Tysons, VA

A meeting tomorrow night is set to give locals an update and a chance to comment on proposed changes to Magarity Road.

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) is gearing up to make walkway improvements to Magarity Road, which creates the border of where East Side neighborhood of Tysons stops and the Falls Church area of Fairfax County begins.

The project is set to provide a  continuous curb and gutter and an 8-foot-wide asphalt walkway along the south side of Magarity Road and in front of Westgate Elementary School, along with new crosswalks across the road at  Tremayne Place, Cherri Drive and Ware Road, according to county documents.

The project also plans to make the drop-off and pick-up turning movements at the school safer and relocate several bus stops.

More from Fairfax County about the project:

Residents of Pimmit Hills, the neighborhood south of Magarity Road, and the Westgate Elementary School requested a walkway on the south side of the street to allow more children to walk and bike to school safely.

The project will provide connectivity to the school, with other area planned trail projects, and to the McLean Metrorail Station.

The meeting is set to take place from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Wednesday (Nov. 13) at the cafeteria at Westgate Elementary School (7500 Magarity Road) in Falls Church.

At the meeting, FCDOT staff will give an update on the scoping and design changes since the June 2018 meeting.

People have until Nov. 27 to provide feedback and can submit comments online or in writing to FCDOT.

Map via Google Maps

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Tonight, locals can find out more information about the status of the project to bring new sidewalks to Chesterbrook Road in McLean.

The work plans to stretch along the road from Chesterford Way to Maddux Lane.

“The project will include a new 5-foot wide sidewalk, curb and gutter along the south side of Chesterbrook Road, with storm sewer and water utility infrastructure improvements,” according to Fairfax County.

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust and the Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) will hold the meeting tonight at Chesterbrook Elementary School (1753 Kirby Road) at 7 p.m.

The project is the latest of nearby sidewalk improvements in McLean.

Map via Google Maps

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Pedestrians will have to wait a few more weeks before the northbound sidewalk along Dolley Madison Blvd (Route 123) by the McLean Metro station reopens.

The sidewalk is maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), Jenni McCord, a VDOT spokesperson, told Tysons Reporter.

“This sidewalk has been closed for about three weeks for construction under a developer site plan and permit,” McCord said.

The sidewalk is closed due to work related to Cityline Partner’s Scotts Run project, which will add an 8 million-square-foot mixed-use development.

The project includes several apartments and office buildings — including the completed 425-unit apartment complex called The Haden and the 14-story office building Mitre 4 — along with the Archer Hotel and retail space.

“Our site contractor is completing a new road connection to Route 123 and was required by VDOT to close the sidewalk during construction,” Cityline’s Managing Director Tasso Flocos told Tysons Reporter.

The new connection will include new asphalt pavement, ADA-compliant handicap ramps and pavement markings, McCord said.

The sidewalk will stay closed until paving is finished, Flocos said, adding that the contractor expects to be done by the end of October depending on the weather.

Until then, pedestrians can use the detour that takes them around the work area.

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Work to fix cracked sidewalks and replace old benches in McLean is slated to happen by the end of the fiscal year 2020.

The improvements are apart of Fairfax County’s efforts for five community revitalization district (CRDs). The Department of Public Works and Environmental Service runs the CRD maintenance program.

A six-month-long study identified 28,000 features, including benches, bike racks and bus shelters within the CRDs that the county could maintain.

“The CRD program is responsible for slightly more than half of the features, with the other half maintained by utilities or the private sector,” according to the county.

PJ Tierno, one of the CRD program managers, told the Board of Supervisors last Tuesday (Oct. 8) that people will see old benches replaced and cracked sidewalks fixed in McLean within the upcoming fiscal year.

So far, the program has made 1,113 repairs in FY 2019 to trip hazards up to 2 inches deep in McLean through a company called Precision Safe Sidewalks, Tierno said.

Coming in FY 2020, 13,350 square feet of sidewalks in McLean are set to be repaired, Tierno said.

“That is the largest [square footage] of any of the CRDs,” Tierno said.

Old wooden benches in McLean will also be replaced, added.

“This is an awesome program,” Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said at the meeting, saying that he likes that the county is maintaining VDOT’s sidewalks.

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The City of Falls Church is looking to implement a pilot program for scooters as a deadline nears for scooter regulation.

Legislation passed during the General Assembly session in January allows localities to regulate scooters and motorized skateboards, however, the localities have until Jan. 1, 2020 to take action to implement any regulations. After that date, the scooter companies can zoom around as they see fit.

Scooters, an increasingly popular alternative transportation option, are already around the area.

The City Council is set to discuss the proposed pilot program, which would allow the city to regulate bicycles and motorized skateboards, scooters and bicycles for hire, at a work session tonight (Tuesday).

