Monday Morning Notes

Reston Community Center’s Board of Governors to Hold Annual Public Hearing Tonight — Attendees will learn more about RCC’s plans for the future, including a status report on the renovation of the Terry L. Smith Aquatics Center and the center’s annual report and strategic plan. The hearing is set for 6:30 p.m. at RCC Hunters Woods. [Reston Community Center]

Flash Flood Watch In Effect Today — A flash flood watch is in effect from 2 p.m. through this evening. Widespread thunderstorms and showers are expected. [National Weather Service]

Route 7 Widening Project to Provide Traffic Relief Soon — “The $313.9 million project is designed to ease congestion on a section of Route 7 that links northern and western Fairfax County and includes the busy Tysons area, which is undergoing a massive transformation of its own. The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority provided $10 million in funding. Other money for the project comes from Fairfax County and the state.” [The Washington Post]

Overnight Closures of Dulles Toll Road and Dulles Airport Access Road Ramps Planned This Week — “The ramps from the eastbound Dulles Toll Road and the eastbound Dulles Airport Access Road to the southbound I-495 (Capital Beltway) general purpose lanes will be closed nightly Monday night, June 17 through Friday night, June 21 for bridge work as part of the Jones Branch Connector project, ” [Virginia Department of Transportation]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Connect Route 7 Public Meeting Tonight — State transportation officials are looking for feedback on their plans to widen seven miles of Route 7 between Reston Avenue and Jarrett Valley Drive from four to six lanes. A meeting is set for tonight at 7 p.m. at Forestville Elementary School in Great Falls. [Connect Route 7]

Local Investor’s Ties to Beyond Meat — “Los Angeles-based Beyond Meat Inc. had one of the most impressive initial public offerings in nearly two decades — but it was the company’s dedication to the science behind making a non-meat burger or sausage taste good that first drew in John Backus, co-founder and managing partner of Reston-based Proof.VC. [Washington Business Journal]

Deadline Extended for Fairfax County Parkway Survey — If you haven’t yet given feedback on planned improvements on the parkway, you still have a chance to do so online. State and county transportation officials have extended the deadline of an online survey to May 20. [Fairfax County Government]

Create Giant Paper Flowers Today — Scrawl Books is hosting a Reston Community Workshop on making giant paper flowers with cardstock tonight at 6 p.m. Registration is $40 for residents and $60 for all others. [Scrawl Books]

Photo by Tom J.

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Plows Out in Force on Snow-Covered Reston Roads

Snow plows are working to clear roadways this morning after a snowstorm began earlier this morning.

A traffic camera facing westbound at the snow-covered intersection of Reston Parkway and Sunset Hills Road shows more trucks with snow plows than cars this morning.

Still, drivers can expect some slow-moving traffic on the Dulles Toll Road and major roads in Reston and Herndon with spots of congestion near intersections.

Fairfax County wants locals to stay off the roads, especially with low visibility near the Reston Parkway.

The National Weather Service’s Winter Storm Warning is in effect until 7 p.m.

The warning says that “travel will be very difficult, especially during the morning commute. The hazardous conditions could also impact the evening commute.”

The Virginia Department of Transportation wants locals to stay off of the roads. “Pockets of heavier snow may limit visibility and stick to the pavement, and a mix of freezing rain may quickly make roads slick,” VDOT said in an update at 6 a.m.

Images via Virginia 511, Google Maps

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Commuters Face Icy Roads, Wind Chill Today

Updated at 4:55 p.m. — NWS canceled the Wind Advisory that was set to last until 6 p.m.

Earlier: After last night’s heavy congestion during rush hour, commuters are finding little to no traffic on major Reston roads this morning (Jan. 30).

Traffic on the Dulles Toll Road is flowing freely, according to Google Maps. However, drivers should still give themselves extra travel time for possibly icy local roads.

