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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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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

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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.

Construction on VDOT’s I-66 Outside the Beltway project has been ongoing since 2017, starting after new express lanes¬†opened¬†on I-66¬†inside the Beltway¬†on Dec. 4 of that year.

Watch an animated video of changes planned for I-66 here:

Photos via VDOT/Youtube 

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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

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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

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