Tysons, VA

Repairs are almost done along Leesburg Pike in Tysons as part of the Silver Line’s first phase.

The Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project shared photos of the concrete work on a new ramp along westbound Leesburg Pike, finished sidewalk repairs near the Spring Hill Metro station and finished work on the sidewalk, curb and gutter near Spring Hill Road.

Silver Line Phase 1 includes the four stations (McLean, Tysons Corner, Greensboro and Spring Hill) in Tysons along with the Wiehle-Reston East station.

“Crews will finish repairs along Route 7 and will complete final clean up and punch list items by the end of June according to a project executive,” according to the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project.

Previously, the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project shared updates in April on crews placing concrete near Leesburg Pike for a new ADA ramp and excavation work along Old Meadow Road.

Photos courtesy Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project

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After construction-related closures, commuters can expect several Silver Line stations to reopen ahead of schedule, according to a press release from the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority.

On Aug. 16, WMATA plans to reopen the McLean, Tysons Corner, Greensboro, Spring Hill and Wiehle-Reston East stations along with the West Falls Church station.

“Assuming the platform work continues at its current pace, the remaining three west-of-Ballston stations (Vienna, Dunn Loring, and East Falls Church) are expected to reopen around Labor Day,” the press release added.

The timely completion of the projects can partially be contributed to the drop in ridership due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the press release said, adding that ridership is down 90% from this time last year.

“Metro has been working to efficiently use track access time during a period of historically low ridership,” the press release said. “Earlier this year, the transit agency combined Orange Line platform reconstruction and Silver Line signal integration into a multi-month summer shutdown of the nine rail stations west of Ballston”

Free shuttle busses will replace trains until the stations reopen, the press release said. “However, Vienna and Dunn Loring customers will be able to connect to Metrorail at West Falls Church, rather than Ballston.”

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors wants to refresh the Tysons Corner Metro station name and move forward the rebranding of Tysons without the “Corner.”

The name debate over Tysons — including #dropthecorner on social media — has been around for several years. The U.S. Postal Service agreed to the name “Tysons” for the 22102 and 22182 zip codes in 2011, and the U.S. Census Bureau changed the designation of Tysons Corner to Tysons in 2015.

As high-rise developments sprout in the urbanizing area, Tysons is still grappling with its identity tied to suburbia and the Tysons Corner Center mall.

“Renaming the Metrorail station to Tysons would also help with local rebranding efforts,” county staff wrote.

The board is set to vote tomorrow (Tuesday) on recommending name changes for the West Falls Church and Tysons Corner stations to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority (WMATA).

The West Falls Church-VT/UVA station would have “UVA” dropped because the University of Virginia (UVA) alerted the Department of Transportation staff this spring that it plans to relocate its campus, which is currently near the Metro station, according to county documents.

The Board of Supervisors wants the changes adopted in time for new signage timed with the opening of the second phase of the Silver Line, according to county documents.

Combining these two changes with the upcoming changes for adding Silver Line phase II stations reduces the estimated net cost to Fairfax County to approximately $670,000,” county staff said. “Funding held in trust at the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission for Fairfax County will be used to fund these name changes.”

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Obituary for Local Activist — “Barbara Cram, the dedicated and tireless community doer of good in Falls Church for decades, died at her home surrounded by her family Tuesday morning, according to a report from Sally Cole of the F.C. Chamber of Commerce, who was in direct touch with the daughter, Stacy Fierce.” [Falls Church News-Press]

New Unemployment Data — “Northern Virginia’s unemployment rate hit 10% in April as business shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic ricocheted through the economy.” [Inside NoVa]

Protests in Falls Church — Students are holding a unity walk today at 1:30 p.m. On Sunday, a Black Lives Rally will be held at Cherry Hill Park at 11 a.m. [Eventbrite, Facebook]

Silver Line Challenges in Tysons — “Shops and restaurants in Tysons have already begun slowly reopening as the region has eased coronavirus-related restrictions, including those at the massive Tysons Corner Center. But without Metro, many workers are left scrambling to change their commutes — and big companies in the area feel they can’t adequately construct plans for when to bring their employees back to the office.” [Washington Business Journal]

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Crews have been busy working on projects in Tysons connected to the first phase of the Silver Line.

The Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project shared photos of the work has been like in Tysons throughout April.

Phase 1 includes the four stations (McLean, Tysons Corner, Greensboro and Spring Hill) in Tysons and the Wiehle-Reston East station.

The photos above show a variety of activities, from crews placing concrete near Leesburg Pike for a new ADA ramp to excavation work along Old Meadow Road.

Photos courtesy Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project

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As Tysons grows, so do the opportunities for tourism around the area.

Visit Fairfax, a non-profit organization that works to encourage tourism around Fairfax County, plans to promote a series of new initiatives to boost visitation in 2020, according to President and CEO Barry Biggar.

Among the upcoming changes, the organization plans to capitalize on student and international markets and expand capabilities to host large conferences in Tysons, Biggar told Tysons Reporter.

Biggar brought up how many locals see the constant construction in Tysons as a negative thing, but said perception changes depending on who he asks. For example, he said many international travelers see it as a sign of prosperity within a community.

As someone in charge of oversight for the marketing, sales and visitor services for Visit Fairfax, Biggar monitors larger trends across the county.

Fairfax County made over $3.2 billion in 2018 from tourism, according to Visit Fairfax’s website, which also noted that the county brings in the second most money for tourism in Virginia.

Though there are not yet statistics available for Tysons specifically, Biggar said he hopes to break down the numbers within the next year.

“When I think of Tysons, I think immediately of the opportunities we have for business travel,” he said. 

A large reason for the uptick in corporate and business events being held in Tysons, according to Biggar, is partially thanks to the expansion of the Silver Line to Tysons in 2014 and its upcoming expansion to the Dulles International Airport.

“Come 2020 we will have Silver Line service all the way to Dulles. Having that access all the way to Tysons or Reston will be significant in growing the business travel market,” Biggar said.  

Currently, the Sheraton Tysons ranks as the largest venue for conferences and events in the entire county, according to Biggar. But, Biggar hinted that this may soon change as the skyline view keeps shifting and making way for new developments like the Capital One Hall, which promises space to host not only corporate events but also theatrical productions.

Around Fairfax County as a whole, Biggar said Visit Fairfax is currently in the process of writing proposals to host an upcoming National Senior Games, which is a bi-yearly event under the United States Olympic Committee to bring together senior citizens from across the U.S. to compete in athletic challenges.

He said that Visit Fairfax wants to host more reunions for members of the military and armed services, because of Fairfax County’s proximity to Arlington Cemetery and the upcoming National Army Museum in Fort Belvoir.

Now, Visit Fairfax is working with the Tysons Partnership, an organization that promotes social and economic development of Tysons, to coordinate marketing efforts and help one another.

“We know them very, very well and will assist them with any information or intelligence that they may need,” Biggar said. 

One of the major gaps around Tysons, Biggar said, is the lack of live entertainment and nightlife. He said that the Capital One Center and other upcoming businesses are already planning to fill this niche market.

“If we look at Tysons Plaza or even Merrifield to see how they use their central green space to bring in performers, all of the development that is happening in Tysons should look at incorporating that,” he said.

“It brings about energy and creates an ongoing desire to go back and see what else is happening.”

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Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) unveiled its proposed fiscal year 2021-25 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) last week.

In November, Fairfax County voters approved a $360 million school bond referendum that includes $2 million in planning funds for a new “Silver Line elementary school,” along with other construction and renovation projects.

For the new Silver Line elementary school, permitting would happen in FY 2022, with permitting in FY 2023 and construction from FY 2024-2026, according to the CIP draft.

The revised budget estimates the Silver Line elementary school will cost $39.5 million.

“Anticipation of the completion of the Silver Line Metro has already spurred higher density residential growth along that corridor which may result in an increase in students within FCPS,” according to the CIP draft.