“Your commute will take longer today,” Fairfax County tweeted this morning, adding that crews worked overnight to treat roads and will continue treatment today if needed. Drivers are encouraged to reduce their speeds, use headlights and not brake quickly.

Anybody stepping outside today should also bundle up. The National Weather Service issued a Wind Advisory until 6 p.m. tonight and a Wind Chill Advisory between 9 p.m. tonight and 10 a.m. tomorrow (Jan. 31).

More from the National Weather Service:

WIND CHILL ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM 9 PM THIS EVENING TO 10 AM EST THURSDAY…

* WHAT…Very cold wind chills of 5 to 10 degrees below zero.

* WHERE…Portions of central Maryland and northern Virginia including Washington DC and Baltimore MD.

* WHEN…From 9 PM this evening to 10 AM EST Thursday.

* ADDITIONAL DETAILS…The cold wind chills could result in hypothermia if precautions are not taken.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

A Wind Chill Advisory means that cold air and the wind will combine to create low wind chills. Frostbite and hypothermia can occur if precautions are not taken. Dress in layers, and wear a hat and gloves.

Fairfax County Government offices are open today, however, employees have been granted unscheduled leave. Fairfax County public schools are closed today. Reston Association offices will open three hours late.

A meeting seeking public input on the Fairfax Connector has been canceled for tonight and will be rescheduled.

Locals have been busy snapping photos of the snow around Reston, including the following.

Images via Google Maps, Marjorie Copson and  Virginia Department of Transportation

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TRAFFIC ALERT: Accident on Route 602 Causing Delays

Updated at 11:09 a.m. — The previously closed northbound lanes of Route 602 are now open, Fairfax County police confirmed.

An accident involving two vehicles on Route 602 by Bowman Towne Drive is causing lane closures and delays.

Both northbound lanes on Route 602  (Reston Parkway) are closed at Bowman Towne Drive.

So far there have been no reports of serious injuries.

Map via VDOT

This story has been updated

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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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Proposed Beltway On-Ramp Closure Concerns Some Reston Commuters

Pushed by McLean residents concerned about rush hour traffic, state transportation officials are considering plans to close an on-ramp from Georgetown Pike to the Capital Beltway.

But some Reston residents, particularly those who commute to Maryland, said they feel sidelined by the process, which they say would significantly increase traffic on the Beltway during peak rush hour.

“Every community would like less traffic, noise, disturbances  but if we give special treatment to one community than the same should be given to another and in trying to improve traffic, this idea produces more traffic and costs to drivers and begins a program of treating communities differently,” said Kevin Sullivan, a Reston resident.

Sullivan said he was especially concerned because he feels many area residents are not aware of the possible ramp closure. He also said the closure would force some commuters to opt for routes with more tolls.

The Virginia Department of Transportation could close the ramp from Virginia Route 193 and Georgetown Pike to the Inner Loop between 1 and 7 p.m. on weekdays only. The closure would go into effect for a pilot period of four months. State officials will monitor the closure’s effect on local and Beltway traffic prior to making a final decision about the closure.

Eliani Korawajczuk, a Herndon resident, worries the closure will divert traffic onto Route 7 in order to access George Washington Parkway.

“It is already [a] painful return from Maryland… Now imagine what will happen if nobody has options,” Korawajczuk said.

“Why can we have more traffic and McLean residents don’t?” she added.

A public meeting on the proposal is set for 7 p.m. on August 2 at McLean High School. Requests for comment from Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins were not returned.

File photo

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Route 7 Widening Project to Tysons Hit by Funding Gap

An additional $40 million is being sought to begin widening a seven-mile stretch of Route 7 between Reston Avenue and Jarrett Valley Drive.

State officials’ estimates of the overall $278 million project came in $95 million above the amount originally anticipated by the proposal. The project has been bid and is ready for construction, pending the approval of additional funding.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will consider approving funding at their June 19 meeting.

