A rendering of the planned Hunter Mill Road bridge over Colvin Run with an inset photo of the existing bridge (via VDOT)

Construction is now underway on the project to replace the Hunter Mill Road bridge over Colvin Run, the Virginia Department of Transportation announced yesterday (Monday).

The bridge will remain open during construction, but flaggers will be present to direct traffic, and lanes may be closed on Hunter Mill Road during the following times:

  • Monday through Thursday: 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
  • Monday night through Thursday night: 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.
  • Friday: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Friday night: 10 p.m. to 9 a.m.
  • Saturday night: 9 p.m. to 9 a.m.
  • Sunday night: 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.

VDOT says the trail that crosses Hunter Mill Road south of the bridge may also be closed intermittently during construction.

“Drivers, cyclists and pedestrians are reminded to use caution when traveling in active work zones,” VDOT said in its news release. “Be alert to new traffic patterns, limit distractions and follow detour route signage.”

Approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Dec. 1, the project is replacing the existing one-lane bridge with a two-lane bridge featuring a grass median or splitter island to separate the lanes.

It also entails improvements to the trail crossing, median landscaping, and abutments for a new trail bridge over Colvin Run that the county will build in the future.

The current bridge was built in 1974 and is limited to bearing 10 tons, even though an average of 8,500 vehicles use Hunter Mill Road in the project area every day, according to 2019 VDOT data.

The project carries an estimated cost of $5.2 million, including $1 million for engineering work and $4.2 million for the actual construction. The projected cost of construction has gone down, as VDOT estimated as recently as early July that it would cost $4.8 million.

The funding includes a $408,000 contribution from Fairfax County for pedestrian improvements south of the new bridge, including the construction of the splitter island and median refuge and the installation of rectangular rapid flashing beacons.

The rest of the funding comes from federal and state sources, primarily VDOT’s State of Good Repair program to help rehabilitate or replace bridges that are in poor condition.

Conducted by contractor Clearwater Construction Inc., construction is expected to be completed in the fall of 2022.

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A map of the Colvin Run at Lake Fairfax Phase II stream restoration project area (via Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services)

Plans to counter the ongoing degradation of Colvin Run at Lake Fairfax Park in Reston are in the works, but much like climate change and the development that have contributed to the stream’s erosion, it may take some time for them to become visible.

The Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES) is currently working on the final design for a second phase of its Colvin Run at Lake Fairfax Park stream restoration project, a department spokesperson confirmed to Reston Now.

Phase II of the project will focus on restoring approximately 5,000 feet of an unnamed tributary that feeds into Colvin Run. The project’s first phase addressed 2,219 feet of a channel downstream of the Lake Fairfax spillway and was completed on Aug. 8, 2017, according to the DPWES stormwater improvement projects map.

“The primary goal for both projects is to improve water quality,” DPWES spokesperson Sharon North said in an email.

According to DPWES, restoring Colvin Run is necessary to reduce stream bed and bank erosion, enhance the natural habitat, maintain channel connections within Lake Fairfax Park, and improve the water quality by removing nitrogen, phosphorus, and Total Suspended Solids.

The issues that the stream is experiencing stem from a combination of increasing development in the area and the growing intensity of storms.

“Colvin Run and its tributaries are downcutting, widening and re-aligning in response to hydrologic changes after upstream development and the increased intensity and frequency of storm events,” North wrote. “This channel evolution results in soil erosion, habitat degradation and decreased water quality.”

The two phases of the Colvin Run project were determined by a scoping team with input from engineers, ecologists, landscape architects, construction managers, arborists, and other experts who assessed the area’s current conditions as well as “the potential for ecological and water quality improvement,” North says.

Colvin Run Phase I involved raising the channel’s elevation, installing boulder grade control structures that imitate bedrock outcroppings to prevent future erosion, and adding native vegetation to help stabilize the soil and surrounding habitat.

For Phase II, North says the design will call for stone and wood grade control structures to create pools, riffles, and “a base-flow channel” to help the channel and floodplain capture excessive sediment that flows in from upstream.

In a May 26 update, the project website says completion of the final design and approval of construction for Phase II are expected to come this summer, but DPWES did not respond by press time when asked whether that is still the case.

