Second COVID-19 Vaccine Could Be Approved for Teens — “Biotechnology company Moderna announced Tuesday that its two-shot coronavirus vaccine produced the same protective immune response in teens as it does in adults, and the firm said it plans to submit the data to U.S. regulators for review in early June. If authorized, the vaccine would become the second available for adolescents as young as 12.” [The Washington Post]
Fairfax County Updates COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard — The Fairfax County Health Department launched an updated version of its vaccine dashboard yesterday (Tuesday) with data on administered doses, how many people have gotten vaccinated, demographic breakdowns, and other information. [FCHD]
Preliminary Work Begins on W&OD Wiehle Bridge — “Preliminary work is being performed @ the Wiehle Ave intersection in Reston in preparation for the eventual bridge there. Over the next couple of weeks, Dominion Energy will be making improvements to the gravel trail so that it may be used as a detour as they relocate facilities.” [The W&OD Trail/Twitter]
Man Hit with Bottle in Castle Rock Square — Police responded to the 2200 block of Castle Rock Square in Reston around 11:49 p.m. on Monday (May 24), when a man was hit “in the upper body with a bottle by someone known to him,” the department says. The victim in the incident, which was not a stabbing as initially reported by a scanner, said that he didn’t want the case to be investigated by officers. [FCPD]
County to Hold Meeting on Proposed Bicycle Lanes — Fairfax County will hold a virtual meeting at 6:30 p.m. on June 8 to discuss striping changes that would create bicycle lanes on several roads. The Hunter Mill District proposals focus on Herndon, adding lanes on segments of McNair Farms Drive and Thomas Jefferson Drive and converting the “underutilized” outside travel lanes on Coppermine Road to buffered bike lanes. [FCDOT]
Herndon Company Recognized for Veteran Hiring — “Herndon-headquartered Serco North America earned the designation VETS Indexes 5 Star Employer as part of the 2021 VETS Indexes Employer Awards. The designation recognizes Serco’s commitment to recruiting, hiring, retaining, developing and supporting veteran employees, military spouses and others in the military community.” [Fairfax County EDA]
Photo by Marjorie Copson
Concerns about the maintenance of trails and other bicycle and pedestrian facilities took center stage at the Fairfax County Department of Transportation’s ActiveFairfax Transportation Plan community conversation for the Hunter Mill District on Monday (April 19).
The virtual meeting was part of the initial public comment phase of the county’s efforts to develop the ActiveFairfax Transportation Plan, which will establish a vision and goals for supporting non-motorized or self-propelled travel.
Examples of active transportation include walking, riding a bike or horse, running, hiking, and the use of rolling devices such as wheelchairs, scooters, and strollers.
Nicole Wynands, the ActiveFairfax project manager, hosted the Hunter Mill District conversation, one of 11 public meetings that have been scheduled this month.
Attendees of the Hunter Mill District meeting identified the maintenance of pedestrian and bicycle facilities as well as hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian trails as a primary concern, requesting more clarity around where community members should go to report maintenance issues.
Maintenance is a shared responsibility between various agencies, including the county and the Virginia Department of Transportation.
Maintenance issues of concern included debris cluttering paths and bike lanes, encroaching landscaping or trees encroaching the paths, and snow being plowed onto pathways. Suggestions to improve these issues included the county encouraging VDOT to dedicate funds for bicycle facility maintenance.
Wynands clarified that tree or shrub trimming is complaint-based, but added that the ActiveFairfax plan “will make recommendations in regards to maintenance.”
Commenters also called for more efforts to educate the public on varying crosswalk functions and ways that mountain bike or equestrian trail users can prevent the trails from being damaged, such as not utilizing them following inclement weather.
Wynands described the new ActiveFairfax Transportation Plan as a necessary measure to mitigate inconsistencies between the county’s various existing pedestrian and bicycle plans and to meet national standards and best practices for facility and design plans.
“In order for us to effectively implement the vision for the biking and walking network, we will need to create one recommendation that is consistent, particularly with the region-wide plan and the area plans,” Wynands said.
Wynands added that Phase One of the ActiveFairfax plan — which began in July 2020 — will run through July. Public engagement will continue through May 15, with a public review of the plan expected by the end of May. A final version will then be presented to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
The community survey is still available online, along with interactive maps for community members to identify key destinations and barriers and suggest locations for new trails, bikeways, and street enhancements.
The second phase of the plan will be implemented immediately following the conclusion of the first, and it’s expected to take a year or year and a half, according to Wynands.
