Tysons, VA

The Virginia Department of Transportation is now soliciting public input on its draft proposals for potential safety and operational improvements on Route 50 until Oct. 30.

The Route 50 Strategically Targeted Affordable Roadway Solutions (STARS) study centers on the three miles of Arlington Boulevard between Jaguar Trail and Wilson Boulevard (Route 613) in the Falls Church area of Fairfax County.

Released in an online presentation on Oct. 13, the proposed improvements include:

  • Pedestrian enhancements at Jaguar, Allen Street, Graham Road, Woodlawn Avenue, Annandale Road, the area between Marshall Street and East Tripps Run Road, and the Thomas Jefferson Library area
  • Turn lane improvements at Allen, Graham, and South Street
  • Access management improvements throughout the corridor, including a widened median in the Thomas Jefferson Library area, and extended medians at Allen, Graham, Annandale, and the area between Marshall and East Tripps Run

VDOT says its proposed improvements are primarily designed to reduce pedestrian crashes and improve safety without making significant changes to the roadway. Possible costs range from $2.5 million to $12 million depending on whether they would require any construction.

VDOT launched the Route 50 STARS study back in June 2019 and held a public information meeting on Oct. 21, 2019. An online survey conducted last October drew 962 participants, who identified traffic congestion, pedestrian safety, and travel time reliability as their top three issues with Route 50.

According to VDOT, Route 50 sees over 50,000 vehicles a day on average, and drivers often experience delays during peak hours, especially at the Graham Road and Annandale Road intersections. It also features 10 pedestrian crosswalks and 12 bus stops, while accommodating 60 Metro buses per day during the work week.

The annual crash rate on Route 50 is 32% to 43% higher than the average rate for the other primary highways in Northern Virginia.

“While they were not a large percentage of the reported crashes, pedestrian crashes accounted for many of the fatal crashes and severe-injury crashes in the corridor,” VDOT said in its video presentation.

VDOT had planned to present its initial draft recommendations this past spring, but limitations on large in-person meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic led the department to delay the presentation and deliver it virtually instead.

Community members can provide input on the recommendations by taking an online survey or sending comments to VDOT by email at [email protected] They can also be mailed to VDOT traffic engineer Bobby Mangalath at 4975 Alliance Drive, Fairfax, VA 22030.

A report with the study’s final recommendations is expected to be released this coming winter.

VDOT emphasizes that the purpose of the study, which has a cost of $280,000, is to give Fairfax County options to consider when making funding requests and developing its comprehensive plan, but no decisions will be made on which projects, if any, will be implemented.

Staff photo by Catherine Moran, image via VDOT

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Wednesday Morning Notes

Fairfax County Satellite Voting Locations Open — Voters can now cast their ballots at 13 satellite locations around Fairfax County, including the McLean Governmental Center, Providence Community Center, Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library, and Thomas Jefferson Library in the Tysons area. [Fairfax County Office of Elections]

VDOT Extends 495 NEXT Public Comment Period — The deadline for public feedback on the Virginia Department of Transportation’s I-495 Express Lanes Northern Extension Project has been extended to Dec. 4. The extension comes after the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution asking the department to give more time for public input. [Virginia Department of Transportation/Sun Gazette]

Vienna Girl Among First Female Eagle Scouts in U.S. — Katie Hunter, a 13-year-old Vienna resident, is expected to become one of the first girls in the country to be awarded the Boy Scouts of America’s highest rank when she is inaugurated as an Eagle Scout in February 2021. [Patch]

New Trees Planted in Blake Lane Park — “We planted some more trees in Providence this Saturday! Blake Lane Park is full of green life and pollinators. Thank you to all of the volunteers” [Twitter]

Tysons Tech Company Hiring Data Engineer — “IronNet is looking for a Principal Cyber #Data Engineer to join their passionate small business headquartered in Tysons Corner, VA but operating completely remote!” [Twitter]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) unveiled suggestions for ways to address speeding and safety concerns on Shreve Road in Falls Church during a virtual public information meeting on Oct. 7.

Possible improvements range from minor alterations, such as optical speed bars and vegetation management, to potentially complex projects, like Shrevewood Elementary School roundabouts.

Led by VDOT and the consulting firm Kittelson & Associates, the Shreve Road Corridor Study team emphasized that its goal is to give the City of Falls Church and Fairfax County options to consider, not to make decisions on funding or construction.

