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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Summer Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety Campaign by Local Police Targets Problem Intersections

Pedestrian and bicyclist safety is on the radar of local police at the Reston District Station, particularly as the area becomes more urbanized.

In response to an increase in accidents involving vehicles and pedestrians during the summer, local police officers launched a public safety campaign. Although the campaign was focused on educating the public instead of enforcing violations, local police offered tips about safety, including obeying traffic signals and using traffic laws, to more than 1,000 residents.

The public safety campaign ran from June 4 through the end of the summer following the death of a 71-year-old pedestrian who was hit by a car in May. Police officers met with hundreds of residents to promote pedestrian safety and distribute literature in order to reduce accidents.

Accidents between pedestrians and cars have become more frequent, according to the Fairfax County Police Department.

FCPD’s first priority was areas where pedestrian and car accidents have happened in the past. Other areas that were targeted have heavy traffic and pedestrian crosswalks, Sgt. Aaron Pfeiff told Reston Now.

“The public was very appreciative of the officer’s efforts and it was noticed that more pedestrians and bicyclist were obeying traffic signals and using crosswalks,” Pfeiff said.

Pfeiff identified the following intersections where officers focused their efforts:

  • Georgetown Pike/Walker Rd
  • Bluemont Way/Library St
  • Reston Pkwy/New Dominion Dr
  • Sunset Hills Rd/Michael Faraday Dr
  • Sunset Hills Rd/Isaac Newton Dr
  • Sunset Hills Rd/Whiele Ave
  • Parcher Ave/Centreville Rd
  • Coppermine Rd/Thomas Jefferson Dr
  • Hunter Mill Rd/Hunter Station
  • Sunrise Valley Dr/Cross School Rd

Photo via FCPD

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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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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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Pedestrian Dies After Being Hit By Car Near Baron Cameron Avenue and Fountain Drive

A 63-year-old pedestrian was hit and killed by a car at the intersection of Baron Cameron Avenue and Fountain Drive last night around 9 p.m.

The news comes as local police launched a pedestrian and bicyclist safety campaign in Reston this week in response to an increase in pedestrian and motor vehicle accidents.

Police believe the pedestrian was midway through the crossing on Baron Cameron Avenue prior to Fountain Drive when a car in the right lane hit the man.

The driver of the Camry attempted to brake and swerve the car but was unable to avoid hitting the pedestrian police said.

The pedestrian was taken to the hospital and died from his injuries. His identity is being withheld until the family is notified.

Police are investigating whether alcohol was a  factor in the crash. Preliminarily, speed and alcohol do not appear to be factors, police said. The driver remained on the scene and called for help.

In late May, a 71-year-old pedestrian attempting to cross the street at the intersection of Reston Parkway and Bluemont Way was hit by a car and killed.

Anyone with information about the most recent incident should call the police department’s crash reconstruction unit at 703-280-0543.

Photo via Google Maps

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Local Police Launch Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety Campaign in Reston

Following the death of a 71-year-pedestrian who was hit by a car in May, local police have launched a pedestrian and bicyclist public safety campaign in Reston.

The Fairfax County Police Department’s Reston District station will display information signs at busy intersections and step up enforcement of violations. The campaign began on Monday (June 4) and will continue through the end of the summer.

Changes in traffic patterns and an increase in pedestrian and motor vehicle accidents motivated the police department to launch the campaign, according to Sgt. Aaron Pfeiff.

Historically the Reston district has seen an increase in pedestrian versus motor vehicle accidents, and with the WOD bike trail running through the district, there are larger numbers of bicyclists,” Pfeiff told Reston Now.

Police will have an increased presence at “problem intersections” and intersections with heavy traffic from vehicles and pedestrians. Pfeiff said the department will also monitor the number of accidents at problem intersections. The police department was not immediately able to identify intersections that will be the top priority.

On May 21, Glanetta Nunn was crossing at the intersection of Reston Parkway and Bluemont Way when she was hit by a car and killed. The incident remains under investigation.

Photo via FCPD

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