Tysons Corner, VA

A new plan could widen the Beltway in McLean, but nearby residents say the plan won’t do anything to fix the bottleneck of traffic.

At a meeting in Cooper Middle School (977 Balls Hill Road) yesterday (May 20), the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) presented plans to add new toll lanes from the Dulles Toll Road to the American Legion Bridge to help alleviate a severe bottleneck in the region.

The plans for the toll roads have been in the works since last June, but the need for a solution to Beltway congestion was highlighted in March when a tanker crash paralyzed regional traffic.

VDOT’s plans call for the expansion of express lanes to the bridge and connections with the Dulles Toll Road. A connection to the George Washington Parkway is being considered, but options are included to not have the express lanes connect to the parkway.

VDOT officials said the three bridges in McLean that pass over the Beltway would be replaced and would include new pedestrian and bicycle facilities.

But for over an hour, McLean residents expressed outrage at the expansion of the Beltway and a perception that the decision had already been made behind closed doors. Residents who felt empowered by a recent rejection of a proposal to limit access to Georgetown Pike from McLean — a proposal that new state legislation means could come back — asked why this expansion was being treated as a done deal.

“[That] was a transportation solution for a neighborhood problem,” Susan Shaw, megaprojects director for VDOT, said at the meeting. “This project is a regional transportation project. We will consider input from communities, but we will also be considering transportation improvements for the region. If we only let direct impact communities decide — we would never provide any regional project.

One of the biggest criticisms — raised by State Senate candidate Nicole Merlene running against Barbara Favola — was that the success of the project seemed dependent on the expansion of the bridge and connection to toll roads on the Maryland side, projects that are still in early stages.

Shaw said that no traffic analysis was ready yet to show the impact of the toll lanes without improvements on the Maryland side, but she said that would be considered before final approval.

“We don’t have that traffic analysis yet, but I would expect there to be a bottleneck without increased capacity on the bridge,” said Shaw. “I think the question is, ‘Are there other improvements that we would see on this project? If there’s a period of time where Virginia is in on this project and Maryland is not, are there transportation benefits?’ That will be included in the assessment.”

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The curved One Tysons East project has hit a roadblock that could stall the project.

Akridge — the project’s developer — has put a temporary hold on the entitlement process for the office building while it works out right-of-way negotiations with the Virginia Department of Transportation over the Route 123 frontage, according to the Washington Business Journal.

Leadership at Akridge said the process should only take a couple of months, but in the meantime, the Business Journal says the project is classified by Fairfax County as “indefinitely deferred.”

The last major change for the project was in April when the building went through a series of design changes, including an effort to mitigate the likelihood of bird impacts with the building.

The project is part of a series of new buildings planned for Tysons East — a neighborhood around the McLean Metro station seeing rapid growth spurred in part by the opening of the new Capital One headquarters.

Image via Akridge

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As construction gears up for widening Route 7 from Reston to Tysons, upcoming “Pardon Our Dust” meetings will provide information on the $313.9 million project and seek public feedback.

The proposed Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) project will transform nearly seven miles of Route 7 between Reston Avenue and Jarrett Valley Drive. The project includes widening Route 7 four to six lanes, adding shared-use paths, replacing the bridge over Difficult Run and revamping intersections along the corridor.

“These improvements aim to enhance safety, decrease congestion, increase capacity, and expand mobility for all users, as part of Fairfax County’s Comprehensive Plan,” according to VDOT.

VDOT will hold a public meeting next Tuesday (May 7) at Forestville Elementary School in Great Falls and a second one the following Tuesday (May 14) at Colvin Run Elementary School (1400 Trap Road). The meetings will run from 7-9 p.m. with a presentation at 7:30 p.m.

At the meetings, the team will share information on the design-build phase of the project, including the latest design and schedule, and the transition to construction work, as well as answer questions on stormwater management, right of way, environmental topics, traffic engineering and noise walls.

