County gives go-ahead for new Taco Bell in Reston

Taco Bell in Reston could see a facelift as part of a demolition proposal. (Image via handout/Fairfax County Government)

The county has officially okayed a new and improved Taco Bell in Reston.

At this week’s Board of Supervisors meeting, officials unanimously gave the green light to demolish the existing Taco Bell on Roger Bacon Drive just off Wiehle Avenue and replace it with a modern version with an additional drive-thru lane. At just over 2,700 square feet, the restaurant will also be slightly larger than the previous iteration.

The go-ahead came on the heels of recommendations from both the staff and the county’s Planning Commission last month.

The Taco Bell that sits there now was first built in the 1980s, according to a presentation made by the applicant at the meeting earlier this week.

Franchise owner Summerwood Corporation bought the site last August with the intention of updating the fast-food restaurant. Aesthetically, it does not align with Taco Bell’s current branding and it’s not conducive to traffic best practices.

It’s in what the county terms a “fast food park” with Taco Bell, McDonald’s, and Pupatella (which used to be a Pizza Hut) all sharing various exits and entrance points. To locals, that block was known as “McTacoHut.”

Concerns were brought up over the summer by the Reston Planning Commission about increased traffic and back-ups that an additional drive-thru lane might bring to that block in Reston.

The report and presentation provided to both the Planning Commission in September and the one made to the Board of Supervisors earlier this week looked to alleviate some of those concerns.

A formal traffic study was conducted that showed that Taco Bell currently contributes about a quarter of the traffic along that section of Roger Beacon Drive during the peak lunchtime rush. It’s estimated that a new modern building and a second drive-thru lane will lead to an increase of about 5% in traffic.

Summerwood is also in discussions with the McDonald’s next door, which shares a one-way drive aisle with Taco Bell, about making it two-ways which could help with traffic flow. Plus, increased signage is being planned which might assist motorists.

An additional drive-thru lane will decrease back-ups by increasing queue capacity to 19 cars, per the applicant.

“This is due to customers increasingly using the drive-thru instead of parking and entering the facility,” said Matt Roberts of Bean Kinney & Korman, on behalf of the applicant. “This is not a new phenomenon that was basically accelerated during the pandemic.”

About 79% of peak-hour transactions are currently happening through the existing, single-lane drive-thru, he also noted.

The new Taco Bell will also have 23 parking spots, “sufficient” bicycle parking, electric vehicle charging stations, LED silver certification, a rainwater garden, and a 12-seat outdoor cafe.

31% of the site will be open space as well, about double what’s required by the county.

With the project now approved by the county, FFXnow has reached out to Summerwood Corporation about a timeline in terms of demolition and construction but has yet to hear back as of publication.

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