Tysons, VA

Drivers who regularly take Towers Crescent Drive might want to budget in more time now that the road has two new stop signs near Ring Road and is undergoing road work.

Currently, the road is being repaved, Ellen Kamilakis, a spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Transportation, told Tysons Reporter.

Towers Crescent Drive will soon have a new traffic pattern.

“The final roadway configurations will have one lane in each direction with either left-turn lanes or two-way left turning lane in the middle,” Kamilakis said. “In addition, it will have a bike lane in each direction.”

In response to Tysons Reporter’s question about when the repaving will be finished, Kamilakis said, “It should be relatively soon as the asphalt plants don’t stay open year-round.”

Multi-way stop signs were installed on Sept. 25 at the intersection of Towers Crescent Drive and Ring Road, Kamilakis said.

With the combination of the stop signs and the work blocking a southbound lane, traffic slowed down on Towers Crescent Drive when Tysons Reporter visited yesterday morning.

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Drivers can expect delays this morning from a crash along Route 123 between I-495 and the Dulles Connector Road in Tysons.

A traffic camera showed what appeared to be the front end of a red vehicle rammed into the back of a white vehicle around 9 a.m. Police are on scene.

Traffic was backed up connecting the Dulles Connector Road to Route 123, according to Google Maps.

Image via Virginia 511, map via Google Maps

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A long-awaited project to lessen congestion at an intersection near the American Legion Bridge in McLean is nearing completion.

The Virginia Department of Transportation expanded the intersection by 550 feet to include a left turn and right turn lane, as well as an option for traffic to go straight into the nearby neighborhood. The renovations also include an area where law enforcement can safely pull over traffic.

Crews worked on the three-month-long project at the intersection of Georgetown Pike and Balls Hill Road over the summer. Politicians gathered Thursday morning (Aug. 22) to survey the scene and celebrate the project.

Allison Richter, a VDOT liaison for Fairfax County, attended the event and said that people in the nearby neighborhood struggled to get home when others were trying to turn onto American Legion Bridge or onto the freeway. The addition of turn lanes is expected to ease traffic around rush hour, she said.

Richter said that this was part of a $500,000 project to improve traffic flow in the area, which should be completed in the next couple days. She also said that roughly $250,000 of the funds came from Fairfax County while the remaining $250,000 came from an operations safety budget.

“This is one of the rare occasions we meet at this intersection on a happy note,” Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust told the gathering. “This has been a challenge to deal with the intersection and try to meditate the impact on the surrounding neighborhoods from the American Legion Bridge and back up on the ramp.”

Road crews had to redirect some attention from the work on Balls Hill Road to roads impacted by severe flooding in early July, Foust said.

Crews are still working to repair Kirby Road, which is still closed due to flooding damage, he said, adding that the floods completely rerouted the river, which now flows underneath the road.

The city needs to get permits from the Army Corps of Engineers to fix the damage.

“There is only so much we can expedite,” Foust said, adding that he believes that the residents have been patient with the process.

As for the road crews, “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen VDOT so focused,” Foust said.

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Updated at 11:35 a.m. — All travel lanes on I-495 reopened around 10:30 a.m. 

Earlier: A multi-car crash on I-495 is causing substantial delays in Tysons.

Shortly after 9:30 a.m., the north right outside lane and right shoulder closed, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Drivers can expect delays, according to VDOT. As of 9:50 a.m., traffic is crawling along northbound I-495 up to Route 123.

First image via VDOT, second image via Google Maps

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors recently made a $51 million investment in Tysons-area roads, but improvements to a troubled McLean road didn’t make the cut.

Balls Hill Road runs parallel to the Beltway through much of McLean up to Georgetown Pike, turning the two-lane residential street into a preferred get-around for Beltway traffic on navigation apps.

During rush hour, the intersection of Balls Hill Road and Georgetown Pike (Route 193) is frequently a backed up, apocalyptic free-for-all. Solutions to alleviate the congestion — including a controversial plan to close Georgetown Pike off from the Beltway entirely — have been proposed.

One plan involving intersection improvements was considered at meetings last fall, but the proposed improvement was not included in the Board of Supervisors’ budget.

“The Balls Hill and 193 improvements were not included in the Board’s $51 million [budget],” said Robin Geiger, head of communications for the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.

Potential intersection improvements included short-term solutions like widening shoulders to allow for increased traffic enforcement and painted boxes to stop drivers from stopping in the intersection and blocking traffic.

Longer term solutions focused on coordinated efforts to improve the American Legion Bridge and the nearby Beltway to reduce backups onto Georgetown Pike.