Construction on the project isn’t scheduled to begin until the summer of 2023, depending on future budget availability.

“A gap in time between the completion of design and the start of construction for a project is normal,” North said, noting that stormwater management projects typically need to get separate authorizations for design and construction.

Construction on the project’s second phase carries an estimated cost of $3.2 million that would be supported by Fairfax County’s Stormwater Service District tax.

Anticipated impacts from construction include trail closures, trail detours, noise, and increased traffic from trucks delivering equipment and materials. Construction vehicles will access Colvin Run from Lake Fairfax Park off of Lake Fairfax Drive and Hunter Mill Road.

Map via Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services

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A rendering of the planned Hunter Mill Road bridge over Colvin Run with an inset photo of the existing bridge (via VDOT)

Residents in the Lake Fairfax area may soon notice signs popping up along Hunter Mill Road, as construction crews prepare to replace the bridge over Colvin Run.

A precise date for when construction will kick off has not been determined yet, but the Virginia Department of Transportation confirmed to Reston Now that work on the project is scheduled to start later this summer, slightly behind previous expectations.

Signs are being installed now for “erosion control activities” that will begin later this month, VDOT spokesperson Kathleen Leonard says, adding that the project webpage will be the best place to check for future updates as construction progresses.

Approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in December, the Hunter Mill Road over Colvin Run bridge replacement project will introduce a new bridge with two lanes separated by a three-foot-wide grass median.

Built in 1974, the existing bridge has just one lane and can only accommodate a maximum of 10 tons at a time. An average of 8,500 vehicles utilize the bridge per day, according to VDOT.

Other changes will include improvements to the trail crossing south of the bridge and the addition of abutments designed to accommodate a future trail bridge over Colvin Run, though that bridge will be constructed by Fairfax County at a later date.

VDOT awarded a construction contract for the project to Clearwater Construction, Inc. in April.

Based in Mercer, Pennsylvania, Clearwater is also involved in the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway project. According to the company’s website, it has specifically been tasked with constructing two bridges and supporting excavation needs as part of the project, which will add express lanes on I-66 from I-495 in Dunn Loring to Gainesville.

The Colvin Run bridge replacement project has an estimated cost of $5.8 million, including $4.8 million for construction.

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Morning Notes

County Board Discusses Impact of Telework on Hiring — “After companies in the county have spent more than a year with much of their workforces teleworking — and with county office vacancy rates hovering at 14.6% in 2020, the highest rate in two years — Fairfax Board Chairman Jeffrey McKay asked the Fairfax County EDA whether the number of tech vacancies could lead companies to pivot to recruiting remote workers and what the ripple effects would be.” [Washington Business Journal]

Metro Waives Special Events Fee — Metro’s Board of Directors approved a temporary policy yesterday (Thursday) waiving the $100,000 per hour fee normally charged to large-scale event organizers to keep stations open past standard closing hours. The waiver will apply for professional sports games and other approved special events through Dec. 31. [WMATA]

Suffragist Memorial Dedication on Sunday — The Turning Point Suffragist Memorial will be dedicated at Occoquan Regional Park in Lorton at 2 p.m. on Sunday (May 16). It is the first memorial in the U.S. devoted to the women’s suffrage movement. The ceremony, which will be live-streamed, was originally scheduled for Aug. 26, 2020 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment’s ratification but got postponed due to the pandemic. [Turning Point Suffragist Memorial Association]

Colvin Run Mill and Frying Pan Recognized — The National Association of County Park and Recreation Officials named Colvin Run Mill in Great Falls and the Friends of Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon among the winners of its 2021 NACPRO Awards. The Colvin Run Miller’s House Exhibit won the Historical or Cultural Facility category, and the Friends of Frying Pan won the Outstanding Support Organization category. [Fairfax County Park Authority]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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In the 210 years since it was first built, the Colvin Run Mill has outlasted the industrial revolution, a civil war, and multiple pandemics. Now, it has the capacity to keep grinding grains for at least another 15 years, thanks to a new water wheel and flume.

The Fairfax County Park Authority completed its restoration in March — 45 days ahead of schedule — but the refurbished mill saw action for the first time Saturday morning (May 2), when the new wheel took its first turns to power the mill, which ground out some corn meal and grits to be sold at the nearby general store.

