Tysons Corner, VA

Much of the roads affected by the flash floods two weeks ago have been fixed, but two routes through McLean remain out of commission and will require long term repairs.

Kirby Road and Swinks Mill Road at the eastern and western edges of McLean respectively are both blocked off at roughly the halfway point where the roads were severely damaged by floodwaters.

Replacing the damaged bridges will take several months, according to Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) spokesperson Ellen Kamilakis.

A part of Kirby Road has been broken off with much of the supporting infrastructure underneath completely swept away. According to a press release from VDOT:

  • A segment of road just south of Claiborne Drive was washed away. The remaining asphalt in that location has been undermined.

  • Asphalt on the approaches to the deck of the VDOT bridge over Pimmit Run was damaged, but temporarily repaired the same day. The bridge also has damage to the guardrails and abutments (the “legs” that support the bridge deck) and retaining wall.

  • Pimmit Run will need to be realigned to its original location.

  • The sanitary sewer line and underground utilities were affected.

  • Damage to VDOT infrastructure is not preventing access to any homes.

  • Note: A privately owned and maintained bridge across from Claiborne Drive was severely damaged and homeowners are evaluating repair options.

Meanwhile, at Swinks Mill Road the asphalt on the bridge was completely destroyed, with the guard rail and large chunks of the road visible warped and scattered down the creek bed. According to the VDOT press release:

  • Several hundred feet of asphalt approaching the bridge on both sides was damaged.

  • Asphalt on the bridge deck was destroyed. Also, the bridge has sustained damage to the guardrails, abutments, and retaining wall.

  • Bridge scour (removal of sand and gravel from around the abutments) was observed.

  • Debris was observed in Scotts Run.

  • Damage to VDOT infrastructure is not preventing access to any homes.

Currently, VDOT said surveys are underway for the planned realignment of both streets. Preliminary design work has started for both bridges and road repairs, according to the press release.

Removal of debris is expected to continue alongside more extensive survey work at both locations. Once bridge designs are finalized, VDOT said the bridge and road repair plans will be put out for construction bids.

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The City of Falls Church wants to know how people who live or work in the city get around the area.

The city has two surveys available — one for residents and one for workers — to gather transportation data.

The surveys will be open until the end of July, Deputy City Manager Cindy Mester told Tysons Reporter. After the surveys close, the results will get analyzed and then posted online.

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is working to create a scooter program before scooter companies are allowed to zoom around however they please starting next year.

Legislation passed during the General Assembly session in January allows localities to regulate scooters and motorized skateboards, however, the localities have until Jan. 1, 2020 to take action to implement any regulations. After that date, the scooter companies can operate locally as they see fit.

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said there is a “sense of urgency” to create scooter rules on the county level.

“[The county has] to have an ordinance in by the end of this year or it becomes the wild, wild west,” Foust said.

Scooters, an increasingly popular alternative transportation option, are already in use in the county.

Staff from the Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) and the Department of Cable and Consumer Services presented a scooter program proposal to the county board during the Transportation Committee at yesterday’s meeting (Tuesday).

Chris Wells, the bicycle and pedestrian program manager for FCDOT, said that companies see scooters as an attractive form of alternative transportation.

“Fortune 500 companies are requesting this,” Wells said.

County staff suggested that proposed scooter program limit each company to 250 scooters, set the speed limit at 15 miles per hour and not restrict the devices to specific geographical areas of the county, according to the presentation.

Foust raised concerns about the 15 mph speed limit — “To me, it’s too fast” — and requested a demonstration.

The program would be regulated by the Department of Cable and Consumer Services.

When creating the proposal, county staff reviewed ordinances and pilot programs in nearby jurisdictions like Arlington, the City of Fairfax, the City of Alexandria and D.C., partly to possibly provide consistency around the area.

“The research is showing these are a type of transportation device used by a more diverse population,” Wells said, adding that “Tysons and Reston would be a great place for scooters to fit into the infrastructure.”

Overall, the board voiced support for the proposal.

Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay said he supports the program as a traffic calming tactic, although he said that “scooters are probably floating around somewhere” after major flash flooding earlier this week.

“It does send a message that we are a county that is trying to promote transportation,” McKay said.

