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Proposed Beltway On-Ramp Closure Concerns Some Reston Commuters

Pushed by McLean residents concerned about rush hour traffic, state transportation officials are considering plans to close an on-ramp from Georgetown Pike to the Capital Beltway.

But some Reston residents, particularly those who commute to Maryland, said they feel sidelined by the process, which they say would significantly increase traffic on the Beltway during peak rush hour.

“Every community would like less traffic, noise, disturbances  but if we give special treatment to one community than the same should be given to another and in trying to improve traffic, this idea produces more traffic and costs to drivers and begins a program of treating communities differently,” said Kevin Sullivan, a Reston resident.

Sullivan said he was especially concerned because he feels many area residents are not aware of the possible ramp closure. He also said the closure would force some commuters to opt for routes with more tolls.

The Virginia Department of Transportation could close the ramp from Virginia Route 193 and Georgetown Pike to the Inner Loop between 1 and 7 p.m. on weekdays only. The closure would go into effect for a pilot period of four months. State officials will monitor the closure’s effect on local and Beltway traffic prior to making a final decision about the closure.

Eliani Korawajczuk, a Herndon resident, worries the closure will divert traffic onto Route 7 in order to access George Washington Parkway.

“It is already [a] painful return from Maryland… Now imagine what will happen if nobody has options,” Korawajczuk said.

“Why can we have more traffic and McLean residents don’t?” she added.

A public meeting on the proposal is set for 7 p.m. on August 2 at McLean High School. Requests for comment from Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins were not returned.

File photo

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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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Bike Lanes and Re-striping Slated for South Lakes Drive This Summer

State officials have modified a proposal to re-stripe South Lakes Drive between Reston Parkway and Sunrise Valley Drive as a two-lane road with buffered bike lanes.

Based on community feedback and updated traffic analysis, the Virginia Department of Transportation will maintain four travel lanes between Reston Parkway and Colts Neck Road; between Soapstone Drive and Ridge Heights Road; and Twin Branches Road and Sunrise Valley Drive.

Striping modifications on South Lakes Drive were reduced to between Colts Neck Road and Soapstone Drive, as well as between Ridge Heights and Twin Branches Road.

The on-street bike route will only be connected between the Colts Neck Road bike lanes with the bike lanes on Twin Branches Road. A signed detour will be placed via the Soapstone Drive bike lanes and the new Ridge Heights bike lanes.

“The compromise solution will create a safer east-west bike route and address many of the road safety concerns. It is not expected to negatively affect traffic,” state officials wrote in a statement.

County and state officials held a meeting on March 19 to discuss the proposal, along with other paving and re-striping changes in the Hunter Mill District.

Traffic lights on Colts Neck Road, Soapstone Drive and Twin Branches Road are expected to “create breaks in traffic which will aid left turns,” according to Robin Geiger, head of communications for the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.

The project will be implemented in late June and early July. A more precise starting date was not available.

File photo

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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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Replacement Sought for Aging Hunter Mill Road Bridge

A plan is underway to replace an aging bridge on Hunter Mill Road over Colvin Run.

The $3 million project would expand the bridge from one to two lanes and include four-feet-wide shoulders. The number of vehicles that pass over the bridge is expected to increase from 7,200 to 11,000 vehicles per day by 2043, according to state estimates.

The replacement project has been contemplated by state and local officials for nearly 20 years.

The Virginia Department of Transportation is seeking public input on the project on April 16 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Forest Ridge Elementary School (1501 Becontree Lane). A presentation on the project will begin at 7 p.m.

Construction will likely begin in the spring of 2021. The bridge is expected to be completed by the summer of 2022. It has a sufficiency rating of 23.5 out of 100, a measure that determines the likelihood of a bridge to remain in service.

Photos courtesy of VDOT

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New Bike Lanes, Redesigned Roads Proposed for Hunter Mill District

Prepare for a sea of orange cones. With spring quickly approaching, Virginia Department of Transportation officials are gearing up for re-stripping, road redesigns, and new bike lanes on multiple Reston roads this year.

Roadwork will take place from April through November. The Virginia Department of Transportation is holding a public meeting on plans on Monday, March 19 at 7 p.m. in Terraset Elementary School‘s cafeteria.