Along with the Silver Line school, the 10-year CIP forecast expects permitting to start on a new elementary school in Tysons in FY 2027.

Here is information on school renovations in the Tysons area in the proposed CIP:

  • Falls Church High School, costing $141.9 million
  • Cooper Middle School, costing $52 million
  • Dranesville Elementary School, costing $38 million
  • Louis Archer Elementary School, costing $29 million

A public hearing will be held on the CIP on Jan. 7 at 6 p.m. at Jackson Middle School (3020 Gallows Road), followed by a school board work session on it on Jan. 13. A vote on the CIP is scheduled to take place on Jan. 23.

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In the wake of Capital One opening the region’s tallest office building, the nearby McLean Metro station has had a sharp increase in Metro traffic.

New data from the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission compared Metro ridership in January, February and March with the same period in 2018. All of the Silver Line stations in Virginia saw an increase in ridership over the previous year, part of an ongoing trend.

Overall the McLean Metro station had the largest increase in ridership with 20.6 percent growth.

The Greensboro Metro station, site of The Boro development and other projects aiming to compete with Tysons Corner Center as a commercial hub, also saw substantial ridership increase with an 18.4 percent growth.

The most popular station is Wiehle-Reston East — the end of the line — with 1,018,980 total riders over three months. In Tysons, the most population station was Tysons Corner with 490,212 riders over three months.

The Spring Hill Metro station had previously seen a 2.9 percent decline in ridership between last winter and the one before, but in the three months that followed the station saw a modest 2 percent increase in ridership over the previous year.

Photo 2 via Tysons Partnership/Twitter

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The short Metro tunnel in Tysons is now the only one in Virginia without cell coverage, but Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) said that should be remedied by next summer.

Calls inside the tunnel connecting the Tysons Corner and Greensboro Metro stations on the Silver Line are dropped regardless of cellular provider — interrupting 25 minutes of otherwise continuous cell coverage from the Wiehle-Reston to Ballston Metro stations.

The lack of cell service is more than a convenience issue. Experts have called it a glaring safety problem for the system — particularly in the wake of a death in a smoke-clogged tunnel in 2015.

On and off for 10 years, WMATA has been working with cell carriers to wire tunnels to provide continuous service, though the plan has hit several stumbling blocks along the way. The press release said the plan is to have all of the tunnels completed by June 2020:

The $120 million capital project to install dual radio and cellular cables within Metro’s tunnels began in February 2016 and is scheduled to be completed by June 2020. The labor-intensive process involves installing special trays on the tunnel walls to support the heavy cables and requires the track be taken out of service for the work to be done.

WMATA said 67 miles of the 100 total miles of track are now cell-accessible, including all of the Orange and Blue lines.

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Monday Morning Notes

HQ2 Worries for Fairfax Companies — “Amazon.com Inc.’s move to open a second headquarters in Arlington may prove to be a mixed-bag for Fairfax County. While many HQ2 employees are expected to live in the county, there’s a real chance that Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) will take tech talent from companies based in Fairfax.” [Washington Business Journal]

Does Tysons Need New North-South Transit? — “The Silver Line is good for east-west, but Tysons needs something north-south too. [Twitter]

Silver Line Station Progress — “Work crews in yellow vests and hard hats continue to dot the stations, track, pavilions, pedestrian bridges and tracks along the Phase 2 alignment, but over the next few months, more and more of those workers will be heading to interior work stations to run utility lines, install equipment and test all of the facilities.” [VivaTysons]

Apartment Fire in Falls Church — A fire broke out in the kitchen of an apartment at 450 N. Washington Street in Falls Church on Friday afternoon. [Twitter]

Falls Church PD Seek Info in Dog Bite Case — “City of Falls Church Police and Animal Control are looking for a dog that bit a man on the leg on Wednesday, March 27, around 2:15 p.m. near the Cherry Hill Park tennis courts.” [City of Falls Church]

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