Once the funding gap has been bridged, construction will begin to widen Route 7 from four to six lanes with intersection improvements and the addition of a shared-use path on both sides of the roadway. County and state officials said the project is necessary to reduce congestion, improve safety and boost mobility for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Officials said the project came in nearly $1 million above estimates due to the competitive market generated by ongoing construction in Northern Virginia, several challenging utility relocations (including a $200 million upgrade project by Washington Gas) and the more than 230 property transactions required to ensure right-of-way.

The county is considering pitching in $23 million in funding that was not previously allocated by the board. Dollars will be drawn from the following project:  Route 123’s widening ($13 million), Frying Pan road widening ($3 million) and a park and ride expansion at the Lorton VRE ($690,470). The Virginia Department of Transportation will provide up to $40 million in state funding.

According to 2011 traffic counts provided by VDOT, the stretch of Route 7 carries between 46,000 and 54,000 vehicles per day. That number is expected to increase to 73,000 to 86,000 by 2040, VDOT says.

Map via VDOT

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Fairfax County Seeks $132 Million for Soapstone Connector

Nearly $132 million is being sought to fund the Soapstone Connector, a long awaited, half-mile-long extension between Sunrise Valley Drive and Sunset Hills Road.

The funding request for the $169.2 million project comes roughly five years after the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a hybrid design for the project, which will provide an additional overpass over the Dulles Toll Road and ease traffic on south Reston roads.

Major development in the Wiehle-Reston East area, including Comstock’s Reston Station mixed use project, is expected to generate additional traffic on area roadways.

Local and state officials have long identified the need for the project, which aims to alleviate bottlenecks along Wiehle Avenue at Sunset Hills Road and Sunrise Valley Drive and improve connectivity for pedestrians and bicyclists to the Wiehle-East Metrorail Station.

According to preliminary plans, the new road will include a three-lane cross section with one travel lane in each direction and a two-way, left-turn-only lane. Other features include five-foot wide bicycle lanes on each side, a five-foot wide sidewalk on the west side and a 10-foot wide path on the east side.

Construction is not anticipated until after 2023. Additional design, engineering and environmental work is expected to continue through 2022.  In 2014, the county’s board placed the project on its list of high priority projects for 2015 to 2020.

A funding gap of $25 million remains to complete the project. Requests to the Commonwealth Transportation Board have been made. Construction is expected to cost $45 million.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority will review the request, which is one of 60 candidate transportation projects in the area. NVATA is seeking public comment on the project on May 10 at 3040 Williams Drive, Suite 100 in Fairfax. Online comments can be submitted through Sunday, May 20.

File photo

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Fairfax County Board Unanimously Approves Sunset Hills Road Realignment

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved plans to realign Sunset Hills Road this week, pencilling in planning language caught in gridlock the proposal hopes to prevent.

Although the project remains far from groundbreaking, the board’s vote approves the realignment of Sunset Hills Road to Crowell Road — a move board supervisors said preserves the character of the surrounding residential area while calming current and future traffic. A roundabout will act as the intersection control and Hunter Mill Road will be converted to four continuous lanes from the realigned area to the Dulles Toll Road’s westbound ramps. 

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins said the plan balances the community’s interests while calming traffic in a “critical” area long-slated for improvements. Still, Hudgins hinted much more remains to be done to calm traffic in surrounding areas. 

“I would love to say we’re finished,” she said.

The issue boasts a long and beleaguered history. Proposals have been in county’s books since 1975, when an alignment similar to the current plan was approved.

County staff pitched the plan after a two-year public engagement period yielded seven options, including a no-build alternative. Staff narrowed options to three possibilities, two of which were struck down because they fell in the path of a Metrorail power station or would have required purchasing land from Reston Presbyterian Church. 

“We wanted to come up with a solution that helped preserve the character north and the roundabout really does that,” said Kristin Calkins, who works with the county’s transportation department.

The addition of the roundabout increases the total price tag of the project by around $3 million. No comprehensive cost analysis has been conducted to date.

