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Bridge on W&OD Trail Over Wiehle Avenue Approved

An aerial bridge on the Washington & Old Dominion Trail over Wiehle Avenue could be constructed by October 2022.

Earlier this week, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved final design plans for the project, which is expected to cost $11.4 million, according to the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.

The bridge includes retaining walls and directional access to Wiehle Avenue for trail users. Wiehle Avenue would be widened from Sunset Hills Road to the Reston Fire Station property in order to make way for future on-road bike lanes.

Plans have long been identified by the Reston Metrorail Access Group’s plan to improve vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian access near the new Wiehle-Reston East Metrorail Station.

Robin Geiger, a spokeswoman for FCOD, said design plans are currently 90 percent complete. The project timeline expects utility design and relocation to take a little over a year-and-a-half, land acquisition to take a year, construction authorization and permitting to take eight months and construction to take one year.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins said the project faces the challenge of ensuring the bridge maintains synergy in the midst of urban properties that are coming together down the street.

The developer of the Isaac Newtown properties, which are being redeveloped, said they were concerned the project’s scale interferes with the development. County officials said they would work with the developer to mitigate any concerns.

However, according to FCDOT, the height of the bridge is necessary because the design of the bridge uses existing infrastructure in order to cut cost costs. The height is also vital to meet grade requirements and requirements stipulated by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Rendering via FCDOT

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20-Minute Stoppages on Dulles Toll Road Planned Overnight

Beginning tomorrow (July 12) and on Friday night (July 13), triple lane closures on planned on the Dulles Toll Road after 10 p.m.

Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project crews will continue to install equipment under the pedestrians bridges at the Reston Town Center and Herndon Metrorail Stations that cross over the eastbound and Westbound lanes of the Dulles Toll Road.

Three lanes will be closed, resulting in 20-minute traffic halts after midnight each night.

Beginning Thursday at 10 p.m., three left lanes of the eastbound Dulles Toll Road will be closed to traffic between the Monroe/Van Buren Street and Reston Parkway overpasses. One right lane will be open to traffic and 20-minute stoppages will occur in the right lane of the eastbound lanes after midnight. Lanes will reopen on Friday at 5 p.m.

On Friday at 10 p.m., the three left lanes of the westbound Dulles Toll Road will be closed to traffic between the Wiehle Avenue and the Monroe Street/Van Buren Street overpasses. One right lane will be open to traffic and 20-minute stoppages are planned after midnight on the right westbound lane and on the ramp from Fairfax County Parkway to the westbound Dulles Toll Road lanes.

Normal operations will resume on Saturday (July 14) at 6 a.m. Utility work is expected to continue through July.

Maps via Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project

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Traffic Alert: Part of Lawyers Road is Closed Next Week

Commuters who travel on Lawyers Road should take alternate routes next week.

The section of Lawyers Road between Carhill Road and Gunnell Farms Drive will be closed from Monday (June 25) through Friday (June 29).

The closure is prompted by a pipe replacement by the Virginia Department of Transportation. Signs are up to direct traffic and a traffic alert will be issued soon.

Map via Google Maps

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To Close Funding Gap, County Board Approves $40 Million for Route 7 Widening

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will contribute up to $40 million to help close a funding a gap in the widening of Route 7.

The $278 million project, which will widen Route 7 between Reston Avenue and Jarrett Valley Drive from four to six lanes, will cost roughly 95 million more than what engineers’ originally estimated.

The board unanimously voted to approve additional funds on Tuesday (June 19). The Virginia Department of Transportation is expected to also contribute up to $40 million.

Tom Biesiadny, director of the Fairfax County Department of Transportation, said cost overruns were linked primarily to how the contract was bid. The state is currently negotiating between two offerors who offered bids above the estimated price. The contract is a design-to-build, which is costlier than design-to-bid projects and would allow the project to begin two years earlier than originally anticipated,  Biesiadny said.

Officials hope to reduce the expected costs of the project by negotiating with the two offerors. Final bid offers must be in by early July.

Most funding to meet the gap will be taken from dollars allocated for Tysons projects. A plan to widen Frying Pan Road will also be deferred, Biesiadny said.

Biesiadny said bicycle and pedestrian improvements are also planned along the seven-mile stretch, which he said connects Reston and Tysons.

It provides benefits to both of those areas by allowing traffic to move more quickly through those areas, reduc[ing] congestion, but also provid[ing[ bicycle and pedestrian improvements and bus stop improvements,” he said.

File photo via FCDOT

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Board to Consider Dulles Toll Road Rate Increase for 2019

Commuters on the Dulles Toll Road could pay 75 cents more at the main toll plaza and 50 cents more at each ramp. The proposal will be presented to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s Board of Directors on Wednesday (June 20).

If approved by the board, tolls would increase from $3.50 to $4.75 for most one-way trips beginning in January. Rates would be higher for larger vehicles.

In 2019, tolls are expected to generate $198.7 million in revenue, nearly 30 percent more than the currently generated revenue. Despite projected increases in revenue, the number of toll transactions is expected to decrease by 6.4 percent next year due to declines in road usage during weekends and off-peak hours.

A nearly 1.5 percent increase is expected until 2023 when the next planned toll increase is scheduled to take effect.

Public hearings on the proposal are set for July 11 in McLean, July 17 in Reston and July 19 in Ashburn. During the meetings, attendees can discuss their thoughts with authority officials, as well as whether or not the board should switch to electronic-only tolling.

The board is expected to vote on the final proposal in October. Plans to increase tolls have been in the works since 2009. Revenue generated from toll transactions would cover debt tied to the Silver Line.

