Reston, VA

Morning Notes

Herndon Police Cites Drivers for Violating Cellphone Ban — The Town of Herndon Police Department says its officers issued 22 citations last week for violations of Virginia’s new law against driving while using mobile devices. The ban took effect on Jan. 1 of this year and imposes a $125 fine for a first offense, followed by $250 for a second offense. [Herndon PD/Twitter]

Northam Signs Deal to Expand Virginia’s Railroads — “Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed a $3.7 billion deal Tuesday with Amtrak and CSX Transportation that officials say will break loose a major East Coast chokepoint and allow for a dramatic expansion of passenger and commuter rail.” [NBC4]

Lawsuit Filed over Virginia Guidelines Supporting Transgender Students — Conservative groups are suing the Virginia Department of Education over its new policy requiring school districts to accept students’ gender identities and provide access to facilities and programs in accordance with those identities. The policy took effect on March 6 after the General Assembly passed a law last year directing the department to develop guidelines. [The Washington Post]

Reston Nonprofit to Benefit from Jersey Mike’s Purchases Today — “Jersey Mike’s Subs store at 2254 Hunters Woods Plaza in Reston is donating 100 percent of sales to Cornerstones on Wednesday…The effort is part of the sandwich franchise chain’s Month of Giving, which has raised $32 million for local charities since 2011.” [Reston Patch]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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In late November, a bridge on Reston Parkway over the Dulles Toll Road was damaged due to a tractor-trailer crash.

Several months after planning, repairs have finally begun repairs this week.

The crash happened on Nov. 20 of last year.

A spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation told Reston Now that the work took some time because repairs required design and steel procurement through advertisement.

‘The steel has been fabricated, delivered, and is currently being installed now,’ the spokesperson said.

Utilities underneath the bridge were first relocated to allow the bridge to be installed.

VDOT anticipates that the project will be completed by March 27.

The bridge is jointly-owned by VDOT and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

Image via VDOT

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New bike lanes are planned at Monroe Street and on Sunset Hills Road.

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation and the Virginia Department of Transportation plans to add an eastbound bike lane on Monroe Street from Sunrise Valley Drive to the bridge and multiple bike lanes on Sunset Hills Road from Samuel Morse Drive to Business Center Drive.

A public meeting on the proposed project is set for Tuesday, April 6 at 7 p.m.The meeting will take place online via Webex. Registration is required to attend.

Here’s more from the county on the planned projects.

As part of its annual maintenance, VDOT repaves hundreds of roads in Fairfax County each year. FCDOT and VDOT collaborate during the repaving and restriping process to efficiently implement the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan that seeks to improve traffic safety and provide transportation options to people around the County.

In subdivisions, “no parking” signs with precise date information will be posted at least three business days prior to work starting. Residents can expect work vehicles in their neighborhood during the project. Motorists are asked to be alert to temporary traffic patterns. Cars, basketball hoops or garbage cans may need to be temporarily relocated while work is under way. Work hours are usually limited to outside of rush hours. Crews typically work on neighborhood streets weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. On other roads such as interstates and some primaries, work may occur overnight.

Paving is set to bring in April and end in November. A more specific timeline is unavailable due to varying contractor schedules.

Photo via Fairfax County Government

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Voting Underway for Reston Association Election — Members of RA can now cast their ballots for the 2021 board race. Voting will remain open until April 2 at 5 p.m. [RA]

Large Metal Object Found in Lake Audubon — A contractor plans to remove debris from Lake Audubon as soon as possible. A barge crew and diver are expected to retrieve and dispose of the metal object later this week. [RA]

Transportation to Vaccine Appointments Offered in Fairfax County — The county’s Department of Neighborhood and Community Services has subsidized a taxi voucher program for seniors and other residents seeking to receive a vaccine. Other community organizations are also offering transportation services. [Reston Patch]

Photo by Marjorie Copson

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What would it take for you to reduce your carbon footprint?

That’s the question Fairfax County is posing as it enters the public engagement portion of its Community Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP) initiative, which will establish goals and strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating the impact of climate change.

Launched in early 2020, the CECAP process is being led by the Fairfax County Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination (OEEC) with support from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and the Fairfax-based consulting firm ICF.

The county previously sought public input on the plan in August and September, when a CECAP Task Force started developing draft mitigation goals.

In addition to holding two public meetings last week, one focused on energy and another on transportation, waste, and development, the county is looking to gather more public feedback through a trio of short surveys.

“We want to make sure that we expand our reach and get information from as many county residents and business owners as we can,” ICF Director of Human Capital Michelle Heelan said when facilitating the energy community meeting on Feb. 23.

One survey gauges respondents’ interest in undertaking projects to make their home more energy-efficient and sustainable, like installing solar panels and replacing light bulbs and HVAC systems. Another deals with transportation and development, asking questions about public transit, electric vehicles, and mixed-use development.

