.

In response to Tozzi, Adams said that issues with the grid of streets in Tysons and accessing Old Meadow Road from Route 123 are too large for the project to address.

“Some of the concerns that they have are broader in scope than the smaller application we have,” he said.

As part of the board’s approval, county staff will work to create a plan to speed up transportation improvements to calm traffic along Old Meadow Road.

The changes could include:

  • realigning the Old Meadow Road and Route 123 intersection
  • constructing Lincoln and Roosevelt streets from Old Meadow Road to Magarity Road
  • advance previously approved proffered transportation commitments like the traffic signal at the intersection of Old Meadow Road and Colshire Meadow Road and the Tysons East grid of streets

“In identifying improvements and solutions, staff should coordinate with stakeholders on Old Meadow Road, including residents and business owners and property owners,” according to county documents.

Image via One Tysons East

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors recently approved changes to improve road safety for pedestrians and bicyclists.

At the board’s Tuesday meeting, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn and Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk jointly unveiled a proposal to initiate a review of the county’s Department of Transportation’s ActiveFairfax planning process.

ActiveFairfax is a transportation plan that includes a Bicycle Master Plan and Countywide Trails Plan Update for the county.

“Sixteen pedestrian fatalities in our county in 2019 is too many,” Alcorn said. “Most of our built environment is still designed for moving vehicles, which creates obvious conflicts and we need to evolve toward safer walking and cycling.”

More from the board matter:

The commitment of Fairfax County to address this is clear, including more than $300 million in funding approved for stand-alone bike and pedestrian infrastructure projects over the past decade.

Most of these projects have been implemented, while some are still in progress. It should be noted that the $300 million in funding doesn’t include bike and pedestrian projects that are being implemented as part of larger roadway projects, or in VDOT’s repaving schedule…

Due to the General Assembly reallocating funding for Metro’s State of Good Repair Initiative, the Board deferred a number of bike and pedestrian projects last year. And we all have examples of more bike and pedestrian projects to be done, if more funding were available.

Fortunately, the General Assembly is looking at options for increasing transportation funding, but currently they don’t go far enough.

Alcorn and Lusk want the county’s departments and the Virginia Department of Transportation to coordinate their efforts and also want FCDOT to review the following:

  • working timeline for the ActiveFairfax Plan
  • external communications strategy for the planning process
  • evaluation of the current approach for funding pedestrian improvements
  • examination of how tech can improve pedestrian and bicycle safety ahead of ActiveFairfax
  • whether the county can achieve measurable safety goals like Vision Zero

Lusk called recent pedestrian-involved fatalities and injuries along county roads a “public safety crisis.”

The Board of Supervisors will continue the discussion about the ActiveFairfax Plan at the transportation and public safety committee meetings, according to a press release.

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The Virginia Department of Transportation is gearing up to study Shreve Road in the Falls Church area.

The Shreve Road Community Working Group announced yesterday (Tuesday) that VDOT identified funding for the study.

“VDOT is in the process of scoping a planning study on Shreve Road between Lee Hwy (Route 29) and Leesburg Pike (Route 7),” Jennifer McCord, a VDOT spokesperson, told Tysons Reporter. “This study will follow up on the recently completed speed study, seek community input and identify potential improvements along the corridor.”

The study is expected to start in the spring and take about six to 10 months, McCord said.

“The cost of the study is still being finalized, but these studies typically run between $50,000 and $100,000,” McCord said.

“As part of the project, a traffic engineering consultant from VDOT will review Shreve Road from Route 29 (Lee Highway) to Route 7 (Leesburg Pike), obtain input from local residents, and identify possible safety and traffic solutions,” according to the working group.

The working group has been advocating for efforts to improve the road after a fatal hit and run near the intersection of Shreve Road and Hickory Street in August.

“The Shreve Group has prioritized the need for pedestrian infrastructure so that children can safely access Shrevewood Elementary School, and cyclists and pedestrians can securely approach crossings for the W&OD trail,” according to the group. “The Shreve Group has also highlighted the dangers at multiple 90-degree turns along the road.”

Back in December, the working group held a town hall with elected officials to address safety concerns along the road, which runs through Fairfax County and the City of Falls Church.

Earlier last fall, VDOT reduced the speed limit from 35 to 30 miles per hour from Leesburg Pike (Route 7) to Wieland Place. At the town hall, several attendees called for lowering the speed limit.

Following the town hall, VDOT sent a letter to Del. Marcus Simon (D-53rd) on Jan. 6 saying that Fairfax County’s transportation department received a grant for pedestrian improvements around Shrevewood Elementary School and that VDOT is working with Fairfax County.

“[VDOT is] also in contact with the Northern Virginia Regional Parks Authority, regarding their plans to possibly redesign their roadway crossings of the Washington and Old Dominion(W&OD) Trail,” the letter says.

Image via Google Maps

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