Traffic is starting to flow again in the Vienna area of Interstate 66 after a multi-vehicle crash shut down the eastbound lanes after Cedar Lane around 9:20 this morning (Monday).
The crash occurred at the 63.6 mile marker and backed up traffic for approximately two miles, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.
VDOT’s live traffic cameras showed vehicles starting to move again around 9:40 a.m., but the left lane appears to still be closed as of 10 a.m.
“Motorists can expect delays due to a multi-vehicle crash,” VDOT said in an update at 9:51 a.m. “The East left shoulder and left lane are closed.”
Images via VDOT
Several local chambers of commerce have come out in favor of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s much-debated 495 NEXT project, which will extend the I-495 Express Lanes approximately three miles from the Dulles Toll Road interchange to the American Legion Bridge.
The Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce announced its endorsement of the project yesterday (Monday). It was joined by the Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Greater McLean Chamber of Commerce, as well as chambers representing Reston, Springfield, Mount Vernon, the City of Alexandria, Arlington County, and Prince William County.
The organizations, which represent businesses that collectively employ about 600,000 people across Northern Virginia, say expanding the 495 Express Lanes will help reduce one of the region’s biggest chokepoints and generally improve local travel conditions, particularly in the Tysons area and in between Virginia and Maryland.
“The I-495 expansion will bring a much-needed economic boost to the area and provide long-term economic benefits,” Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Julie Coons said. “It will also add new transit choices that will help attract more businesses and help existing businesses flourish.”
According to the NOVA Chamber of Commerce, the 495 NEXT project is expected to create an estimated 6,300 new jobs and generate $880 million in economic activity during its development and construction.
VDOT is currently waiting for the Federal Highway Administration to issue a decision on the project based on an environmental assessment that was released last February. If the assessment is approved, the state agency expects to issue a contract, finalize the design, and start construction later this year.
The 495 NEXT project is being developed in parallel with a Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation study of transit options for the I-495 and American Legion Bridge corridor. State officials have proposed expanding bus service between Northern Virginia, particularly Tysons, and Maryland, though a final report is not expected to come out until March.
“The expanded transit service will help Tysons reach its long-term goals to reduce congestion and increase accessibility for Tyson’s residents, businesses, employees, and consumers, improving our quality of life and economic outlook,” Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce President and Chairman Andrew Clark said.
VDOT says that the 495 NEXT project will enable 2,500 more people per hour to move through the corridor starting in 2025.
However, it would be able to move even more people if Maryland finishes its plans to introduce toll lanes on the American Legion Bridge, leading some to question why the timelines for the two projects are not aligned. The environmental assessment for Maryland’s managed toll lanes study is not scheduled to be completed until this fall.
Community members and public officials have also raised concerns about the project’s potential impact on surrounding neighborhoods and the environment, especially when it comes to water quality.
The chambers of commerce that have backed 495 NEXT say it is necessary to “set the stage” for improvements to the American Legion Bridge, which currently sees over 230,000 trips per day.
“For years, neighborhoods in McLean have been inundated by cut-through regional commuters seeking to avoid the endemic Beltway backups approaching the American Legion Bridge,” Greater McLean Chamber of Commerce President Paul Kohlenberger said. “495 NEXT will alleviate this cut-through traffic, increase travel time reliability, and offer additional travel choices to the residents, customers and workers of the Greater McLean area.”
Photo via Google Maps
Members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors share numerous concerns about the environmental impact of the I-495 Express Lanes Northern Extension (495 NEXT) project.
Based on an environmental assessment released in February, the board’s comments highlight everything from traffic and transit to stormwater management, along with recommendations to minimize the impact on trees, waterways, streams, historic properties and noise.
“The Board requests that VDOT continue to allow time for the public to provide feedback on the project prior to executing a final contract,” Chairman Jeffery McKay said in a letter to Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine that the board is scheduled to approve when it meets today (Tuesday).
The project is intended to add more capacity to I-495 to take some of the cut-through traffic off nearby McLean streets, but without expanding the American Legion Bridge and I-495 on the Maryland side, some are concerned the express lanes will only push the bottleneck further north.
A traffic analysis found that generally, travel time along the Capital Beltway corridor will improve in both 2025 and 2045 once Maryland completes their managed lane system.
Until Maryland completes its improvements, the analysis predicted delays along general purpose lanes going north on I-495. In response, the board urged the Virginia Department of Transportation to shorten the time between the opening of the two projects.