Priorities in the second phase include creating a facility selection toolkit, providing network and program recommendations, implementing guidance, prioritizing funding, and working on a comprehensive plan amendment.
The Fairfax County Department of Transportation will host a series of virtual discussions next month for community members to share their thoughts on walking, bicycling, and other modes of travel that don’t involve getting inside a car.
The community conversations are intended to give county staff insight into people’s travel habits and areas where the county could improve bicycle and pedestrian access or facilities as part of FCDOT’s efforts to develop a new ActiveFairfax Transportation Plan.
“Community input is critical to the success of this planning effort,” FCDOT spokesperson Anna Nissinen said in a statement. “We want to hear all perspectives, from families biking and walking within the community to individuals who use scooters and bike share as part of their commute. This is the only way to create a comprehensive and functional plan that truly supports the needs of the community.”
12 online meetings have been scheduled, starting with an evening conversation for Mason District residents on April 8. The Hunter Mill District meeting will take place on Monday, April 19 at 7 p.m.
There will also be a meeting in Spanish on April 15 at 7 p.m. and two “Lunch and Learn” sessions at noon on April 13 and 23.
A recording of the event and the presentation will be available on the ActiveFairfax webpage for anyone unable to attend a meeting. There is also an online survey for community members to share their perspective on barriers to non-motorized travel, potential trail and bicycle network improvements, and other topics.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors directed FCDOT to review its plan for active transportation — defined by the county as “self-propelled, human-powered travel” such as walking, cycling, or using a scooter or wheelchair — in January 2020.
Launched last summer, the project is divided into two phases. First, FCDOT is developing a vision statement laying out the county’s goals, evaluating existing conditions, and creating a plan for a systematic safety program. Then, the department will come up with recommendations, including potential comprehensive plan updates and project and policy prioritization.
Local officials have been looking at ways to enhance Fairfax County’s bikeability and walkability, particularly in urbanizing areas like Tysons and Reston, to improve safety and reflect people’s evolving travel habits.
The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board’s most recent Regional Travel Survey found that the number of bicycle trips in the D.C. area has doubled over the past decade, though the amount of daily walking trips has remained steady.
“The plan will establish a vision and a roadmap for implementation of safe, convenient, and enjoyable streets, sidewalks, bike facilities, and trails in Fairfax County for people of all ages and abilities,” Nissinen said. “The plan will support livable street design through the development of a transportation network that connects people to where they live, work, play, learn and take transit.”
The proposed changes would impact a number of Herndon-Reston routes and create new ones, including Sterling-Herndon and Reston Town Center Metro station (when it finally opens) to Herndon High School.
The goal of the changes is to provide better access to destinations, improve travel times, increase schedule reliability and frequency, and increase overall services, according to the county’s press release.
The county is also looking to provide more access to schools, hospitals, and transit centers, decrease average travel times on popular routes, and to improve efficiency by cutting duplicating connections. Changes would be “initially developed as budget neutral,” according to the county.
There will be three virtual community input meetings next week (Jan. 12, 13, and 14) and public comments will be accepted until Feb. 21.
To increase participation, Fairfax County Department of Transportation is mailing out a brochure to every county resident this month that will direct people to the online survey. The brochure is also translated into nine different languages. The public has already had some chance to comment on a number of the subareas, including the Herndon-Reston routes, according to Robin Geiger, a spokeswoman for the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.
Due to this, these particular route updates can go to the Board of Supervisors and will be implemented prior to the entire transit strategic plan. These route changes and updates are expected to be approved and ready to go for when phase two of the Silver Line, Geiger tells Reston Now, since it incorporates two Metro stations into the routes.
Silver Line Phase 2 is currently scheduled to open in the fall, at the earliest.
However, if residents would like to comment on the Herndon-Reston routes and how they will be incorporated into the county’s overall transportation plan, Geiger says they are welcome to do so.
“We want to hear from everyone,” she says.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors gave the county’s transportation department permission this week to start work on plans for managed curbside parking in Tysons and Reston.
Whether the plan includes paid parking, time-limited parking, designated commercial vehicle parking, or some combination, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation will need at least a year to draw one up for the Board of Supervisors to review, staff said during a board transportation committee meeting on Tuesday.
The incremental step forward comes after professional traffic engineers released their findings from a two-year study that analyzed current parking habits in Tysons’ urban center and Reston’s transit station areas as well as potential options to manage parking.
