Fairfax County wants the public to weigh in on the projects that it plans to submit for funding as part of the Transportation Alternatives initiative, a federal program that gives grants to smaller community projects that expand non-motorized travel or enhance transportation infrastructure.
The Fairfax County Department of Transportation is reviewing four projects that it has proposed submitting for the federal grants: the Vienna/Fairfax-GMU Metro Station bicycle connection, Safe Routes to School projects for Shrevewood and Bush Hill elementary schools, and the Mason Neck Trail.
The virtual meeting will occur at 6 p.m. on Thursday (May 27). County staff will give a presentation at the meeting and provide a Q&A session. Attendees can join online or call 1-844-621-3956 with access code 173 919 2128.
FCDOT spokesperson Robin Geiger said that, once projects are identified, the county often seeks multiple funding sources due to the competitive nature of grants.
The Shrevewood Elementary Safe Routes to Schools project has been the beneficiary of a Transportation Alternatives grant before. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors accepted $560,000 from the Virginia Department of Transportation in March to support the project, which will add crosswalks, curb ramps, and other improvements outside the school in Falls Church.
The Metro station bicycle project will add dedicated bicycle facilities to Virginia Center Boulevard and Country Creek Road from Nutley Street to Sutton Road, county staff said. It will also include a connection to the I-66 parallel trail being planned with the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway project through protected bike lanes, narrowing an existing median and adding trail connections, according to the county.
The Transportation Alternatives initiative is overseen by the Federal Highway Administration. Projects through the program can assist students, people with disabilities, pedestrians, cyclists and others by adding sidewalks, lighting, and other safety-related infrastructure.
Photo by Michelle Goldchain
New crosswalks and other facility upgrades are coming to Shrevewood Elementary School in Falls Church, thanks to state grants that will fund road safety improvement projects in Fairfax County.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday (March 9) to accept $1.5 million from the Virginia Department of Transportation for three projects in the county’s Transportation Alternatives program, which focuses on infrastructure improvements that support walking, cycling, and other non-motorized forms of travel.
The Shrevewood Elementary project is part of VDOT’s Safe Routes to Schools initiative, a federally funded program intended to make it easier and safer for students to walk or ride their bicycles to school.
For the project, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation plans to add three new crosswalks outside of the elementary school (7525 Shreve Road):
- a marked crosswalk across Shreve Road at Fairwood Lane to the west
- a marked crosswalk at the school’s eastern driveway that will cross the bifurcated portion of Shreve Road
- a crosswalk across Virginia Lane at Virginia Avenue
The project also entails the addition of new connections to existing sidewalks and paths, curb ramps, curb extensions, and school crosswalk signs and markings.
FCDOT says these changes will improve access to Shrevewood from neighborhoods to the north. Shreve Road currently has no marked crosswalks within a half-mile of the school despite its proximity to many pedestrian and bicycle facilities, including the Washington & Old Dominion Trail, which runs parallel to Shreve Road and Virginia Lane.
“I know my community at Shrevewood Elementary will be thrilled to hear this,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said during the board meeting.
The Shrevewood Elementary project is part of a broad effort by transportation officials and community advocates to improve the safety of Shreve Road, particularly in the wake of a vehicle crash in 2019 that killed a pedestrian.
VDOT added two temporary, flashing beacons at the W&OD Trail crossing on Oct. 28, and a report with recommendations for additional short-term and long-term improvements in the Shreve Road corridor came out in late December.
Karl Frisch, who represents Providence District on the Fairfax County School Board, thanked Palchik and the other county supervisors for accepting the VDOT grant funding to move the Safe Roads to Schools project forward.
“The new signage, ground markings, and crosswalks coming to the Shrevewood community will help keep students safe and give parents peace of mind when their children walk or bike to school,” Frisch said.
The Commonwealth Transportation Board approved a $560,000 Safe Routes to Schools grant for Shrevewood Elementary in October. The grant requires a local match of $140,000, which will come out of Fairfax County’s Fund 40010 for county and regional transportation projects, according to county staff.
As part of the vote on Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors also authorized FCDOT to accept $160,000 for a Safe Routes to Schools project at Orange Hunt Elementary School in Springfield and $780,000 to add a sidewalk, crosswalk, and curb ramps on Columbia Pike between Backlick Road and Tom Davis Drive in Annandale.
The three projects will collectively require $375,000 in county funds to match the state grants. Design work will commence once county staff sign project agreements with VDOT.
Photo by Michelle Goldchain, image via Google Maps
It took an unprecedented shift to distance learning for Shrevewood Elementary School to drop below capacity for the first time since 2012.
After nearly a decade of parent and community advocacy, however, a long-term solution for overcrowding at the Falls Church-based school is finally in sight.
The Fairfax County School Board voted this week to repurpose the Dunn Loring Administration Center as an elementary school using $36.8 million in school bond funds.
That money had previously been earmarked for a new school in the Fairfax/Oakton area to lessen overcrowding at Mosby Woods and Oakton elementary schools, which has since subsided.
Providence District School Board Representative Karl Frisch proposed the plan last year after meeting with parents in the communities affected by the crowding.
“We’ve been pushed to the next year for so long,” Shrevewood Elementary PTA President Kate Coho said. “If we could get the ball rolling, that would be great.”
