Reston, VA

Morning Notes

Metro Proposes Delaying Funding for Silver Line Phase 2 — Unveiled yesterday (Monday), Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld’s revised FY 2022 budget proposal confirms that the second phase of the Silver Line will not open this year, though the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority has maintained that the project will be ready for Metro to take over by Labor Day. [ABC7-WJLA]

Reston Woman Charged with Assault after Barricade — Fairfax County police arrested a woman on Sunday after she barricaded herself in an apartment on the 2200 block of Stone Wheel Drive in Reston. The hours-long standoff began when officers arrived to investigate a reported domestic assault and serve a warrant to 29-year-old Iesha Walker, who police say threatened to burn the building, shoot officers, and harm a family member and acquaintance who were in the apartment with her. [FCPD]

Reston Tech Company Partners with Baltimore RavensLeidos and the Baltimore Ravens will donate funds to support Oxford House in Silver Spring for the second year of their “Tackling Opioid Addiction” campaign, which aims to raise awareness about the ongoing opioid epidemic. [Baltimore Ravens]

Herndon Student Wins Statewide Art Contest — Sarah Saravanan, a first-grade student at McNair Lower Elementary School in Herndon, won the Virginia Lottery’s Thank A Teacher Art Contest, which invites students to create art that will be showcased on “thank you” notes sent to during National Teacher Appreciation Week on May 3-7. [Patch]

Photo by Ray Copson

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Metro’s Board of Directors is still proceeding as if the Silver Line Phase II will open this year, but a public survey is asking riders to weigh in on drastic service cuts, including closing the newly-opened Phase II stations in Janurary 22.

Last week, Metro announced that the public comment period for its 2022 fiscal year budget has officially opened.

As part of that, they’re asking riders to fill out a survey about what extreme service cuts they’d be willing to tolerate beginning on Jan. 1, 2022 if additional federal money is not available.

In these options is a question about the closing of 22 stations across the entire system, including two Silver Line stations – McLean and Greensboro – and three potentially newly-opened Silver Line Phase II stations – Innovation Station, Loudoun Gateway, and Reston Town Center.

Although the 2021 budget says that Phase II could open July 1, 2021, it could be delayed until, at the earliest, the fall.

At last week’s budget work session, an tentative estimate was noted as early November.

A Metro spokesperson tells Reston Now there’s “no clear answer yet” about an opening date, however the Metro Board has to proceed as if it will open in 2021 in order to pass the 2022 budget.

“The Board will take all public feedback into consideration before approving a final budget for FY22,” writes the spokesperson.

So, it is possible that the Silver Line Phase II could open this year, only for the stations to close a few months later due to the budget shortfall.

Complicating the situation is that Silver Line Phase II and the proposed drastic service cuts are essentially on two different timelines.

Earlier this month, Metro’s staff presented an update on 18 different safety and operational issues previously noted in December.

Of those 18, 17 were still in the midst of being resolved or remained unresolved. They range from maintenance issues with the station platform pavers to several thousand damaged track fasteners that need replacing to cracked third rail insulators.

The Metro spokesperson confirms that resolving these safety and operational issues have a greater impact on the timeline for the opening of the Silver Line Phase II than the budget shortfall in 2022.

In fact, Metro’s funding for Phase II construction hasn’t really been impacted by Metro’s overall financial woes.

“The Metro board has not done anything to delay the opening of Phase II as a matter of Metro policy or budget policy,”Metro Board of Supervisors member Matt Letourneau told Reston Now in January. “Thus far the position of the Metro board has been whenever the project is…. deemed acceptable and safe, and gone through testing, we should open it.”

That’s not to say that the Silver Line Phase II won’t cost Metro money that needs to be accounted for in the 2022 budget.

At last week’s work session, it was noted that operating costs for Phase II are about $120 million annually, or $10 million a month.

If it is delayed to November 2021 due to safety and operational issues, that would save Metro about $40 million.

However, retention costs like security and ongoing maintenance are $28.5 million annually or about $2.38 million a month — even if the stations and trains are not running and operational.

In the end, if Silver Line Phase II does not open in early November and gets delayed until additional federal funding does come through, it could save Metro about $7.5 million a month.

Metro is continuing to plan the 2022 budget under the prospect that they will not receive additional federal funding, though.

The most recent coronavirus relief package provided Metro more than $600 million in federal funds. That funding, notes Metro, helped avoid layoffs and provide essential services.

But even with that funding and other austerity measures, “there is not enough money to fill the entire budget gap for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2021,” Metro’s press release reads.

