Board of Supervisors Approves New Transportation Priorities Plan

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

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Fairfax County Poaches Another Arlington Development OfficialThe 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

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Fairfax County Celebrating ‘Try Transit’ with Chances for Free Bus Fare and Prizes This Week

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation is offering residents free bus fare and prizes this week to celebrate Try Transit Week, which is in effect through Friday.

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 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.

File photo

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Town Center Parkway Underpass Targets Completion in 2032

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

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Fairfax Connector’s Driver Shortage Complicates Riders’ Commute

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.

County officials urged riders to plan their trips ahead of time and check Twitter, Facebook and the Fairfax Connector’s BusTracker for the latest updates.

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

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FCDOT Seeking Locals’ Input for Fairfax County Parkway Changes

(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

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FCDOT Seeks Input on Fairfax Connector Service in Herndon, Reston 

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) is seeking public input on the Fairfax Connector in the Herndon-Reston area as it looks toward improvements for the local bus service.

Future recommended improvements will also consider connecting the planned Metrorail Silver Line Phase 2 stations in Herndon and Reston, according to the county.

Ultimately, FCDOT aims to increase mobility and schedule reliability, create better access to destinations, improve travel times and grow ridership.

Over the next few weeks, Fairfax Connector staff will hand out information about how locals can get engaged and provide input, along with “free ride coupons” for use on all Fairfax Connector buses in the Herndon-Reston area.

Locals can provide feedback in a variety of ways, including:

  • attending an interactive community meeting
  • filling out an online survey
  • emailing input to [email protected]
  • mailing comments to 4050 Legato Road, Suite 400 in Fairfax, Va.

FCDOT will hold two interactive community meetings with interactive exercises to explore travel needs, issues and ideas. The first one is scheduled to take place at the RCC Lake Anne’s Jo Ann Rose Gallery (1609-A Washington Plaza) from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Jan. 26. The second one is set to take place at the Herndon Middle School’s cafeteria (901 Locust Street) from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 29.

People have until Feb. 15 to provide public input. After the deadline, FCDOT staff will compile the comments to incorporate into future planning.

FCDOT will then come back to the community in the spring to hold more community meetings to present and discuss a draft plan for future improvements for the service area.

The move to improve the bus service comes just a month after changes to the bus schedule were announced to make it easier for Herndon High School students to catch a ride were unveiled.

Starting on Saturday (Jan. 19), Routes 924 and 926 will be adjusted to align with the school’s bell schedule and provide better access for Herndon High School students.

File photo

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Paid Parking Under Consideration for Reston, Tysons

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) is gearing up to study parking management options, which could add paid parking in Reston and Tysons.

FCDOT hopes to hire a professional parking consultant to explore parking management, which FCDOT says would fulfill the vision of the Comprehensive Plan for each area.

It would also reduce traffic congestion and vehicle emissions from drivers circling blocks to find free street parking and create a new revenue stream, FCDOT argues.

Henri Stein McCartney, a transportation planner for FCDOT, updated the county’s Transportation Committee yesterday (Dec. 11) on the proposal and gave examples of managed parking: pay for parking and time restricted parking.

The paid parking model can support different technologies — space occupancy sensors, space finding systems, smartphone apps, kiosks, etc. — that can help people find a spot, while also assisting enforcement, she said.

The other option is time restricted parking, which can limit parking during certain times of the days or set a certain allotted time for each car. While FCDOT expects the second option would pose more enforcement challenges, license plate readers, street cameras and space occupancy sensors can assist with policing the parking.

The consultant could measure existing on-street and off-street parking supply and demand in Reston and Tysons and then model future parking supply and demand. The consultant could also recommend appropriate strategies to the board and also put forward implementation and outreach plans.

McCartney highlighted one potential challenge: designing a parking plan that does not push cars into nearby neighborhoods with free parking. “That’s a scenario we want to avoid,” she said.

