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(Updated on 11/22/21) The way has been cleared for the demolition of a home built in 1889, near the East Falls Church Metro station.

The Fellows-McGrath House, located at 6404 Washington Blvd and profiled in the Falls Church News-Press earlier this year by local historian Charlie Clark, was home to Harry Andrew Fellows. Fellows was Mayor of Falls Church and in 1932 became the first chairman of the newly formed Arlington County Board. The home was later a bed and breakfast known as “Memory House,” according to a real estate listing.

There is also a 130-year-old chestnut tree on the site that may be destroyed in the redevelopment now that demolition permits have been approved for the site.

Earlier this year, Clark reported that the home was purchased by Manassas-based FNM Investments LLC for $1.1 million and determined to be “uninhabitable.”

A demolition permit has since been filed and approved for the property. A county spokeswoman said such permits for private homes are outside of the discretion of the County Board.

“On August 18, the County approved a Land Disturbing Activity (LDA) permit for the Fellows-McGrath House… and on September 3, the County approved a demolition permit,” said Erika Moore, communications specialist for Arlington County. “Both LDA and Demolition permits are approved administratively. Neither the County Board nor the County Manager has authority to stop their issuance when all requirements are satisfied.”

Like the Febrey-Lothrop estate, which was demolished earlier this year, the Fellows-McGrath House’s run-down state makes the land it sits on more valuable to developers than the house itself.

“Manassas realtor Masum Kahn, who bought the house after eight months on the market to build modern homes, has not set a demolition schedule,” Clark reported in September. “Though he would consider selling ‘for the right price.'”

Local preservationist Tom Dickinson, after an unsuccessful bid to save the Febrey-Lothrop, launched a similarly doomed effort to save the Fellows-McGrath House.

“This sad situation about the subject property only serves to reinforce the fact that the County Manager and County Board could not care less about preserving and conserving unique, significant historic homes and property in Arlington,” Dickinson said. “Unlike our neighboring jurisdictions in Alexandria and Fairfax, Arlington is completely oblivious to the civic, community, and even economic value tied to historic properties… [it’s] another sad and unjustified loss to the entire community to see a magnificent, totally restored, unique 1889 Victorian crushed and bits and pieces hauled to a landfill.”

Dickinson said he filed an application with the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board to designate the property as historic, but the application was tabled — and the fate of the house was likely already sealed given that the owner had already filed for a demolition permit.

Now, Dickinson said he is advocating for changing state laws so that Arlington County’s historic designation process no longer needs to race against its own administrative permit approval process.

“We are working to amend state laws in order to eliminate this Catch-22 that was also the death knell for the late, lamented Febrey Lothrop Rouse estate,” Dickinson said. “If passed, this amendment would prohibit the issuance of a demolition permit for any property under review for local historic district designation.”

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Morning Notes

Fundraiser for Man Killed in Crash — An online fundraiser for Stevan Zikic, the 26-year-old Alexandria man killed when he collided with a school bus while riding a motorcycle in Arlington’s Green Valley neighborhood, has raised nearly $35,000 for “overseas transportation and funeral costs.” [GoFundMe]

County Board Approved Pike Plan — “The County Board voted 5 to 0 to approve zoning updates that will help realize the vision of Columbia Pike as a walkable ‘Main Street’ by providing greater flexibility for commercial, office, light industrial, and agricultural uses–including animal boarding and craft beverage production — on ground floors along the Pike.” [Arlington County]

Public Art Plan OKed — “The Arlington County Board voted 5 to 0 today” — despite some last-minute opposition — “to approve an update to the Public Art Master Plan (PAMP) that will better serve placemaking efforts and improve the quality of public spaces around the County. The update, which is part of the County’s overall Comprehensive Plan, details the vision and guiding principles of public art in Arlington and sets priorities and themes centered around goals to integrate, expand, connect and engage through public art installations around the County.” [Arlington County]

Unhoused Taking Up Residence Under Bridge — “Eight months after the W&OD bicycle-pedestrian bridge opened at the Arlington-Falls Church border, members of our homeless population have gravitated there… I’m told by Kurt Larrick, assistant director of the Human Services Department. ‘Our outreach teams,’ which include PathForward volunteers, ‘are making regular visits.’ On Oct. 15, they spoke to two men sleeping at the base of a footing for the bridge. They didn’t seem interested in services now but agreed to discuss the possibility when reminded of the location’s vulnerabilities.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Beyer ‘Falling Short’ in Fundraising — “Let’s say you’re independently wealthy, well-regarded by most constituents (even from the opposition party) and occupy a district so reliably Democratic that the only way an incumbent could possibly lose the seat is via a scandal… What would you be doing? If you were U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th), you’d still be asking supporters to send you money.” [Sun Gazette]