Some residents expressed satisfaction with the plan after the county’s Planning Commission added language to push the realignment east of the Edlin School, restrict the alignment past north of Crowell Road, and maximize the distance between the new Sunset Hills Road and the adjacent Hunting Crest Community when the road is designed.

Lauding community engagement by Hudgins and Planning Commissioner John Carter, Raj Jain, president of the Hunting Crest Homeowners’ Association, said the changes addresses the community’s concerns about traffic noise and safety. He suggested completing a noise impact and mitigation study during the design phase of the project.

But others like Benise Ungar, vice president of the Hunting Creek Homeowners’ Association, said amendments to allay community concerns carried no legal weight.

Citing her appreciation for the county’s “good faith efforts,” Ungar said the roundabout “will be massive and not compatible with the surrounding area.” She also said residents and property owners impacted by the plan have publicly stated they will not sell their land to make way for the project.

Staff conceded the plan was an imperfect solution. The approved plan adds language into the county’s comprehensive plan. The roundabout is not a prescriptive solution — only  the “preferred solution.”

Information on the following phases, including designing, was not immediately available.

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New Bike Lanes, Redesigned Roads Proposed for Hunter Mill District

Prepare for a sea of orange cones. With spring quickly approaching, Virginia Department of Transportation officials are gearing up for re-stripping, road redesigns, and new bike lanes on multiple Reston roads this year.

Roadwork will take place from April through November. The Virginia Department of Transportation is holding a public meeting on plans on Monday, March 19 at 7 p.m. in Terraset Elementary School‘s cafeteria.

In response to residents’ concerns about safety along the South Lakes Drive corridor, the county plans to redesign a strip between Reston Parkway and Sunrise Valley Drive by converting an outside travel lane to a buffered bike lane — a move the county hopes will address concerns about limited sight distance for vehicles turning onto Sunrise Valley Drive and pedestrian traffic.

Bike lanes on South Lakes Drive between Reston Parkway and Sanibel Drive would be extended. The county will keep one travel lane in each direction due to the limited projected impacts of future development on traffic in that area.

Other plans include adding or expanding bike lines on Bennington Woods Drive, Bowman Towne Drive, Explorer Street, Lawyers Road, Pinecrest Road and others. South Lakes Drive, Bluemont Drive and Fountain Drive are slated for redesigning.

A complete breakdown of plans in the Hunter Mill District is below:

  • Bennington Woods Drive: Addition of bike lanes.
  • Bowman Towne Drive: Addition of northbound bike lane, southbound shared line markings and striped parking lanes on both sides.
  • Bracknell Road: Addition of buffered bike lanes between Stevenage Road and commercial driveways.
  • Explorer Street: Addition of bike lanes. On-street parking on both sides of the street will remain.
  • Fountain Drive: Road redesign to “increase traffic safety.” There will be one travel lane in each direction, with one dedicated left turn lane and buffered bike lanes.
  • Stevenage Road: Addition of buffered bike lanes between Bennington Woods Road and the northern Home Depot driveway and Reston Parkway. Existing parking restrictions will not be changed. Timed parking will remain.
  • Temporary Road: Addition of bike lanes.
  • Walnut Branch Road: Addition of eastbound buffered bike lanes and westbound shared lane markings.
  • Lawyers Road: Extension of existing bike lanes west to Reston Parkway and upgrades to existing shoulders between Twin Branches Road to Hunter Mill Road to buffered bike lanes.
  • Pinecrest Road: Addition of buffered lanes between South Lakes Drive and Glade Drive. On-street parking will remain.
  • Ridge Heights Road: Addition of bike lanes. On-street parking will remain. “Extra wide” parking lanes will be provided for school bus parking.
  • Soapstone Drive: Addition of buffers to existing bike lanes.

In addition to attending the meeting, residents can submit online feedback. A complete list of impacted is online.

