Reston, VA

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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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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A strike against the contractor of Metrobus could affect service by the Fairfax Connector.

The union that represents Fairfax Connector drivers indicated that a strike is possible amid an ongoing labor dispute with Transdev, the operations contractor of the Fairfax Connector service.

In a release the county warned that ongoing negotiations for a new labor agreement with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1764 could result in service delays. Currently, no impact to service is anticipated.

Here’s more from the county:

The Fairfax Connector operations contractor, Transdev, is currently negotiating a new labor agreement with the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1764, which represents Fairfax Connector drivers and mechanics.Even though Fairfax County is not a party to any labor negotiations between Transdev and labor unions, Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) has encouraged negotiations in good faith with the goal of completing a new contract prior to the expiration of the current one on November 30, 2019.  

FCDOT strives to provide effective communications and excellent customer service to our customers. We understand that you depend on us to take you where you need to go with reliable service. If the current negotiations are not successful and labor action occurs, FCDOT will communicate with passengers about service impacts and travel alternatives. 

The county offers updates about Fairfax Connector service online. Residents can also sign up for email service alerts through the county’s BusTracker.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Fairfax County Public Schools are looking to hire more bus drivers.

To date, the system has 80 openings for bus drivers, according to a recent release.

A job fair is set for Wednesday, Nov. 13 from 10:30 a.m. to noon at the Gerry Hyland Government Center (8350 Richmond Highway) in Alexandria.

In order to qualify to work as a bus driver with FCPS, applicants must be at least 21 years old; have a good driving record; pass a physical exam, drug screening, and background check; complete a five-week training program, take the commercial driver’s license road test, and obtain a commercial driver’s license,” according to FCPS.

The current salary for a bus driver is $19.20 per hour. The position includes benefits like retirement, health, and dental plans and six paid non-working days. Drivers are also allowed to bring infant and preschool-age children on the bus with them.

Morning shifts typically run from 6-9:30 a.m. while afternoon shifts run from 1:30 to 5 p.m.

File photo

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Fairfax County is seeking more feedback from commuters who use the Fairfax Connector.

A new round of meetings will give community members another chance to provide critiques for plans for the future of the Fairfax Connector and the Silver Line Metrorail expansion around Reston and Herndon, according to a press release.

People who want to give feedback can attend any of the three upcoming meetings, which are all accessible from the Fairfax Connector.

  • Herndon Middle School Cafeteria (901 Locust Street) on Thursday (Oct. 28) from 7-9 p.m.
  • Ox Hill Baptist Church (4101 Elmwood Street) on Friday (Oct. 29) from 7-9 p.m.
  • Reston Community Center at Lake Anne (1609-A Washington Plaza) on Saturday (Nov. 2) from 10 a.m.-noon

Anyone unable to attend the meetings in person may give feedback online. The form will be open from Oct. 23 until Nov. 30.

Comments can also be mailed to Fairfax County Department of Transportation, 4050 Legato Road, Suite 400, Fairfax, VA 22033.

Feedback from the meetings will be synthesized and converted into another design to “provide better access to destinations, improved travel times, increased schedule reliability and more dependable service,” the press release said.

This final plan will be available in early 2020 for a final round of critiques.

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Monday Morning Notes

New School Board Policy on Cannabis-Derived Oil in Schools — “The Fairfax County School Board has approved a policy on the storage, dispensing, and administration of cannabidiol oil and THC-A that aligns with Virginia law that became effective on July 1. The policy states that no school nurse or employee of a local health department who is assigned to a public school can be prosecuted for possessing, storing, or distributing cannabidiol (CBD) oil or tetrahydrocannabinol acid (THC-A) oil that has been prescribed via a valid, written certification by a medical professional.” [Fairfax County Public Schools]

Self-driving Shuttles in Suburbs Like Reston — “A Boston-based startup called Optimus Ride has launched a new self-driving vehicle service in the Washington, DC suburb of Reston, Virginia. On Monday, I traveled to the site, a 45-minute drive from my home in the nation’s capital, to see it first-hand. Since August, the company has been ferrying passengers between a Fannie Mae office building at the site and an overflow parking lot a few minutes’ walk away. But Optimus Ride has much larger ambitions for the site.” [Ars Technica]

Development Surges Along the Silver Line — “While acknowledging the need for housing and concerns about the area’s already high cost of living, Northern Virginia business leaders see the impending arrival of the Silver Line and its surrounding development as critical for the economic future of not just Fairfax and Loudoun, but the region as a whole.” [Fairfax County Times]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Land acquisition is underway to make way for major improvements to Van Buren Street from Spring Street to Herndon Parkway. But permission from five property owners for necessary easements and land acquisition is pending to allow the $4.6 million project to proceed.

Planned improvements are envisioned as a critical link between downtown Herndon and the Herndon Metro Station ahead of its expected opening in July next year.

The Herndon Town Council plans to vote on plans to seize the properties through eminent domain. So far, property owners have rejected the town’s proposals to buy easements based on the unit price of the real estate:

Town planners attempted to use existing right-of-way as much as possible in order to minimize land acquisition needs.

Planning for the project began in December 2011. If land acquisition and utility relocation is completed by the end of this year, construction is expected to begin in spring 2020.

Construction, which is expected to cost $3.7 million of the overall $4.6 million price tag — would be complete by fall next year.

