Tysons, VA

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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Dozens of community members gathered at Shrevewood Elementary School last night to hear about the latest work to address safety concerns along Shreve Road.

The road, which runs through the City of Falls Church and Fairfax County, has been the focus of a push for improved safety from the Shreve Road Community Working Group, a coalition of residents and community associations advocating for improvements to the corridor, along with elected officials and residents.

“What brought us here originally is the terrible tragedy,” Jeremy Hancock, the co-founder of the Shreve Road Community Working Group, said at the meeting, referring to the Falls Church resident who died from a hit and run near the intersection of Shreve Road and Hickory Street.

Hancock said that 140 people submitted feedback about the road in a survey and that the group is pushing for changes to both specific things, like crosswalks for the school, and also address systemic issues, like speed.

“We have heard for a long time the concerns along Shreve Road,” Hancock told Tysons Reporter. “Our greatest impact is getting the community together.”

Del. Marcus Simon (D-53rd) kicked off the town hall informing locals about accomplished and upcoming actions by local officials for the road “right now.”

Here are some of the things locals can expect, according to Simon and Allison Richter, the liaison to Fairfax and Arlington counties for VDOT:

  • lowered speed from 35 to 30 miles per hour from Leesburg Pike (Route 7) to Wieland Place
  • replacing older signs that weren’t reflective anymore
  • trimming back vegetation covering the signs
  • reducing sign clutter by taking out old signs that are no longer needed

“At the end of the day, there was good reason to decrease the speed limit on that portion, but traffic engineers found other speed limit was adequate,” Richter said about the recent speed study.

New signs with the new speed limit will be up soon, she said.

Even with the speed reduction in the one area, several attendees in the audience voiced concern that the speed is too high and dangerous.

“Speed is a big factor to results of a crash,” one person said.

“We want to make sure we don’t artificially lower the speed limits,” Richter responded to attendees’ comments. “People drive the speed they want to drive and then it becomes a burden on the police department.”

An attendee who claimed to be a former police officer with Fairfax County said that drivers can often go up to 10 mph above the posted speed limit without fear of getting a ticket. The police representatives at the meeting declined to comment on the attendee’s comment.

In response to concerns about the sharp turn on Shreve Road near Oldewood Drive, Richter said, “If we straighten the curves and widen the lanes, it encourages speed.”

Simon mentioned that there are bigger projects proposed for the road that require grant funding.

Richter and Simon said proposed changes include:

  • changing the intersection of the W&OD Trail and Shreve Road
  • creating a new walking route from Route 7 to W&OD Trail
  • federal funding for three new crosswalks along Shreve Road, including at Fairwood and Virginia lanes

“Let us get all of this implemented plus give it a little bit of time and see how traffic adjusts,” Richter told the attendees. “And if we’re still having a lot of issues, we can continue to talk.”

Bonnie Kartzman, the co-founder of the Shreve Road Community Working Group, said that community involvement with sending letters to elected officials and attending meetings help the cause.

Kartzman urged attendees to sign up for the working group’s email newsletter and volunteer.

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(Updated 12/13/19) Golden Rule, a housesitting service, began in 2018 and expanded to serve clientele in the Northern Virginia area, with a focus around McLean.

Today (Dec. 11), company founder Dan Lender stood in front of fellow entrepreneurs at the 1 Million Cups Fairfax event in Tysons and pitched his company to the room, seeking advice and recommendations on how to better serve his existing clients.

Currently, the company helps around 20 clients to watch their homes, property and occasionally apartments while they are gone for extended periods of time.

Feedback from the event included ways to target his ideal market and focus efforts on specific services.

The clients of Golden Rule consist primarily of people over 50 who spend several months out of the year away from their homes because of vacation or work, Lender said.

Golden Rule staff offer different services for almost every client in order to meet the individual needs, Lender told Tysons Reporter.

The group specializes in services that accompany security measures from larger companies like ADT. Instead of just monitoring the property, Golden Rule will send someone in-person to survey the property, take pictures of things that seem a miss and take care of various tasks.