The parks officials and volunteers at the ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrated the installation of the 20-foot-wide water wheel as the culmination of restoration efforts that stretch back to the 1970s, when the park authority first purchased the Colvin Run Mill with the goal of preserving it as a historic site.

“This celebration may mark the completion of this project, but we would be remiss if we did not recognize today’s reopening of the flume as yet another step and progression in historic restoration and preservation,” Tim Hackman, who represents Dranesville District on the FCPA board of directors, said. “It is our mission and our duty, but it is also our privilege.”

Approved by the FCPA board in May 2020, the project involved the demolition and replacement of the existing wooden wheel and flume, which had started to deteriorate. It was funded by $382,000 in park bonds and is expected to cut down maintenance costs by about $6,000 per year.

Even with the need to follow COVID-19 health protocols and work around ongoing construction on Route 7, project manager Heather Lynch says the project turned out to be “very straightforward,” benefitting from a winter largely free of storms and fortuitous timing with the availability of the right wood for the job.

That luck with timing has continued through the project’s completion, which comes amid an ebb in the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We anticipate getting a lot more people out, because it’s a wonderful COVID-safe, family-safe activity,” Acting FCPA Executive Director Sara Baldwin said. “We take all the precautions here as well.”

The park authority is currently letting just one group into the mill at a time, and timed tickets will be sold in advance for grinding demonstrations, which take place on the first and third Sunday of every month.

However, the county is able to bring back a full slate of summer classes and programs to Colvin Run Mill and its other parks. Registration for all activities is now underway.

Gene Bacher, a Friends of Colvin Run Mill volunteer and board member, says he’s especially looking forward to the return of the site’s simple machines field trip program, which gives students the chance to learn about the engineering behind levers, pulleys, and other machines and to see a real-life example.

The program was canceled last year due to the pandemic, and school or mixed-group field trips remain suspended for now, though Colvin Run Mill is allowing some closed-group, private field trips.

“It’ll be reinstated as soon as the pandemic is done and kids get back into school, so having the mill work properly is important to that whole process of getting the kids in here to see what the simple machines are doing,” Bacher said. “…That program is one of the life bloods of the mill property.”

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Morning Notes

Phase 2 of COVID-19 Vaccinations Begins — Fairfax County officially entered Phase 2 of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout yesterday, making everyone 16 and older eligible. With the county retiring its registration system, appointments can be scheduled directly with providers through VaccineFinder, though limited supplies means they might be initially hard to come by. [Fairfax County Health Department/Twitter]

Fairfax County Gets First Community Vaccination Center — Fairfax County’s first mass COVID-19 vaccination site will open tomorrow in the former Lord & Taylor store at Tysons Corner. The facility can accommodate about 3,000 people per day and will eventually be listed as an available site on VaccineFinder after the county health department finishes getting through its waitlist from Phase 1. [Tysons Reporter]

Former Fairfax County Police Officer’s Cases Under Scrutiny — “A Virginia judge on Friday [April 16] agreed to toss out the 2019 conviction of former D.C. firefighter Elon Wilson on drug and gun charges, agreeing with defense attorneys and Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano that racial bias may have been at play in the arresting officer’s initial stop and arrest. Descano…said the case was one of more than 400 stops by a former Fairfax County police officer his office has been investigating.” [DCist]

Virginia Reports First Cases of Brazil COVID-19 Variant — The novel coronavirus variant first detected in Brazil has been found in two samples from Virginia residents. One was an adult resident of the Northwest Region with a history of domestic travel during the exposure period, and the other was an adult resident of the Eastern Region with no history of travel. [Virginia Department of Health]

Celebrate Earth Day at Colvin Mill Run — “Looking for a volunteer opportunity this #EarthDay? On Thurs, April 22, Colvin Run Mill will be hosting a weeding and mulching party from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. They’d love to have you spend a little time helping with the effort!” [Supervisor John Foust/Twitter]

Reston Author Publishes Children’s Book — Reston resident Jessica Sizemore turned the story of how her family came to adopt a dog named Rascal into her first published book. A Virginia Tech graduate, she started to write the book in 2016 and began the publishing process in 2019 with Herndon-based publisher Mascot Books. [Fairfax County Times]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Morning Notes