There is also a more open-ended survey for people to share general comments on the CECAP initiative.

“In Fairfax County, energy use and transportation are the two greatest sources of greenhouse gas emissions,” the OEEC says. “The CECAP will address both issue areas, and with your input, we can ensure that the final plan reflects the needs of everyone in our community as we work to reduce our collective carbon footprint.”

The surveys are currently available in English, Spanish, Korean, and Vietnamese. They will be open until 11:59 p.m. on Mar. 14.

ICF will draft a final report with input from a CECAP Working Group and the community for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to adopt this summer, according to OEEC Senior Community Specialist Maya Dhavale.

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Wind Advisory In Effect — The National Weather Service has issued a wind advisory that will be in effect from 2-6 p.m. today. [NWS]

Metro Seeks Comment on Proposed Budget — Metro is seeking the public’s feedback on its budget, which faces a significant shortfall due to a decrease in ridership caused by the pandemic. Ridership is down about 90 percent on Metrorail. [Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority]

Reston Association Committee to Host First Public Forum — The organization’s multimodal transportation advisory committee is hosting its first public forum of this year on March 11. The committee seeks input on sidewalks, trails, pathways, crosswalks, and the overall pedestrian experience in Reston. [RA]

Death Penalty Repeal Sent to State Governor — Virginia could become the first state in the South to end the death penalty. The legislation was passed on Monday by state lawmakers and now heads to the desk of Gov. Ralph Northam. Virginia has executed more people in its history than any other state. [Reston Patch]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Now, Reston residents can access detailed local transportation data with a click.

An interactive Reston Transportation Data Hub came online earlier this week, offering compiled data sets detailing how and when Restonians move about town.

The tool features vehicle, pedestrian, bicycle, and public transit data. Much of the data is from November 2019.

“This system provides a new way for residents to understand both the big picture and the details of our current and planned transportation system,” Walter Alcorn, Hunter Mill District Supervisor and Transportation Committee Chair, wrote in the press release. “Whether you drive, ride rail/buses, walk or bicycle, information on how the system fits together and coming improvements is critical. This data hub is an important step forward.”

Beyond that, the tool also maps upcoming transportation and infrastructure projects including timelines and costs. It also provides a comprehensive map of pedestrian and biking trails in Reston.

A high level analysis shows that traffic volume tends to be higher in Reston during the evening peak rush hour than the morning equivalent.

The report speculates that, along with commuting, this is due to the combination of errands and non-work trips that more often happen in the evening.

There are also other data hubs being planned, including ones showing zoning activity and parks that will show how land is being used in Reston.

Full press release below:

Reston residents, businesses and stakeholders can now access the latest information about transportation in the Reston area. The online, interactive Reston Transportation Data Hub features vehicle, pedestrian, bicycle, and public transit data, in addition to information about planned infrastructure improvements and transportation projects for Reston.

The Transportation Data Hub is one component of the Reston Data Visualization project. Led by the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Development Urban Center’s Section and GIS Department, the project focuses on data transparency associated with Reston development and infrastructure improvements, including information about mobility, parks, and zoning activity.

“This system provides a new way for residents to understand both the big picture and the details of our current and planned transportation system,” said Walter Alcorn, Hunter Mill District Supervisor and Transportation Committee Chair. “Whether you drive, ride rail/buses, walk or bicycle, information on how the system fits together and coming improvements is critical. This data hub is an important step forward.”

Additional Data Hubs are planned for the Reston Data Visualization project – including a Zoning Activity Data Hub and a Parks Hub – for sharing land use information with the Reston Community.

The main Reston Data Visualization page, which includes the Reston Transportation Data Hub, can be found at https://reston-data-visualization-fairfaxcountygis.hub.arcgis.com/. For questions about the new Transportation Data Hub or the Reston Data Visualization project, contact the Department of Planning and Development’s Urban Centers Section.

The Transportation Data Hub is a collaboration between Fairfax County’s Department of Planning and Development and Department of Transportation.

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Monday Morning Notes

Toiletries Drive to Benefit Cornerstones — Reston Community Center is collecting supplies on behalf of Cornerstones to support local families. Items needed included shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, and deodorant. The drive runs from Jan. 4-18. [RCC]

Vaccination Numbers Available By Locality — ‘The Virginia Department of Health is tracking COVID-19 vaccination numbers as vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are being distributed around the state under FDA emergency use authorization. As of Sunday, 38,172 vaccine doses have been administered in Virginia. No one has received the second dose, which both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines require.’ [Reston Patch]

Around Town — Input Sought on American Legion Bridge — ‘The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation and the Maryland Department of Transportation recently finished a study on the American Legion Bridge’s future, and are now asking the public for comment on the findings.’ [WTOP]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Metro will start collecting fares from bus riders again on Jan. 3 as part of its pandemic recovery plan, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority announced yesterday (Thursday).