With the project in its “preliminary stages,” McCartney said the study — which FCDOT estimates will cost $100,000 — will help figure out what the projected revenue could be from paid parking and citations from parking tickets.

“I’m sure there will be interest in what kind of money it makes,” Providence District Supervisor Linda Smyth said at the meeting. “We need to keep that in mind.”

Some of the supervisors raised concerns about the proposal.

Braddock District Supervisor John Cook cautioned against spending the money on the study without a “functional purpose we are clearly stating.”

“We need to be clear about why we want to do this,” he said, noting that urban areas may need parking management. “I don’t think you get the consultant to come up with the reason.”

Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity stressed that parking availability and fees drive behavior, mentioning the “angst,” loss in revenue for businesses and the complexity surrounding Reston Town Center’s paid parking system.

“It does have an impact on businesses,” Herrity said, adding that he supports hiring a consultant to conduct the study. “You have some good ideas in here.”

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins responded by saying that the “problem in Reston” stemmed from unclear goals. “I think the mistakes that were made in the past can be a helpful learning process,” she said.

She stressed that the purpose of the “needed proposal” should not focus on collecting money, but instead on helping transportation in an urban setting, especially Tysons.

FCDOT plans to update and consult with the board as the process continues.

While the plan does not have a timeline yet, McCartney said FCDOT “would move fairly quickly” to hire a consultant for the study acquires funding.

After board approval, FCDOT would work with stakeholders — the Office of County Attorney, Fairfax County Police Department, the Office of Community Revitalization, the Department of Planning and Zoning, Land Development Services and others. Together, they would update ordinances, set meter rates, select vendors and begin outreach efforts to businesses and the community.

“The last thing you want is employees and Metro riders parking on the street during the day, but short term-term customers don’t have a place to park,” the board’s Chairman Sharon Bulova said. “I think we’re doing the right thing starting out with a study.”

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County Approves $4 Million Grant for Appian’s Move to Tysons

Cloud computing company Appian Corporation will receive $4 million from Fairfax County for the company’s expansion and new headquarters in Tysons Corner.

The Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors approved the Development Opportunity Fund grant from the Commonwealth at its meeting on Tuesday (Dec. 4).

The funds will pay for the leasing, improvements, equipment and operation of Appian’s Tysons Corner facility (7950 Jones Branch Drive), which is expected to lead to 600 new jobs there.

News of the company’s move from Reston to Tysons first broke in April.

Currently, Appian is headquartered at 11955 Democracy Drive, Suite 1700 in Reston Town Center.

Fairfax County competed with another jurisdiction for the expansion of Appian’s headquarters, according to county documents.

As part of the grant, Fairfax County must provide a local match which will be in the form of the Lincoln Street project, a roadway improvement which is already planned and funded in the county budget. The road improvement was identified by coordinating with the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.

Additionally, the county will provide an estimated funding of $288,000 from the Virginia Jobs Investment Program.

The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority will monitor Appian’s performance metrics agreed upon for the grant funding, updating the Office of the County Executive annually on the number of jobs and capital investment achieved during that time.

Photo via Appian/Facebook

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Tolls on Fairfax County Parkway — The Fairfax County Department of Transportation wants to know how you think the county should manage traffic and congestion on the parkway. One option is adding HOV lanes and express or toll lanes. [Fairfax County Government]

Roland Clarke decision delayed — At a meeting today, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will defer a decision on a proposal by Woodfield Investments to demolish a two-story office building and replace it with a multifamily building at 1941 Roland Clarke Place. [Fairfax County Government]

Gift cards, anyone? — Reston Association is offering RA gift cards ahead of the holiday season. [Reston Today]

All 19,000 — That’s the number of mail-in absentee ballots that haven’t been returned yet, so get yours in the mail as soon as possible. If ballots arrive after 7 p.m. on Nov. 6, they won’t be counted. [Fairfax County Government]

Photo by Jami Ojala

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County Mulls Longterm Improvements to Fairfax County Parkway

Fairfax County’s Department of Transportation is exploring ways to improve Fairfax County Parkway. In concert with the state transportation officials, the county plans to begin a multi-corridor study for Fairfax County Parkway from Route 7 to Route 1, covering a span of 31 miles with 83 intersections and 17 interchanges.

