Newsletter

Updated at 5:30 p.m. — Georgetown Pike has been reopened, according to Fairfax Alerts.

Earlier: Georgetown Pike is currently closed at Turkey Run Road in McLean after a vehicle crash from earlier this afternoon.

According to the Fairfax County Police Department, officers responded to Georgetown Pike and Langley Lane before 3 p.m. for a single vehicle crash.

A notice from the county’s Fairfax Alerts system stated that delays should be expected for an “unknown duration.”

“Please follow officer direction in the area,” the police department said.

While police say no injuries were reported in this incident, Georgetown Pike and Langley Lane was the site of another vehicular crash on Nov. 13 that ultimately killed 65-year-old Andre Newman. Newman’s family and community members held a vigil for him at Langley High School, just one-tenth of a mile up the road.

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Morning Notes

Beware Vienna Halloween Parade Traffic — Expect major traffic backups on Route 123 tonight (Wednesday), as the Vienna Halloween Parade will close Maple Avenue between Berry and Center streets from approximately 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Most other roads along the parade route will close at 4:45 p.m., with drivers getting detoured on Church and East streets. [Town of Vienna]

Filipino Restaurant Opens in Falls Church — Kamayan Fiesta recently opened its second location at the corner of Annandale and Washington Streets in the City of Falls Church. Started 18 months ago in Springfield, the locally-owned eatery specializes in Filipino cuisine, including different kinds of pancit (or rice noodles) and chicken adobo. [Falls Church News-Press]

1st Stage to Require COVID-19 Vaccinations 1st Stage Theatre will require patrons to present proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 and a photo ID when it launches its first indoor performances of the pandemic on Nov. 18. The theater won’t accept negative test results as an alternative, and masks will also be required inside the Tysons venue. [Tysons Today]

FCPS Book Banning Plea Crops Up in Gubernatorial Race — A failed call to ban Toni Morrison’s novel “Beloved” from Fairfax County Public Schools has resurfaced after the woman who advocated for the book to be removed in 2013 appeared in a campaign ad for Glenn Youngkin, the Republican Party’s nominee for governor, on Monday (Oct. 25). [The Washington Post]

Falls Church Contractor Acquired — Falls Church-based defense contractor PAE Inc. has been acquired for $1.9 billion by Amentum Holdings, the Germantown-based aerospace company announced Monday. Amentum was formed in 2020 and nearly doubled its workforce by purchasing McLean-based DynCorp International that September. [Washington Business Journal]

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By this time next year, the I-495 Northern Extension project (495 NEXT) could be under construction.

The Virginia Department of Transportation secured required federal approvals in July for its $550 million effort to add express lanes on three miles of interstate from Tysons to the American Legion Bridge area in McLean.

With that hurdle surmounted, state transportation officials expect to advance the project fairly quickly over the next year, awarding a design-build contract this winter and finalizing the design next year. Right-of-way acquisitions and construction work could also start in 2022, putting the toll lanes on track to begin operations in 2025.

While traffic volumes are projected to increase roughly the same amount regardless of whether 495 NEXT is implemented, VDOT says extending the I-495 Express Lanes toward the American Legion Bridge will reduce travel times and congestion, moving 2,500 more people per hour through the corridor when they open in 2025.

A chart showing how extending the I-495 Express Lanes will improve travel times, according to VDOT (via VDOT)

The project also includes transit in the form of new bus service between Tysons and Montgomery County, a trail for bicyclists and pedestrians parallel to I-495, and funds to assist with stormwater management and stream restoration efforts along Scott’s Run.

However, 495 NEXT has encountered some resistance from McLean residents concerned about its potential impact on their neighborhoods, and environmental advocates.

An environmental assessment found that the project will affect 4.11 acres of Scott’s Run Nature Preserve, 19.8 acres of wetlands, and more than two acres of land around George Washington Memorial Parkway, though the Federal Highway Administration (FWHA) and National Park Service (NPS) determined that the effects could be mitigated enough to be outweighed by the benefits.

Some residents and elected officials have questioned whether that would be the case, though, if Maryland’s plans to replace the American Legion Bridge and widen its part of the Beltway fall through, which remains a possibility even after the state approved a pre-development contract.

Now that it’s getting closer to becoming a reality, how do you feel about 495 NEXT?

Would the project make your life easier, or are you more concerned about the inevitable environmental and neighborhood impacts of a major infrastructure project? Should Virginia hit pause until Maryland fully commits?

Chart via VDOT

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The Fairfax County Department of Transportation’s concept map for its Seven Corners Ring Road project (courtesy FCDOT)

There are few more self-evident testaments in Fairfax County to the shortsighted follies of 20th century land-use planning than Seven Corners.

The groundwork for the confounding convergence of Route 7, Route 50, Sleepy Hollow Road, Wilson Boulevard, and Hillwood Avenue in the Falls Church area was laid before the Civil War. Arlington Boulevard and Leesburg Pike emerged from early county roads that intersected at Fort Buffalo, according to a 2015 article by the Washington Business Journal.

A literal crossroads between Fairfax and Arlington counties and the City of Falls Church, the intersection became more intricate post-World War II, as the area saw a population and development boom, epitomized by the introduction of the Seven Corners Shopping Center, once the largest mall in the D.C. region.

