(Updated at 12:10 p.m. after Reston Association’s annual Community Yard Sale was postponed.)
Another SafeTrack Surge Starts Next Week — Metro’s latest round of work will have five stations on the east end of the Orange Line closed, which will also affect Silver Line traffic. Tuesday through June 15, trains will operate between Wiehle-Reston East and Stadium-Armory only every 12 minutes. This means more than 50 percent fewer trains during morning peak hours. Fairfax County is suggesting alternatives for commuters, including car pooling and buses. [WMATA]
League of American Cyclists Honors County — Fairfax County has been recognized with Bronze-level status as a Bicycle Friendly Community. It is one of 416 communities nationwide that have been honored. [Fairfax County]
Community Yard Sale Postponed to Sunday — With rain in the forecast, Reston Association’s annual Community Yard Sale has been postponed from Saturday. It will now be held from 8:30 a.m. to noon Sunday at 1900 Campus Commons Drive, at the corner of Sunrise Valley Drive and Wiehle Avenue. Those planning to attend are still encouraged to call 703-435-6577 after 4:30 a.m. Sunday to check the event’s status. [Reston Association]
County Embracing Driverless Future — Fairfax County is the testing ground for self-driving cars and connected infrastructure in Virginia. Officials recently brought in autonomous-vehicle experts, policymakers, manufacturers and entrepreneurs to share their research. [Fairfax County]
Reston Couple Share Love Story — Roger and Anita Lowen are approaching 50 years of marriage. It all started, they remember, with a prank call. [Washington Post]
Many were shocked when WMATA announced late Friday that the next phase of SafeTrack work will mean the closing of several stations and shutdown of line segments, rather than the original plan of continuous single-tracking on certain Metro lines.
As WMATA announced on Friday, the final two SafeTrack surges set to begin this month will mostly affect the Orange and Red Lines, but as usual, the work on those lines will cause a ripple affect on other lines as well, including Reston’s Silver Line trains.
Commuters who regularly take the Orange and Red Lines may want to look into alternate modes of transportation, particularly since what was originally planned to be single-tracking of some segments will now be “line-segment shutdowns,” officials said Friday. In addition, several stations will be closed.
“In order to minimize the customer impact elsewhere on the system and to maximize productivity, the surges, which were originally planned as continuous single tracking, will instead be ‘line segment shutdowns,’ where buses will replace trains at selected stations,” officials said on WMATA’s website.
Restonians should be aware that all of this means there will be roughly half as many Silver Line trains operating during peak rush-hour than usual during this next SafeTrack surge, which is scheduled for Tuesday, May 16 to Thursday, June 15.
If you are planning to attend the People’s Climate Movement on Saturday in DC, traveling there by Metro may prove more difficult than expected.
Planned track work on the transit system this weekend will have the line between Foggy Bottom and Federal Triangle closed down, with work being done to replace ceiling tiles at Farragut West, McPherson Square and the lower level of Metro Center. Silver Line trains from Wiehle-Reston East will only be traveling as far as Ballston, leaving every 20 minutes.
Anyone traveling to downtown DC from Reston will need to transfer to an Orange Line train at Ballston, a Blue Line train at Rosslyn and then a Yellow Line train at the Pentagon. Stephen Cerny of Reston, a former member of Metro’s Riders’ Advisory Council who plans to attend the Climate Movement, is concerned that will cause major issues for those traveling in for the event from the area.
“Given that the march will draw hundreds of thousands, Metro is facing a public relations disaster given the disruptions it will cause and a loss of all the goodwill it earned for its excellent service during the Jan. 21 Women’s March,” Cerny said. “It’s very likely that the platforms will be severely overcrowded and will likely lead to service disruptions.”
Richard Jordan, a spokesperson for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, said it is not anticipated that there will be any problems Saturday associated with the Climate Movement.
“Yes, just as there was track work during the Science March last weekend,” Jordan said when asked if Metro was aware of the maintenance work’s timing in relation to Saturday’s event. “We believe that planned service will be more than adequate to accommodate ridership demand.”