“Currently in the county, we have a very limited toolbox of parking restrictions that can be implemented by either the Board or VDOT,” FCDOT Section Chief Neil Freschman said. “Generally, most on-street parking on public roadways is uncontrolled.”
The study found that public on-street parking in Reston is incredibly limited.
Parking is available on just 6% of the 15 miles of public curb space surrounding the Wiehle-Reston East, Reston Town Center, and Herndon Metrorail stations, FCDOT Senior Transportation Planner Henri Stein McCartney said.
“We found 211 total public on-street spaces within the study area, which is pretty low,” she said. “Most parking is on private streets, which we don’t manage.”
Comparatively, Tysons had more parking. Staff found 1,272 spaces along 22 miles — or 29% — of curb space on the roadways surrounding the Greensboro, Springhill, Tysons, and McLean Metro stations.
However, parking in Tysons suffers from other problems, including cars parked in “No Parking” zones and travel lanes, along with large commercial vehicles that overstay their welcome.
“Some of these vehicles are reportedly parking for days or weeks without moving,” McCartney said. “Our parking staff has received multiple complaints from Tysons businesses about commercial vehicles that are parking long-term near their building, so we know this is an issue.”
Transportation Committee Vice-Chair Kathy Smith, who represents Sully District, told Tysons Reporter that commercial vehicles parking for extended periods is a county-wide issue.
“I think it’s good that staff is looking into how to balance people’s ability to get into businesses and getting more turnover,” Smith said. “Everybody would agree you don’t want commercial vehicles taking up space for days.”
This parking plan is being developed alongside changes to the street grid in Tysons and Reston, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn told Tysons Reporter. In some cases, parking policies will be developed for streets that do not yet exist, but have been incorporated into the two communities’ comprehensive plans to be more transit-oriented.
The management plan should encourage parking spot turnover to ensure that these future streets near transit stations, which are lined with mixed-use properties, do not become commuter lots, he said.
However, managed parking in Reston’s transit areas will have to overcome the controversy that Boston Properties ignited when the property manager introduced and later modified paid parking at the Reston Town Center.
“The number one lesson is, don’t make all your streets private,” Alcorn said. “We have an awful lot of private streets. What we’ve learned is that the public doesn’t have any say — it is up to the private street owner.”
While private streets make planning events more flexible, Alcorn says the 2017 flare-up, which focused mostly on the garage parking, could also be attributed in part to community members not having a say.
For the most part, though, what FCDOT is working on “is apples and oranges” compared to the RTC, he said.
Image via Fairfax County
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
The Fairfax County Department of Transportation is considering two design options for the Soapstone Connector.
The connector would create a new one-mile roadway between Sunrise Valley Drive and Sunset Hills Road. A bridge would be built over the Dulles Corridor, providing an additional crossing that is critical to reducing congested areas along Wiehle Avenue.
An FCDOT spokesperson told Reston Now it was too early to share plans, which are still in development. But the two options would avoid the historic area on Association Drive.
Once the designs are finalized, FCDOT will work with the community to determine how to move forward. A decision on the most suitable alternative is expected in the beginning of next year, FCDOT spokesperson Robin Geiger told Reston Now.
The Soapstone Connector was approved for full funding by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in December 2019.
The project secured a big win when it received $15 million in funding from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority through its six-year funding program in July.
An application to the Commonwealth Transportation Board for additional funding was submitted on August 17. A decision on the application is expected in the summer of 2021.
Map via handout/Fairfax County Government
The Fairfax County Department of Transportation plans to hold its first set of virtual community input meetings to display preliminary recommendations for the Fairfax County and Franconia-Springfield Parkways Alternatives Analysis and Long-Term Planning Study.
According to a statement released by the county, there will be three opportunities to participate. The sessions will be held on July 29, July 30, and Aug 4.
FCDOT has held two rounds of community input over the past two years. Their mission is to gather feedback from the community and identify deficiencies along the Parkway corridors
The department is aiming to maximize efficiency for commuters while serving local residents at the same time. Officials want to minimize the impacts that more efficiency will have on the community and the environment, according to the county website.
FCDOT plans to evaluate final recommendations in its transportation models and send them to the Board of Supervisors this winter, according to the website. FCDOT will begin the process of amending the Comprehensive Plan in Spring 2021 following endorsement by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
The Fairfax County Department of Transportation will hold a meeting later this month to discuss paving and restricting projects.
The meeting is set for Feb. 25 at 6:30 p.m. in the cafeteria of Terraset Elementary School (11411 Ridge Heights Road).