While the scooter program is tentatively scheduled to go before the board during the December meeting, Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith said she wants to see the board vote sooner on a scooter program proposal.

“I’m supportive of what’s on the table,” Chairman Sharon Bulova said, adding that the board can always amend an ordinance. “I think what staff is proposing sounds like a good way to get us started.”

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Update on 7/10/19 — Both lanes of Kirby Road from Dolley Madison Blvd. to Claiborne Drive are open, but traffic barriers have been set up past that, according to information from the Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management and forwarded by Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust.

Earlier: Severe weather damage will keep Kirby Road closed in McLean to through-traffic for the foreseeable future.

The road runs from Dolley Madison Blvd near the George Washington Memorial Parkway down to Great Falls Street. But flooding at Pimmit Run from storms yesterday means that while residents in the area are able to access their homes, the route no longer connects Dolley Madison Blvd to Old Dominion Drive.

https://twitter.com/VaDOTNOVA/status/1148731850686439424

“We have no specific timeline, but it will be weeks,” Ellen Kamilakis, a spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Transportation, told Tysons Reporter. “The water tore right through the road [and] exposed the area underneath all the way.”

Part of the upper asphalt is visible carved away by the storm, but Kamilakis said the damage underneath is so extensive that the road would not be able to support the weight of a car. Kamilakis said the road will require complete reconstruction — and a review of whether the road needs stormwater upgrades.

Earlier today (Tuesday) traffic on the road was stopped near Dolley Madison Blvd as the crew worked to finish clearing a debris-cluttered bridge, but Kamilakis said the closure will be tightened up to just the area immediately surrounding the broken section of the road.

Kamilakis said the cleaning crews had been working overnight to clear away the debris, and the VDOT Twitter noted that the efforts were rewarded by one local man who brought water to the workers.

Those trying to get from northern McLean to areas near Arlington will either have to go thrown “downtown” McLean or go further east to Glebe Road.

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In the wake of Capital One opening the region’s tallest office building, the nearby McLean Metro station has had a sharp increase in Metro traffic.

New data from the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission compared Metro ridership in January, February and March with the same period in 2018. All of the Silver Line stations in Virginia saw an increase in ridership over the previous year, part of an ongoing trend.

Overall the McLean Metro station had the largest increase in ridership with 20.6 percent growth.

The Greensboro Metro station, site of The Boro development and other projects aiming to compete with Tysons Corner Center as a commercial hub, also saw substantial ridership increase with an 18.4 percent growth.

The most popular station is Wiehle-Reston East — the end of the line — with 1,018,980 total riders over three months. In Tysons, the most population station was Tysons Corner with 490,212 riders over three months.

The Spring Hill Metro station had previously seen a 2.9 percent decline in ridership between last winter and the one before, but in the three months that followed the station saw a modest 2 percent increase in ridership over the previous year.

Photo 2 via Tysons Partnership/Twitter

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The fairly routine annual approval of taxicab certificates at yesterday’s (June 25) Fairfax County Board of Supervisors meeting instead marked the end of an era as the county approved no certificates.

Every odd-numbered year, Fairfax County government reviews taxicab applications and gives out new permits based on assessed need. But this year, staff found that there was a decline in demand by nearly 25 percent, meaning no new certificates would be needed.

“I was not at all surprised by the number of taxicab certificates,” said Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross. “This is so different than years ago.”

“There was always competition,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova agreed.

Staff noted in a memo last April that the taxicab market was experiencing a sudden decline.

According to staff:

The County’s taxicab market was experiencing a period of unprecedented contraction due to widespread customer acceptance of transportation network companies (TNCs) such as Uber and Lyft… The memorandum noted that as of April 2018, the County’s fleet size had dropped from 654 to 453 taxicabs due to operators’ relinquishment of 201 taxicab certificates. Since that April 2018 memorandum, operators have relinquished an additional 85 certificates, bringing the current Fairfax County taxicab fleet to 368 vehicles.

While taxi cab numbers fell, the memo noted that TNC registrations skyrocketed with 16,000 active registrations in Fairfax in 2016 compared to 654 taxicabs. But in 2017, the requirement for Uber and Lyft drivers to register with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles was repealed, so the current number of TNCs active in Fairfax County is unknown.