The study will offer longterm recommendations for 2040 and review whether or not changes to the county’s current transportation plan are warranted. According to the county, the study will offer “intensive analysis” to spot major problem areas and deficiencies.

Once completed, the study will explore the possibility of tolling and HOV lanes on the parkways, bicyclist and pedestrian mobility, the integration of transit, and if current intersections should be converted into interchanges, overpasses, and underpasses.

The county will lead a public meeting about the study in Reston on Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. in Armstrong Elementary School (11900 Lake Newport Road). A presentation by the county will be followed by an opportunity for public input at 8 p.m.

After initiating a public engagement period, the county will pitch possible ideas to the public by the winter of next year and kickstart another round of public outreach. Officials plan to solidify recommendations by the summer of next year, review study recommendations with the public in the fall and explore any comprehensive plan amendments that might be necessary by the spring of 2020.

A short term study on transportation issues and recommendations for improvements along Fairfax County Parkway and Franconia-Springfield Parkway was completed in 2016. The 113-page report included a mix of recommendations, including improvements to trail crossings on the northbound ramp from Fairfax County Parkway to Sunset Hills Road.

Other meetings on the longterm study are set for today at Navy Elementary School (3500 West Ox Road in Fairfax) and on Thursday at Sangster Elementary School (7420 Reservation Drive in Springfield).

Photo via Virginia Department of Transportation

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‘Road from Nowhere’ to Remain in Reston’s Master Plan

The “road from nowhere” is a household term among Restonians who are abreast of the day-to-day happenings in local development and land use. The conceptual road, which runs from the Isaac Newton Square property to American Dream Way, cuts straight through an open space resource that local grassroots groups are trying to protect from development: Hidden Creek Country Club.

There are no plans on the books to build the road. But the presence of the line in Reston’s Comprehensive Plan has some scratching there heads: Where did this road come from? And what does it mean for the golf course?

County officials say the road is entirely conceptual in nature, but could possibly be needed to improve connectivity if planned redevelopment happens in the Isaac Newtown Square area. The road could also relieve congestion at the intersection of Sunset Hills Road and Wiehle Avenue by serving as an alternative route to Sunset Hills Road, according to Robin Geiger of the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.

Geiger stressed the road has not been designed and if it is — whether through private development or through a public project — the community will have multiple opportunities to provide their feedback. The county will also work through the potential impacts to the golf course or environmentally-sensitive land in the area.

No development applications have been submitted for the Isaac Newton property to date. In May 2016, however, an application to develop a nearby three-acre site at 11480 Sunset Hills Road into an apartment building was indefinitely deferred.

But grassroots groups like Rescue Reston, which actively led efforts to stop the redevelopment of Reston National Golf Course and pledge to do the same for Hidden Creek Country Club, want the planned road connection removed from the comprehensive plan’s map. Its presence suggests the disruption of the golf course, which is one of two in Reston that the plan intends to protect.

In February, then-Reston Association CEO Cate Fulkerson requested that the county remove the line from the Reston Master Plan. Similar requests from community members surfaced again in recent workgroup sessions with county officials this month.

But county staff have remained reluctant to remove the road, noting that the conceptual road shows the intention of connecting the grid of streets with American Dream Way.

As with any new roadway design, the county will work to minimize negative impacts on existing uses and the environment. In staff’s view, the planned road being shown as part of the conceptual street network does not negatively affect the viability of the Hidden Creek Golf Course,” Geiger said.

Despite assurances, some concerns remain, especially as Wheelock Communities engages with community stakeholders to determine the future of the golf course. No redevelopment plans have been formally proposed yet.