The WMATA board of directors authorized a temporary suspension of Metrobus fare collections in March as part of a policy prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic that required riders to board buses through the rear doors in an effort to reduce contact between passengers and drivers.

With fare collections resuming, bus riders should return to entering the vehicles from the front, where the farebox and SmarTrip equipment are located.

WMATA says the change in policy is enabled by the more robust public health procedures that it has put in place now that there is a better understanding of how the novel coronavirus is transmitted.

“With everyone wearing masks, shields for operators on every bus, and enhanced daily cleanings, front-door boarding is safe, expands our capacity for more riders, and helps us resume some normalcy,” Metro General Manager and CEO Paul Wiedefeld said. “We also need to collect fares from every rider to keep essential Metro transit employees working and continue to provide essential service.”

Metrobus costs $2 per trip, which is payable in cash or with a SmarTrip card. Metro also offers a seven-day bus pass for $15 that provides unlimited access to Metrobus and other local bus services, including the Fairfax Connector.

The plan to resume collecting bus fare comes as Metro threatens to make significant service cuts after plummeting ridership during the pandemic contributed to a projected deficit of nearly $500 million for Fiscal Year 2022.

The dilemma facing Metro is shared by other major transit systems around the country, leading local elected leaders and transportation officials to call for the inclusion of public transit funding in a federal coronavirus relief package currently under negotiation in Congress.

Without outside support, WMATA could close 19 stations, drastically reduce rail and bus service hours and routes, and eliminate 2,400 additional jobs. The impact of those cuts is expected to land hardest on low-income residents and other populations that depend on transit.

Metro’s proposed FY 2022 budget will be up for public comment early next year.

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The Town of Herndon  has applied for funding for a new project to reconfigure Sterling Road. 

According to a staff report from Dec. 1, the town would like the residential street to reflect its current plans for traffic access management and multimodal circulation. The project length will be about one mile, located between Elden Street and Rock Hill Road.

According to Jaleh Moslehi, a project engineer, this project may occur in the latter part of the decade, with the hope that public outreach and input will be scheduled for Summer 2021. 

The initial funding source will come from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority’s Local Revenue, according to the report. In addition, the town has proposed a funding application for up to $1,000,000 for fiscal year 2027. 

Staff and the town’s consultant are planning to present the concept design for the road in Spring 2021. The design will include ADA accessible sidewalks and proposed bike lanes for the entire length of the project, according to the report. Additionally, the traffic study will analyze the potential for better lane realignments at the intersections with Elden Street, Crestview Drive and Herndon Parkway. 

According to the report, the project’s objectives are to implement access management and multimodal measures, improve traffic signalization, add applicable turning lanes and provide for landscaping and safer ADA accessible sidewalks, all in an effort to increase safety while reducing congestion and enhancing circulation. 

Screenshot from Google Maps

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A critical project to reduce congestion and improve traffic flow in Reston has received $15 million in funding from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority through its six-year program.

The Soapstone Connector would create a new one-mile roadway between Sunrise Valley Drive and Sunset Hills Road. A bridge would be built over the Dulles Corridor, providing an additional crossing that is critical to reducing congested areas along Wiehle Avenue.

The adoption of the Six Year Program Update demonstrates an ongoing commitment to a multimodal approach that addresses Northern Virginians’ mobility needs and challenges, and supports the region’s economic vitality, while providing an economic stimulus to the region’s economy,” said Phyllis Randall, Chair of the Authority and the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, stated, in a press release

The total project, which is located west of the Wiehe-Reston East Metro Station and includes a new bridge over the Dulles Corridor, is expected to cost $214 million overall. County officials sought roughly $69 million from the authority, which partially funded the project.

Most of the design and environmental work for the project is expected to continue through fiscal year 2025. Construction would likely take place between fiscal years 2028 and 2030.

Although the authority reported an overall loss of $250 million during the pandemic, 21 of the 31 transportation projects submitted for funding consideration were awarded full or partial funding.

Photo via handout/Fairfax County Government

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Fairfax County officials are seeking $69 million from Northern Virginia’s Transportation Authority to cover the cost of building the Soapstone Connector, a critical one-half-mile-long connection between Sunrise Valley Drive and Sunset Hills Road.

The total project, which is located west of the Wiehe-Reston East Metro Station and includes a new bridge over the Dulles Corridor, is expected to cost $214 million overall. Construction is not expected to begin until 2028, according to the March 5 proposal.

Once built, the road would extend from the existing north-south Soapstone Drive where it intersects with Sunrise Valley Drive. After crossing the Dulles Corridor, the new road would stop at a new intersection with Sunset Hills Road. Most of the road will include a three-lane cross-section with bicycle lanes on each side.