The meeting begins with a formal presentation at 6:45 p.m., after which the floor will open for questions, feedback, and comments.
Here’s more from FCDOT:
Overall, the paving and restriping program improves hundreds of roads in Fairfax County each year through maintenance and repaving. At the same time, the state and county agencies coordinate restriping efforts to address safety issues for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians through the creation of bike lanes, parking lanes, crosswalks and more.
Comments can also be submitted online for those unable to attend the meetings.
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the county’s Transportation Priorities Plan — which is estimated to cost roughly $3 billion dollars.
The plan approved last Tuesday (Dec. 3) by the board will guide decisions for transit improvements for fiscal years 2020 to 2025, according to a county press release.
In the Hunter Mill District specifically, there are more than 50 projects recommended by the county documents — many of which include improvements in safety measures for pedestrians and bicyclists as well as various infrastructure and intersection changes. Some of the projects suggested in the plan will be fully funded by the estimated cost, while other projects will need to find additional funding.
Here is a list of a few major improvements in the plan:
- Widen Route 7 from four to six lanes from Jarrett Valley Drive (Dulles Toll Road) to Reston Avenue. This would include intersection, bicycle and pedestrian and bus stop changes
- Addition of a walkway on the north side of Fox Mill Road from Fairfax County Parkway to Reston Parkway
- Expansion of Reston bike-share
- Expansion of Town Center Parkway to include a divided roadway under the Dulles Toll Road from Sunrise Valley Drive to Sunset Hills Road
The Fairfax County Department of Transportation will also continue projects that are already underway, according to Fairfax County’s website.
County documents also included a list of projects that were not recommended for the 2020-25 Priorities List, including the underpass for Town Center Parkway and the Dulles Toll Road.
In 2014, the Board of Supervisors approved $1.4 billion for six years of transportation projects from FY 2015-2020.
The county said in the press release that the funding estimate for the FY 2020- 2025 plan was impacted by the Virginia General Assembly passing legislation that diverted funds to the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority, along with rising project costs.
More from the press release:
The anticipated funding for a draft FY 2018-2023 TPP was $600 million in new revenues to fully fund existing projects and $170 million in new projects. These funding estimates were not realized, because in 2018, the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation that designated $154 million per year for the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) to address system improvement needs largely did so by diverting funding from existing local and regional sources.
Of the $102 million annual diversion, the financial impact on Fairfax County was estimated to be $45-50 million per year, or approximately $300 million over six years. As a result, there is no available revenue for new transportation projects. In addition, the County was required to adjust schedules for some previously approved projects, many beyond FY 2025…
According to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), project costs have been rising for various reasons, including the number of large-scale projects underway across the National Capital Region causing shortages of labor and materials; economic factors such as tariffs and rising right-of-way costs; and across the board increases on project contingencies required by VDOT.
Image via Google Maps
Fairfax County Poaches Another Arlington Development Official — The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA) announced that it has poached another one of Arlington’s economic development officials: Alex Iams, the former interim director of the Arlington Economic Development. [Tysons Reporter]
Common Recycling Mistakes — Nearly 30 percent of material received by a third-party recycling processor used by the county is trash. The county offers tips on how to stop this practice of “wishful recycling.” [Fairfax County Government]
Feedback Sought on Fairfax County Parkway Improvements — The Virginia Department of Transportation is holding a public hearing on Thursday (Dec. 12) on plans to improve five miles of Fairfax County Parkway. Comments can also be submitted online. [Virginia Department of Transportation]
More Authority Proposed for Local Jurisdictions — “Democrats say they are likely to let counties and cities choose, for example, whether to remove or relocate Confederate memorials, and are looking for ways to allow them to impose taxes on hotel stays and cigarettes. They say they are unlikely to push for a full adoption of home rule, however, citing a century’s worth of judicial decisions that adhere to the philosophy of state control.” [The Washington Post]
Photo via Flickr/vantagehill
Fairfax County residents can try transit and go car-free with a free $50 Smart Trip Card to use on transit or parking at county Metrorail parking garages to residents. In order to receive the gift card, residents must complete an online survey. Social media users can also share photos of their “smart commuting” experience on the FCODT’s Facebook for a chance to win a free Echo Dot.
Other regional and statewide partners are also offering other promotions:
- The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transit is giving away a year of free transit service from a transit operator in the state, as well as a pair of round-trip tickets aboard Amtrak’s Northeast Regional.