The project includes 11-foot wide travel lanes, on-road bike lanes in each direction from Spring Street to Senate Court, an off-road cycle track in both directions from Senate Court to Herndon Parkway, five-foot-wide sidewalks, and a new traffic signal at the Alabama Drive intersection.

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Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

 

In 1996, I had the great learning experience of chairing the Northern Virginia Electric Vehicle Launch Committee through the sponsorship of the Electric Transportation Coalition (ETC) and the US Departments of Energy and Transportation. The national goal to clean up the air we breathe was the impetus to the study we did in our region as was being done in nine other suburban regions throughout the country. The one-inch thick report we produced–“The Path to an EV Ready Community”–provided a guide that is still relevant and valuable today.
General Motors came out with its EV-1 vehicle which I had the pleasure to drive for a day; prospects were looking good for electric vehicles until suddenly the bottom dropped out of the market. All big manufacturers dropped their testing and production of electric vehicles. Our report was clearly ahead of its time.
Fast forward a couple of decades and electric vehicles have come into their own. All manufacturers I know of are predicting that over the next couple of decades electric vehicles will be the only cars and trucks they produce. They are environmentally clean, outperform traditional cars, need less maintenance, and are safer.
Hybrids that use traditional engines with electric assist have virtually taken over the market. Jane and I felt like pioneers in 2003 when we bought our first Prius. It got great gas mileage, required little maintenance, had less harmful emissions, and ran until we finally traded it in with more than 150,000 miles. Our experiences with the Priuses we bought in 2007 and 2012 were the same.
The path to electric vehicles that my earlier study had considered has made huge strides over the past several years. While Tesla is probably the best known of the electric vehicles, most manufacturers have an all-electric option. Chevrolet has the Bolt and Nissan has the Leaf among the better known models. They will help us reduce our carbon footprint, clean up the air, and more easily adapt to the many new automatic features that are becoming available.
But the shift in the power sources of our vehicles brings new challenges, all of which must be recognized and can be met. At a session “Juicing Up for Electric Vehicles” at the recent National Conference of State Legislatures I attended some of the issues were discussed. How should the sale of electricity be provided and regulated if necessary? Will utilities be able to handle the increased demand? How can equity and access be assured for drivers in the market if prices go up?
Coming with the electric vehicles are many automated features that can make driving safer. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that of the over 37,000 people killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2016, more than 90% had a human error factor. Maybe the new cars will be able to have safety engineered into them.

Continuing my story about electric vehicles that began more than two decades ago, Jane and I purchased a Tesla a week ago. It is environmentally friendly, has many safety features, and will be very comfortable for my numerous trips to Richmond!

File photo

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The Herndon Planning Commission unanimously approved an application to seek state funds for major improvements along Elden Street between Center Street and School Street on Monday (August 26).

At the meeting, the commission approved the $1.8 million project, would brings critical pedestrian improvements to the area. Improvements include wider sidewalks, new curb ramps, landscaping, new crosswalks and new pedestrian signals at the intersection with Grace Street.

The town is seeking federal funding for the project through a set-aside application that can only be used for projects that address unsafe conditions, are near local schools, and cary significant volume of traffic.

“It is a very treacherous walk and so this is a very much needed improvement for our downtown and for that important corridor,” said commission chairwoman Melissa Jonas.

The project adopted a new name — Central Elden Street Walkability Improvements — to capture the scope of the project with more precision.

“We wanted this name to kind of stand out,” said Michael Wallick, the town’s transportation planner.

Commissioners clarified that improvements at the intersection of Center and Elden street — which has a large number of accidents in comparison to other local intersections — will be addressed by another project.

One resident said the median along that road is not wide enough to accommodate delivery vehicles that pull up at the median to unload deliveries. The planned width of that median is 11 feet — one foot more than the minimum state requirement, said John Jay, a civil engineer with the town.

Jay also noted that putting utilities underground is too costly and would exceed the budgeted amount of up to $2 million.

Image via handout/Town of Herndon

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Fairfax County officials are in the process of obtaining land rights to build a walkway between Glade Drive and Freetown Drive.

A public hearing on the project is planned for Sept. 24 at 4:30 p.m., if the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors decides to continue with the planning process tomorrow (Tuesday).

So far, the county has obtained land rights from four of the five property owners impacted by the construction of the project.

Although negotiations are pending with one remaining property owner, the board will likely need to use its eminent domain powers to obtain land rights and avoid further delays on the project.

Improvements include the addition of a five-foot wide concrete sidewalk with ADA-friendly ramps, as well as curb and gutter improvements along the north side of Glade Drive from Colts Neck Road to Reston Parkway and along the south side of Glade Drive from Reston Parkway to Freedom Drive.

The project, which was originally on track for completion in January 2020, will cost roughly $650,000.

File photo

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Local Company Seeks Emoji Status — Electrify America, a local electric vehicle charging company, has submitted a formal proposal to the Unicode Consortium to introduce an emoji that represents an electric vehicle and the stations that charge them. [Cision]

Reston Community Center Seeks Budget Input — “A few days before Reston Community Center (RCC) held its Annual Public Hearing on June 17 for its FY20/FY21 Programs and Budgets, RCC Executive Director Leila Gordon and Chairman of the RCC Board of Governors Beverly Cosham shared information about RCC’s funding sources, significant budget and program highlights, and opportunities.” [The Connection]

Farmers & Makers Market is Today — Reston Town Center hosts the weekly market from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today. The market, which runs through November, features a mix of products from local farmers and artisans. [Reston Town Center]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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