About 15,000 people attended the March for Science on April 22 at the National Mall. Cerny and other activists are hoping for a much larger turnout for the Climate Movement protest Saturday. Attendance for the Women’s March on Washington in January was estimated at over 400,000.
Helene Shore, co-founder of locally based environmental group 350 Fairfax, will be traveling to Saturday’s event on a bus along with other Reston-area activists. She said there has been “some talk” about concerns related to Metro service, but she remains confident there will be a large turnout from Fairfax County and beyond.
“They are expecting lots of people coming,” Shore said. “Buses are coming from all over the country.”
Silver Line trains from Reston will only travel as far as Ballston beginning at 10 p.m. Friday, through the close of service Sunday.
Speaking to community business leaders Thursday in Herndon, Fairfax County Supervisor Cathy Hudgins said the amount of development taking place within Reston’s Transit Station Areas has surpassed expectations and has positioned Reston as an economic driver for the county, region and state.
At the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce’s legislative panel event, Hudgins said she and others believed Tysons Corner would grow faster than Reston when their respective plans were first laid out.
“I think it’s the reverse of that now, and I think it’s the reverse of it because Reston is a very stable community,” Hudgins said. “[It is] a community well-established, different from this [transit-oriented] development but very much in concert with it.”
Hudgins showed her audience a map featuring the three Reston TSAs — encompassing the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station as well as the future Reston Town Center and Herndon stations — and pointed out more than 40 development projects that are in the works within those boundaries.
“This would not be happening if we had not approved the transit that is coming to the area,” she said. “It’s working.”
Hudgins said the Tax Service Districts that have been established in Reston and Tysons in order to help fund transportation improvements in the community were “a lot of work” to develop, but they represent a “success model” for the county. She said increasing public transit and making more walkable communities around the stations is “a creative, very smart way to approach how we develop and keep economic development going.”
“Many folks — not just millenials, but seniors — find it important to be able to live in a community where everything is at their fingertips,” Hudgins said. “[With transit-oriented development], they feel that there is housing that fits for them, there’s recreation that fits for them, and there are restaurants and the thriving other services that they need. They aren’t getting in their car. They want to be able to walk or take transit, and that’s what’s happening here.”
Hudgins said that when the Reston Plan was approved over 50 years ago, it said “Fairfax County would be wise if they would establish these areas, preserving more open space for single-family homes and others, but bringing these more dense areas to concentrate things.”
“Fifty years later, we’re getting there,” she said. “I think it’s going to be the story about how Fairfax County continues to thrive.”
There may be a sense of frustration and concern regarding ongoing construction of Metro’s Silver Line, area elected officials said Thursday, but its great potential must be remembered.
Fairfax County Supervisor Cathy Hudgins and state delegates Ken Plum (D-Fairfax) and Jennifer Boysko (D-Fairfax/Loudoun) talked about Metro and the surrounding future development during a legislative panel discussion sponsored by the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce and hosted by Dominion Virginia Power in Herndon. Plum, the former state chair of the Dulles Corridor Rail Association, said it is important to put the status of Metro’s Silver Line in perspective.
“We really ought to stop for a moment and celebrate where we are,” Plum said. “For 25 years of my life I worked on that project, and it was announced to be dead half a dozen times, at least. … Now, by 2020, we’re going to have it all the way out into Loudoun County. And we have an incredible opportunity with that.”
A large amount of development has happened or is in the works in the area of the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station, the current western terminus of the Silver Line. Other projects are also springing up near the line’s future stations in Fairfax and Loudoun counties.
The Metro Washington Airport Authority’s Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project, which is overseeing construction, announced recently that Phase 2 work to extend Metro through Reston into Dulles Airport and onward to Ashburn is more than 56 percent complete. However, deficiencies in Metro’s budget and decreasing ridership have raised a number of questions in recent months about the future viability of the transit system.