- A program by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments is hosting car free days from Sept. 21-23. Participants will receive a $30 gift certificate from Nift and will be entered in a raffle for prizes like sports and museum tickets, Capital Bikeshare memberships and gift certificates for food and groceries.
“The Fairfax County Department of Transportation is invested in improving the infrastructure and resources to give commuters choices to get to work or get around town. Fairfax County invites residents to try some of these options during Try Transit Week and Car Free Days to build better commuting habits that will benefit us personally and globally today and well into the future,” according to FCDOT.
State transportation officials are negotiating with a consultant to complete a feasibility study about the future Town Center Parkway underpass.
The underpass, which is listed as a top priority in Reston’s transportation funding plan, would extend Town Center Parkway from Sunrise Valley Drive west of Edmund Haley Drive under the Dulles Toll Road to Sunset Hill Road.
The structure would also include bike and pedestrian facilities that link mixed-use areas north and south of the toll road.
So far, the project is expected to cost roughly $170 million.
Currently, the Virginia Department of Transportation is negotiating with a consultant to conduct a feasibility study.
Once completed, the underpass is expected to relieve congestion and give commuters a different option for heading north and south in the area beyond Fairfax County Parkway and Reston Parkway.
The project isn’t expected to be completed until 2032. Before then, county officials estimate environmental assessment, engineering and design will take four years, while construction, right-of-way, and land acquisition could take around five years.
Map via Google Maps
For at least two weeks, the Fairfax Connector has been struggling with a shortage of bus drivers.
Although county officials say the number of missed and delayed trips has dropped over the last week, the shortage continues to impact riders’ commutes across the county. Some riders say buses have missed multiple trips for the last three weeks. Other buses have been delayed.
A service operation alert on the Fairfax Connector’s BusTracker website that previously alerted riders about the shortage was taken down. County officials are unsure why the alert is no longer on the website.
Tom Biesiadny, the director of Fairfax County’s transportation department, told Reston Now that MV Transportation, the current operator for the system, is “working through staffing issues.”
The county plans to switch operators to Transdev North America on July 1. The operator, which was awarded a five-year contract by the county, has started training bus drivers as part of its hiring process. Under the $443 million contract, Transdev will have 730 employees and operate 308 vehicles.
Although the cause and extent of the bus driver shortage is unclear, Biesiadny said the limited bus drivers is a regional issue.
“With the economy doing pretty well and unemployment being very low particularly in Northern Virginia, there’s a shortage of workers in general,” he said.
Riders can also text bus stop IDs to 414-11 to obtain information on trips and the latest bus schedules.
“What we’re trying to make sure that passengers know is that they should sign up for Bus Tracker emails or text alerts to make sure they see any important alerts,” Anna Nissinen, chief of communications for FCDOT, said. “That’s the best way to stay on top of travel.”
Photo via Facebook
(Updated at 10:35 a.m.) Locals in Reston will have a chance to provide feedback this week to the Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) on a study looking at the Fairfax County Parkway from Route 7 to Route 1.
FCDOT is working with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) on the “Fairfax County and Franconia-Springfield Parkways Alternatives Analysis and Long Term Planning Study,” which stretches 31 miles and consists of 83 intersections and 17 interchanges.
Some questions that the study wants to address include:
- the degree to which existing intersections should be considered for conversion to interchanges or under/overpasses
- how transit should be integrated into the corridor
- bicycle/pedestrian mobility
Tolling is off the agenda after FCDOT sought feedback from the community last fall. “Strong public participation, with more than 200 people attending meetings and 15,150 responses to the online survey, informed the formulation of strategies that will be discussed at the upcoming round of public meetings and led to the removal of tolling along the parkway as one of the approved strategies for improvement,” according to a FCDOT press release.
Ultimately, the study will provide recommendations for 2040 and beyond and will consider whether or not changes should be made to the county’s current transportation plan.
The meeting is set to take place on Thursday (March 28) at the Armstrong Elementary School (11900 Lake Newport Road).
The meeting will start with a presentation at 7 p.m. followed by a question and answer period at 7:30 p.m. and time for public input activities at 8 p.m. The Reston event is one of three public information sessions — the other two are at Fairfax and Springfield.
Locals will be able to give their feedback to the FCDOT study team in person. For people unable to attend the meeting, FCDOT will upload the meeting presentation to the study webpage by Thursday, April 4, and accept feedback through an online survey until midnight on Monday, May 6.
The input is meant to guide the study team to determine which improvements will be developed for screening and testing.
Courtesy via VDOT