Two Men Beaten in Crystal City Area — “Victim One was inside the business in line at the register behind the suspect, when the suspect allegedly turned around, struck him in the face, exited the business and verbally threatened him from outside. A short while later, Victim Two attempted to enter the business when the suspect, who was still standing outside, allegedly struck the victim in the back of the head with a blunt object before fleeing the scene on foot. Arriving officers located Victim Two outside of the business with a large laceration on the back of his head and administered aid until medics arrived on scene.” [ACPD]

Here Comes the Flu — From Virginia Hospital Center ER chief Mike Silverman’s latest social media post: “Our COVID isolation numbers in the ED have been pretty stable over the last 3 weeks. We’re better than a month ago but we continue to have a steady number of patients who require our COVID isolation protocol. Hospital wide, our inpatient census is up a touch from last week and our overall percent positive rate for the hospital is also up a bit. We are starting to see just a sprinkling of flu cases over the last month. It’s not too late to get your flu shot.” [Facebook]

It’s Monday — Today will be breezy and mostly sunny, with a high near 51. West wind 9 to 16 mph, with gusts as high as 32 mph. Sunrise at 6:51 a.m. and sunset at 4:54 p.m. Tomorrow will be mostly sunny, with a high near 53.

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A busy street in the East Falls Church neighborhood is slated to get safer crossings for pedestrians and cyclists.

Arlington County has selected N. Sycamore Street between Langston Blvd and 19th Street N. — near the East Falls Church Metro station and not far from the W&OD Trail — as site of a new Complete Streets project. This segment “presents intersection crossing challenges for bicyclists and pedestrians,” according to the project webpage.

The intersection of N. Sycamore Street and Washington Blvd, within the project’s boundaries, was the site of a fatal crash last Wednesday. Prior to the crash, the street segment has seen one serious collision between 2013 and this summer: one with severe injuries in 2019, according to Arlington County crash data.

The webpage for the project went live two weeks ago, says Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Kathryn O’Brien. County staff will soon solicit public feedback that will be used to develop a concept plan.

“Existing Conditions Feedback will kick off later in November,” O’Brien said. “This feedback, along with other data and planning guidance, will help staff formulate a concept design. Once staff have developed a community-informed concept, that concept will be shared for additional public feedback.”

The boundaries of the new N. Sycamore Street Complete Streets project (via Arlington County)

Funding for changes to N. Sycamore Street, first identified as having a need for safety upgrades in 2011, was included in the 2022-24 Capital Improvements Plan adopted this summer. It’s been a long road to get the project on the schedule, however.

Staff developed preliminary plans in 2015 and, in 2016, twice applied unsuccessfully for transportation grants for the 2018 fiscal year, O’Brien said.

In 2017, the county successfully applied for and received $250,000 in Virginia Department of Transportation revenue-sharing funds for the 2020 fiscal year. Then, the pandemic hit.

“This project was deferred as part of the FY 2021 CIP, due to revenue constraints because of COVID,” she said.

Since 2011, staff have studied the street twice and have some hypothetical designs on hand as a result.

In 2015, the county received a grant to study ways to improve pedestrian and cycling access to the East Falls Church Metro station, once a popular station to ride to that is still recovering from the pandemic-era hit to commuting. A new $2 million, 92-spot bike facility to accommodate cyclists made its debut in August 2020.

Four years later, the county received a grant to study a gap in the W&OD Trail, where trail users are routed through Benjamin Banneker Park and residential streets.

The gap in the W&OD Trail in East Falls Church (via NOVA Parks)

Improved crossings at 19th Street N. could be an interim solution to the gap, according to the project page.

Although this transportation project’s scope is bound by 19th Street N. and Langston Blvd, eventually, the county envisions improved bicycle amenities further up and down N. Sycamore Street.

“The 2019 adopted Bicycle Element of the Master Transportation Plan recommends N. Sycamore Street as an enhanced bicycle facility between Williamsburg Blvd and the East Falls Church line,” the project page says.

Arlington will be coordinating the project with planned stormwater improvements to Crossman Run as well as a project to add bus bays and improve bus circulation at the nearby Metro station.

The project is funded with a mix of Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, local and state funding, plus bond funds.

Hat tip to Stephen Repetski

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Update at 5:05 p.m. — The driver who was critically injured has died, police confirmed Wednesday evening. From a press release:

The Arlington County Police Department is investigating a fatal vehicle crash that occurred on the morning of November 3, 2021.