Photo via Fairfax County Government

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Six things to know after the windstorm — All you need to know about trees, power outages, food safety, and more. Let’s hope things can get back to normal soon. [Fairfax County Government]

Tackling traffic on Sunset Hills Road — The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on plans to realign the road today at 4 p.m. [Fairfax County Government]

Online voting for Reston Association elections is live — To cast a vote in the election for RA’s Board of Directors, visit RA’s website. Paper ballots were mailed yesterday. [Reston Association]

Travel “Into the Woods’ with Herndon students — Tickets are on sale for the performance by Herndon High School Theatre from April 13 through April 21. [Herndon Drama]

Photo by Ruth Sievers

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Plans to Calm Traffic on Hunter Mill Road Move Forward

Relief could be on the way soon for drivers who frequent Hunter Mill Road near the Dulles Toll Road.

Last night, the Fairfax County Planning Commission approved long awaited plans to tackle traffic backups by realigning Sunset Hills Road to Crowell Road.

The plan also includes adding a roundabout as an intersection control. Hunter Mill Road would become a four-lane road between the intersection of Crowell Road and Sunset Hills Road to the Dulles Toll Road’s westbound ramps.

John Carter, the Hunter Mill District’s planning commissioner, compared the new plan to George Washington Parkway. Conceding the comparison was imperfect, he said the changes feature sweeping curves, major setbacks of 400 feet from houses to the road and a commitment to preserve a pond and a forested resource protection area.

The plan passed by the commission includes several amendments to address concerns raised by the Hunter Mill Defense League and the Hunting Crest Homeowners Association. Changes include:

  • Beginning realignment to the east of the Edlin School and extending no farther than Crowell Road
  • Maximizing the distance between the realigned road and the Hunting Crest community
  • The inclusion of a roundabout as a preferred alternative
  • Modifying transportation maps to include a cul-de-sac on Hunter Mill Road

The county’s Board of Supervisors will hear public comment on the plan on March 6 at around 4 p.m.

Since 2014, the county held several community meetings to lay out traffic management alternatives. The latest plan is a mix of several options, but departs from previously discussed plans, which the county indicated no longer work.

Carter said the county’s studies clearly indicate the current plan is the “better method to calm traffic in this area.”

Photo via handout

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New Plan Underway to Control Traffic on Hunter Mill Road

After years of discussion, Fairfax County officials are finalizing long awaited plans to tackle traffic backups on Hunter Mill Road near the Dulles Toll Road.

The Fairfax County Dept. of Transportation plans to realign Sunset Hills Road to Crowell Road, with a roundabout as the intersection control, according to a proposal filed last month. The Fairfax County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the plans today at 7:30 p.m.

Hunter Mill Road would be widened to four lanes between the intersection of Crowell Road and Sunset Hills Road to the Dulles Toll Road’s westbound ramps. The four-lane section would use existing right-of-way and pavement along Hunter Mill Road.

The plan departs from six alternatives discussed during six community charrettes since 2014. County officials found that no alternative would adequately reduce congestion during peak hours, according to the proposal.

Originally, the county hoped to shift the Sunset Hills Road intersection by moving it opposite the westbound off-ramp for the Dulles Toll Road and relocate the on-ramp to begin at Sunset Hills Road west of Hunter Mill Road. But a Metrorail track power substation is now being built at that site.

A second option would have relocated Sunset Hills Road by bringing the intersection of Sunset Hills Road and Hunter Mill Road as close as possible to Reston Presbyterian Church. That option would not provide enough space between the intersections. A third option with roundabout in the area  would have required the church to relocate.

The proposed solution would address traffic congestion and the roundabout feature meets the community’s desire to “calm” traffic to the north of Crowell Road, according to the plan.

The road realignment was prompted in response to increased traffic congestion driven by new development.

Currently, morning and afternoon traffic along Sunset Hills Road near the westbound Dulles Toll Road causes daily traffic congestion at the intersection of Sunset Hills Road and Hunter Mill Road.

A hearing before the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is set for March 6 at 4 p.m.

Photo via Fairfax County Department of Transportation

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