“A Golden Rule Team Member will visit your home in Northern Virginia regularly to perform a comprehensive, top to bottom, interior and exterior check,” according to the company’s website. “At the conclusion of each check, you will receive a customized, time date and geo-location stamped electronic report with photos and details.”

After each visit from a Golden Rule representative, the company will send an email to the owner with updates.

“You still need eyes and ears on the street,” Lender said, adding that though ADT will call the police, they won’t send someone in person to take care of the property. Unlike other services, Lender said that Golden Rule employees do not stay and live at the house they watch.

The company’s name was inspired by the philosophy of the Golden Rule: “treat others like you’d want to be treated.”

Lender told Tysons Reporter that the company channels this philosophy into their work and treat every client’s home or property like it is their own.

In an attempt to cater to the individual needs of customers, Golden Rule even transported a car for a client and took care of a greenhouse.

When it comes to pricing for the service, it depends completely on what is requested by the client. Though they have basic price points for hourly service and a basic set up fe.

“A lot of our customers recognize the value and they don’t even ask price,” Lender said.

Going forward, Lender told said that although they want to expand, they also don’t want to scale too quickly and jeopardize the quality of the company’s services.

“We don’t cut any corners,” he said.  

Photo courtesy Dan Lender

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Starting next week, people can get free Lyft rides during the holiday season from the ridesharing app’s partnership with a local nonprofit to combat drunk driving.

The Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP) is sponsoring the free rides starting next Friday (Dec. 20), according to a press release from WRAP.

Local residents in the D.C. area ages 21 and older can use a promo code for rides up to $15 from 10 p.m. until 4 a.m. in Lyft’s D.C. coverage area, which includes all of Fairfax County.

Riders can find the codes starting at 9 p.m. on Dec. 20, 27 and 31. on SoberRide’s website. The program is set to run to Jan. 1.

Last December, 1,988 people in the D.C. area used WRAP’s SoberRide program, the press release said.

“More than a third of all U.S. traffic fatalities during the holiday season in 2018 involved drunk drivers according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,” WRAP’s President Kurt Gregory Erickson said in the press release.

Image via Washington Regional Alcohol Program

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Local officials are set to talk about how to improve safety along Shreve Road at a town hall on Thursday.

The event comes several months after a Falls Church resident Betty Ana Bernstein-Zabza died from a hit and run near the intersection of Shreve Road and Hickory Street in August.

Del. Marcus Simon (D-53rd) and the Shreve Road Community Working Group, a coalition of residents and community associations advocating for improvements to the corridor, plan to provide an update “on actions by local officials to improve the notoriously dangerous Shreve Road,” according to an email from the working group’s co-founders.

The town hall is set to start at 6:30 p.m. at the cafeteria in Shrevewood Elementary School (7525 Shreve Road).

First image via Google Maps; flyer via Shreve Road Community Working Group

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The Falls Church City Council clashed over whether or not to allow motorized scooters on city sidewalks.

Councilmembers voted unanimously on Tuesday (Nov. 12) to continue working on the plan that would allow motorized scooter companies to take a test drive in Falls Church. But the vote was split 4-3 when it came to banning people from using such mobility devices on sidewalks, with the exception of Routes 29 and 7.

The safety of scooter riders and pedestrians was the top concern for city councilmembers as they discussed the implications of banning scooter riders on sidewalks.

Councilmember Phil Duncan, who voted in favor of banning scooters from sidewalks, said that cars should be mindful of scooters on the road and that riders should use bike lanes whenever possible.

Duncan noted a finding from the staff report, which claimed that scooter riders ranked sidewalks as their least favorite place to ride.

The city council decided to allow exceptions on Routes 29 and 7 based on safety findings from a staff report.

Councilmembers Letty Hardi, Ross Litkenhous and Marybeth Connelly voted against the ordinance to ban scooters on sidewalks.

“Preventing people from riding where they feel safe would just make this mode of transportation a non-starter. It would make this pilot pointless,” Hardi said.

Councilmember Connelly echoed Hardi’s concerns, but pushed for a compromise.