Photo by Fatimah Waseem

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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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Local Police Launch Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety Campaign in Reston

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo via FCPD

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Funding Approved for Improvements at Fairfax County Parkway and Sunrise Valley Drive

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved $500,000 to cover preliminary engineering for interim improvements at the intersection of Fairfax County Parkway and Sunrise Valley Drive.

Planned upgrades include lane reconfiguration, signal optimization and improvements to pedestrian and bike facilities.

Depending on the option selected by individuals, the project is expected to cost between $2.2 million and $4.3 million. The board approved intersection improvements as part of Reston’s transportation funding plan in late February last year.

The timeline of the project was not immediately available.

Photo via Virginia Department of Transportation

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For the First Time in Four Years, Dulles Toll Road Rates May Increase Next Year

For the first time since 2014, Dulles Toll Road rates could increase by about one-third next year.

Motorists have paid $2.50 at the mainline plaza and $1 at exit ramps, totaling $3.50 for the last four years.

Under the plan, tolls would rise to $3.25 at the main plaza and $1.50 at exit ramps, totaling $4.75 overall. Increases would continue in the years ahead, with a $6 toll from 2023 through 2027, $7.25 from 2028 through 2032, $8.75 from 2033 through 2037, and $10 from 2038 through 2042.

Public hearings on the proposal are set for the summer, most likely in July and August. A vote authorizing the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority to proceed with the process for proposed rate adjustments is set for June 20. Board action on final increases would occur in mid-October.

Officials said the toll increase is necessary to prevent toll revenue from falling below the minimum required to cover debt service costs. Tolls are expected to fund about $2.8 billion of the $5.7 billion cost of the Silver Line project.

Photo by Fatimah Waseem; graphic by MWAA

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Monday Morning Notes

Good news for Caps fans — “On the Silver Line, the last train will leave Metro Center at 12:27 a.m. heading to Largo Town Center and at 12:21 a.m. heading to Wiehle-Reston East… Game 3 starts at 8 p.m. and Metro’s regular closing time is 11:30 p.m., but Metro’s CEO Paul Wiedefeld announced that Metrorail will remain open for an additional hour thanks to Exelon and Pepco.” [WTOP]

Police investigate double homicide near Town of Herndon —  “The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a double homicide at a café in Sterling near the Loudoun County and the Town of Herndon line. Around 1:45 a.m. Monday Loudoun County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to the Pharaoh Café located in the 46000 block of Old Ox Road for a report of a shooting. Two victims lost their lives at the scene. A person of interest attempting to leave the area was detained by deputies responding to the scene.” [Loudoun County Sherriff’s Office]

Absorbing Amazon headquarters in an area with gridlock and high housing costs —  “Northern Virginia, the District and Montgomery County are among the 20 finalists. Amazon may narrow the list further in coming months and is expected to decide by the end of the year… But many residents fear that winning the prize would actually exacerbate all the things they hate about living in the region: horrendous traffic, expensive housing, crowded schools and gentrification.” [The Washington Post]

Flickr pool photo by vantagehill

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Preliminary Planning for Silver Line Underpass to Begin This Year

Local and state officials plan to explore options to build a Silver Line underpass from Town Center Parkway and Sunset Hills Road to Sunrise Valley Drive.

The project, which is expected to cost around $169 million, is in its early planning phases.

Pending the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ approval on Tuesday (May 15), the county’s transportation department and the Virginia Department of Transportation will propose three options for the four-lane underpass.

Preliminary engineering and designing will begin in fiscal year 2020. No timeline for construction has been set.

County officials said the project is a “high priority” to improve circulation in Reston, support traffic from additional development and improve connectivity in the overall road network.

In 2014, the county board approved a plan that recommended constructing the underpass west of Edmund Halley Drive and committed $8.7 million to advance the effort. Three years later, the board incorporated the project in Reston’s funding plan for transportation improvements.

The underpass is planned beneath a future Metrorail line. Metrorail tracks will span the future road roadway extension. 

The board will vote on the agreement between state and county officials to begin exploring options on Tuesday. The scope of the study includes:

  • A review of previous studies
  • Aerial mapping
  • Three planning and profile studies
  • A preliminary project cost estimate
  • Information on environmental impacts

Image via Google Maps

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Thursday Morning Notes

I-66 slows traffic — Major construction for the toll project will create sluggish conditions, so all rides between Loudoun County Transit stops and the Wiehle-Reston East stations will be free. [WTOP]

R-E-S-P-E-C-T — Spencer Alston, a lacrosse player at South Lakes High School, received the 2018 Lou Peterson “Respect the Game” award. [The Connection]

Walk it off — Hundreds walked together at Walk MS Reston at Reston Town Center earlier this month. A total of $177,109 was raised in order to end multiple sclerosis. [The Connection]

Flickr pool photo by vantagehill

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Friday Morning Notes

Three hours to get to work — Thursday’s morning commute was complicated for some Northern Virginia residents. Congestion brought the toll on I-66 inside the beltway to $47. [The Washington Post]

Register for bike to work day — “Join more than 500 local commuters for a celebration of bicycling as a clean, fun and healthy way to get to work by participating in the Bike to Work Day on Friday, May 18 from 6:30 a.m.-9:30 a.m. at the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station.” [Reston Association]

Planting a beer garden — Herndon-based Aslin Beer Co. has opened a beer garden just outside of Nationals Park just in time for the Nationals home opener. [WTOP]

A reset in Reston — Fairfax County zoning officials won’t back off from commitments already made, despite pressure to allow fewer homes in Reston. [Greater Greater Washington]

Work from Lake Anne Brew House — The brew house is offering special deals at its first “work from the brew house” event from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today. [Lake Anne Brew House]

Photo by Ruth Sievers

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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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