Fairfax County Public Schools is getting its first electric school bus today as part of a statewide initiative led by Dominion Energy.
The bus is expected to arrive at the Stonecroft Transportation Center in Chantilly. It is the first of eight vehicles that FCPS will receive from Dominion in an initial deployment of 50 buses throughout Virginia.
FCPS says it anticipates getting the remaining seven buses by the end of January.
Made by Thomas Built Buses, the new vehicles will join Fairfax County’s fleet of approximately 1,625 diesel-fueled school buses, one of the largest in the country.
“Electric school buses in FCPS will benefit not only the school division and its community, but the entire national capital area,” FCPS says. “…They will help reduce carbon emissions, serve as a resource for national emergency planning efforts, and provide stability and capacity to the grid with meeting increasing energy demands.”
While electric buses are more expensive to purchase than diesel ones, they are cheaper to maintain and operate. FCPS is covering the difference in the initial cost with a grant from Dominion Energy, which also funded the installation of electric charging infrastructure at the Stonecroft facility and is responsible for maintaining the equipment.
FCPS says training for bus drivers, maintenance technicians, and other staff will start once the first bus arrives. The vehicles will undergo testing before being assigned to routes in early to mid-April, though whether there will be any students for them to transport at that time remains to be seen.
The arrival of Fairfax County’s first electric bus is a welcome step forward for community members and public officials who have been advocating for a transition to electric vehicles, citing health and financial benefits as well as environmental ones.
One of the most prominent advocates for electric school buses has been the Fairfax County branch of the national climate advocacy group Mothers Out Front, which launched a campaign in 2019 calling on FCPS to commit to converting its entire fleet to electric power by 2024.
“We are so excited for Fairfax to get its electric school buses on the ground and running,” Mothers Out Front Fairfax co-leader Barbara Monacella said in a statement. “…Every electric school bus we add to our fleet reduces the air pollution from diesel that harms our kids’ health, and brings us closer to our goal of converting every bus in order to reduce emissions and fight climate change.”
The community advocacy group has teamed up again with Del. Mark Keam (D-35th) on legislation that would create a state fund for school districts to purchase electric buses, a move aimed at addressing concerns about the amount of control Dominion has over the current initiative.
Last year, lawmakers opted to pursue the utility company’s pilot program instead, but Monacella says Keam will reintroduce his bill when the Virginia General Assembly convenes for its 2021 session on Wednesday (Jan. 13).
“We applaud the buses Fairfax has added, and we hope to add more through the state grant fund in the future,” Monacella said. “With every electric bus we add, we move the needle for our kids’ health and their future in the face of climate change.”
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors indicated interest in a pilot program for electric-powered buses during its transportation committee meeting on Tuesday (Nov. 10).
During the meeting, Fairfax County Department of Transportation Director Tom Biesiadny delivered an presentation that explained the “ins and outs” of electric vehicles and and included a proposal for moving forward with a pilot plan.
The next step would be to return to the supervisors with a more in-depth financial plan that includes details such as when and where this would take place, and how long the demonstration would last, which could be in the early part of 2021, Biesiadny says.
“This is exciting,”said Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey McKay. “Clearly we need to jump into this area and we need to do it quickly.”
Providence Supervisor Dalia Palchick supported a pilot because it would help ensure the county implements these changes correctly.
“This is the future,” she said. “We need to stop going backward. I’m hopeful to see a plan not just to see a pilot but do a demonstration project, which in my mind, means ‘how can we move forward?'”
A pilot with four buses could cost between $3.8 million and $4.2 million, a gross cost that does not take into account sources of funding. Some money has been set aside through a bus replacement program, and there are grants available, Biesiadny said.
FCDOT has in-house and external expertise from Fairfax’s “ongoing partnership with Dominion Energy” and the Richmond Highway Bus Rapid Transit team to draw from, said Tom Reynolds, the FCDOT Section Chief of Transit Services Division.
The pilot would help the department learn about the buses’ range and charging, how they perform during different seasons of the year and on various local and express routes, and what staff training needs to be done, Reynolds said.
“The sooner we do the pilot, the sooner we see the results of it, the sooner we can start to make longer-term decisions about some of the capital costs that would be necessary if we were to expand this,” McKay said.
When the county talks about costs, Palchik — who said she developed childhood asthma living in the area — and Braddock Supervisor James Walkinshaw emphasized the costs of treating asthma and the health impacts of poor air quality.