In response to residents’ concerns about safety along the South Lakes Drive corridor, the county plans to redesign a strip between Reston Parkway and Sunrise Valley Drive by converting an outside travel lane to a buffered bike lane — a move the county hopes will address concerns about limited sight distance for vehicles turning onto Sunrise Valley Drive and pedestrian traffic.

Bike lanes on South Lakes Drive between Reston Parkway and Sanibel Drive would be extended. The county will keep one travel lane in each direction due to the limited projected impacts of future development on traffic in that area.

Other plans include adding or expanding bike lines on Bennington Woods Drive, Bowman Towne Drive, Explorer Street, Lawyers Road, Pinecrest Road and others. South Lakes Drive, Bluemont Drive and Fountain Drive are slated for redesigning.

A complete breakdown of plans in the Hunter Mill District is below:

  • Bennington Woods Drive: Addition of bike lanes.
  • Bowman Towne Drive: Addition of northbound bike lane, southbound shared line markings and striped parking lanes on both sides.
  • Bracknell Road: Addition of buffered bike lanes between Stevenage Road and commercial driveways.
  • Explorer Street: Addition of bike lanes. On-street parking on both sides of the street will remain.
  • Fountain Drive: Road redesign to “increase traffic safety.” There will be one travel lane in each direction, with one dedicated left turn lane and buffered bike lanes.
  • Stevenage Road: Addition of buffered bike lanes between Bennington Woods Road and the northern Home Depot driveway and Reston Parkway. Existing parking restrictions will not be changed. Timed parking will remain.
  • Temporary Road: Addition of bike lanes.
  • Walnut Branch Road: Addition of eastbound buffered bike lanes and westbound shared lane markings.
  • Lawyers Road: Extension of existing bike lanes west to Reston Parkway and upgrades to existing shoulders between Twin Branches Road to Hunter Mill Road to buffered bike lanes.
  • Pinecrest Road: Addition of buffered lanes between South Lakes Drive and Glade Drive. On-street parking will remain.
  • Ridge Heights Road: Addition of bike lanes. On-street parking will remain. “Extra wide” parking lanes will be provided for school bus parking.
  • Soapstone Drive: Addition of buffers to existing bike lanes.

In addition to attending the meeting, residents can submit online feedback. A complete list of impacted is online.

Photo via Fairfax County Government

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Reston Road Improvements Advisory Group to Meet Tonight

crosswalk/trafficA Reston advisory group studying how to raise $2.6 billion for road improvements over the next 40 years is set to hold a pubic meeting tonight.

Members of the Reston Network Analysis Advisory Group are scheduled to gather in the lecture hall at South Lakes High School (11400 South Lakes Drive) at 7 p.m., according to an announcement.

RNAG, created by Fairfax County’s Hunter Mill District supervisor, is a group of locals who seek feedback from people who are the most affected by local development and changes to the transportation system. Through the Reston Network Analysis, the county seeks to evaluate the effectiveness of pedestrian friendly streets and paths around the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station, as well as the future Reston Town Center and Herndon stops.

The advisory group works with the county and the Virginia Department of Transportation to come up with ways to secure funding for Reston’s network and maintaining local roadways. This fall, RNAG expressed strong opposition to creating a special tax district, in which residents who live near the Metro stations would get taxed to help with road improvements.

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VDOT Preparing Roads for Possible Snowfall

Snow on Reston Parkway/Credit: Ed Schudel via TwitterRoad crews throughout the area are preparing for snow.

The National Weather Service said today the area could see some lightly accumulating snow between 10 p.m. tonight and 2 a.m. tomorrow morning.

In anticipation of the possible snowflakes, The Virginia Department of Transportation says it’s preparing area roads for wintry weather tonight through the weekend.

From a VDOT press release:

Crews are taking advantage of conditions today and Thursday to treat roads with anti-icing materials in northern Virginia, in anticipation of low temperatures through the rest of week and the potential for wintry precipitation over the weekend.

Throughout Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William and Arlington* counties (*Arlington maintains own secondary roads) crews treat about 5,200 lane miles with liquid magnesium chloride or brine in advance of winter weather. This includes interstate, primary and high-volume secondary road roads, particularly ramps, bridges, and other critical areas prone to freezing.