Boysko, whose district includes Herndon, praised the state’s creation of the Metrorail Safety Commission to examine how Metro is being organized and managed. She said as Phase 2 of the project continues, it is imperative that safety issues as well as financial and operational performance are properly monitored and addressed.
“People say this is the least functional transit system in the country,” she said. “We have such a great opportunity as we are expanding into Phase 2, [but] it has to be a success. We have really focused our economic development around Phase 2 being successful.”
Hudgins, who is also a member of Metro’s Board of Directors, said this is a conversation she “live[s] every day.” She said Metro is unique in many ways, most notably in its partnership between multiple jurisdictions as well as in its infrastructure itself.
“I think people need to understand, it is a different kind of railroad,” she said. “That system is one of the most difficult systems [to maintain] of all those in the country.”
Plum said Metro needs to be revitalized, and in order for that to happen, it needs to continue to receive the support of the surrounding community.
“Please, don’t wash your hands of Metro,” Plum said. “It’s vital to the economic development of our region and I think we all recognize [that].”
The legislative recap event sponsored by the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce is a chance for local businesspeople to keep abreast of important issues in the community, said Mark Ingrao, GRCC president and CEO.
“We’re a catalyst for business growth and entrepreneurship in this area of Fairfax County,” he said. “We think that we have the type of programming our members are looking for to connect them with other businesses [and] to educate them on legislative things like this.”
Some Work on Phase 1 of Silver Line Project Ongoing — The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority says some work connected to the first phase of the Silver Line still needs to be completed. All significant work is done, according to MWAA, but continuing projects include realignment of Old Meadow Road in McLean. [WTOP]
SLHS Softballer Heading to Europe — Alyssa Smith, a freshman at South Lakes High School, is raising money to travel to Europe to play softball for the Student-Athlete USA Team. Alyssa is the center fielder for HRYS Glory 16U and has hopes of playing Division I college softball after she graduates. [GoFundMe]
Bluegrass Series Wrapping Up at Frying Pan Park — The Bluegrass Barn series at Frying Pan Farm Park (2739 West Ox Road, Herndon) will come to an end April 9 with a performance by The Boxcars. Tickets are now on sale. [Fairfax County Park Authority]
Gillespie Wins County GOP Straw Poll — A Fairfax County Republican Party straw poll over the weekend has Ed Gillespie, former Republican National Committee chairman, firmly in the lead in the GOP race for Governor of Virginia. Gillespie is facing Corey Stewart and Frank Wagner in the primary, which takes place June 13. [WTOP]
The Metro board is set to vote Thursday to approve an FY2018 budget that includes 10-cent fare increases on rush-hour rides and 25-cent hikes at other times. Regular and express bus fares will also go up by 25 cents, while the rate for the bus to Dulles Airport will jump from $7 to $9.75.
Ridership on Metro plummeted from 2015 to 2016, with stations in Virginia seeing a decrease in users of more than 12 percent when comparing the fourth quarters of each year. Wiehle-Reston East’s decrease was 13.4 percent, the greatest drop among Virginia stations on the Silver Line, which had a 9 percent decrease overall.
Service frequency during rush hour outside of DC will also be decreased as part of the plan. For the Silver Line, trains will run every eight minutes instead of the current six-minute interval. The original proposal had called for off-peak frequency to be decreased as well, from 12 minutes to 15; however, that has been dropped from the final plan.
Virginia representatives on the Metro board discussed the proposed changes, as well as increased local contributions to the budget, during a January public forum in Reston.
The new rates are expected to go into effect around July 1.