In the past, parents focused on a new boundary process to offset a mini-baby boom in the neighborhoods around Shrevewood.
Coho remembers that a mother began drawing attention to the school’s overcrowding about four years ago. The school was put in line to get a boundary study the following year, but FCPS dropped that provision from its capital planning program until Frisch put it back in last January.
“Then COVID-19 happened, so we’ve obviously been kicked down the road again,” she said.
Coho and fellow parent Jeremy Hancock, whose daughter is in third grade at Shrevewood, both embrace the Dunn Loring plan.
“A school boundary change has always appeared like the most likely or easy thing, but it’s encouraging that we have a longer-term solution,” Hancock said.
Coho said administrators have found creative ways to mitigate the crowding, but the school experience still suffers.
Some kids eat and play early or late in the day to avoid maxing out the cafeteria and the playgrounds. Sixth graders learn in seven temporary classrooms, and some elective courses like art and music are located out there, too.
School-wide activities are “basically impossible,” Coho said.
The 12-acre campus has no space for an addition or more trailers, which are located in the middle of the playground and extend all the way to a hill on the back-end of the school, she said.
The school was last expanded in 1998, when the building was updated to meet current design standards.
“Shrevewood ES has had a slight capacity deficit of 102% beginning in [School Year] 2012-13 and a substantial capacity deficit of 116% beginning in SY 2017-18,” FCPS spokesperson Lucy Caldwell said in an email.
Since 2012, the following work has been done:
- 2013-14: Added temporary classrooms
- 2015-16: Divided two classrooms into four classrooms
- 2016-17: Added temporary classrooms
- 2019-20: Assigned newly identified primary students to the enhanced autism program at Freedom Hill Elementary School instead of Shrevewood
- 2019-20: Added additional parking
Moving special education programs would effectively free up a few classrooms, but it is “a tricky issue,” Coho said. “It is a difficult situation to put special-needs children in.”
Meanwhile, Hancock, who serves as president of the Falls Hill Civic Association, is also working with the Virginia Department of Transportation to address safety concerns on Shreve Road, which compounds the overcrowding issue.
Because the road’s big intersections and adjacent neighborhoods are designed for driving, there are no sidewalks or protections for pedestrians and cyclists using the Washington & Old Dominion bike trail.
Hancock argues that the chronic lack of parking — a symptom of overcrowding — could be mitigated by safe walking routes.
“It’s such a long term process,” he said.
Photo by Michelle Goldchain
On Tuesday morning, the Fairfax County School Board approved a proposal to convert the Dunn Loring Administration Center into an elementary school.
All 10 board members who were present supported the measure. Two members were absent at the time of the vote.
The move is intended to relieve overcrowding at Shrevewood Elementary School in Falls Church and avoid the need to make multiple boundary adjustments.
“We want to limit the disruption to the community, and potentially facing several adjustments is not a path we want to go down,” Providence District Representative Karl Frisch told the board.
Fairfax County Public Schools staff support the plan but want to avoid setting a firm timeline to keep their focus on returning to school, he said. Once planning starts, a new school could be ready in five years.
“This is one of the first steps that needs to be done to deal with the development going on in that area,” Dranesville District Representative Elaine Tholen said.
Today, the Dunn Loring center houses some special education services and programs for parents, but it previously served as an elementary school from 1939 to 1978.
Converting it back will cost $36.8 million in school bond funds. The school board will be using funds that were earmarked for a new school in the Fairfax/Oakton area, which was intended to lessen overcrowding at Mosby Woods and Oakton elementary schools.
The student populations at those schools have since dropped below capacity, Frisch said. Meanwhile, Shrevewood is “bursting at the seams” and could reach 120% capacity by 2025.
The school was first identified as slightly overcrowded in 2012, and became substantially overcrowded in 2017, FCPS spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell said. Since 2012, the school has taken steps to ease crowding, such as adding space, trailers and more parking, she said.
Repurposing the Dunn Loring center is a more viable long-term solution than redrawing boundaries, Shrevewood Elementary PTA president Kate Coho told Tysons Reporter.
“Dunn Loring provides the long-term solution to the problem that’s only going to get worse in this immediate area, as we see housing continuing to go up,” she said.
At-large school board member Abrar Omeish said Shrevewood’s over-capacity is not as stark as schools like Glen Forest Elementary School, which has “more kids in trailers than in the building” and a 75% poverty rate.
“When people say that we focus more on schools that have more than the ones that don’t, I can’t refute that,” she said.
Hunter Mill Representative Melanie Meren said no solution will serve everyone, but this repurposing option is available now.
“I thought this would be a more straightforward conversation,” she said.
The Fairfax County School Board currently does not have any official policies dictating a public process for reallocating bond funds to different projects than the ones they were intended to support when approved by voters.
Frisch held two community meetings in December on the Dunn Loring repurposing proposal, one for the Shrevewood community and one for the Mosby Woods/Oakton area. However, the school board’s guidebook does not require those meetings or even a forum discussion for proposals to change how bond funds are allocated.
As part of the approval, the school board also directed its governance committee, which is chaired by Frisch, to look at developing a mechanism for a public process to ensure more clarity and transparency for future projects such as this one.