The Virginia Department of Transportation asks drivers to keep an eye on the forecast for freezing conditions and precipitation. Before venturing out this weekend, VDOT reminds drivers to fill their gas tanks, slow down, to be aware of potential slick spots such as shaded areas and bridges, and to use the following resources:

  • Check http://www.511virginia.org/ or the 511 mobile app before you go for traffic conditions and lane closures
  • Follow @VaDOTNOVA on Twitter
  • Visit www.virginiadot.org/ novaemergency for the latest updates and resources from VDOT in northern Virginia
  • Get more details on snow removal in northern Virginia

This is also the perfect time to place or update an emergency kit in your car. Recommended items include:

  • Water and food
  • Shovel
  • Ice scraper/brush
  • Gloves and boots
  • Phone charger
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • Flares
  • Ice melt/cat litter

More information at: www.ready.gov/car

See any snowy conditions or bad traffic? Let us know via email or Twitter.

File photo

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Nearby: East Elden Street Widening Project Plans

elden-street-wideningVirginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) officials will hold a public meeting Thursday to show its place for a proposed design for the widening of Elden Street between Monroe Street and the Fairfax County Parkway in Herndon.

Officials hope the project will reduce traffic congestion, improve safety and enhance access to and from the busy Fairfax County Parkway.

Planned improvements include widening East Elden Street (Route 606) from four lanes to six between Herndon Parkway and Fairfax County Parkway, as well as improving access management from Van Buren Street to Herndon Parkway.

Other planned improvements include a new raised median with streetscaping between Van Buren Street and Herndon Parkway, moving utilities between Monroe Street and Fairfax County Parkway underground, and replacing the culvert over Sugarland Run with a new bridge.

The proposed design also features accommodations for cyclists and pedestrians, including enhanced facilities like on-street bike lanes between Monroe Street and Herndon Parkway, and off-street bike lanes from east of Herndon Parkway to Fairfax County Parkway.

VDOT officials say they hope to have plans approved by the spring, though it could take a few years to receive authorization for right-of-way funding, and to advertise to potential construction companies for the job. All in all, construction could begin in the spring of 2022.

The total costs of the project, including preliminary engineering, right-of-way and construction, add up to just under $35 million.

Thursday’s meeting will take place at the Herndon Senior Center, located at 873 Grace St. The public is invited to drop by to view the plans and talk with officials anytime between 6:30 to 8 p.m.

Comments can also be sent to VDOT directly anytime before Nov. 28. by e-mailing [email protected] or by sending mail to Mr. Hamid Misaghian, P.E., Project Manager, Virginia Department of Transportation, 4975 Alliance Drive, Fairfax, VA, 22030.

View the East Elden Street Widening project page online for more information.

Image: VDOT/Google Maps

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Reston North Park-and-Ride Lot Closed This Weekend and Next

Reston North Lot/Courtesy VDOTOver the next two weekends crews will complete maintenance and improvements to the Reston North/Wiehle Avenue park-and-ride lot.

That’s the long,skinny lot near the intersection of Sunset Hills Road and Isaac Newton Square.

Here is the schedule, weather permitting:

  • This weekend (Aug. 27 and 28), crews will rope off sections of the lot to cut vegetation for better parking and aisle access.
  • The lot will be closed entirely from 5 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 3 through 8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 5 in order to refresh pavement markings and make signage improvements.

About 35 new signs will be installed, with existing signs replaced, removed or relocated to designate legal and illegal parking, the Virginia Department of Transportation said in a release.

The lot will also be increasing its capacity. Pavement markings throughout the lot will be refreshed, with some reconfigured to add six additional spaces. The new lot capacity will be 340.

The lot formerly served as parking for buses that would take commuters to Metro Stations at Vienna and West Falls Church. It now serves as free parking for the 300+ commuters who arrive early enough to find a space there instead of in the pay ($4.85 daily) garage adjacent to the 3,000-space Wiehle-Reston East station. It sees few cars on weekends as parking in the garages is free on those days.