Strong Storms Possible Later Today — Temperatures in the 70s are again predicted for this afternoon. However, showers and thunderstorms are possible into the evening, with damaging winds and large hail also possible. [Capital Weather Gang]
More Craft Beer on the Way? — New zoning regulations approved Tuesday by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors may open the door for more small breweries in Reston. There are currently seven licensed craft breweries in the county. [Fairfax County]
Rider: Metro Worst System He’s Used — David Ballard, of Reston, compares his experience on the Metro to public transportation systems in Denver, Salt Lake City, Portland, Dallas and Mexico City. He says the DC system not only is “by far” worse than the others, it’s more expensive. [Washington Post]
Metro Ridership Down Dramatically — At the Wiehle-Reston East station, ridership was down 13.4 percent in the last quarter of 2016. Ridership on the Silver Line as a whole was down 9 percent. [WTOP]
The special exemption application for the south entrance pavilion of the station calls for modifying a zoning ordinance that requires 15 percent open space to require only 5 percent. According to the site plan:
“The applicants state that the boundary for the SE area is highly constrained in order to avoid adverse impact to future development of adjacent properties and to ensure that the development of the proposed mass transit facilities remain in harmony with the adjacent development. The site design and layout is consistent with the design of the other entrance pavilion areas along the Silver Line.”
The new station’s entrance pavilion is slated to look nearly identical to the pavilion at the Wiehle-Reston East station.
The Metro station was approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors last year. It is part of Metro’s Silver Line Phase 2, with a projected opening date in 2020.
If recommended, the Board of Supervisors will hear the special exemption application on March 14.
Graphics via project site plan
Metro board members continue to probe the public for feedback as they address how to close their budget gap.
In a public forum Wednesday night in Reston, the Virginia members of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board discussed their $3.1 billion proposed FY2018 budget.
Board members estimate $17 billion will be needed over next decade “just to maintain a state of good repair,” but also acknowledge that the impact of delays associated with the SafeTrack program are significant.
DC CFO estimates Metro delays led to:
— lost productivity between $153 million and $235 million annually in the region
— ridership declines that reduce Metrorail’s fare box recovery
— NVTC (@NoVaTransit) January 26, 2017
Proposed investments, totaling $1.25 billion, outlined by board members to help make Metro more safe and reliable include new 7000 Series railcars; replacement buses and paratransit vehicles; rehabilitation and maintenance of existing railcar and bus fleets; rehabilitation and replacement of track and structures, rail power, radio/wireless and bus garages; and reinvestment in station escalators, elevators, lighting and platforms.
— NVTC (@NoVaTransit) January 26, 2017
Proposed capital funding from Fairfax County for the FY2018 Metro budget is $101 million, up $66 million from FY2017. Increased contributions in FY2018 include funds to repay short-term debt projected to be used in FY2017.
Proposed operational funding from Fairfax County in FY2018 is $138.6 million, a 17 percent increase from the current fiscal year.
The proposed budget also features fare hikes including:
- 10 cents on rush-hour rail fares, 25 cents on non-rush-hour fares
- 25 cents on regular and express Metrobus fares
- $2.75 on Dulles Airport Metrobus fares
Service frequency would also be adjusted in the following ways:
- 8-minute frequency on Silver Line during weekday rush hour (up from 6)
- 15-minute frequency on all lines all other times (up from 12)
Photo via Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, charts via Metro FY2018 budget proposal
Reston Orthopedic Practice Honored for Community Work — Ortho Virginia was recently recognized by Shepherd’s Center of Oakton-Vienna for its continued support of the nonprofit, volunteer-based organization. [Reston Connection]
Yoga Studio Organizes Buses for Women’s March on D.C. — Maryam Ovissi, the owner of Beloved Yoga (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive), has booked transportation for 57 people to the event Saturday on the National Mall. [Patch]
Silver Line Progress ‘Steady,’ Project Officials Say — In recent weeks, the project’s design-build contractor has reported “significant progress” on the aerial guideways that will carry the tracks through Washington Dulles International Airport. Engineers also say at-grade track work on Phase 2 of the project, which recently began, is “a very important milestone.” [Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project]
Work will soon begin on Sunrise Valley Drive to widen westbound lanes, as part of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project.
The construction effort was scheduled to begin Monday. But Marcia McAllister, spokesperson for the project, said Mother Nature had other plans.
“It’s just too cold” for work to start as planned, McAllister said. She said they envision getting workers on the ground later this week.