“In Virginia, we spend $87 million a year because of asthma hospitalization,” Walkinshaw said. “Fairfax County is lower, but Route One is higher. Annandale is higher. Other parts of the county are higher. It would be a small thing, but as we look at this pilot, we might want to look at locating it in parts of the county that have been hit harder by asthma.”
Fairfax County’s first effort to introduce electric vehicles into public transit came this year with the autonomous Relay shuttle now operating in the Mosaic District. That demonstration project is a partnership with Dominion Energy, Biesiadny said.
Photo via Electrify America
As concerns grow about the coronavirus, state and county officials, along with Dominion Energy, want residents to beware scams related to the virus.
“As the coronavirus public health emergency continues, scam artists are taking advantage [of] the situation,” one of the many alerts from Fairfax County said.
Coronavirus Scam Prevention
Due to Virginia’s declared state of emergency, the county noted that it is unlawful of suppliers to sell, lease or license any necessary goods and services “at an unconscionable price.”
As of yesterday (Tuesday), spokespeople for Fairfax County and FCPD haven’t received any reports about scams related to the coronavirus.
Earlier in March, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring urged residents to be wary of coronavirus scams, which could include products for sale claiming to prevent the virus, misinformation or fake solicitations for coronavirus victims, according to a press release.
“Unfortunately, scammers oftentimes take advantage of natural disasters or public health fears like the coronavirus to make a buck,” Herring said in the press release.
The press release offered tips for people to combat scams:
- Look out for emails that claim to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts saying that they have information about the coronavirus. For the most updated information you can visit the CDC and the World Health Organization websites.
- Do not click on any links from unknown sources. This could lead to downloading a virus on your computer or phone.
- Ignore any offers, online or otherwise, for a coronavirus vaccine. If you see any advertisements for prevention, treatment or cures ask the question: if there had been a cure for the disease would you be hearing about that through an advertisement or sales pitch?
- Thoroughly research any organizations or charities purporting to be raising funds for victims of the coronavirus.
- Look out for “investment opportunities” surrounding the coronavirus. According to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission there are online promotions claiming the products or services of certain publicly-traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure the disease and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase because of that.
“It is so important that Virginians stay vigilant and do their research before giving their money to anyone purporting to sell preventative medications or raising funds for victims,” Herring said.
Scams Often Target Seniors
Dominion Energy is working with police to get the scammers’ phone numbers shut down, according to Peggy Fox, a Dominion Energy spokesperson.
“Dominion Energy will never make threatening phone calls, demand you pay over the phone or ask you to pay with prepaid cards,” Fox said.
Often, the scammers — claiming to be from Dominion Energy — will call people and threaten to cut off service if payments aren’t made immediately, Fox said.
“They direct their victims to another number and when you call it (which I have) you may hear our Dominion Energy voice recording — which they’ve stolen,” Fox said, adding that they will also tell people to buy pre-paid cards for payment.
Tips from Dominion Energy on how to spot scams:
- While robocall scams can be relatively easy to spot, effective scammers continue to make personal phone calls. Some scammers may employ scare tactics, while others will try to gain your trust by sounding friendly and sympathetic.
- Many utility scammers try to instill fear and a sense of urgency by threatening immediate service disconnection if you don’t provide payment information over the phone or agree to pay your energy bill with a prepaid debit or gift card.
- Dominion Energy does not make calls requesting immediate payment or require customers to pay with prepaid cards of any kind.
- Some utility impostors may falsify their caller ID to appear they are using a local number or even Dominion Energy’s customer service number. When in doubt, hang up and call the number located on your energy bill.
- Don’t let anyone into your home unless you have a previously scheduled appointment or have called about an issue. Always check for proper identification before letting personnel in. Additionally, utility workers won’t ask you to pay an energy bill in person.
- Hang up. Customers can always verify their account balance and payment due date by signing into their dominionenergy.com account or calling 1-866-DOM-HELP (1-866-366-4357).
“These scams are widespread in each of the 18 states we serve. They’re relentless in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, where we provide electrical service,” Fox said, adding that they often target seniors.
Additionally, Dominion Energy is waiving reconnection and late fees, along with donating $1 million to relief organizations to help people impacted by the coronavirus.
Suspect It’s a Scammer?
So what happens if a scammer calls? Hang up and call these places.
People who think they’ve received a scam call regarding Dominion Energy should hang up and report the calls to Dominion Energy and the police.