Photo courtesy VDOT

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VDOT Wants Your Thoughts on Fairfax County Parkway

Fairfax County Parkway/Courtesy VDOTThe Virginia Department of Transportation, in cooperation with Fairfax County, is holding three public information meetings this month on a multimodal study of the 31-mile Fairfax County Parkway (Route 286) corridor from Route 7 to Route 1.

The study is assessing existing transportation issues and developing short-term multimodal improvements that can be implemented within the next 1 to 10 years.

This project began in 2014 and is expected to be completed by early 2017. It Includes the following activities:

• Traffic/Safety Data Analysis – Spring 2015
• Identify Issues – Spring 2015
• Analysis of Existing Conditions – Fall 2015/Winter 2015-2016
• Identify & Evaluate Improvements – Winter 2015-2016/Spring 2016
• Public Information Meetings – June 2016
• Finalize Evaluations/Final Project Documentation – Winter 2016/2017

The public is invited to stop by to learn more about the study, view displays and discuss questions with VDOT and Fairfax County staff at one three meetings.

The closest meeting to Reston is on Thursday, June 9 at Oak Hill Elementary School, 3210 Kinross Circle, Herndon.

Other meetings will be held

Wednesday, June 8 at Hayfield Secondary School, 7630 Telegraph Road, Alexandria and Monday, June 13 at Sangster Elementary School, 7420 Reservation Drive, Springfield,

All meeting times are 6:30 – 8:30 p.m., with a presentation at 7 p.m.

Comments maysent to VDOT by July 5.

Visit the VDOT project page for more details.

Photo: Fairfax County Parkway/VDOT

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Potholes Ruining Your Ride? Here’s How to Tell VDOT

Pothole/Credit: State Farm InsuranceAfter the snow comes the inevitable potholes.

Rather than getting mad, get active — as in tell the Virginia Department of Transportation (or whomever is responsible for the street) the pothole’s location and get on the fix-it list.

First, determine who is responsible for the road. Most of the major arteries in Fairfax County are in VDOT’s jurisdiction, but check out this map that will show you who maintains every street in the county. Fairfax County itself is not responsible for pothole fixes.

You can then access VDOT’s new online reporting tool, which makes it easier to pinpoint exactly where you see a pothole. You can also report potholes directly from your mobile device and include images (but don’t try this while driving, of course).

You can also call VDOT at 800-FOR-ROAD to report potholes or ask who maintains a road.

So which roads in Reston are not VDOT roads?

  • Dulles Toll Road, contact the Washington Metropolitan Airports Authority.
  • Many private roads are maintained by businesses, apartment/condo complexes, homeowner/civic associations or residents. If you know there’s a pothole on a road that’s privately maintained, contact your HOA or the business that’s responsible.

Photo: pothole/file photo

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VDOT Says It Will Continue Clearing Snow From Roads

South lakes at Twin Branches Jan. 28, 2016

Warmer temperatures have contributed to significant melting of the record snow this week, but one problem still plaguing Reston-area roads is narrow access — two-lane roads are now one-lane roads in many spots.

Snowplow piles and lanes that haven’t been plowed are on many roads, making it slow-going or even dangerous on major streets.

Many Reston Now readers pointed out some of the worst trouble spots on Reston Now’s Facebook page this morning:

There are also some roads in which one side only has half a lane (Twin Branches is one of them, I’m sure there are a lot more), with the the right half of the lane completely blocked by snow mounds. Which means if you’re driving in a full lane, you may pass someone going the opposite way who is literally being forced to straddle the yellow lane. Please, people, show some courtesy and move over to the right as far as you can so everyone can move.

The other bad street for me is Soapstone north of Glade. The plowed part starts on the far left moves to the center then back over the left. This leaves you w/o proper lane markings.

Soapstone from Glade to Sunrise Valley. Downright scary yesterday.

It took me 45 minutes to drive 2 miles in Reston at rush hour last night.

The Virginia Department of Transportation says “crews have worked around-the-clock to make all roads in northern Virginia passable post-blizzard, but there is still some clean-up to do.”

By 3 p.m. Thursday, Sunrise Valley Drive, for instance, had been cleared edge-to-edge, but nearby Soapstone Drive still had people driving in the turn lane.

