Report: Following Teen’s Death, Homeowners Association Installs Traffic Signs

A local homeowners association has installed yard signs to encourage drivers to slow down following aSouth Lakes High School teenager was killed in a hit-and-run last year.

Marvin Daniel Cruz Serrano, 16, was struck by a vehicle while returning home from work at Reston’s Cafesano. Local police have not disclosed any leads on the case.

Serrano was crossing South Lakes Drive toward Castle Rock Square near the Bristol House Condos when he was hit by a car.

According to a report by NBC 4, which first reported the installation of the signs, the local homeowners association installed signs in late November to encourage residents to slow down.

Residents are also considering implementing a fine if two or more neighbors spot someone driving at a speed of more than 10 mph.

Photo via GoFundMe

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Town of Herndon Charts Path for Improved Pedestrian Safety and Mobility

Town of Herndon officials are looking for ways to improve pedestrian safety and mobility.

At a Tuesday meeting, Herndon Town Council members reviewed the Herndon Pedestrian Plan, a strategic document that identifies deficiencies in the town’s pedestrian infrastructure and creates a framework to improve pedestrian safety.

The plan highlights the following challenges to create a walkable community:

  • Poor connectivity between neighborhoods
  • Vehicle-oriented site design and separated land uses
  • Existing streetscape with low attention to pedestrian comfort
  • A lack of crosswalks across blocks
  • Existing pedestrian paths with accessibility issues

Roughly 12 percent of right-of-way areas in Herndon do not have sidewalks, largely due to the result of piecemeal development and physical obstructions, according to the plan.

Herndon has largely been fully developed so the best opportunity for any significant changes to its street pattern can only occur through coordinated redevelopment,” the plan states.

Like in other jurisdictions, almost all pedestrian injuries happen at crosswalks. In the Town of Herndon, nine in every ten accidents involved a pedestrian within vehicle travel ways.

The plan hones in on several areas in the town that need improvements, including installing missing sidewalks and ensuring existing sidewalks are ADA-compliant on both sides of Locust Street.

Bryce Perry, the town’s Deputy Director of Community Development, said the plan is intended to serve as a guiding document for developers, staff and other interested stakeholders as they contemplate pedestrian improvements.

Some council members expressed the need for town staff to incorporate additional projects. For example, while the plan includes suggested improvements to Nash Street’s sidewalks, it does not directly address the intersection of Nash and Spring streets.

Perry noted that specific requests for improvements can also be discussed as part of the capital improvements budget.

A draft of the plan is available online.

Photo via Town of Herndon

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Campus Commons Developer Amends Plans Amid Community Concern

After recent community criticism and pushback from some residents, the developer of a proposed mixed-use development near the Wiehe-Reston East Metro Station is going back to the drawing board to revisit some aspects of the plan.

TFC Cornerstone, which is seeking to redevelop 12 acres of land into two residential towers and a new office building (1900-1902 Campus Commons), submitted amendments to its plans to the Fairfax County Planning Commission on Thursday (Oct. 3). The plan preserves two office buildings currently on the site. 

The updated plans — which follow revisions made in late September — reduce the square footage of an office building by 86,550 square feet. The building, which is located at the edge of the property and near a neighborhood with single-family homes, drew criticism from neighboring residents for its scale, especially in contrast with the adjacent neighborhood.

Scaling back the building would result in a net reduction of 487 weekday vehicle trips, according to the developer.

TFC Cornerstones will shift most of the removed density to the residential building, increasing the total number of units from 630 to 656 units. The developer also reduced the design of the office building along Sunrise Valley drive to seven stories, two fewer stories compared to the previously amended plan. The portion of the building furthest away from the road will have 10 stories.

The developer also committed to creating a minimum 50-foot setback between the buildings along Sunrise Valley Drive, making space for a new 14,410 square foot linear park.

If approved, the amended plan would also extend the time period for a study group to examine the best way to get pedestrians across Wiehle Avenue and its intersection with the Dulles Toll Road.