The proposed program would allow the motorized vehicles and bicycles for hire to ride on the sidewalks and streets and would limit speeds to 20 miles per hour for bicycles and motorized bicycles and to 10 miles per hour for scooters and skateboards.

Additionally, the city would cap the maximum number of devices to 25 per company, allowing the company to increase the number with extra permit fees. Each company would have to pay a permit fee of $100 per device.

The proposed pilot program is set to go before the City Council for a review on Sept. 23 ahead of a planned adoption in October or November.

The City Council is also scheduled to discuss spot pedestrian improvements tonight.

“The ultimate goal is to provide an adequate and safe walkway system and for the city to ultimately achieve ‘Walk Friendly Community’ designation,” City Manager Wyatt Shields wrote in a memo to the mayor.

City staff chose several projects recommended by the Citizens Advisory Committee on Transportation totaling $100,000 — the amount set aside in the FY 2020 city budget for short-term spot improvements for pedestrian safety.

One project costing $45,000 would install a new sidewalk at S. Oak Street near Seaton Lane to close an 80-foot “missing link” along the busy corridor near TJ Elementary School.

The staff also recommended a $40,000 improvement that would install a new sidewalk at 304 S. Maple Avenue, closing a 60-foot gap in the sidewalk.

Finally, the staff plan to use $15,000 to install handicap-accessible ramps at locations that need them.

Some of the projects identified by the Citizens Advisory Committee on Transportation didn’t fit the city’s budget, like removing utility pole obstacles.

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Construction on improvements to Kirby Road south of Chesterbrook Elementary School is slated to start in September.

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation gave residents an update yesterday (Wednesday) on the sidewalks project spanning from Birch Road to Corliss Court along Kirby Road.

Latesa Turner, an FCDOT engineer, gave a presentation to a small group of people at Chesterbrook Elementary School (1753 Kirby Road) last night shortly after 7 p.m.

The project would add the following new elements to Kirby Road:

  • a 5-6-foot wide concrete sidewalk and ADA-accessible curb ramps
  • concrete curb and gutter
  • drainage inlets and pipes
  • driveway entrances
  • pedestrian crossing and median refuge at Powhatan Street
  • re-alignment of Chesterfield Avenue intersection
  • water main reconstruction and upgrades
  • road pavement and striping

The first phase of the project, which will last between three to four months, will involve closing the westbound lane of Kirby Road to construct the water line relocation, according to the presentation. Drivers can expect traffic maintained in both directions during the lane closure.

Then, the second phase will involve closing the westbound lane of Kirby Road for drainage and utility work, along with work on the curb ramps, driveway entrances, sidewalk and gutter. The second phase is expected to last five to six months, according to the presentation.

The contractor will come out within the next week for clearing and tree removal. Then, construction will start in September. The first phase is slated to be done around December and most of the work will be completed by February. All of the work is slated to be finished by April 2020.

Once finished, Turner said that the Virginia Department of Transportation will maintain the sidewalks.

When asked why it took two years for the project to start construction, Turner said that many steps had to take place after the idea was approved including finalizing the plans, receiving VDOT approval, permitting and bidding for the project after the land acquisition in late 2017.

Despite some grumblings among attendees about waiting for the improvements, many expressed support for the upcoming work.

“I’m really glad you’re doing this,” one attendee told Turner toward the end of the meeting.

Image 4 via Fairfax County

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Pedestrians will soon be able to get over I-495 once the Jones Branch Connector’s sidewalk open, connecting North Central to Tysons East.

Currently, the Jones Branch Connector is undergoing construction for a $60 million project that will add two travel lanes and on-street bike lanes in each direction.

“Right now the Jones Branch Connector sidewalk is slated to open mid- to late summer 2019,” Michael Murphy, a  spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Transportation, told Tysons Reporter.

Back in December, the Jones Branch Connector partially opened with one lane of traffic in each direction, but “Sidewalk Closed” signs have kept pedestrians away.

“By providing an alternate route across the Beltway and linking the Tysons East and Central areas, the Connector is expected to relieve traffic along Route 123, at the I-495 interchange, and at other congested intersections,” according to VDOT. “The road is expected to carry more than 32,000 vehicles per day by 2040.”

The project is slated to finish in the fall.

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For years, the shared sidewalk on the south side of Lee Highway has ended abruptly with a ditch.

But a planned bike/pedestrian path on the highway just south of the Vienna Metro station could finally bridge that divide and make the sidewalks more walkable.

At a meeting tonight (Tuesday), Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is scheduled to discuss plans to complete missing segments of a shared-use path on the southern side of Lee Highway between Vaden Drive and Nutley Street. The path aims to improve safety and accessibility for bicyclists and pedestrians near the Fairlee neighborhood.

The $1.3 million project is being funded through the Transform I-66 Outside the Beltway project.

Design approval for the project is scheduled for this fall, with construction beginning summer 2021.

The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 at Fairhill Elementary School (3001 Chichester Lane) with a presentation starting at 7 p.m.