D.C. Cherry Blossoms Reach Peak Bloom — The National Park Service designated yesterday as the peak bloom date for the Tidal Basin cherry blossoms after well-above-average temperatures last week sped up the flowers’ bloom cycle. Peak bloom is defined as the day when 70 percent of the blossoms are open. [NPS]

Colvin Run Mill Restoration Complete — Fairfax County has finished replacing the wheel and flume at Colvin Run Mill. The renovation is part of a larger, ongoing effort to restore the Great Falls park. [@fairfaxtv16/Twitter]

Metro Inspector General’s Report Details Silver Line Issues — A new report from WMATA’s inspector general contains allegations of sexual harassment, alcohol abuse, and the use of fake badges by Metro employees. The report also identified defects in concrete panels installed at stations in Metro’s Silver Line phase two project. [WUSA9]

Reston Company Loses Intellectual Property Lawsuit — A Colorado jury decided against the cybersecurity company TRUSTID, which is owned by the Reston-based Neustar Inc. TRUSTID has filed two lawsuits against Next Caller, alleging that the company misappropriated trade secrets, breached an agreement, and ‘intentionally interfered with a TRUSTID’s business relationship.’ [Virtual Strategy Magazine]

Photo via vantagehill/flickr

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The refurbishment of Colvin Run Mill in Great Falls is an ongoing project, but a major focus of the site will be ready to be unveiled in just a matter of a few months.

The mill’s 20-foot diameter water wheel and flume are currently being demolished and replaced. The project completion date is estimated to be the end of spring or in early summer.

The completion should be “just in time for the year’s first grind,” according to Heather Lynch, the county’s project manager.

Preregistered, socially distanced tours and classes are still available during the wheel and flume replacement.

The Fairfax County Park Authority’s board originally approved this project on late May last year. The project was recommended to the board based on observed deterioration of the wooden wheel that operates the circa 1811 mill and the wooden flume that carries water to the wheel.

It comes on the heels of a restoration effort in 2014 and 2015 to “fully implement the original automated mill design the in accordance with the methods developed by Oliver Evans in his Young Mill-wright and Miller’s Guide,” according to the FCPA’s submitted agenda when the project was approved. A new shaft for the mill wheel was also installed during this restoration project.

The cost for the project was $382,000, while a staff member estimates the annual maintenance cost will be cut by $6,000 per year. The estimated lifespan of the new wheel is 15 years.

Photo courtesy Dan Dyke

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in its meeting Tuesday unanimously approved the construction of a new bridge on Hunter Mill Road  over Colvin Run.

Construction of the bridge is planned to begin in spring 2021, with a completion date set for the summer of 2022.

The bridge is projected to cost $5.5 million and will be primarily funded by Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) through the State of Good Repair program. The cost was initially estimated by VDOT at $3 million in February 2019, and was anticipated to cost $5.1 million in VDOT’s May 2020 update.

Fairfax County will contribute $408,000 for pedestrian improvements south of the new bridge. The county’s contributions will fund the construction of a splitter island, median refuge, and rectangular rapid flashing beacons.

The new bridge will have two 11-foot lanes and include a three-foot-wide grass median that will match the existing roadway. It is also been designed to allow a future trail crossing over Colvin Run south of the bridge and abutments for a new trail bridge over the creek.

Traffic operations will be maintained while the bridge is built. The current one-lane bridge was built in 1974 and was ruled to be deteriorating rapidly by VDOT after an inspection in February of this year. The bridge averages 8,500 vehicles crossing it daily, according to VDOT.

The bridge was repaired in 2012 and 2016 to maintain the integrity of the structure. Further improvements were made in February to temporarily strengthen it by adding wooden beams between the bridge’s I-beams.

The construction of the bridge falls in line with the Fairfax County Transportation Plan that the Board of Supervisors adopted in 2006.  Adoption of this project came after an initial public information meeting with VDOT in April 2018, virtual public involvement in May and June of this year, and finally a virtual design public hearing in September.

During the public hearing in September, VDOT received 28 combined written and oral comments: 22 in favor of the project as presented and six supporting the project with various modifications. There were no objections to the project during the public hearing.

Photo courtesy VDOT

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The Weekly Planner is a roundup of interesting events coming up over the next week in the Reston area.