Photo by Jonah Pettrich on Unsplash
It’s no secret that Northern Virginia is well-known for being a technology corridor.
Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn (D) is looking for ways to bring the benefits of emerging technologies to all residents.
In a board matter proposed this week, Alcorn says he wants to find ways to promote innovative and equitable technologic Fairfax County.
Here’s more from the board matter:
Beyond our internal investments in GIS, other examples of our leadership in advancing technology include these initiatives championed through our Economic Advisory Commission (EAC):
- Our pilot with Dominion Energy is the first state-funded connected autonomous vehicle (CAV) public transportation demonstration in Virginia.
- Testing of driverless cars, by public and private entities, on our more than 70 miles of “connected corridors” in the county.
- The county’s state-funded efforts to attract and retain workers for high-demand IT positions, including cybersecurity.
- Our partnership with Smart City Works and Refraction utilizing their $750,000 federal grant to increase regional capacity to bring technologies to market and grow innovative companies.
To complement these EAC activities we can also do more to promote innovative and equitable technology in Fairfax County. The Board’s IT Committee, which I now chair, provides an excellent opportunity for board members to explore how we can use technology more efficiently and ensure that our residents also benefit from new technology.
In concert with the efforts by the county’s EAC and the Economic Development Authority (EDA) to encourage emerging technology companies, it is also important that we look to bring the benefits of safe and consumer-friendly emerging technologies to our residents as consumers. And we should do so with an equity lens in mind so that residents who are in most need of the efficiencies and cost reductions often associated with these innovations actually receive the benefits.
The board is expected to discuss ways to promote emerging technologies at a future IT meeting committee.
Staff photo by Jay Westcott
FCPS is one of 16 districts chosen by the company, which will cover the difference between the cost of diesel-fueled and electric buses. Dominion Energy’s vendor, Thomas Built Buses, will provide 50 buses for the first phase of the project.
“This is an innovative, sustainable solution that will help the environment, protect children’s health, make the electric grid stronger, and free up money for our schools,” Dominion Energy Chairman, President and CEO Thomas Farrell, II, said in the press release.
Here’s more from Dominion Energy:
The buses also provide environmental and health benefits through reduced emissions and reduce operation and maintenance costs for schools by up to 60 percent.
Phase two of the project, with state approval, would expand the program to bring at least 1,000 additional electric school buses online by 2025. Once phase two is fully implemented, the buses’ batteries could provide enough energy to power more than 10,000 homes.
Phase three would set the goal to have 50 percent of all diesel bus replacements in Dominion Energy’s footprint be electric by 2025 and 100 percent by 2030.
“Adding electric school buses in our fleet is consistent with the environmental focus of Fairfax County and the school division,” FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand said in the FCPS press release.
Photo via Unplash
More than 350 individuals are out of power near Glade Drive, according to Dominion Energy.
The company reports that 368 customers are out of power. Crews expect to restore power between 2-5 p.m. today (Monday).
Over the weekend, a power outage was also reported in Reston Town Center. Employees at Mon Ami Gabi, a French restaurant in the town center, took credit card information from customers to complete transactions.
Photo via Dominion Energy
Updated at 11:45 a.m. — Most of the power was restored at 7 p.m. with some customers getting their power back around 4 p.m., Charles Penn, Sr., a spokesman for Dominion Energy, told Reston Now.
Penn said that one outage is “particularly labor-intensive involving five broken poles” and is affecting 12 customers — power is expected to be back by 5 p.m. today (Feb. 26).
Earlier: Nearly 2,000 customers are affected by three power outages covering a majority of Great Falls, according to a Dominion Energy power outage map.
The power outages span from east of Utterback Store Road to the Potomac River, stretching down to the Georgetown Pike in the northwest and nearly reaching Difficult Run in the southeast.
The two outages by Shady Oak, which are affecting roughly 1,500 customers, are estimated to have power restored sometime between 7 p.m. and midnight. Meanwhile, crews just got dispatched to the power outage by Leigh Mill Road, which is impacting 492 customers, according to the map.
The causes for all three outages are “pending investigation.”
Earlier today, the National Weather Service issued a High Wind Warning and then replaced it with a Wind Advisory for Fairfax County. The strong winds are expected to continue for the rest of the afternoon with sustained winds whipping across the county at 25 to 35 miles per hour. Gusts may reach up to 55 mph, according to NWS.