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Last week, Tysons Reporter examined the importance of sidewalk design as Tysons expands its pedestrian infrastructure network.

But no matter how well-designed a sidewalk might be, what matters most is that it’s in the right place.

There are three guidelines that Tysons can follow to make its pedestrian infrastructure more complete.  The first is simply to find where people are already walking. The second is to connect sidewalks to public transit. The third is to provide cut-throughs in large blocks, connecting up the network.

Find the demand

An old architecture-school anecdote mentions a designer who was hired to lay out paths across a new college campus.

For the first months of the year, she left the entire campus unpaved, and students walked across the grass to their classes.  

After the first snowfall, she took pictures of the quad from the bell tower, and then laid out the paths wherever she saw footprints in the snow.

In just the same way, dead grass and bootprints in Tysons reveals pedestrian activity. These are called “desire paths.”

They’re useful for transportation planners because they can prove, no speculation needed, that there really is demand for a sidewalk in a particular place. Even Tysons Plaza, connecting the mall to the Metro station, shows desire paths.

Desire paths can easily be paved over by the owner of the land, whether that is Fairfax County, the Virginia Department of Transportation, or a private interest. According to VDOT’s Project Cost Estimating System, a sidewalk costs only $25.15 per linear foot to install in Northern Virginia — it’s hard to think of a more affordable investment in transportation.

You can find desire paths all over Tysons at the ground level, especially near transit stations — which leads us to the next guideline.

Follow the transit

Public transportation and walkability have a symbiotic relationship. Unlike cars, buses and trains rarely drop passengers off right at their destination, meaning that they generally have to walk the final fraction of a mile. But in Tysons, that final stroll can be made circuitous, dangerous or uncomfortable by poor or disconnected pedestrian infrastructure.

As Jeff Speck, author of Walkable City, puts it: “while walkability benefits from good transit, good transit relies absolutely on walkability.” Since its opening in 2014, Silver Line ridership has been less than half of what was anticipated — perhaps because of Tysons’ slower-than-expected transformation into the kind of walkable area promised by ongoing development.

Pedestrian infrastructure is just as important to buses as it is to trains, particularly when a large number of bus stops in Tysons — like one pictured above — are located at neither crosswalks nor sidewalks. Crosswalks, including those in the middle of blocks, are essential to safety; according to VDOT, 51 percent of pedestrian injury crashes occurred at mid-block crossing locations and 86 percent of pedestrian fatal crashes occurred at locations without a marked crosswalk.

Mid-block crossings aren’t new to Fairfax, and they’re approved by VDOT and encouraged by the National Association of City Transportation Officials.

Connect the network

There are two main things that can get in the way of someone walking in Tysons, and they both tend to be larger here than in America’s older cities: streets and buildings.

The single block containing Tysons Corner Center measures almost half a mile, equivalent to about half a dozen blocks of downtown D.C. To walk around Tysons’ ‘superblocks’ is a long journey, but if paths are carved through them, these paths multiply the number of five- or ten-minute trips available to pedestrians.

Similarly, bridges and crosswalks also function as multipliers by connecting sidewalk networks. When a pedestrian bridge connected the Towers Crescent office building to Tysons Corner Center, it not only meant that 3,000 employees could walk to a variety of food options for their lunch hour, taking their cars off the road, it connected them to an expanding network of comfortable pedestrian infrastructure reaching beyond the Metro station.

A successful project

When sidewalks opened last month along Leesburg Pike under the Chain Bridge Road overpass, the project was successful because it observed all three of these guidelines.

First, there was demand. As one reader, Ryan, observed in the comments section, “Commuters were walking in the street for a few years, before we had this new sidewalk.”

Second, it was near transit, adjacent to the Greensboro Metro station.

Third, it provided a link between two previously-disconnected sidewalks, meaning that it didn’t only add pedestrian potential but multiplied it.

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A new project is underway to make Tysons East a little more walkable.

The Scott’s Run Trail will provide a half-mile trail connecting Westgate Elementary School to the McLean Metro Station. The planned trail runs through the heart of Tysons East.

The path is planned to have an eight-foot-wide pedestrian walkway and two pedestrian bridges over the stream. The project’s aim is to facilitate pedestrian access to the McLean Metro for residents in the southern section of Tysons East, like the Pimmit Hills neighborhood.

Plans for the project date back to the Tysons Metrorail Station Access Management Study in 2011, and it was approved by the Board of Supervisors as part of a transportation priorities plan in 2014. The project recently opened for construction bids, which will be collected until March 5 and opened publicly that same day.

The total estimated cost of the project is $3.3 million funded by the Federal Regional Surface Transportation Program (RSTP).

Another trail pedestrian-bicycle trail is planned nearby to connect Tysons East with Tysons Corner Center.

Photo via Fairfax County Department of Transportation

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