The developer’s proposal — an on-grade crosswalk — has raised concerns for its lack of safety in an already busy intersection, according to residents who testified at a late September meeting.

TFC Cornerstone will work with a study group for up to two years to consider the best way to approach the pedestrian crossing.

Other amendments included:

  • Addition of bicycle striping across Wiehle Avenue at the intersection wit Sunrise Valley Drive and across Campus Commons Drive
  • A new proffer to provide bicycle. Stairway ramps on straits through the Sunrise Valley Drive pocket park and the corner park
  • Limited hours for activities in the amphitheater
  • A commitment to include 15 percent tree canopy, despite utility conflicts or other engineering considerations

The project heads to the Fairfax County Planning Commission for a vote on Oct. 10 and is docketed for Fairfax County Board of Supervisor later this month.

Photos via TFC Cornerstone

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Friday Morning Notes

Herndon Middle School Gets At-Risk Afterschool Meals Program –The school is one of 13 in the county to receive the at-risk afterschool meals program. The same meals will be available at no separate charge to all participants. [Fairfax County Public Schools]

Reston Friends Semi-Annual Book Sale Continues — Thousands of used books will be available for purchase during the sale, which continues into the weekend. The sale is on today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Reston Regional Library. [Reston Regional Library]

International Walk to School Day is Next Week — County schools will take part in International Walk to School Day on October 2 in  “an effort to promote physical activity and reduce traffic congestion and pollution near schools. Students and employees are encouraged to bike or walk to school and work. Parents are encouraged to accompany their children to school, and to work with their school or PTA to assemble bike trains or walking groups for the event. [Fairfax County Public Schools]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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With New Funding, Long-Awaited Path Lights Near Hunters Woods Under Consideration

After a proffer from the developer of Hunters Woods at Trails Edge, a long-awaited project to bring path lights near Hunters Woods Village Center is coming closer to reality.

The Reston Association Board of Directors is considering installing 16 poles and lights near the village center and repurposing ball field behind Reston Community Center that is no longer used by the Reston-Herndon Little League.

RA received $81,300 via a proffer from IntegraCare, the developer of the senior living community. Plans to improve lighting in the area have been in the works since as early as 2013, but were hampered by limited funding.

The cost of the project increased over the last several years. Previous cost estimations did not account for expenses related to Dominion Energy’s engineering and equipment costs.

The first stretch of pathway lights is expected to cost around $100,000. At the request of the Hunters Woods Neighborhood Coalition, RA is also considering repurposing the ball field.

RA plans to use the remaining balance of funds to study, design and consider repurposing the ball field. Overall, RA has $124,916 to complete the overall project — after accounting for costs related to completing tree surveys and preliminary design work.

Larry Butler, RA’s Chief Operating Officer, is expected to discuss the issue at a board meeting on Thursday, Sept. 26.

In draft agenda materials, RA staff noted that the installation of the first stretch of path lights does not preclude additional projects in the future.

Photo via Reston Association/handout, File photo

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Land Acquisition for Van Buren Street Improvements Project Underway

Land acquisition is underway to make way for major improvements to Van Buren Street from Spring Street to Herndon Parkway. But permission from five property owners for necessary easements and land acquisition is pending to allow the $4.6 million project to proceed.

Planned improvements are envisioned as a critical link between downtown Herndon and the Herndon Metro Station ahead of its expected opening in July next year.

The Herndon Town Council plans to vote on plans to seize the properties through eminent domain. So far, property owners have rejected the town’s proposals to buy easements based on the unit price of the real estate:

Town planners attempted to use existing right-of-way as much as possible in order to minimize land acquisition needs.

Planning for the project began in December 2011. If land acquisition and utility relocation is completed by the end of this year, construction is expected to begin in spring 2020.

Construction, which is expected to cost $3.7 million of the overall $4.6 million price tag — would be complete by fall next year.