The current schedule for the project on VDOT’s website says, with expected completion in July 2024:

  • late summer 2018-summer 2020: final design
  • early 2019-early 2021: right of way
  • spring 2019-summer 2023: utility relocation
  • spring 2019-summer 2024: construction

Members of the public can provide input at the meetings and can email ([email protected]) or mail (4975 Alliance Drive) comments to VDOT by May 26.

Map via VDOT

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A small parcel of forest along Prosperity Avenue leading into the Dunn Loring Metro parking garage is likely going to be replaced by a new substation to power the Metro.

The green space is a casualty of plans to expand I-66, which would displace an existing substation along the route.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) is currently seeking permission to relocate the substation.

“The relocation will affect the existing open space for the entire 15.383 acres of the WMATA Property and will diminish it approximately 5,778 square feet,” WMATA said in the application.

But the substation isn’t the only thing that could be relocated. Last fall, the Virginia Department of Transportation announced plans that some residents along I-66 could be relocated to make way for the construction.

A Fairfax County Planning Commission hearing scheduled for June 26 will consider the plan.

Photo via Google Maps

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The Jones Branch Connector is coming along, though construction has necessitated a series of weekend closures over the last few weeks.

A video put together by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) laid out the goals of the Jones Branch Connector and a look at what’s ahead for the project.

The project first had a partial opening in December — with one lane of traffic opening in each direction — giving drivers a preview of the bridge that will connect east and west Tysons. According to the video, new bike lanes and sidewalks are planned to open sometime in the spring and a second lane opening in each direction.

“VDOT and Fairfax County have really partnered together to improve transportation in Tysons,” William Cuttler, a VDOT engineer, said in the video. “This $60 million project is going to go a long way to provide multimodal connections and helping to transform this city.”

Cuttler said the connection will aim to not only benefit drivers looking to cross over the Beltway, but also offer residents of western Tysons quicker access to the McLean Metro station at the east end of the bridge.

“Currently the Beltway operates as almost a barrier between the east side of Tysons and the west side,” Tom Biesiadny, director of the Fairfax County Department of Transportation, said in the video, “so building additional connection across the Beltway is really important.”

Mike McGurk, from Transurban corporate relations, said the Jones Branch Connector would also help the accessibility of the I-495 Express Lanes.

The project is expected to be completed this fall.

Photo via VDOT

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If the roads have seemed a little rougher than normal, it’s not just you.

According to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) officials at a meeting earlier this month, the past year has been one of the worst years on record for potholes. The pothole problem is also prevalent in D.C.

According to Allison Richter, liaison to Fairfax and Arlington counties for VDOT, fewer than half of the secondary roadways are in good condition. For 2018, interstates were 86 percent in fair or better condition — down from 93 percent in 2016. But secondary roadways were assessed at only 41 percent fair or better condition, an improvement from 2016 but still bumpy for drivers.

“This is possibly the worst year for potholes that I’ve seen,” said Richter.

Richter said many roads throughout the area qualify for paving, but VDOT hasn’t been able to get to all of them. Road repaving is based not just on the condition of the pavement, but on traffic volume, whether the whole neighborhood can be repaved, and various costs.

“Paving funding has gone up and down,” said Richter. “We’re behind, it’s why so much is in the red.”

Total repaving funding for Northern Virginia over the last decade has grown from $58.1 million in 2013 to $140.9 million in 2018, but in 2019 it dipped back down to $105.9 million.

While Northern Virginia generates a disproportionate amount of tax revenue compared to the rest of the state, Richter said road funding is one area where the region uses proportionately more funding than other parts of the Commonwealth.

In addition to years of repaving neglect, Richter said the pothole situation is the result of record high rainfall and dramatic temperature swings.

Richter said repaving is scheduled to get started this month once temperatures are warm enough.

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Locals can provide input on proposed road improvements near Tysons Corner Center at a meeting tonight (Wednesday).

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) have teamed up to provide residents the opportunity to speak directly with road engineers and transportation planners at a community meeting.