“This is a planning-level study,” VDOT transportation planning manager Amir Shahpar said. “The purpose of this study is to develop proposed improvements for localities to apply for funding for some or all of the recommendations.”

VDOT launched the Shreve Road Corridor Study on Mar. 25 in response to the advocacy efforts of the Shreve Road Community Working Group, which formed after a woman was killed in a hit and run at the intersection with Hickory Street in August 2019.

The study focuses on the two-mile section of Shreve that connects Route 29 with Route 7. That stretch averages up to 10,000 vehicles a day, according to VDOT, raising concerns about traffic speed and pedestrian and bicycle safety in the surrounding neighborhoods.

To address the Hickory Curve, the study team proposed adding optical speed bars, enhanced signage, and other means of slowing traffic ahead of the curve; moving the pedestrian pathway; clearing vegetation to improve visibility; or creating a barrier curb and gutter.

VDOT also considered installing additional guardrails to shield pedestrians from motorists but found that they are “not warranted” for that particular location, Kittelson engineering associate Amelia Martin says.

Options for improvements outside Shrevewood Elementary include building roundabouts or removing the street median, but the area’s topography, the presence of utilities, and other factors would make those complicated undertakings. Read More

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In the series of Q&A discussions, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) discussed plans to extend the 495 express lanes to the American Legion Bridge. Concerns from local residents about the project ranged from impact on the road to impact on surrounding communities.

While VDOT mostly maintained that the project will help travel times on I-495 and reduce impact on nearby neighborhood traffic, there were other areas where VDOT said the I-495 expansion may not live up to some hopes.

Implementation of dedicated transit, for instance, may not be in the cards without a public subsidy.

“Currently our number one goal is no public subsidies or funding to have this improvement on the Beltway,” said Susan Shaw, director of mega-projects for VDOT. “There’s not been any decision made about whether there would be additional revenue available for any type of transit, and there hasn’t been that kind of commitment, but we’re in discussions with Transurban. First and foremost goal is to complete the project without any public subsidy.”

In response to concerns about 118 acres of tree loss associated with the project, Shaw also said equal reforestation could be tricky.

“When we do reforestation, it needs to be within VDOT write of way,” Shaw said. “We’re often challenged to find space in right of way to do reforestation. Right now, we don’t have a specific budget. That will be something we work through as part of our work as we move into the final design.”

Shaw said the 118 acres projection would be maximum tree loss and VDOT is still working to minimize that.

The project is intended to add more capacity to I-495 to take some of the cut-through traffic off nearby McLean streets, though there are concerns without expansion of the American Legion Bridge and expansion on the Maryland side, the express lanes will only push the bottleneck further north.

Photo via Google Maps

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With a public hearing next month, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is hosting a pair of meetings to discuss a plan to extend the I-495 Express Lanes.

The change would extend the existing express lanes from the interchange of I-495 and the Dulles Toll Road up to the American Legion Bridge, already a notorious regional bottleneck for traffic.

The express lanes have tolls that range from 20 cents per mile to $1.25 per mile during rush hour with no official cap. Cars with three or more people do not have to pay the toll.

The goal of the project is to add capacity to the roads and reduce congestion on the Virginia side of the bridge, as well as reducing cut-through traffic

VDOT is hosting meetings from 7-9 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 28, and on Wednesday, Sept. 30. Each meeting is designed as a Q&A with staff following a presentation about the upcoming plans.

The meetings precede a presentation of findings from the environmental assessment and preliminary design plans in a virtual public hearing on Monday, Oct. 5 from 7-9:30 p.m. and an in-person (by appointment) hearing at the McLean Community Center on Thursday, Oct. 8, from 4-8 p.m.

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A portion of Dorr Avenue, a street that runs parallel to Gallows Road through a stretch of offices and businesses in Merrifield, will be closed for the next four weeks as crews relocate underground utilities.

The street will be closed off at the intersection with Prosperity Avenue. Traffic to locations along Dorr Avenue, like ArtsFairfax and Prosperity Flats will be redirected to Merrilee Drive one block east.

The closure is expected to start this Thursday, Sept. 24, and last until Thursday, Oct. 22.

“Vehicular traffic from Prosperity Avenue will not be allowed to turn south on to Dorr Avenue,” VDOT said in a press release. “A detour will use Prosperity Avenue, Merrilee Drive, and Merrifield Avenue. Vehicles can access properties along Dorr Avenue from the south during this work, but will not be able to continue through to Prosperity Avenue.”