Observing the taxicab industry’s decline, the Board of Supervisors also expressed concerns over the impact on accessible rides for persons with disabilities. By code, wheelchair accessible vehicles must number 4 percent of the overall taxicab fleet, but declining numbers of taxis meant a declining requirement for accessible cabs.

“What is the effect on accessible cabs available?” Gross asked. “This board spent a lot of time years ago to ensure that the holders of certificates had a percentage of accessible taxis available. This seems like it throws it all into a cocked hat.”

Staff said that the current requirement was for 15 total wheelchair-accessible cabs, but there are currently 28 in service in Fairfax. Staff noted that Uber and Lyft both have accessible cab options, but that there was no authority to regulate their requirement in the transportation network. Bulova directed staff to work with consumer protection to examine how to mitigate the impact of the decline of taxis on transportation accessibility.

File photo

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Amid a roar of traffic, a dozen Fairfax County officials gathered to break ground on an extensive Leesburg Pike (Route 7) widening project.

The ceremony was today (Thursday) at Capital Church on the border of the Hunter Mill and Dranesville districts, with their respective Board of Supervisors representatives Cathy Hudgins and John Foust present.

The project will involve adding a third lane to Leesburg Pike in each direction from Reston to Tysons. At the groundbreaking, officials highlighted the new shared-use paths and other improvements planned along the corridor to increase capacity, improve safety and traffic flow, and make life a little easier for cyclists and pedestrians.

“This project will enhance nobility…” said Sharon Bulova, chair of the Fairfax County Board, then laughed and corrected herself, “mobility, but [nobility] too, for cycling and pedestrians.”

The shared-use paths are planned to run along both sides of the road, with bridges and underpasses planned along the way and several other intersection improvements.

“It’s an important milestone many years in the making,” said Bill Cutler, the Virginia Department of Transportation’s district construction engineer. “It’s a 7-mile corridor and an important multimodal project, with 14 miles of multipurpose trail and access to the Spring Hill Metro station.”

During construction, off-peak lane closures are expected as the project works in segments. Final completion of the project is expected for summer 2024.

“If you’re sitting here wondering why we’re doing this, traffic seems to be going pretty well… it’s too late now,” said Foust. “In 2010, it was said that if Tysons was going to work, we needed to ensure that vehicles could get out of Tysons… This improvement will, I hope, make it much more attractive for drivers to stay on Route 7. Right now, we have a lot of cut-through traffic taking Georgetown Pike or Lewinsville Road trying to avoid traffic on Route 7. I think this will go a long way to addressing challenges with cut-through traffic.”

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The Vienna Town Council is entering the first stages of a process to bring electric scooters and dockless bicycles to town.

According to staff at a Town Council work session on Monday, June 10, a potentially shared mobility pilot would include both electric bicycles and scooters as “self-propelled vehicles,” but more still needs to be determined.

For starters, where will people ride electric scooters in Vienna? Council members expressed concerns about having them either on Maple Avenue or the adjoining sidewalks, which are typically only 5 feet wide and include planter boxes that narrow the sidewalks considerably. But elected officials seemed equally concerned about the prospect of having electric scooters complicating the already notoriously dangerous and congested Maple Avenue.

The discussion of a potential pilot program comes after a feasibility study for a regional bike-share network — commissioned by the City of Fairfax — was completed last fall. The Vienna process follows in the footsteps of the City of Fairfax, which Vienna staff said has launched a pilot program running from this June to next year.

Both staff and officials expressed some misgivings and frustrations with the prospect of bringing in electric scooters. Staff said that a story had come out this year that Lime Scooters would be coming to Fairfax City and Vienna, prompting a tense series of phone calls from Fairfax and Vienna staff advising Lime that they had not gone through the proper approval process.

Planning Commissioner Mary McCullough also referenced a Washington Post story that only 7 percent of regional residents reported using e-scooters as their preference for getting from one place to another.

The next step for the scooter approval process is a work session planned for sometime in the fall, which the Town Council said will likely include meeting with the Transportation Commission.

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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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