Great Falls also has a closure caused by a fallen tree at 715 Walker Road.
Image via Dominion Energy
Despite all the distraction associated with events in Richmond these days, the General Assembly is staying on task dealing with legislative and budgetary issues it faces.
Each house of the legislature has started to work on legislation passed by the other with conflicts resolved in conference committees made up of members from both houses. The really big conference committee is working to resolve differences on the budget. The big differences on the budget are between the Democrats and Republicans and not the two houses — how to deal with additional revenues coming to the state from the federal tax changes. Stay tuned for the differences on the budget because they will not be resolved until the last few days of the session that is scheduled to adjourn on Feb. 23.
Some good news is emerging from the session. Requiring hands-free phones in cars has been required in most other states many years ago and may finally be coming to Virginia. Research shows that the greatest cause of auto accidents is distracted driving with calls and texting being the chief reason.
I remember the many sessions that it took to pass requirements for smoke-free areas. Richmond as the cigarette manufacturing capital was finally over-ridden by popular sentiments, and smoke-free areas were legislated. Amazingly but happily the age to buy cigarettes and the latest craze of buying electronic vaping devices is being raised from age 18 to 21.
Efforts to legalize gambling establishments in areas of the state as diverse as Portsmouth, Bedford and Danville failed this year in favor of a year-long study to determine state policy. I predict we will see casinos established in the state in a few years as some regions see them as economic development and a source of new revenue offsetting anemic state funding. I voted to let a study go forward but would not support public financing of a stadium or gambling establishment.
Bills that would have decriminalized marijuana did not make it out of committee in either house. My bill introduced at the suggestion of the Chris Atwood Foundation to make Naloxone more available to reduce deaths from drug overdoses passed.
Different bills passed that purport to create a fairer way to draw legislative district boundaries, but neither comes close to the independent processes that the public has been seeking to end gerrymandering.
On the environment, bills to require Dominion to clean up their coal-ash ponds passed both houses with endorsement by major environmental groups. A bill I voted for that would have established an ambitious agenda for cleaning up the environment in Virginia failed in the House.
The Senate passed a bill to require public schools to teach a class on the Bible! I will not be voting for it if it makes its way through committee.
All the gun safety bills were defeated in both houses. A bill to make it easier to get a concealed weapon if you are from another state passed with a likely veto by the governor.
Yes, there are other big challenges in the capital these days. I will be addressing them in future columns as the facts involved become better known.
The power outage started around 7 p.m. on Jan. 12 after a vehicle ran into a pad-mounted transformer, Charles Penn, Sr., a spokesman for Dominion Energy, told Reston Now.
The accident happened right around when roads throughout Reston became snow-covered during the weekend’s winter storm.
Power was restored at 2:15 a.m. on Sunday (Jan. 13). The outage affected 76 customers, he said.
Readers first alerted Reston Now to the power outage earlier this week.
Photo via Google Maps
Herndon’s Ice House Cafe set to close soon — The cafe and bar, which has been in Herndon for more than 40 years, will close its doors at 760 Elden Street. Celebrations are planned for Dec. 30 and New Year’s Eve before its Jan. 1 closing date. [Fairfax County Times]
Brookfield Properties eyes neighbors for Wegmans — The Toronto-based developer is considering different retailers for the $1.4 billion mixed-use project, which will include an 80,000-square-foot Wegmans. A bowling alley concept, movie theater, fitness center and restaurants are under consideration. [Washington Business Journal]
Man convicted for sexually assaulting four Reston roommates in 1995 — A jury found Jude Lovchik guilty on all 17 counts, including charges of sodomy, abduction and burglary. The case had gone cold until Lovchik’s ex-wife told Arlington County police that Lovchik had confessed the actions to her and had her recreate the scenes. [The Washington Post]
Clean Virginia says Dominion Energy customers pay too much — The new political action group claims that Virginians pay $254 in excess a year because of poor state oversight. [The Washington Post]
Herndon development is slated to attract larger employers — Fairfax County approved an increase to the density for part of the Center for Innovative Technology site that falls within the county for 3.8 million square feet of office space along with a hotel and retail. The campus, which is just off of the Dulles Toll Road, was once part of the county’s larger bid for Amazon’s second headquarters. [Washington Business Journal]
Silver Line pleads guilty to falsifying concrete tests — A contractor admitted to falsifying concrete quality tests for stations on the Silver Line extension to Dulles International Airport last week. The contractor, Andrew Nolan, 28, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and faces up to five years in prison. [The Washington Post]
LED lights the way — Fairfax County has entered into a new regional agreement with Dominion Energy that would convert existing streetlights into more energy-efficient LEDs. The company installs, owns and maintains most of the nearly 58,000 streetlights in the county. [Fairfax County Government]
Commuter alert: Lane and ramp closures — A number of lane and ramp closures are effect in Reston and surrounding areas, including Herndon Parkway, Sunrise Valley Drive and Sunset Hills Road through Aug. 11. [Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project]
Photo by Mike James
A power outage has been reported in the Bennington Woods Road area.
