Tysons, VA

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).

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Tomorrow (Feb. 4), the Fairfax County’s Transportation Committee will meet to discuss upcoming projects around the area.

Board members will kick off the meeting, which begins at 3 p.m. in the Fairfax County Government Center, with updates and progress regarding the I-495 Express Lanes Northern Expansion project.

According to the documents posted ahead of the meeting, the I-495 project will include expansion of express lanes to George Washington Memorial Parkway, replacement of existing overpasses, implementation of a shared-use path and addition of new noise barrier walls.

Upgrades could save drivers up to 25 minutes during their peak-hour commute, especially with ease cut-through traffic congestion in local communities, according to the documents.

Other items on the agenda include bus and Metrorail improvements and the Bicycle Master Plan.

For people who bike to work, a shared-use bike path behind the noise wall will connect the American Legion Bridge to Maryland, the presentation said.

Meanwhile, an ongoing I-495 Regional Transit Study is expected to become public sometime this year.

A public forum to discuss the discuss environmental and technical reports from the project is set for March 12 at Langley High School (6520 Georgetown Pike) from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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In a newsletter to constituents today, Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said a meeting in March will solicit community input on the American Legion Bridge.

Currently, the 495 Express Lanes Northern Extension project — a.ka. 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.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is set to present the results of the 495 NEXT environmental study and traffic analysis on Thursday, March 12.

Foust’s newsletter said that “one of the biggest transportation challenges in the McLean area is the congestion caused by inadequate capacity on the American Legion Bridge and the Maryland side of the Beltway.”

More from the newsletter:

In early 2019, VDOT signed a nonbinding Development Framework Agreement with Transurban. Delivering the project through this public private partnership would mean that no public funding by the Commonwealth is needed to extend the Express Lanes network. If approved, the project will replace Live Oak Drive, Georgetown Pike, and Old Dominion Drive Bridges and allow for the installation of pedestrian/bike facilities along the corridor. Construction could begin as early as 2021.

Virginia officials have been cautious about moving forward with the project because without replacing the American Legion Bridge, bottlenecks and congestion will only be relocated, not resolved.

A major development occurred late last year when Virginia Governor Northam and Maryland Governor Hogan announced “The Capital Beltway Accord.” The agreement is a commitment to work together to create a new, unified Capital Beltway and replace the aging American Legion Bridge. The cost of the bridge project is expected to be $1 billion and both states will contribute to the cost through public-private partnerships. The private entity will pay the upfront costs in exchange for future toll revenue meaning toll payers rather than taxpayers will foot the bill.

The new bridge will have four express toll lanes, in addition to eight free lanes, as on the current span. The tolls will fluctuate based on congestion, rising to keep traffic flowing freely. Construction could begin in 2022 and would likely take five or six years.

The next key piece of the puzzle is ensuring that the widening of I-495 just over the bridge in Maryland is done in coordination with the bridge project. Governor Hogan recently obtained a key vote to advance a plan to widen the Beltway from the American Legion Bridge to the Interstate 270 spur, and along the lower part of I-270 between the Beltway and Interstate 370.

“I am excited that we are making progress on addressing congestion issues that have plagued our communities, but I want to be sure that the project is done in a way that actually addresses our problems, rather than just moving them,” Foust said in the newsletter.

At the March 12 meeting, attendees will be able to provide input during a public hearing.

The meeting is set to run from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Langley High School in McLean (6520 Georgetown Pike).

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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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