Meanwhile, another project to improve another troublesome intersection on Balls Hill Road is moving forward. The Balls Hill Road and Old Dominion Drive intersection is notoriously crash-prone with 29 crashes in a five-year span, due in part to poor sight-line conditions.

Geiger said in December, the Board of Supervisors approved the T-intersection proposal for the site and the project is currently in a preliminary engineering design phase. Funding for that project is approximately $21.5 million with construction scheduled to start in spring 2023.

Image via Google Maps

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New plans are on the way to fix traffic on the Dolley Madison Corridor between Tysons and McLean.

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) and Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust are planning a meeting next Thursday (June 13) at 7 p.m. in the McLean Community Center (1234 Ingleside Avenue) to discuss the new “Dolley Madison Corridor Study.” According to the meeting description:

The purpose of the study is to analyze Dolley Madison Boulevard between the Dulles Toll Road and Old Dominion Drive and recommend solutions to improve traffic conditions. The team will present a variety of options with traffic model analysis and is looking for feedback from the public on the short-term and long-term improvements presented.

A Fairfax County Transportation status report from February said that four local intersections are being evaluated to understand how changes to one impact the others.

  • Dolley Madison Boulevard, Great Falls Street and Lewinsville Road intersection
  • Dolley Madison Boulevard and Old Dominion Drive intersection
  • Great Falls Street and Chain Bridge Road intersection
  • Balls Hill Road and Lewinsville Road intersection

Robin Geiger, head of communications for FCDOT, also said the intersections of Dolley Madison Boulevard and Ingleside Avenue and the intersection of Old Dominion Drive and Ingleside Avenue are being considered. Geiger said staff evaluated short term solutions that could be implemented to benefit traffic over the next 10 years.

The status report noted that FCDOT staff presented scenarios to Foust’s office and they were asked to look at more long-term solutions as well. Geiger said FCDOT are considering longer-term solutions for the Great Falls Street/Lewinsville Road intersection with Dolley Madison Boulevard near Tysons and the intersection with Old Dominion Drive.

The specific solutions being proposed are not presently available, but Geiger said a website for the project is planned to be launched soon and community feedback will be gathered at the June 13 meeting.

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New legislation could allow Fairfax County to establish exceptions to no-turn restrictions for local residents.

Last year, McLean residents shot down a plan to eliminate cut-through traffic because it would also limit street access for residents, but new legislation could allow a middle-ground option.

At a Fairfax County Board Transportation Committee meeting today (Tuesday), staff discussed a proposal that would give local residents permits to exempt them from cut-through restrictions either currently in place or to be established.

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said the idea came from a local citizen and was presented by Del. Kathleen Murphy (D-34th District) to the Virginia legislature, who sponsored HB 2033. The legislation allows Fairfax County to “develop a program to issue permits or stickers to residents of a designated area that will allow such residents to make turns into or out of the designated area during certain times of day where such turns would otherwise be restricted.”

Neil Freschman, section chief of traffic engineering at Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT), said the program would be jointly administered by FCDOT and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to specifically handle traffic that has neither origin nor destination on the road in question.

“This is only relevant for cut-through turns,” Freschman said, “not safety restrictions.”

Once a cut-through restriction is put into place, Freschman said a letter would be sent out to local residents letting them know how to file for a permit.

Currently, staff said there are only two areas that have relevant cut-through restrictions: both of them in the Mason District, but Foust noted that there are places in the Dranesville District where this kind of permit could be a solution to transit woes.

“We don’t want to enforce it against residents, but they say it’s all or nothing: we enforce it against everybody or we don’t enforce it against anybody,” Foust said. “[This idea] allows residents to make the turn onto their own streets if there was a cut-through restriction.”

Staff estimated that developing the new ordinance could take six months, followed by seven months of updating agreements with partner agencies and designing the new permits, and a year to work with a contractor to develop new software. Part of that process would be determining permit-eligible areas and determining if a fee should be charged to residents for the permits, which staff currently does not recommend.

Staff also noted that permits would be issued to vehicles registered at permit-eligible addresses and would not be available to visitors, caregivers, service providers, relatives or others. After questioning from the committee, staff said they would look into seeing about easing that limitation.

Enforcement of the policy would be conducted on a complaint basis, staff said, rather than as a daily activity. Difficulties like low-light conditions and potentially confusing factors, such as unclear signage, were also noted in a report on the project.

The committee approved of staff moving forward with the plan to build guidance and to work with Fairfax County Police to ensure the program is enforceable. The project is expected to return for public hearing and consideration in early 2020.

“This is a breakthrough,” said Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bulova. “We’ve never been able to use a tool like this, but the state legislation allows us to do that.”