Hence, the potential need to close 22 stations, including the possibly-just-opened Silver Line Phase II stations.

Among the other options for service cuts asked in the survey is closing Metrorail every day at 9 p.m. and trains arriving only every 30 minutes at most stations.

Metro is asking riders to fill out the survey by Tuesday, March 16 at 5 p.m.

There’s a decent chance, however, that these worries over closing stations on Jan 1, 2022 could become moot.

President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan has $20 billion earmarked for public transit agencies.

At this time, however, it remains unclear how much would go to Metro if the plan does pass in Congress.

Photo courtesy Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority

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The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every facet of the world including Metro planning, but officials say the construction phase of Phase II of the Metro Silver Line has managed to stay on track.

Marcia McAllister, the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project Communications Manager, noted that Phase II is 99 percent complete. McAllister shared the update during the Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Metro Monday Jan. 25 virtual meeting about COVID-19’s financial impact on Metro and the Silver Line.

“COVID has had very little effect on our construction,” McAllister said. “As you know, construction workers were allowed to continue to work and they did work, and our contractors have put in extra hours to make up any time they may have (needed) when they may have had cases of COVID.”

She added that the project is undergoing system testing and that coordination is happening daily with Metro moving forward. While the project’s eventual opening will be up to WMATA, the goal is to turn it over to the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority in late spring.

When Metro takes control of the project, it will conduct its own testing before opening the second phase. During a Metro Monday meeting on Dec. 10, head of capital delivery for Metro Laura Mason estimated that Phase II’s tentative start of service would begin in the fall of 2021. The completion of the project has been delayed by more than a year.

McAllister also addressed rumors about the construction budget funding for the project.

“Our funding is completely intact. There’s been no change in the allocation of funds,” she said. “In fact, we have already spent all of the Phase I money that came from the federal government to fund this project. That part is set in golden stone.”

Loudoun County Supervisor and Metro Board of Supervisors member Matt Letourneau reiterated McAllister’s budget comments and clarified that the construction budget for the project is not related to Metro’s capital budget. Letourneau went into further detail on Metro’s financial standing during the ongoing pandemic and the federal COVID-19 relief package signed on Dec. 27 to support transit.

The overall region is expected to receive about $830 million, with about $720 million going to Metro. Metro will keep about $600 million of the funds and allocate about $108 million to local providers.

“That will allow us to essentially balance the FY (fiscal year) 21 budget with about $95 million of that,” Letourneau said. “We had planned some fairly significant, but not necessarily painful, cuts coming in February that we’re going to be avoiding.”

The remaining $515 million allocated to Metro will be used to help balance the fiscal year 2022 budget. Metro will pass a budget in the mid-March to early April timeframe. However, Letourneau cautioned that the federal funds would not cover the entire fiscal year 2022 budget.

Unless additional federal funding is received, Letourneau said, service cuts and employee layoffs are potential threats in January 2022. He estimated that the layoffs could encompass an estimated 2,500 people.

“The Metro board has not done anything to delay the opening of Phase II as a matter of Metro policy or budget policy,” Letourneau said. “Thus far the position of the Metro board has been whenever the project is been turned over and deemed acceptable and safe, and gone through testing, we should open it.”

Since the inception of the pandemic, Letourneau estimated that Metro rail ridership is between 10 and 15 percent of what it was prior to COVID-19, while bus ridership is around 50 to 60 percent. He added that if additional federal funding is not provided, the fiscal year 2022 budget process will involve considering $171.4 million service reductions for the last six months of the fiscal year.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn urged officials to open phase two as soon as it is ready and practical.

“As we think about the Metro budget and going forward, we have to keep in mind that the long term viability of Metro depends on using rail,” Fairfax County Supervisor Walter Alcorn said.

Letourneau echoed Alcorn’s statement by that saying Phase II should continue as previously planned despite challenges and low ridership.

“If we are trying to recover, if we want to be part of that recovery, we know that the highest growth part of the system is the silver line; it is the Dulles corridor,” Letourneau said.

The WMATA Board voted to authorize a public process to participate in discussions on the fiscal year 2022 budget in February. Hearings are anticipated to begin in early March and the board is then expected to approve a budget in April.

Photo by Chuck Samuelson/Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project

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Fairfax County is seeking public input on proposed Fairfax Connector changes that could dramatically alter bus service in the area as part of the county’s ten-year Transit Strategic Plan.