VDOT and FCDOT are considering a redesign of the connection between Gallows Road, Tysons One Place and Route 7, possibly creating a three-way stop condition at the intersection of Kidwell Drive and Tysons One Place to improve traffic flow.

The design also suggests creating a designated space for left-turning vehicles and bike lanes in both directions on Kidwell Drive, which would complete the designated bike route between the Washington and Old Dominion Trail and downtown Tysons.

A separate proposal would stripe parking lanes where parking is allowed along West Street.

The meeting is set to start at 6 p.m. at the Providence Community Center at 3001 Vaden Drive in Fairfax.

The comment period for the proposal ends on April 3. Paving work will then start later that month and end in November.

Photo via Fairfax County

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A series of closures are planned on and around the Jones Branch Connector this weekend to facilitate more bridge deck work on the bridge.

According to a press release from the Virginia Department of Transportation, the following streets will be closed:

  • The southbound 495 express lanes between the Jones Branch Connector off-ramp and the Jones Branch Connector on-ramp
  • The eastbound Dulles Toll Road ramp to southbound 495 express lanes
  • Eastbound and westbound lanes of the Jones Branch Connector between Jones Branch Drive and the 495 express lanes.

The closures will run from 5 a.m. tomorrow (Saturday) to 4 a.m. on Monday (March 4).

The northbound 495 express lanes ramp will remain an option, but only for drivers turning right towards Route 123 via eastbound Scotts Crossing Drive.

The bridge partially opened in December with final completion planned for fall 2019.

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A meeting tomorrow (Thursday) will look at the current status of some surprisingly controversial efforts to make I-66 more bike and pedestrian friendly.

The meeting will be held by the Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling in the Providence District Office (3001 Vaden Dr.) at 7:30 p.m.

Susan Shaw, the VDOT Project Manager for Transform I-66, and Fairfax County Department of Transportation representatives are scheduled to attend and offer an update on the status of the trail.

The planned trail will run from Gallows Road in Vienna, near the Dunn Loring Metro station, to Route 29 in Centreville. Three miles of the trail will be adjacent to the interstate while eight miles will be removed from the interstate.

The section of the trail running alongside I-66 inside the highway’s noise walls drew sharp criticism from cycling advocates, including the Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling, who pushed to have all of the trail outside the walls. But neighbors living along the highway refused to have the trail run near their properties, prompting some squabbling between state officials and lawmakers over the project.

The trail is planned to be 10 feet wide with two-food-wide shoulders on each side. Access to the trail is planned to be implemented at every half-mile.

Image via VDOT

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Morning Notes

VDOT: Slow Down, Beware of Slick Spots — “[VDOT] crews worked overnight to treat roads and will continue to do so today, as needed. If you can delay travel until the sun comes up, great. If not, please assume that all surfaces are icy. Your commute *will* take longer today. Reduce speeds, no heavy braking, and use your headlights!” [Twitter]

Fairfax County Government Open on Time — “Fairfax County Government offices are open on Wednesday, Jan. 30, however employees have been granted unscheduled leave. Employees are reminded that they should notify their supervisor if they elect to use unscheduled leave. Emergency service personnel should report as scheduled.” [Fairfax County Emergency Information]

Fairfax Connector Running Extra Service — “To accommodate passengers who are reporting to work later than usual this morning due to inclement weather, Fairfax Connector will operate extra service on the following routes today: 394, 395, 599, 698, 699.” [Twitter]

Wind and Wind Chill Warnings — Fairfax County is under a Wind Advisory through 6 p.m. tonight; wind gusts of up to 50 mph could result in downed trees and power lines. A Wind Chill Advisory will go into effect at 9 p.m., as whipping winds and falling temperatures cause wind chills to dip to -5 to -10 degrees. [Weather.gov, Weather.gov]

Prison Sentence for Fraudster — “A woman was sentenced in Alexandria federal court to 15 years in prison for defrauding over 50 victims out of more than $5.4 million. Among the victims was a 71-year-old McLean woman with cancer.” [Patch]

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