Roadway improvements near the Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride will require the closing of Sunrise Valley Drive westbound lanes between 9:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. each day; as well as the closure of the sidewalk on the north side of the street, between the Arboretum and Thunder Chase Drive.
“We don’t yet have specific dates for all the lane closures and sidewalk closures, because it’s an unfolding process,” McAllister said. “We’ll be sending out frequent alerts to tell people in the neighborhood and the general public.”
Once it gets underway, the work will include the clearing of trees along the street, the installation of erosion and sediment controls, utility relocations, and the construction of a new entrance road to the existing parking garage. Work on this project is expected to continue through the end of 2018.
“There will be times when the work is more intense and other times when it’s not,” McAllister said. “We wanted to give the public a general idea of how much work is going to be done there.”
Ground was broken in November on a new parking garage for the Herndon Metro Station. That project is under the guidance of Fairfax County.
“With what we’re going to be adding in that area… it’s necessary that we do some improvements to Sunrise Valley, to improve the access to the station,” McAllister said.
The future Herndon Metro Silver Line Station will serve riders at ground level in the median on the Dulles Toll Road and will serve the existing Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride, with access from both sides of the road. Phase 1 of construction on the Metro station is already underway, and Phase 2 is expected to wind up at some point in the next five years, according to Metro officials.
Image courtesy Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project
A half dozen Metro employees are without jobs after the transit agency investigated a derailment near the East Falls Church Metro station earlier this year and found “flagrant misconduct,” general manager Paul Wiedefeld said today.
Metro fired the four inspectors and two supervisors in connection with the July 29 incident, which sent a Silver Line train with 75 riders off the rails about 100 feet from the stop. An internal investigation found that workers falsified track inspection records, according to Wiedefeld.
The transit agency also has taken or is considering taking disciplinary action against almost two dozen other employees, he said.
Metro has demoted a superintendent and an assistant general superintendent. The transit agency also is in the process of terminating another supervisor and deciding how, or if, it will discipline two other supervisors and 16 track inspectors. An assistant superintendent, who faced possible disciplinary action, left Metro, too.
The 28 employees make up almost half of Metro’s track inspection department.
“I want the Board, our employees and our customers to know that this review revealed a disturbing level of indifference, lack of accountability, and flagrant misconduct in a portion of Metro’s track department which is completely intolerable,” Wiedefeld said in a statement. “Further, it is reprehensible that any supervisor or mid-level manager would tolerate or encourage this behavior, or seek to retaliate against those who objected. It is also entirely unacceptable to me that any employee went along with this activity, rather than exercise a safety challenge, or any of the multiple avenues available to protect themselves, their coworkers, and the riding public.”
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) took a trip with Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld on the Silver Line today to check on the progress of its construction, WTOP reported.
The senator got on a train at Tysons Corner and rode it to the Wiehle-Reston East station. He then took a bus to Dulles International Airport, which is one of six future Silver Line stops.
“I’m very excited to see it,” Kaine said, according to WTOP. “It’s just a necessary project to keep up with the growth of Northern Virginia.”
Photo via Twitter/Tim Kaine
A Winter Wonderland for Reston’s Young Ones — The Reston Association plans to welcome little ones to its annual Winter Wonderland celebration on Wednesday, Dec. 14, from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Kids can enjoy holiday arts and crafts, games and a festive snack. Registration is $8 for RA members and $12 for non-members and must be made in advance. [Reston Association]
Reminder: GRACE to Unveil New Art Exhibition This Week — The Greater Reston Arts Center is slated to debut a new art show featuring the work of six visual artists this Friday. During the new art show, six artists will showcase work that explores “spirituality, modern life, and ecological concerns through a variety of delicate and precisely crafted cut paper.” [Reston Now]
Members of Congress Slammed Metro Board Friday — Members of the Metro Board appeared before Congress Friday and were not met with a warm welcome. In particular, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) called board member Corbett Price’s suggestion to cancel Virginia’s Silver Line extension “parochial theater,” and labeled some board members’ comments as “cheap and reckless.” [Washington Post]