The project includes 11-foot wide travel lanes, on-road bike lanes in each direction from Spring Street to Senate Court, an off-road cycle track in both directions from Senate Court to Herndon Parkway, five-foot-wide sidewalks, and a new traffic signal at the Alabama Drive intersection.

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With New Name, Elden Street ‘Walkability’ Project Moves Forward

The Herndon Planning Commission unanimously approved an application to seek state funds for major improvements along Elden Street between Center Street and School Street on Monday (August 26).

At the meeting, the commission approved the $1.8 million project, would brings critical pedestrian improvements to the area. Improvements include wider sidewalks, new curb ramps, landscaping, new crosswalks and new pedestrian signals at the intersection with Grace Street.

The town is seeking federal funding for the project through a set-aside application that can only be used for projects that address unsafe conditions, are near local schools, and cary significant volume of traffic.

“It is a very treacherous walk and so this is a very much needed improvement for our downtown and for that important corridor,” said commission chairwoman Melissa Jonas.

The project adopted a new name — Central Elden Street Walkability Improvements — to capture the scope of the project with more precision.

“We wanted this name to kind of stand out,” said Michael Wallick, the town’s transportation planner.

Commissioners clarified that improvements at the intersection of Center and Elden street — which has a large number of accidents in comparison to other local intersections — will be addressed by another project.

One resident said the median along that road is not wide enough to accommodate delivery vehicles that pull up at the median to unload deliveries. The planned width of that median is 11 feet — one foot more than the minimum state requirement, said John Jay, a civil engineer with the town.

Jay also noted that putting utilities underground is too costly and would exceed the budgeted amount of up to $2 million.

Image via handout/Town of Herndon

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Council Approves First Bicycle Master Plan for Town of Herndon

With little fanfare and a nod to staff, the Herndon Town Council unanimously approved the town’s first bicycle master plan on Tuesday (August 13).

The plan, which was created by staff and the town’s Pedestrian Bicycle Advisory Committee, offers policy guidance for the town’s bicycle network planning and design, as well as a longterm plan for connectivity and network improvements.

The plan highlights the locations of mixed-use trails, cycle tracks, bicycle lanes, and sharrows —  including future connections. Areas in the center of the town are largely designated for further study.

Council members lauded staff for their work on the plan and the town’s efforts to promote cycling as a viable alternative mode of travel.

Councilmember Pradip Dhakal said the document — which is part of the town’s efforts to seek a national award for being a bicycle-friendly community — was a “step in the right direction.”

“This is a product that I think the town can be proud of,” council member Cesar del Aguila added.

The plan also ensures that connectivity is a priority, especially between new developments, said council member Signe Friedrichs.

Photo via Town of Herndon

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State Funds Sought for Elden Street Sidewalk Improvements

Town of Herndon officials are seeking state funds to complete sidewalk improvements between Center Street and School Street.

The $1.8 million Elden Street project would improve a critical pedestrian area to improve accessibility and walkability, especially as Comstock kicks off the redevelopment of downtown Herndon later this year.

Planned improvements include wider sidewalks, landscaping, new curb ramps, new crosswalks and new accessible pedestrian signals at the intersection with Grace Street.

The town is seeking federal funds administered by the Virginia Department of Transportation. Projects are approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board. The town’s Planning Commission is set to consider a resolution for the project today (Monday). A public hearing will begin at 7 p.m.

Currently, this particular area along Elden Street has limited pedestrian connections. Pedestrians must walk along a narrow sidewalk. here are little to no crosswalks.

“It is an uncomfortable and unsafe environment for any pedestrian, and is unusable for someone with a stroller or someone in a wheelchair,” according to a staff report.

Here’s more from the report:

The improvements will include reconstruction of the existing sidewalk to a continuous 5′ wide sidewalk with brick pavers, construction of a grass strip between the sidewalk and curb, and the addition of ADA-compliant curb ramps., High visibility crosswalks and accessible pedestrian signalization will be provided at all intersection approaches at Grace Street . The grass strip is expected to add a minimum 3′ wide separation between the sidewalk and the curb and travel lane. This buffer may be increased to 4′ or 5′ and include trees, dependent on final engineering and design.