“Crews are working to widen and restore remaining snow-impacted lanes on primary and high-volume secondary roads,” said VDOT spokeswoman Jennifer McCord. “Clearing efforts will continue through the week, using equipment such as front loaders and motor graders to move snow where plows are unable to push.”

VDOT warns drivers to be aware of lanes that have shifted, narrowed, or are blocked due to snow cover, as well as snow patches or drifts on acceleration and turn lanes.

The agency also urges caution about the giant snow piles left by its plows.

“Be aware that signal timing may be impacted by snow-covered turn lanes,” says VDOT. “Signal engineers are monitoring major intersections and adjusting as needed.”

Have an area of concern? Contact VDOT at 1-800-367-ROAD (7623) or on Twitter @VaDOTNOVA.

Reminder: VDOT is responsible for plowing Reston’s major roads but is not responsible for shoveling sidewalks, many of which are still covered in snow. Reston Association is responsible for the trails.

Residential streets are either VDOT or private cluster association (but not Reston Association). Check this map to see who is responsible for your street.

Photo: Traffic backup and snow-impacted lanes at South Lakes Drive and Twin Branches Road Thursday morning.

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VDOT: Crews Making ‘Significant’ Progress, but Please be Patient

Plow on Ridge Heights Road, Sunday Jan. 24, 2016The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) says its goal is to make one lane of all Northern Virginia subdivisions passable by Wednesday at 6 a.m., but the daunting amount of snow is one of many factors that has impeded speedy snow removal.

The agency, which is responsible for most of Virginia’s primary and secondary roads, said in a statement that “crews are making significant progress on 16,000 subdivision streets across Northern Virginia. If residents do not have one passable lane by 6 a.m. tomorrow, they can contact VDOT at 1-800-FOR-ROAD or [email protected]

VDOT says passable is defined as the ability for a rear wheel drive vehicle to operate safely. This means that roads will not be cleared down to bare pavement and will not be cleared curb to curb.

“VDOT has approximately almost four times the amount of equipment available in previous years,” VDOT said. “The type of equipment needed for this phase of the response is of a much larger scale and complexity. The smaller plows that VDOT typically uses in subdivision are effective up to 10 inches of snow. Some neighborhoods of Northern Virginia received upwards of 40 inches of snow and require heavier equipment.”

The blizzard that dumped about three feet of snow in this area over the weekend was “historic,” VDOT officials said. As with previous large storms, (i.e. in 2003 and 2010), they are urging residents to be patient.

In Reston, many residents of VDOT-plowed neighborhoods have been voicing their frustrations 48 hours after the snow stopped falling.

VDOT officials said clearing the remaining subdivisions involves heavy equipment and is more slow-going, especially from a blizzard this large. They are urging people to stay off the roads, as traffic is still impeding plow progress.

Reston Now reader Adam Petersen, who has worked as a snow plow operator, explained on Reston Now’s Facebook page on what it’s like to be a plow driver after a massive storm:

I have done snow removal for a long time (not this year). This is a record snow. Nobody is equipped to handle a storm of this size. Everyone was also dealing with a huge gas shortage.

When you deal with snow amounts like this trucks and machinery break down. Employees break down from multiple days of exceptionally hard work with little to no sleep. All those employees have to dig their cars out before getting on the road for a treacherous and long ride to work just to dig your cars out. You end up losing some of your work force to exhaustion and just not being able to get back in to work.

It also takes far longer to get from one job to the next due to impassable roads and regularly getting stuck and having to dig yourself out.

So now you have more snow than ever before with less equipment than usual, a smaller work force, a gas shortage and the fact that it also takes them forever to get from job to job due to horrible road conditions.

VDOT said the excessive demand on the customer service center phone line (800-367-ROAD) and www.vdotplows.org site has caused server problems, which are being addressed.

“We have more work to do, and are working as hard and fast as we can,” says VDOT.

Plow crews will be at full mobilization level for at least the next 48 hours, VDOT said. That means 4,000 pieces of equipment are in service, including over 450 pieces of heavy equipment, and additional heavy equipment and crews are being brought in.

Crews are using equipment from VDOT and private contractors from as far as Connecticut. The agency says it invites contractors with loaders, Bobcats, motor graders and operators to contact VDOT Northern Virginia’s procurement office at 703-259-3240.

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