“We are assuming we are protecting the walkers on the sidewalks by saying ‘no scooters,’ but not protecting the scooter riders, who are also our neighbors, by saying they must ride always in the street,” she said.

Instead, she suggested adding another ordinance into the plan that would require scooter riders to give pedestrians the right of way on sidewalks. The city attorney present at the meeting noted that this was a viable idea but would require further discussion.

The city attorney suggested staff could work on a more efficient plan that would take her concerns into consideration.

“We have to have some assumption that the people in Falls Church who are using the scooters are not idiots,” Connelly said. “We have to rely on the judgment of the people using the scooters.”

The Falls Church City Council will review a second reading of the ordinance at their upcoming meeting on Dec. 9.

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People interested in brainstorming ideas for how to make Lee Hwy (Route 29) safer can attend a meeting tomorrow (Thursday) night.

Local businesses and Virginia Tech planning students are planning to share ideas for improvements along the highway from Graham Road to Tinner Hill Road.

The meeting is set to take place from 6:30-8 p.m. at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School (601 S Oak Street).

Nearby, a study is underway to consider changes to Route 50.

Map via Google Maps

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Fairfax County officials want to take a closer look at the costs linked to adding body worn cameras to the county’s police department.

After studies observing the impact of police officers wearing body cameras while on duty, several members on the Board of Supervisors came out in support of the new proposal. As body worn cameras get closer to receiving the board’s approval, two supervisors want more information to determine the fiscal impact of the project.

Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity kicked off the discussion of the body worn cameras at the Public Safety Committee meeting Tuesday (Sept. 17) by asking what the fiscal impact would be.

The program would cost about $6.2 million by fiscal year 2022, Deputy County Executive for Public Safety Dave Rohrer told the board.

“That includes the Commonwealth Department of Information Technology, the police officers, the cameras, the storage and equipment,” Rohrer said. “It’s an all-in number.”

Braddock District Supervisor John Cook said that if Board of Supervisors approves the action items on the body worn cameras at the meeting next Tuesday (Sept. 24), he will request a report on how it could affect the budget for the Public Defenders’ Office.

Cook noted that the presentation about the pilot program included information about costs for the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney.

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Fairfax County Fire and Rescue has the opportunity to step up their safety protocols thanks to a new grant.

The fire department is one of 25 departments across the nation that the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) thought would benefit from a pilot program that helps departments develop a community risk assessment tool.

The $7,000 grant includes a data analytics system that allows the fire department to identify risks to property and life while also finding different conditions that exacerbate the threat.

The money will go towards the creation of a personalized dashboard that will be active through July 31, 2020 and specialized training to accompany the program, according to the department.

“Not only will access to the tool give us invaluable information about our community’s needs, but it is rewarding to know that using the tool will increase its effectiveness and help other fire departments in the long run,” Battalion Chief George Robbins, who leads the department’s community risk reduction department, said.

This September, the NFPA will hand out another 25 grants to departments. The departments are chosen based on size, geography, community support and other indicators. So far, 150 departments have applied for the grant.

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Ahead of the new school year starting next week, Fairfax County Public Schools debuted a new partnership with an app that will help parents track when the school bus will arrive.

After a pilot program, the FCPS Office of Transportation Services announced FCPS will offer the “Here Comes the Bus” app for the 2019-2020 school year yesterday (Monday).

“[The app] uses HTTPS like a bank or online store, making all communications between a device and the site are encrypted and secure,” according to FCPS, adding that the app uses GPS to track the locations of the buses.

Started in 2001 by a pair of graduates, the app has nearly 1.5 million registered users and is used in school districts across the country, spanning Orlando to San Antonio.

Since the app tracks the bus routes instead of individuals students, FCPS wants people to remember that bus substitutions can affect the accuracy of the app and that app shouldn’t replace communication with students about their whereabouts.

The app is free for parents and guardians and provides real-time bus locations through text or email alerts, according to FCPS. The app will be available to use starting next Monday (Aug. 26) for FCPS families.

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