According to The Washington Post, traffic was already a “major headache” in the early 1950s, and “state and local governments spent millions to alleviate” congestion when the mall opened in 1956. But conditions have kept deterioriating despite a patchwork of fixes implemented since then, including the addition of the Route 50 overpass near Patrick Henry Drive in 2009.

“It’s too complex. If you drive through now, you get stuck, everybody blocks each other, it doesn’t work,” Mike Garcia, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation’s planning section chief, told Tysons Reporter last week. “They’ve gone through and adjusted the signals many times. They’ve got it about as good as they’re going to get it.”

The Project

Since inverting time to undo this knot isn’t an option, Fairfax County is now trying to at least loosen it, and this time, it is willing to take the time to hopefully do it right.

As part of a larger package of funding requests, the Board of Supervisors voted on Sept. 14 to authorize transportation staff to seek $94.8 million from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority for the first phase of a “ring” road that will eventually connect the west side of Route 7 to Wilson Boulevard.

The Seven Corners Ring Road project dates back to 2014, when a visioning task force charged with identifying possible land use and development improvements for the neighborhood recommended including the concept in a comprehensive plan amendment that the county board adopted on July 28, 2015.

According to Garcia, the county and task force considered six different options for improving the interchange, but they ultimately determined that a circular road looping through each of the main streets to create more traditional four-way intersections would be most effective.

“[It] would help at least clear up the area and make it a little more understood from the driver’s perspective, but also understood from the walking and biking perspective as well, because that’s as much the issue that we wanted to solve,” Garcia said. Read More

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A multi-vehicle crash temporarily closed lanes on I-495 near Lewinsville Road (via Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department/Twitter)

All northbound lanes on Interstate 495 approaching Lewinsville Road in McLean are currently closed after a vehicle crash that sent three people to the hospital.

The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department reported just before 3 p.m. today (Tuesday) that units were on the scene of a multi-vehicle crash on the Capital Beltway.

Two people trapped in the vehicles were both extricated by 3:10 p.m., and a total of three people were transported to a hospital, including one individual who sustained “significant injuries.”

The three right lanes on the I-495 Inner Loop were shut down for the crash response, along with the left Express Lane, the Virginia Department of Transportation said at 3:14 p.m.

As of 3:25 p.m., all express lanes and three left lanes have reopened. One right lane remains closed, the Metropolitan Area Transportation Operations Coordination (MATOC) Program said.

The crash has contributed to approximately four miles of traffic delays starting at I-66.

Map via Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department/Twitter

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Morning Notes

Storm Brings Power Outages, Hail to Fairfax County — Thunderstorms swept through Fairfax County last night (Wednesday), resulting in reports of damaging winds and even hail “that toppled trees and wires.” As of midnight, Dominion Energy’s outage map showed thousands of people in the county without power, particularly around McLean. [Capital Weather Gang]

Farmer’s Market Nonprofit Awarded State GrantFRESHFARM will get a $50,000 grant from the Virginia Food Access Investment Fund to establish new fresh food mobile markets in food-insecure areas of Northern Virginia. The nonprofit operates several farmer’s markets in Fairfax County, including the ones at the Mosaic District and The Boro. [Patch]

More Traffic Control Sought for Great Falls Park — “Great Falls Citizens Association (GFCA) officials are seeking to have the federal government provide $100,000 in permanent, annual funding for U.S. Park Police to control traffic at Old Dominion Drive and Georgetown Pike outside the park’s entrance when park usage is especially heavy…Traffic congestion outside the park routinely occurs on weekends, holidays and fee-free days from March through early November, GFCA leaders said.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

Madison HS Student Brings Books and Bikes to Tanzania — James Madison High School rising junior Sophia Brown organized a bicycle drive at the Vienna school in May and collected dozens of donated books to bring to Tanzania for a Girl Scout project. Sophia traveled to the East African country this summer with support from the nonprofit Wheels to Africa, which she has worked with since she was in second grade. [FCPS]

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Morning Notes

Vienna ambulance behind Cedar Park at start of Virginia State Little League Majors Tournament Parade of Champions (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

McLean Drivers: Expect Delays on Georgetown Pike Starting Monday — “Georgetown Pike (Route 193) between Swinks Mill Road and I-495 (Capital Beltway) will have one lane of alternating traffic in each direction via flagging, weather permitting, Monday, July 26 through Wednesday, July 28 between 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. each day to replace a stormwater pipe at the Saigon Road intersection, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.” [VDOT]

Founders Row II Proposal Modified — Developer Mill Creek presented revised plans for a second phase of its Founders Row project to the Falls Church City Council on Monday (July 19). Changes since it was first proposed in March include reductions of the height and number of rental residential units and the addition of “more street-level retail and amenities to please its neighbors.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Former Container Store to Host Tysons Block Party — The Celebrate Fairfax! Festival has been canceled for a second consecutive year, but the nonprofit that organizes it is returning next Friday (July 30) with a block party to kick off its 40th Anniversary Series. The event will go from 3-7 p.m. outside the former Container Store at 8508 Leesburg Pike with live entertainment, refreshments from Caboose Brewing Company, and more. [Celebrate Fairfax/Facebook]

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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.”

https://twitter.com/WTOPtraffic/status/1373992946010353664

Images via VDOT

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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

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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

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