Photo via Flickr/Mike Goad

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(Updated 1:50 p.m.) A crash on I-66 is causing substantial delays near Vienna with one lane closed in each direction.

The crash was reported around 1:35 p.m., with one eastbound lane closed, then a westbound lane closed a few minutes later at the same mile marker.

Emergency crews are on-site assisting a vehicle in the median. Traffic is still moving in either direction, but with residual slowdowns in either direction.

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After the Beltway was paralyzed by a tanker crash near the American Legion Bridge last Thursday, questions have again surfaced about the possibility of a new connection between Northern Virginia and Maryland.

Potential solutions have included expanding the proposed “Purple Line” from Maryland down to Tysons. But this type of connection doesn’t come without a share of difficulties, and Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust says Virginia can’t afford to take its eye off the more attainable prize of fixing the American Legion Bridge first.

“The first priority has to be fixing the issues at the American Legion Bridge,” Foust said. “We have the cooperation of Maryland on that. But based on what just happened with the shutdown, it’s critical that we consider building a parallel bridge as opposed to just widening the one we have. That gives us some redundancy in the event of a crash like this or a terrorist attack, so we don’t shut down Northern Virginia.”

But an expansion of the American Legion Bridge, much less an entirely new one, has raised concerns that another crossing would add new roads through the Montgomery County Agricultural Reserve on the Maryland side, though some have said this impact is likely overblown.

“It raises serious environmental issues that have to be addressed, but it takes both sides of the river to cooperate and agree,” Foust said. “Historically, Virginia has been more inclined to do it than Maryland, who has been more insistent that they do not want another bridge.”

Frank Shafroth, director of the Center for State and Local Leadership at George Mason University, said there’s political momentum to push for the new connection despite the obstacles.

“Foust is correct about the challenge — not a challenge all that different from the initial challenge of the Beltway itself,” Shafroth said. “But leaders in this region have demonstrated, over the years, a practical ability to be creative in resolving these kinds of governance challenges: they tend to be far more practical than many federal elected officials, and much more accountable to constituents.”

Foust is far from alone in pushing for a new route over the Potomac. Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity expressed frustrations at the crash’s impact on regional traffic on Twitter.

In an ideal world, Foust said he would like to see more transit options on the Beltway, like dedicated bus lanes. However, transit options like a new Metro line are too far off to consider in transportation plans, Foust argues.

“I don’t think we can wait to get light or heavy rail to make that route from Maryland to Virginia,” Foust said. “We have to move forward with the bridge if possible, and provide the ability to add rail at a later date.”

Virginia recently approved new express lanes that will extend to the American Legion Bridge. Though unlikely to do much to relieve the crush of rush hour traffic, Foust says the lanes should offer some relief by giving Beltway drivers headed to the George Washington Parkway rather than the American Legion Bridge another option to get around traffic.

“But nobody thinks we’re going to solve the problem until Maryland does what they need to do with regards to that bridge and the capacity for the Beltway on the Maryland side,” Foust said. “Virginia is prepared to move forward. Maryland I think is talking as early as 2022 to begin construction, but realistically they have a lot of issues to resolve first. But I think [this crash] put an exclamation point on the fact that we need a solution.”

In January, Maryland’s highway administrator Greg Slater told WUSA9 that a new bridge should be built within the next few years and that it was a top priority of Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.

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A new study of the Maple Avenue corridor shows Vienna’s most dangerous intersections and details extensive gaps in the town’s sidewalk network.

At an April 1 work session, the Vienna Town Council is scheduled to discuss the initial results of study by planning consulting firm Kimley-Horn.

The report also showed three major traffic crash hotspots calculated over three years: where Maple Avenue intersects with Nutley Street, Courthouse Road, and Park Street.

The study shows that while Maple Avenue has extensive sidewalk coverage, streets one block away like Windover Avenue and Glen Avenue on the west end or East Street and Mashie Drive at the east end of town are completely without sidewalks.

Church Street, another major street through the town, only has sidewalks on one side of the street between Park Street and Beulah Road.

In a finding that will surprise few Vienna residents, Maple Avenue is overcrowded. The report said daily traffic on the street topped 30,000 vehicles per day, on the high end of the study’s scale.

The street’s traffic density was worst between Nutley Street and Follin Lane, the main stretch through town.

Maple Avenue also sees high levels of bicycle traffic. It os ranked by the report at “level of traffic stress 4,” the highest category available, meaning that it is exceedingly uncomfortable and stressful for cyclists to use.

Nearly every major road feeding into the street, like Nutley Street and Park Street, as well as the aforementioned Church Street also saw high levels of car traffic and cyclist stress.

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