We’ve searched the web for events of note in Reston, Herndon and Great Falls. Know of any we’ve missed? Tell us!

Monday (Nov. 16)

  • Thanksgiving Food Drive (November 1-23) — Patrons, businesses, and organizations are encouraged to drop off non-perishable food and other items at Reston Community Center Hunters Woods (2310 Colts Neck Road) and Lake Anne facilities, the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce, and a variety of other drop-off points throughout the community, the website said. View this link to see the most needed items.

Tuesday (Nov. 17)

  • Herndon Teen Book Club (Online) – 6:30-7:30 p.m. – Discussing Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi, the group will meet via Zoom. Club members should call the Herndon Library (768 Center S.) during the Curbside Pickup times (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) to have staff check out and set aside your copy or visit the branch, the website said. To register, use this link.

Wednesday (Nov. 18)

  • Reston Farmers Market – 3-7 p.m. at St. John Neumann Church (11900 Lawyers Road) – The farmers market offers a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, charcuterie, sausages, bread and prepared food, the website said.

Thursday (Nov. 19)

  • Meet the Artists – 2:15-3:30 p.m. at Reston Community Center (2310 Colts Neck Road) — Beverly Cosham and her musician friends collaborate to perform their favorite songs, the website said. To register, use this link.

Saturday (Nov. 21)

  • Scotch Whisky Tasting – 3-5 p.m. at Colvin Run Mill (10017 Colvin Run Road) – The cost is $45 per person. Participants will learn about the ancient history of Scotch whisky and the fine art of making and tasting it, the website said. To register, use this link.

Photo via Fairfax County 

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A virtual public hearing to learn about and discuss a proposed replacement for the bridge on Hunter Mill Road (Route 674) over Colvin Run is set for Wednesday, Sept. 16.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) project team is set to begin its presentation at 7 p.m., and team members will be available to answer questions after the presentation of the proposal until 8:30 p.m.

The proposed plan for the bridge – which was built in 1974 – has construction beginning in spring 2021.

Under the plan, the new bridge will replace the one-way, 16-foot-wide lane with a two-way crossing with 11-foot lanes. Plans also include a three-foot-wide grass median.

Additional items within the project include an improved trail crossing south of the bridge and abutments for a new trail bridge over Colvin Run that the county will construct at a later date.

The proposed plan for construction will maintain the existing traffic operation while the new bridge is built. During the first phase of the plan, one lane of the new bridge will be built to the east of the existing bridge. The subsequent phases will shift traffic to the newly constructed bridge while the existing bridge is demolished before the second lane of the new bridge and the median are built.

An inspection of the bridge – which carries an estimated 8,500 vehicles a day – conducted by VDOT in February deemed its condition to be deteriorating rapidly. The condition rating for the substructure of the bridge is currently a three – the condition rating scale is based from zero to nine – which is considered to be in serious condition. The superstructure for the bridge shows significant corrosion of steel girder webs and flanges.

The bridge was strengthened on a temporary basis on Feb. 28 with additional wooden beams added between the bridge’s I-beams. While the load rating of the bridge was reduced from 19 tons to 10, the width of the bridge was also reduced from a 16-foot-wide lane to 10 feet.

Previous improvements to the bridge were made in 2012 and 2016 to maintain the integrity of the structure.

While initial costs were estimated at $3 million in February 2019, the proposed plan is anticipated to cost $5.1 million. The project will be financed with state funding through the State of Good Repair program that will cover $4.7 million of the project, while Fairfax County funding is estimated at $408,000, according to VDOT’s project update in May.

Interested persons may register for the virtual meeting at virginiadot.org/huntermillcolvinrun. Anyone wishing to participate offline, without registering, may call 877-309-2074 (use access code 635-767-879) to listen in.

Any comments following the meeting on Wednesday regarding VDOT’s plan for this project must be submitted by Sept. 28, 2020, on the project website, or by mail to Mr. Vicente Valeza, P.E., Virginia Department of Transportation, 4975 Alliance Drive, Fairfax, VA 22030, or by emailing [email protected]. Emails should reference “Hunter Mill Road over Colvin Run Bridge Replacement” in the subject line.

Photos courtesy VDOT

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