The end result is expected to offer a safer, more comfortable facility for pedestrians that is separated from vehicle traffic and accessible for all users. This project is not expected to require right-of-way acquisition since the curb will be moved north into the existing eastbound travel lane. To accommodate this, the existing roadway, which consists of a travel lane in each direction, separated by a stamped concrete median and dedicated turn lane, would be reduced in overall width. The travel lanes would be 11.5′ wide and the median/turn lane would be 12′ wide. With those lane widths, there is no expectation of impacts to vehicle mobility.

The segment of Elden street is within walking distance of shops, restaurants and civic facilities. It also connects directly to downtown Herndon and is a short block from Herndon Middle School and St. Joseph’s Catholic School.

In order to receive funding from VDOT’s set-aside program, the town must request funding by passing a resolution.

Photos via Town of Herndon/handout

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Local Pilot Body Camera Program for Police Yields Mixed Results

The results of an analysis on the county’s pilot body-worn camera program are officially in. Researchers at American University found that the six-month pilot project could have limited results in enhancing policy-community relations increasing police legitimacy and accountability.

In a 119-page report that uses survey data from residents and police officers, researchers found that people had “modest expectations” about the necessity and benefit of body-worn cameras.

Less than half of survey respondents and interviewees noted that the devices would reduce complaints against officers, improve legitimacy or increase police accountability. Police officers also noted that it was unlikely that the devices would change their behavior or how community members responded to the police department.

“If the decision is not to deploy them, the high regard for the department will lead nearly everyone to conclude that it was the right decision for all,” the report states.

Researchers did not find any statistically significant changes in officer behavior and performance once the devices were deployed. They also found that respondents were unconvinced that the cameras would lessen the use of force by police.

The pilot program went into effect in March last year after Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler and a police commission suggested the idea. Last year, 191 cameras were deployed at the Mason, Mount Vernon and Reston District Station, yielding more than 12,000 hours of video.

The police department found that judges, clerks of the courts and staff from the office of the public defendant generally supported the program.

If the program is implemented, the county would deploy 1,210 body-worn cameras to all operational police officers over five years. The Reston, Mason and Mt. Vernon district stations would be the first to get the cameras.

The program could cost nearly $30 million over a five-year contract period. The county would have to hire staff to manage the technical aspects of the equipment, improve station infrastructure and ensure public records laws were being followed.

Additionally, the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney would need nearly $3.1 million for 23 positions to help review the footage, roughly $773,000 to help the court system use the videos generated by the cameras in the court-rooms, and $150,000 to boost storage capacity to capture video evidence.

The county still has to mull several issues:

  • The impact of the devices on prosecutors, public defenders and the court system is entirely unclear
  • The Commonwealth Attorney’s Office cannot accommodate planned growth
  • Whether or not cameras should be given to School Resources Officers
  • Training requirements for the defense bar
  • The possibility that future contract costs could increase

The report will be presented to the county’s Public Safety Committee today (July 9).

Photo via FCPD

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Pedestrian Walkway Improvements Planned on Sunrise Valley Drive

Two federally funded projects are in the works to improve the walkability of Sunrise Valley Drive.

The county plans to widen an asphalt trail on the north side of the road to 10 feet and install a new asphalt trail that will later be incorporated into a planned cycle track for the Sunrise Valley Drive corridor. That track will separate bikes from the pedestrian walkway, according to county spokeswoman.

On the south side of Sunrise Valley Drive, the county plans to install a five-foot concrete sidewalk. Currently, no walkway exists for pedestrians.

“There’s currently very narrow trails in that area or nothing at all,” Tom Biesiadny, director of the Fairfax County Department of Transportation, said. “It’s not in great shape.”

Construction for both projects is expected to cost $1.5 million. The county anticipates receiving a contract award in July and construction is expected to begin later this year.