“It is critical that VDOT address the temporary impacts of opening prior to Maryland’s managed lanes,” they said.
As part of the 495 NEXT project, VDOT has committed to building a major regional trail in accordance with Fairfax County’s Comprehensive Plan. The Board of Supervisors is requesting that the trail continue through Tysons instead of ending at Lewinsville Road.
They also urged VDOT to find money to promote transit access along the corridor, which will help reduce single-occupancy vehicle ridership and encourage sustainable transportation system.
Stormwater management ranks among Fairfax County’s top environmental concerns for 495 NEXT. Noting that flooding has particularly been an issue in the McLean area, the board wants VDOT to meet county requirements, rather than being grandfathered into lenient state standards.
“If meeting our local stormwater management requirements is not attainable, VDOT should implement requirements to the maximum extent practicable and provide documentation demonstrating that the technical requirements are not fully feasible,” McKay said in the letter. Read More
Tempers ran high during the Virginia Department of Transportation’s virtual public meeting on its Interstate 495 Express Lanes Northern Extension (495 NEXT) project on Wednesday (Nov. 18).
With a Dec. 4 deadline for public comment on the project’s environmental assessment and initial design plans approaching fast, some community members criticized VDOT for a perceived lack of transparency and asked why the project is being pursued now instead of waiting for Maryland to undertake its long-gestating plan to improve the American Legion Bridge.
“More has to be done now to look at the basics, because the studies that VDOT has presented are inadequate,” McLean resident April Georgelas argued. “It’s inappropriate to pursue this any further and put citizens through the stress that we don’t need right now for a project that will only do harm for our area.”
Initiated in the spring of 2018, the 495 NEXT project proposes extending the existing 495 Express Lanes roughly three miles from the Dulles Toll Road and I-495 interchange to the George Washington Memorial Parkway near the American Legion Bridge.
VDOT would replace bridges to accommodate the express lanes, add a bicycle and pedestrian trail, construct new noise walls where necessary, and provide stormwater management facilities.
Virginia transportation officials say extending the 495 Express Lanes will help reduce congestion in one of the most congested corridors in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan region, while also improving travel reliability and reducing the amount of cut-through traffic that currently goes through neighborhood streets in McLean and Great Falls.
According to VDOT’s analysis, the 495 NEXT project would move approximately 2,500 more people per hour in both directions through the corridor starting in 2025. It would move 5,400 more people an hour if Maryland completes its American Legion Bridge project, though that is not likely to be finished until 2027.
By 2045, I-495 would be able to carry an additional 7,600 people an hour in both directions combined with the express lanes extended, VDOT says.
“This facility will provide a running way for carpools, vanpools, and transit vehicles to be able to provide reliable and faster trips than what could be accomplished under the current congested conditions,” VDOT Special Project Development Associate Manager Abraham Lerner said.
While the McLean Citizens Association has expressed support for 495 NEXT, many community members have raised concerns about the planned bike trail location, the ramps that have been proposed as modifications to the Dulles Toll Road interchange, and potential environmental and neighborhood impacts.
According to VDOT Megaprojects Director Susan Shaw, the project is anticipated to affect 35 acres of trees with its first phase of construction and about 3,000 feet of stream in Scotts Run, 70% of which is already significantly degraded.
Shaw says VDOT has committed to doing a tree survey prior to any removals to determine what trees should be replanted where possible and working with Fairfax County on stream restoration.
Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust urged VDOT to look for alternatives for the Dulles Toll Road interchange. The current plan involves three phases of new ramps being constructed.
“The impact of those ramps on that area of the county, which includes residential neighborhoods and Tysons – which we’re trying to create as a transit-oriented community – is going to be overwhelming,” Foust said. “Clearly, there’s a lot of traffic there, but right now…what you’re ending up [with] there is a spaghetti network of ramps that’s going to be very destructive to that entire area of Fairfax County.”
Photo via Google Maps
Despite — or maybe because of — the coronavirus, the Virginia Department of Transportation is on track to open new express lanes on I-66 in December 2022.
“There have been some project benefits in terms of reduced traffic volumes in the corridor,” VDOT megaprojects director Susan Shaw said during a virtual presentation and Q&A last Thursday (Oct. 29).
Longer-term lane closures were possible this year that would have resulted in gridlock pre-pandemic, she said.
Construction on I-66 continues during daytime and overnight hours, as weather allows. VDOT, I-66 Express Mobility Partners, and FAM Construction — the design-builder for the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway Project — updated commuters and residents through two online meetings last week.