The proposed changes would impact a number of Herndon-Reston routes and create new ones, including Sterling-Herndon and Reston Town Center Metro station (when it finally opens) to Herndon High School.

The goal of the changes is to provide better access to destinations, improve travel times, increase schedule reliability and frequency, and increase overall services, according to the county’s press release.

The county is also looking to provide more access to schools, hospitals, and transit centers, decrease average travel times on popular routes, and to improve efficiency by cutting duplicating connections. Changes would be “initially developed as budget neutral,” according to the county.

There will be three virtual community input meetings next week (Jan. 12, 13, and 14) and public comments will be accepted until Feb. 21.

To increase participation, Fairfax County Department of Transportation is mailing out a brochure to every county resident this month that will direct people to the online survey. The brochure is also translated into nine different languages. The public has already had some chance to comment on a number of the subareas, including the Herndon-Reston routes, according to Robin Geiger, a spokeswoman for the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.

Due to this, these particular route updates can go to the Board of Supervisors and will be implemented prior to the entire transit strategic plan. These route changes and updates are expected to be approved and ready to go for when phase two of the Silver Line, Geiger tells Reston Now, since it incorporates two Metro stations into the routes.

Silver Line Phase 2 is currently scheduled to open in the fall, at the earliest.

However, if residents would like to comment on the Herndon-Reston routes and how they will be incorporated into the county’s overall transportation plan, Geiger says they are welcome to do so.

“We want to hear from everyone,” she says.

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Monday Morning Notes

South Korea’s Hyundai Group Sells Reston Office Campus — “An affiliate of Boyd Watterson Asset Management has paid $325 million for Patriots Park, a Reston office park leased to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, adding to a growing portfolio of properties it owns in the D.C. region.” [Washington Business Journal]

Range of Assessment Options Explored in Hearing — “The Reston Association Board of Directors will discuss different scenarios for setting the 2021 assessment rate between $708 and $728 at a public hearing on Nov. 4. The board requested that RA staff explore a range of assessment rates, and how the extra money would be spent, at its regular meeting on Oct. 22.” [RA]

Opinion: Politics Messed Up Silver Line Phase Two — “But perhaps the most remarkable thing about Phase 2 is not how badly the project has been bungled but how few people seem to be concerned about the mess that is being made. No elected officials are speaking out, and the stories detailing the excruciatingly long list of problems with the project are relegated to the back pages of newspapers.” [The Washington Post]

Photo via Marjorie Copson

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Given that the expansion of the Silver Line is expected to bring more people to already urbanized areas in Northern Virginia, community leaders are working toward solutions around the lack of affordable housing.

The Dulles Chamber of Commerce brought together representatives from Fairfax and Loudoun counties to talk about what this means for the future of affordable housing at a public meeting yesterday evening. Common themes of conversation included roadblocks to construction, current demand for units, land-use policies and even the type of people around town in need of subsidized housing.

The cost of living is not sustainable for lower-income people working in the area, according to Tom Fleetwood, the Director of Housing and Community Development for Fairfax County. Around Fairfax County, from 2010 to 2015, the average income only increased by 10% while the cost of housing increased by 17%.

Fairfax County will require at least 15,000 new affordable housing units in the next 15 years to support families earning 60% of the median income and below, according to Fleetwood.

Currently, there are 30,000 low-income renters in Fairfax County that are paying more than one-third of their income on housing. “This means that they’re what we call a cost-burden and that they have less money to contribute to our economy,” he said.

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, four minimum wage jobs are needed in order to afford the average apartment in the county.

Once the extension project is complete, the housing disparity is only expected to grow.

In Tysons and Reston specifically, Fleetwood said that the biggest challenge is the limited availability of land for affordable housing projects. To combat this, updated inclusionary zoning policies have been a large help in rethinking how space is used, he said.

“Visionary zoning policies have produced a substantial number of below-market units that are serving working families in Tysons and in Reston,” Fleetwood said but didn’t volunteer a specific number.

Stephen Wilson, president of the SCG Development, offered previous examples at the meeting of how his company has worked around small parcels of open land, using creative designs in areas like Shady Grove to make the most of space.

“Land is a precious commodity everywhere, but particularly around high-density areas,” he said.

At Ovation at Arrowbrook in Herndon, SCG Development is branching out and working with community planners to incorporate affordable housing close to stations like Innovation Center.

Image courtesy Fairfax County

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(Staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation has selected its preferred bus service plan for the Fairfax Connector in Reston and Herndon.

County planners say the plan “aims to improve on-time performance and streamline service to meet the needs of the community and commuters.”