VDOT said the closure will not impact pedestrian and bicyclist traffic on the sidewalks.

Image via Google Maps, map via VDOT

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Late night drivers around Tysons may experience some detours this weekend and next week if they travel around the interchange connecting I-66 and I-495 near Merrifield.

“Overnight lane closures and traffic stoppages are planned on I-66 West approaching Gallows Road during overnight hours Friday, September 11; Saturday, September 12; and Monday, September 14, through Wednesday, September 16, as bridge beam installation continues for the new Gallows Road Bridge over I-66,” VDOT said in a press release. “Bridge beam lifts over I-66 West will require nightly traffic stoppages of up to 20 minutes on I-66 West. Work is part of the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway Project.”

Gallows Road over I-66 will also be reduced to a single lane in each direction overnight Friday-Tuesday.

The Gallows Road bridge is being lengthened, widened, raised, and shifted to the east to accommodate the new express lanes and provide room for future improvements along Gallows Road, according to VDOT.

“Drivers should expect delays if traveling in this area and are encouraged to use alternate routes,” VDOT said.

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(Updated 8/20/2020) A much-needed bridge replacement is on pause while the City of Falls Church waits to hear if the Virginia Department of Transportation will award the project funding.

Oak Street Bridge, which crosses Tripps Run, is in poor condition. Yearly inspections since 2012 have found several safety concerns and an urgent need to repair or replace the bridge.

While the bridge was repaired last year to fix damage from severe flooding, Falls Church officials want to replace it to make it safer and a better fit for the community.

A staff update to the Falls Church City Council last Monday (Aug. 10) on projects in the Capital Improvements Program (CIP) shared that the bridge replacement is the only CIP project that has stopped during the pandemic.

The CIP update noted that the city was expecting to hear back in May or June about its application to VDOT’s State of Good Repair (SGR) program for the remaining $928,000. As of last Monday, the city hasn’t heard anything.

“The SGR program is one of the very few funding sources available for paving and bridges that requires no match,” staff said in the update, noting that infrastructure funding was already competitive before the pandemic.

In November, city staff said that construction could begin in early 2021. The CIP update last week noted that the project design is 90% complete, but the funding shortfall is holding the project up.

Previously, the city announced that the $2.6 million replacement received partial funding through Regional Surface Transportation Program funds.

Aside from the bridge, the majority of the city’s CIP projects have progressed during the pandemic, with 18 on schedule and 11 facing delays. Since the last CIP update in January, the city finished two projects — sanitary sewer infrastructure in West Falls Church and primary extension paving along East Broad Street and Hillwood Avenue.

The city also added two new projects to the CIP list after the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) granted the total funding. One project received $6.9 million to address transit access and multimodal connectivity in West Falls Church. The other project, which received $8.3 million, will tackle multimodal improvements in the downtown area.

The CIP update last week noted that receiving the full funding for both projects was “unexpected, but much needed.”

Update corrects name of NVTA

Image via City of Falls Church

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A multi-vehicle crash along eastbound I-66 right before I-495 is causing major traffic for several miles.

“The East left lane, center lane and right lane are closed,” according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Drivers can expect delays for two miles, according to a Fairfax County alert sent out at 4 p.m.

Image via VDOT, map via Google Maps

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With sunnier and warmer days ahead, a portion of Tysons Blvd is poised to become a space for cyclists and pedestrians looking for more room to social distance.

Robin Geiger, a spokesperson for the Fairfax County Transportation Department (FCDOT), mentioned the plans during a town hall with county officials yesterday.

“We’re going to close a portion of Tysons Blvd to allow for safer biking and pedestrian access for exercise, to increase social distancing, so people can get around Tysons,” Geiger said.

The upcoming closure is part of a pilot project with Tysons Partnership, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and the Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling, Geiger said. While Geiger did not say when the partial road closure is expected or which portion will be closed, she said that FCDOT will announce more information soon.

Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik praised the project, saying that “it does take quite a bit of coordination” for the county and VDOT to work on road projects.

“I’m just thrilled,” Palchik said.

Closing roads to give cyclists and pedestrians more space during the pandemic has been gaining traction around the U.S., WAMU reported.

“I know bikes are being sold quite a bit these days,” Palchik said, adding that “we take this opportunity to improve our bikeability and walkability.”

Image via Google Maps

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