Although the express lanes are predicted to open in December 2022, some construction on the project will continue into 2023.
Many lane closures will extend through end of the year, but in areas where congestion has started to snarl during peak hours, officials are looking to add back some lanes and abate traffic.
And with the pandemic showing no signs of ending, it is “really hard to say how the overall project will be impacted,” Shaw says.
All the late-night construction means there will be noisy nights, but VDOT is working with Fairfax and local supervisors’ offices to communicate construction plans to residents, she said.
“There are some activities that have to be done at night and do have to be noisy,” Shaw said.
The ramp from I-66 East to Route 28 North was closed from 11:30 p.m. on Tuesday to 4 a.m. on Wednesday to allow for a traffic shift onto a temporary left exit ramp from Route 28 North to I-66 East, VDOT said in an email.
Officials expect the temporary ramp to be in use for four weeks, while crews finish constructing a permanent ramp from Route 28 North to I-66 East.
Drivers traveling from Lee Highway South to Route 28 North will not be able to access the temporary ramp. These drivers will need to take detours farther south on Route 29 to the I-66/Route 29 interchange in Centreville until the permanent right-side ramp from Route 28 North to I-66 East is opened.
Tysons area residents and commuters can expect a number of other construction activities to affect travel starting in mid-November, including:
- Closure of the I-66 East and Nutley Street North loop ramp, redirecting travelers exiting I-66 for Nutley onto temporary ramps
- Continued construction of a new Gallows Road bridge over I-66 in Dunn Loring, which is occurring in two phases to maintain traffic flow during construction, according to Smith
- Temporary realignment of the W&OD Trail at Idylwood Park, starting in late November and continuing for four to six months as crews build a new, permanent alignment
A new ramp at the I-495 interchange was completed recently, and deck work for a new bridge is starting soon, FAM Construction spokesperson Nancy Smith said. The I-495 interchange will have eight ramps to connect the express I-66 East/West lanes to I-495 North/South general purpose lanes.
Watch an animated video of changes planned for I-66 here:
Photos via VDOT/Youtube
Updated 11:15 a.m. — The VDOT in-person meeting will be held on Oct. 8, not Oct.7.
As traffic congestion increases on I-495, the McLean Citizens Association approved a resolution at last night’s meeting in support of a project to add express lanes.
The Virginia Department of Transportation is considering the express lanes as part of an expansion along the highway in McLean leading up to the American Legion Bridge
The changes, as they stand, would extend the I-495 Express Lanes north from the I-495 and Dulles Access Road interchange up to the American Legion Bridge and add two new tolled express lanes in each direction.
Discussion during MCA’s meeting last night on the express lanes focused on environmental concerns and the Maryland Department of Transporation’s plans to update its side of the bridge.
When it comes to environmental factors, the proposed changes would destroy 118 acres of trees and interfere with Scott Run’s Nature Preserve along with the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, according to the proposal.
Yet another concern with the removal of trees would be the elimination of sound and visual barriers for some McLean residents, a board member said.
To minimize harm to the trees, MCA requested in the resolution that VDOT conduct a study to determine the species of trees that will be removed and that VDOT tries to minimize harm to healthy and established foliage, like having a replanting program.
Additionally, the project currently does not have a stormwater management plan, despite evidence that watersheds and drainage ponds would be interrupted.
The MCA indicated conditional support for the project as long as VDOT address these issues and make amends for potential damage.
“[The] greatest impact of the project will fall on the Scott’s Run Nature Preserve and GW Parkway. And every effort should be made to minimize the footprint of the facility and avoid temporary use of parkland during construction,” an MCA board member said at the meeting.
In terms of MDOT’s involvement with the project, many board members expressed concern about misalignment with the state’s timelines.
For example, the VDOT 495 NEXT project is expected to be completed years before MDOT improves the American Legion Bridge and the portion of I-495 between the GW Parkway and I-270, according to the resolution.
Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said earlier this year that timeline misalignment would be a “huge” mistake.
Still, VDOT predicts that Virginia’s part of the work will reduce cut-thru traffic on local roads, increase I-495’s capacity and improve travel time on I-495 — even if Maryland doesn’t do anything, the resolution said.
Despite barriers and concerns, MCA Transportation Committee Chair David Wuehrmann suggested at the meeting that other board members vote in support of the resolution.