Here’s more from FCDOT on what’s being considered:

Some of the key improvements to the bus service in the area include new and more direct connections and routes; new connections to Chantilly, Centreville and the Dulles Corridor; service to Northern Virginia Community College (Loudoun Campus); and routes travelling from Sterling to Herndon. The plan, which also uses elements from all three of the proposed alternatives, shortens travel time, increases access for transit dependent populations, and maintains bus stop coverage at most locations.

The implementation of the proposed service changes will coincide with the start of the new Metrorail Silver Line service and will provide connections to the Reston Town Center StationHerndon StationInnovation Center StationDulles Airport StationLoudoun Gateway Station and Ashburn Station.

The plan will include three new routes: Chantilly to the Dulles Corridor, Northern Virginia Community College’s Loudoun campus, and Sterling too Herndon. Planners say the proposal shortens travel time and creates more direct connections.

The average travel time could be reduced from 57.3 minutes to 49.4 minutes. The updated plan would also improve service to more households, especially those that are low-income.

More information about the proposal is available online.

The county is seeking feedback via an online survey and via email at [email protected]. Residents can also call the county at 703-877-5600, extension 711, or mail comments to 4050 Legato Road, Suite 400.

The county is also hosting a virtual public meeting on the plan with Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn and Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust on Wednesday, July 8 from 6:30-7:30 p.m.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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As the Silver Line extension project continues through the COVID-19 pandemic, the Town of Herndon’s Economic Development Manager Dennis Holste, reflected on the state of other local transportation projects and changes to the town at the public Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce metro meeting last night (May 18). 

By 2021, he said that the Reston Town Center, Herndon and Innovation Station stops should be complete, but the plans for the new update bus routes for the Fairfax Connector are up in the air. 

There are currently 30 routes being proposed for the Herndon community but these cannot be finalized until public forums are held, according to Holste.

“They were supposed to hold community meetings in late March and early April,” he said. “But obviously due to COVID they were postponed.”

Though no new dates have been set for these meetings, Holste said they will likely be hosted in late summer or fall.

Currently, a survey is circulating online allowing people to view the proposed bus routes and submit feedback on their thoughts.

Also brought up in the meeting, the new environmental remediation work in Downtown Herndon, which has been completed according to Holste.

“The next step would be demolition of the building,” he said. “I don’t have an exact date but it should be shortly.”

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Metro is taking advantage of low ridership and traffic-free highways to speed up work on the Silver Line.

A summer shutdown for the Silver Line will begin on Saturday, May 23 and continue through the fall. Metro is working on connecting the new stations in phase two of the Silver Line extension project, which is being built by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

“This is about two things: working smarter and working safer,” said Metro General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Paul Wiedefeld. “Closing the stations to get the work done while ridership is historically low allows us to limit the exposure of our frontline staff and contractors, mitigate delays to our capital program, and minimize inconvenience to the public.”

All trains will begin and end service in Ballston and Orange Line service will run from Ballston to New Carrollton.

Free express and local shuttle bus service will be available for essential workers only. Shuttles will run every day and operate during the same hours as Metro (5 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends).

Ridership has dipped to roughly 1,200 customers per weekday at stations west of Ballston due to the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo by Jay Westcott

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Friday Morning Notes

Speeding Up Silver Line Extension Work — “Stay-home orders, and progress on software safety concerns, could help speed up work on the Silver Line extension to Dulles International Airport, since Metro now appears to be open to a complete multiweek shutdown of the Wiehle-Reston East station.” [WTOP]

Freeze Warning This Morning — A freeze warning is in effect until 9 a.m. today for much of the reason. We’re hoping you’ve taken steps to protect plants from the cold and prevent pipes from bursting. [National Weather Service]

Herndon Yoga Center Turns to Streaming — The Health Advantage Yoga. Center on 1041 Sterling Road in Herndon is offering a wide range of classes online since it closed its doors due to the novel coronavirus. [Patch]

County Park Authority Launches Virtual Exploration Center  The Fairfax County Park Authority has launched a new online center that offers field guides, games, video workouts and fitness trackers. County officials will continue to update the website with more resources. [Fairfax County Government]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Monday Morning Notes

Silver Line Extension May Open in September — “The opening of the Silver Line extension could come as soon as September if all things go according to plan, Metro officials said. But with a sprawling $6 billion project, that’s not always guaranteed. The extension is being completed in two phases. The first was opened in 2014 and added five new stations to the Silver Line: McLean, Tysons Corner, Greensboro, Spring Hill and Wiehle-Reston East.” [WAMU]