According to Dominion Energy, 536 customers are impacted by the outage, the cause of which is pending investigation.
As of 9:10 a.m., crews have not yet been assigned to address the issue, but the company expects to restore power by 3 p.m. today.
This story will be updated.
Chamber’s Legislative Scorecard Released — The Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership annually grades local members of the Virginia General Assembly on their support of legislation that positively affects business, economic development, workforce development and related issues. Del. Ken Plum (D-Fairfax) and Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax), who represent Reston, both scored in the middle of the pack. [Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce]
Extreme Drunkenness Caused Crash That Killed Herndon Man — The driver in a July wrong-way head-on crash on U.S. 50 in Annapolis, which killed herself and a 34-year-old Herndon man, had a blood-alcohol content of .34. That’s more than four times the legal limit in Maryland. [WTOP]
Dominion Sending Workers to Help After Irma — Dominion Energy has mobilized more than 700 employees and contractors to respond to electric restoration efforts in after Hurricane Irma devastated Florida and left millions without power. [Dominion Energy]
N.C. Real Estate Company Opening Reston Office — Commercial realtors The Morgan Cos. will move into 11955 Freedom Drive, Suite 11000 at Reston Town Center. It will be their third office, following ones in Charlotte and Fort Lauderdale. [Virginia Business]
SLHS Seahawks 3-0 on Season — The South Lakes High School Seahawks football team stayed undefeated last week with a 49-7 win over Oakton. Statistical leaders included QB Devin Miles (6-6, 154 yards, 2 TDs), RB Spencer Alston (109 yards rushing, 121 yards receiving, 4 TDs), RB Albert Mensah (60 yards rushing, 1 TD) and DL Spencer Coppage (sack, interception, forced fumble). Reserve QB Will Shapiro also threw a touchdown pass, connecting with WR Kazim Khan. SLHS will play its first home game of the season Friday night against Dominion. [South Lakes Athletics]
Dominion Rates Going Down as of Today –The net impact of the changes for the monthly bill for the typical Dominion Energy residential customer is a decrease of 1.1 percent, lowering the typical bill from $117.20 to $115.65, which is 30 cents lower than in February 2015. [Dominion Energy]
Bechtel Selected to Complete Georgia Nuclear Plant Expansion — Bechtel has been chosen by Georgia Power to complete construction of a two-reactor expansion of a nuclear power plant near Augusta, Georgia. These will be the first new units built in the U.S. in the last three decades. [Markets Insider]
King, Browns Finish Preseason Undefeated — Deon King, a South Lakes High School graduate, recorded one tackle Thursday night as the Cleveland Browns shut out the Chicago Bears, 25-0. The Browns finish the preseason with a 4-0 record. In the four games, King recorded nine tackles (including seven solo) and a fumble recovery. ESPN’s roster projection has him making the cut and being part of the 53-man regular-season squad. [ESPN]
Fairfax Crew Making Rescues in Flooded Texas — Fairfax Fire and Rescue provided an update Thursday of its efforts to help with rescue operations in flood-ravaged southeast Texas. They have helped save six people and two pets from flooded areas, and they have also assisted an owner with accessing and retrieving three more pets. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue]
Last Day to Get Comments In on BikeShare Locations — Comments on plans for 10 new Captial BikeShare stations in Reston, including nine south of the Dulles Toll Road, must be in by close of business today. [Fairfax County Department of Transportation]
Several thousand area residents are reported to be without power after a strong storm tore through, Dominion Energy reports.
Countywide, more than 26,000 customers were without power as of about 4:05 p.m. Monday. Crews are assessing damage and working to restore electricity.
— Fairfax County (@fairfaxcounty) June 19, 2017
Outages can be reported to Dominion Energy online or by calling 1-866-366-4357.