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by Fatimah Waseem April 27, 2018 at 1:30 pm 15 Comments

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

by Fatimah Waseem March 8, 2018 at 2:45 pm 23 Comments

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.

by Fatimah Waseem March 7, 2018 at 12:00 pm 62 Comments

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

by Fatimah Waseem March 6, 2018 at 9:00 am 13 Comments

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

by Fatimah Waseem February 16, 2018 at 10:15 am 22 Comments

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

by Fatimah Waseem January 24, 2018 at 10:00 am 20 Comments

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

by RestonNow.com March 3, 2017 at 1:30 pm 11 Comments

FCDOT Safety Improvements Public Meeting

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation has scheduled a community meeting later this month to discuss proposed safety improvements.

According to FCDOT, “road diets” — converting an existing four-lane undivided roadway segment to a three-lane segment consisting of two through-lanes and a center two-way left-turn lane — are being proposed near Tall Oaks Village Center and on Colts Neck Road between Glade Drive and Sunrise Valley Drive.

In addition, bicycle infrastructure improvements are proposed for North Shore Drive, from Ring Road to Wiehle Avenue. Two options are under review:

  • Keep existing parking but narrow travel lanes to add bike lanes or shared-lane markings
  • Restrict on-street parking to one-side of the street from Ivy Oak Square to Wiehle Avenue, add bike lanes in both directions for this segment; keep existing parking from Ivy Oak Square to Ring Road, and narrow travel lanes to add bike lanes and shared-lane markings.

The narrowing of travel lanes, in the effort to reduce speeding and add bike lanes, is also being proposed on Twin Branches Road between Lawyers Road and South Lakes Drive, as well as on Colts Neck Road between Reston Parkway and Glade Drive. The addition of crosswalks to improve pedestrian safety on Colts Neck Road is also in the proposal.

According to FCDOT, the proposed improvements are limited to changes that can be made with roadway striping as part of the repaving process.

The meeting will be held Thursday, March 16 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the cafeteria of Dogwood Elementary School (12300 Glade Drive).

by RestonNow.com December 27, 2016 at 10:15 am 3 Comments

Tuesday morning Sunrise (photo courtesy @MrErrett)

Top 5 Restaurants, Per OpenTable — According to OpenTable customer reviews, the top 5 restaurants in Reston are PassionFish, Big Bowl, Vinifera Wine Bar & Bistro, Il Fornaio and Neyla Mediterranean Bistro. [Patch]

Tetra Misses Revenue Forecast — Local advocacy group Reston 20/20 faults the Reston Association for “horrible” revenue forecasting for the RA’s Tetra/Lake House. Programming revenue for Tetra is expected to be $82,535 for 2016 compared to the $175,000 budgeted in May. Total costs, however, were below budget. [Reston 20/20]

Arlington to Reston Commute — Redditors are weighing in on the feasibility of an Arlington-to-Reston reverse commute. The emerging consensus: mornings aren’t too bad but evenings are rough. [Reddit]

Photo courtesy @MrErrett

by Karen Goff February 20, 2014 at 11:00 am 1,376 0

Traffic on Wiehle Avenue/Credit: Reston 2020

Fairfax County transportation staff has selected a location for a future four-lane extension of Soapstone Drive that will cross the Dulles Toll Road.

Transportation officials have been looking at several alternatives for the crossing for more than a year. The crossing would be one of several recommended for Reston to alleviate traffic from north to south.

The opening of Metro’s first Reston Silver Line station later this year is expected to bring additional development, cars on the road, residents and workers to Reston. The recently approved changes to the Reston Master Plan allow for the construction of 22,000 new residential units, more than 8 million square feet of new office space, 2 million square feet of new hotel space and 700,000 square feet of additional retail. Reston could see more than 30,000 new residents, as well as tens of thousands of workers, with the development.

Without major road improvements — including several more toll road crossings — traffic could be a disaster, development-watchers say.

Transportation staff showed four options in a report in February of 2013. The most prudent one, presented last week, combines two of them: a direct extension of Soapstone that crosses slightly northwest and ends at a new intersection at Sunset Hills.

Planners said the crossing will help alleviate traffic on Wiehle Avenue, improve access to the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station, complement existing and future development, and align with Reston’s planned urban street grid in that area.

The plan would impact several properties on both side of the toll road, including Solus and Musica on the north side and the National Association of Secondary School Principals on the south.

Additionally, there would be a four-way intersection with traffic signal at Sunrise Valley, as well as another four-way intersection with no signal, or perhaps a traffic roundabout, on the Sunset Hills side, planners said.

The proposal will now move on to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for approval.

While planners did not estimate the cost of the project, they did predict last year that $100-150 million would be needed for a future Soapstone crossing.

Identifying funding for the project will also come next. The project currently has $2.5 million for the next phase of preliminary engineering and environmental impact studies.  If it moves forward, the project will be added to the county’s unfunded $4 billion transportation project queue.

A Soapstone crossing (at a cost of $91.75 million) has already been identified on the county’s list of high-priority projects for 2015-20.

Photo by Reston 2020 via Flickr.

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