Metro Board Delays Naming Rights Bid — The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has withdrawn an item from its board meeting involving potential naming rights for the Innovation Center Metro Station. [Washington Business Journal]

Self-Driving Trucks are in Town — “The vehicle manufacturer Daimler Trucks and the technology firm Torc Robotics are now testing self-driving trucks on U.S. public roads for the first time with Interstate 81 in southwest Virginia as the initial target, CNBC reported in September.” [Fairfax County Times]

Last Day for Thanksgiving Food Drive Locations — Today (Monday) is the last day to drop off donations for the drive, which is organized by the Reston Community Center, the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce and Cornerstones. [Reston Community Center]

Photo by Jay Westcott

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Metro plans to sell naming rights for the Innovation Center Metro Station in Herndon, which is part of the extension to the Silver Line into Loudoun County.

The organization’s board will vote on Thursday to allow a Fortune Global 500 Company to sponsor and rename the Innovation Center Metro Station, according to meeting materials.

“A unique and time-sensitive opportunity has arisen where a Fortune Global 500 Company, currently in negotiations to lease headquarters adjacent to the new Innovation Center Metro station has expressed interest in being the corporate sponsor for this new station,” the Metro documents said.

Innovation Center is east of Virginia Route 28 near Sunrise Valley Drive and Innovation Avenue.

The move is part of the organization’s attempt to offset revenue lost from ridership declines.

Selling naming rights would be part of a one-time deal. WTOP’s Max Smith reports that a change to explicitly allow other deals is likely in the next few months.

File photo

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Monday Morning Notes

Second Round of Meetings on Fairfax Connector Service Changes — “Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) will hold a second round of community input meetings and engagement opportunities to encourage public input on alternatives developed to provide enhanced Fairfax Connector bus service in the Reston and Herndon areas, including connections to the future Metrorail Silver Line Phase 2 stations in Herndon and Reston.” [Fairfax County Government]

Why Rush Hour Promise Was Cancelled After Crash — “The refunds were offered to registered SmarTrip cardholders who were caught up in major Blue, Orange and Silver Line delays on the morning of Monday, Oct. 7. But they were not provided to those riders in the afternoon even as the crumpled cars continued to block one of the tracks near Farragut West.” [WTOP]

Community Action Spurs. Changers to Campus Commons Plan — “Consistent with the Reston Master Plan principle of public participation in planning and zoning, Reston citizens banded together to improve a flawed redevelopment plan by TF Cornerstone, for Campus Commons, located in the Reston Transit Station Area (TSA) at Wiehle Avenue and Sunrise Valley Drive. Among several reasons, the plan failed to gain community support because it does not adequately provide safe pedestrian crossings and will add at least 6,100 daily car trips.” [Reston 2020]

Photo by Marjorie Copson

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Friday Morning Notes

Excessive Heat Warning in Effect Today — The heat warning is in effect from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. this evening. Heat index values will climb near 110 degrees today. An excessive heat watch is in effect tomorrow and Sunday as well. [Fairfax Alerts]

Review Changes to Fairfax County’s Zoning Laws — On Monday, June 22, residents can drop in on an open house in Fairfax to learn about recently proposed changes, including new uses for agritourism and limiting temperatures for LED lights. Attendees can also learn about recently adopted changes to community gardens, short-term rentals, and signs. [Fairfax County Government]

Despite Issues, Silver Line Extension On Track — “Switches in the new Silver Line rail yard do not line up with the tracks they are supposed to connect to, systems to detect train locations in the yard have failed, and there are still problems with the rocks that support the tracks, a new report to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Board said.” [WTOP]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Tuesday Morning Notes

On-Demand Transportation for Metro Commuters — Metro just launched a new program to help late-night workers get around between midnight and 4 a.m. Qualified workers will receive a $3 subsidy toward a shared ride on Lyft beginning July 1. [Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority]

Sallie Mae Moving Northern Virginia Offices — “Sallie Mae moved its headquarters from Reston to Delaware in 2010, and has since reduced its leased space in Northern Virginia from 240,000 square feet to roughly 30,000, according to its most recent annual report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.” [Washington Business Journal]

Silver Line Delay Baffles MWAA — “The latest delays for Metro’s Silver Line construction have baffled the D.C. region’s airport authority, which is hopeful that the timeline for the commuter rail line’s extension to Dulles International Airport will speed up over the next few months.” [WTOP]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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