The projects are intended to improve access to the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station from surrounding communities.

Map (for reference only) via FCDOT

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Friday Morning Notes

Fatal Pedestrian Crashes Exceed Murder Rate in Fairfax County — Local officials are asking the public to avoid distracted driving in order to help prevent cyclists and pedestrians from being killed on the road. [WTOP]

‘Before the Flood’ Screening Tonight — The film follows  actor Leonardo DiCaprio as he interviews scientists, activists and world leaders about climate change. The screening, which is part of an annual environmental film series, takes place at the Walker Nature Center from 7-9 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome. A donation of $5 is suggested. [Reston Association]

County Proposal to Pay Legal Fees for Residents Facing Immigration Enforcement –– “As the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approaches the May 7 deadline for budget adoption, one of the more intriguing, and potentially polarizing, items under consideration is a pilot program that would fund legal representation for county residents subject to federal immigration enforcement actions.” [Fairfax County Times]

Flickr pool photo by vantagehill

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Fairfax County Seeks State Funds for Two Pedestrian Safety in Reston

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is asking for $550,000 in state grants to fund two pedestrian safety projects in Reston.

The county is seeking $385,000 to add a pedestrian refuge island and flashing beacons to an existing crosswalk across South Lakes Drive at the eastern intersection with Tanbark Drive near South Lakes High School. The second project would add a pedestrian refuge island and rapid flashing beacons to improve safety at an existing crosswalk at Bluemont Way and Discovery Street for $165,000.

In late October, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted to request funding from the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Pedestrian Safety Action Plan grant program, which funds targeted improvements in areas with the potential for pedestrian crashes.

If the state awards funding to the county, county staff will draft project administration agreements with state transportation officials. The funding proposal for Reston is part of a $2.6 million request to the state. VDOT will notify jurisdictions about projects that have been selected for funding this month. Construction on approved projects is expected to begin in April, with a completion date of December 2019.

Construction is intended to happen on an expedited schedule in order to get “maximum return” on limited funding, according to state officials. As a result, projects that require right-of-way or easement acquisition, roadway widening and the replacement or relocation of curb and gutter will not be considered by the state.

File photo

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Wednesday Morning Notes

Your guide to Halloween — As ghosts and ghouls prowl the neighborhood streets tonight, here are some safety tips you should keep in mind as you head out and dress up. [Fairfax County Government]

Voting 101 — Election Day is just days away and with more than 70,000 active registered voters in the county, there’s a lot to catch up on. [Fairfax County Government]

Preventing pedestrians crashes — So far, 10 pedestrians have been killed in crashes in Fairfax County and 100 pedestrians have been involved in crashes. Drivers and pedestrians should keep the following tips in mind in order to prevent accidents. [Fairfax County Government]

Photos: Annual Public Art Reston party –– This year’s annual fundraising event for the nonprofit organization took place on the 16th floor of the Helmut Jahn building at Reston Station. [Public Art Reston]

Photo by Ray Copson

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Town Officials Mull Pedestrian Safety, Road Improvements to South Elden Street

Planning is underway for a host of improvements along South Elden Street in anticipation of the adoption of a concept plan next year.

The improvements will be partly financed through a $65,000 grant by the Virginia Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment in order to ensure transportation needs are addressed as more development happens along Elden Street between Herndon Parkway and Sterling Road. Anticipated changes will also make the stretch of the road more accessible and safe for pedestrians and vehicles.

Changes include increasing the visibility of crosswalks; updating ramps, signals and crosswalks for ADA compliance, adding bus stop shelters, widening existing sidewalks by three feet, and installing pedestrian refuge areas in medians.

A concept plan will be presented to the Town of Herndon Planning Commission on Nov. 19, with a public hearing set for Dec. 3. The town council will likely adopt plan next year. The town must spearhead planning this month in order to avoid repaying grant funds to the state.

Photos via handout/Town of Herndon

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