“If you’re not inclined to vote for this, you need to think about what will replace it,” he said, noting the importance of congestion relief on I-495.
Inevitably, the resolution passed last night by a 25-5 vote from the MCA board members.
Going forward, VDOT is scheduled to have an online public hearing on Oct. 5 and an in-person meeting on Oct. 8, according to an MCA board member.
Wuehrmann said that the MCA now has three goals when it comes to the 495 NEXT project — to reaffirm support for the project, encourage VDOT to commit to environmental relief and work toward congestion relief at the American Legion Bridge and connecting roads.
Image via Google Maps
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
Updated 3/12/2020 — VDOT announced that the meeting will be postponed to a date in April.
Updated at 7:15 p.m. — A Dranesville District Supervisor email this evening says that the meeting will be live streamed.
Earlier: For people avoiding meetings to prevent the coronavirus, an upcoming meeting on the plans to extend the 495 Express Lanes will be filmed.
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is set to present the results of the I-495 NEXT environmental study and traffic analysis on Thursday, March 12.
The meeting is scheduled to last from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Langley High School (6520 Georgetown Pike). People will have a chance to provide comments and ask questions after the presentation at 7 p.m.
VDOT said in an email today (Wednesday) that the video of the meeting will be available online starting Monday (March 16).
Currently, the 495 Express Lanes Northern Extension project — a.k.a. 495 NEXT — would extend the 495 Express Lanes north from the I-495 and Dulles Access Road interchange up to the American Legion Bridge and add two new tolled express lanes in each direction.
People will have through April 15 to submit comments either online, at the public hearing, by email or by mail.
“Questions or requests for more information can be emailed to [email protected] virginia.gov, and a project representative will respond,” VDOT said.
VDOT said that the meeting would be rescheduled if Fairfax County Public Schools close. If inclement weather happens, the meeting would get moved to next Wednesday, March 18.
Commuters can expect delays today on I-495 south of Leesburg Pike (Route 7) while truck fire clean-up is underway.
As of 9:43 a.m., the south right outside lane and right shoulder are closed, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.
VDOT said that drivers can expect delays. As of 10 a.m., traffic is heavy on I-495 between Leesburg Pike and I-66.
— Lauren DeMarco FOX 5 (@ldemarcofox5) March 10, 2020
Lauren DeMarco, a Fox 5 reporter, tweeted a video of the traffic back-up and firefighters and medics on the scene around 10:30 p.m. on Monday.
The video captured firefighters working to extinguish the truck fire.
WTOP reported this morning that clean-up is underway.
Map via Google Maps
A Tysons citizen group recently sent a list of concerns to Fairfax County officials.
The Greater Tysons Citizens Association was founded in 2008 and is made up of residents and organizations in the Tysons area, including the Vienna Town Council and McLean Citizens Association.
In the letter dated Jan. 29, the association noted that with the upcoming 10-year-anniversary of the Tysons Comprehensive Plan, the group is worried about the impact of Tysons’ transformation on surrounding communities.
The letter was sent to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Planning Commission and School Board.
The letter goes on to outline four main concerns:
- traffic congestion
- reaching the goal of 20 urban athletic fields in Tysons
- infrastructure funding and Tysons school planning
- recent interpretations of the Tysons Comprehensive Plan
The association then provided requests for each item.
For traffic congestion, the association would like the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors to look into short- and long-term solutions with community members.
As the athletic fields, the group would like the Board of Supervisors to revisit a follow-on motion decision that allowed a developer of The View to make a monetary contribution to be allocated to a community center.
“We urge investigating and pursuing other funding sources for construction of the Tysons community center,” the letter says. “We urge the PC and BOS to return to the long-accepted practice of requiring in-kind contributions rather than monetary contributions when the calculated field contribution exceeds 1/3 field.”
The association had several suggestions for the school issue:
- complete the revamp of the methodologies used in the capital improvement and proffer formula for better school population projections
- increase staffing in the facilities branch of FCPS
- identify and implement new options to acquire land and fund construction of new schools
Finally, the group requested that the Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission have an in-depth review regarding interpretations of the comprehensive plan and any “potential ramifications.”
Tysons Reporter received a copy of the letter from the McLean Citizens Association (MCA).
Sally Horn, the chair of the Greater Tysons Citizens Association, is set to discuss the letter with the MCA tonight.
The MCA meeting will start at 7:30 p.m. at the McLean Community Center (1234 Ingleside Avenue).