Photo via Google Earth

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Public Meeting on Soapstone Connector Set for July 19

County and state officials will present the findings of an architectural survey of ten parcels on Association Drive that could be impacted by the Soapstone Connector project on July 19.

The Soapstone Connector, approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in 2014, would connect Sunset Hills Road and the Sunrise Valley Drive crossing over the Dulles Toll Road. The half-mile road would cut through the western side of an office park and require the removal of properties on 1904 Association Drive.

The building is currently home to the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

The latest architectural survey — called the Supplemental Phase 1 Architectural Survey in planning jargon — makes recommendations about whether or not specific sites are eligible to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

During the meeting on July 19, officials from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and the Fairfax County Department of Transportation will seek public input on the survey.

The meeting will take place at the Hunter Mill District Office (1801 Cameron Glen Drive, Reston, VA 20190). An open house at 6:30 p.m. will be followed by a formal presentation at 7:15 p.m.

In order to qualify for listing in the historical register, buildings must be at least 50 years old or have “exceptional merit.” Buildings’ architectural value may also be considered in groups, not merely as individual properties.

The project is expected to cost $169.2 million.

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Bridge on W&OD Trail Over Wiehle Avenue Approved

An aerial bridge on the Washington & Old Dominion Trail over Wiehle Avenue could be constructed by October 2022.

Earlier this week, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved final design plans for the project, which is expected to cost $11.4 million, according to the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.

The bridge includes retaining walls and directional access to Wiehle Avenue for trail users. Wiehle Avenue would be widened from Sunset Hills Road to the Reston Fire Station property in order to make way for future on-road bike lanes.

Plans have long been identified by the Reston Metrorail Access Group’s plan to improve vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian access near the new Wiehle-Reston East Metrorail Station.

Robin Geiger, a spokeswoman for FCOD, said design plans are currently 90 percent complete. The project timeline expects utility design and relocation to take a little over a year-and-a-half, land acquisition to take a year, construction authorization and permitting to take eight months and construction to take one year.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins said the project faces the challenge of ensuring the bridge maintains synergy in the midst of urban properties that are coming together down the street.

The developer of the Isaac Newtown properties, which are being redeveloped, said they were concerned the project’s scale interferes with the development. County officials said they would work with the developer to mitigate any concerns.

However, according to FCDOT, the height of the bridge is necessary because the design of the bridge uses existing infrastructure in order to cut cost costs. The height is also vital to meet grade requirements and requirements stipulated by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Rendering via FCDOT

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To Close Funding Gap, County Board Approves $40 Million for Route 7 Widening

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will contribute up to $40 million to help close a funding a gap in the widening of Route 7.

The $278 million project, which will widen Route 7 between Reston Avenue and Jarrett Valley Drive from four to six lanes, will cost roughly 95 million more than what engineers’ originally estimated.

The board unanimously voted to approve additional funds on Tuesday (June 19). The Virginia Department of Transportation is expected to also contribute up to $40 million.

Tom Biesiadny, director of the Fairfax County Department of Transportation, said cost overruns were linked primarily to how the contract was bid. The state is currently negotiating between two offerors who offered bids above the estimated price. The contract is a design-to-build, which is costlier than design-to-bid projects and would allow the project to begin two years earlier than originally anticipated,  Biesiadny said.

Officials hope to reduce the expected costs of the project by negotiating with the two offerors. Final bid offers must be in by early July.

Most funding to meet the gap will be taken from dollars allocated for Tysons projects. A plan to widen Frying Pan Road will also be deferred, Biesiadny said.

Biesiadny said bicycle and pedestrian improvements are also planned along the seven-mile stretch, which he said connects Reston and Tysons.

It provides benefits to both of those areas by allowing traffic to move more quickly through those areas, reduc[ing] congestion, but also provid[ing[ bicycle and pedestrian improvements and bus stop improvements,” he said.

File photo via FCDOT

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