A five-foot-wide concrete sidewalk is planned on the west side and a 10-foot-wide shared-use path on the east side.

Here’s more from the proposal:

The proposed roadway would provide an addiƟonal crossing to supplement two exisƟng crossings of the Dulles Corridor in Reston: Reston Parkway and Wiehle Avenue. The project would provide addiƟonal capacity across the Dulles Corridor, reduce congesƟon and delay at intersecƟons along Wiehle Avenue, and improve accessibility and mobility to and within the area surrounding the WiehleReston East Metrorail StaƟon. By including bike lanes, sidewalks and an addiƟonal facility for local and regional transit operators to uƟlize, the project improves mulƟmodal connecƟvity to the Wiehle-Reston East Metrorail StaƟon.

The NVTA will select projects from a number of proposals across the region. Funding is offered through its six-year FY2020-2025 program.

Photo via handout/Fairfax County Government

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People across the U.S. are expected to hit record levels for traveling this holiday season.

According to AAA, 115.6 million people across the U.S. will travel between this Saturday and New Year’s Day — roughly 104 million will drive while around 7 million flying and 4 million taking trains, buses or cruise ships.

For the D.C. area, AAA forecasts the worst travel day will be Thursday (Dec. 26) between 4-6 p.m.

“For the 104.8 million Americans traveling by automobile, INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts only marginal delays throughout the holiday week,” according to AAA.

Let us know if and how you plan to travel this holiday season.

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the county’s Transportation Priorities Plan — which is estimated to cost roughly $3 billion dollars.

The plan approved last Tuesday (Dec. 3) by the board will guide decisions for transit improvements for fiscal years 2020 to 2025, according to a county press release.

In the Hunter Mill District specifically, there are more than 50 projects recommended by the county documents — many of which include improvements in safety measures for pedestrians and bicyclists as well as various infrastructure and intersection changes. Some of the projects suggested in the plan will be fully funded by the estimated cost, while other projects will need to find additional funding.

Here is a list of a few major improvements in the plan:

  • Widen Route 7 from four to six lanes from Jarrett Valley Drive (Dulles Toll Road) to Reston Avenue. This would include intersection, bicycle and pedestrian and bus stop changes
  • Addition of a walkway on the north side of Fox Mill Road from Fairfax County Parkway to Reston Parkway
  • Expansion of Reston bike-share
  • Expansion of Town Center Parkway to include a divided roadway under the Dulles Toll Road from Sunrise Valley Drive to Sunset Hills Road

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation will also continue projects that are already underway, according to Fairfax County’s website.

County documents also included a list of projects that were not recommended for the 2020-25 Priorities List, including the underpass for Town Center Parkway and the Dulles Toll Road.

In 2014, the Board of Supervisors approved $1.4 billion for six years of transportation projects from FY 2015-2020.

The county said in the press release that the funding estimate for the FY 2020- 2025 plan was impacted by the Virginia General Assembly passing legislation that diverted funds to the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority, along with rising project costs.

More from the press release:

The anticipated funding for a draft FY 2018-2023 TPP was $600 million in new revenues to fully fund existing projects and $170 million in new projects. These funding estimates were not realized, because in 2018, the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation that designated $154 million per year for the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) to address system improvement needs largely did so by diverting funding from existing local and regional sources.

Of the $102 million annual diversion, the financial impact on Fairfax County was estimated to be $45-50 million per year, or approximately $300 million over six years. As a result, there is no available revenue for new transportation projects. In addition, the County was required to adjust schedules for some previously approved projects, many beyond FY 2025…

According to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), project costs have been rising for various reasons, including the number of large-scale projects underway across the National Capital Region causing shortages of labor and materials; economic factors such as tariffs and rising right-of-way costs; and across the board increases on project contingencies required by VDOT.

Image via Google Maps

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Shepherd’s Center of Oakton-Vienna, a nonprofit that supports aging in place, recently expanded its programs to help seniors in Herndon and Reston.

The group assists the seniors by providing free rides, social outreach and other resources. The group decided to expand around October, a spokesperson told Reston Now.

Susan Garvey, the executive director of the center, lives in the area and noticed a lack of free resources for the elderly community, the spokesperson said.

“The uptick in ride requests have been promising,” the spokesperson said, adding that people who answer the phones are kept busy. “It was a wise step to take.”

The group announced its expansion to Reston and Herndon in its quarterly newsletter, which was published this fall.

Shepherd’s Center receives its funding from donations, fundraisers and corporate sponsors. Anyone who wishes to donate to the center can do so online.

Seniors or others interested in free rides, programs for veterans and various resources can call the center at 703-281-0538.

Photo via Sheperd’s Center/Facebook

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