At approximately 8:29 a.m., police were dispatched to the report of a two-vehicle crash with injuries at Washington Boulevard and N. Sycamore Street. The preliminary investigation indicates that as a result of the crash, the driver of a van was ejected from the vehicle and became partially trapped underneath. Upon arrival, medics extricated the driver from under the vehicle and transported him to an area hospital in critical condition. He later succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased. The four occupants of the other vehicle were transported to area hospitals with injuries considered non-life threatening.

The deceased has been identified as Mauricio Campos Gomez, 49, of Manassas, Virginia.

This crash remains under investigation. Anyone with information related to this incident is asked to contact Detective T. Parsons at [email protected] or 703-228-4172. Information may also be reported anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-8477.

Earlier: A person was taken to the hospital in grave condition after a serious two-vehicle crash near the East Falls Church Metro station.

The crash happened around 8:30 a.m. on N. Sycamore Street, at the intersection with Washington Blvd, and injured a total of five people.

The force of the collision ejected one of the drivers and they ended up trapped under a vehicle, said Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage. Firefighters worked to free the driver and rush them to a local trauma center.

The crash left one of the vehicles, an orange FreshDirect grocery delivery box truck, on its side in the intersection. The other vehicle involved was a white work van. A van for a local barbecue restaurant could be seen parked nearby but it did not appear to be damaged nor involved.

Four people — three occupants of the vehicle that the injured driver was in, and one in the other vehicle — were transported by ambulance for injuries that are “considered non-life threatening,” police say.

Police remain on scene investigating the crash. The crash response and investigation has closed N. Sycamore Street at the intersection. The ramp from eastbound I-66 to Sycamore is also closed.

The closures are expected to remain in place for at least the next few hours, Savage said. Various Metrobus lines are being redirected around the crash site.

Morning Notes

Tesla Dealership Coming to S. Glebe Road — ARLnow’s scoop from February is all but confirmed: “Tesla Inc. appears to be filling the high-end auto dealership void left by Maserati’s closure in South Arlington. The electric automaker will convert the former Maserati and Alfa Romeo dealership at 2710 S. Glebe Road into a 63,854-square-foot auto sales, delivery and vehicle service center, per plans obtained from Construction Journal. The work is expected to be fairly quick, starting in November and finishing up by January.” [Washington Business Journal]

Long Bridge Concert Tomorrow — “Join us, along with Arlington Parks & Recreation, Saturday, September 25 for the Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center Community Celebration featuring a festive fall beer garden and live entertainment including Virginia native and HOT 99.5 Rising Artist Winner, Jerel Crockett beginning at 5 PM. The night will include a diverse lineup of some of the DMV’s hottest DJs, Farrah Flosscett and King Iven, as well as the rock/pop/funk band, Up All Night, playing all your favorite songs from the 80s, 90s, and today.” [National Landing]

Big Crash on GW Parkway — “A reader sends this photo of the earlier crash on the GW Parkway, near Key Bridge, in case anybody drives by later and wonders what happened to the wall.” [Twitter, Twitter]

The End is Near for an Old Home — “A demolition permit has been granted the owner of the 130-year-old Fellows-McGrath home at Washington Blvd. near Sycamore St. It’s disappointing to Tom Dickinson and other preservation activists who had filed an application to protect it… Manassas realtor Masum Kahn, who bought the house after eight months on the market to build modern homes, has not set a demolition schedule. Though he would consider selling ‘for the right price.'” [Falls Church News-Press]

Caps Player Honored by ACFD — “Earlier this month the ACFD presented @Capitals @GarnetHathaway with a citizens award for his charity known as #HathsHeroes. This charity has given so much to local first responders and we are extremely thankful to Mr. Hathaway for his work in the community.” [Twitter]

Oddity of Arlington Transit History — “The Rosslyn-Ballston corridor is a famous example of early transit-oriented development because of the Orange Line, but the area was home to an innovative transit experiment long before Metro. From 1936 through 1939, a streetcar-bus hybrid provided service from the City of Fairfax to Rosslyn and into DC.” [Greater Greater Washington]

Arrest in Seven Corners Sex Assault Case — “Patrick Michael Chaloupka, 38, of Woodbridge has been charged with additional felonies for another sexual assault that occurred at a Falls Church hotel. Officers responded to a hotel on Aug. 26 in the 6100 block of Arlington Boulevard for the report of an assault that occurred three days prior.” [Fairfax County Police Department]

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Morning Notes

Preservation Battle Brewing — “The historic-preservation advocate who launched a community-driven, albeit ultimately unsuccessful, effort to save the Rouse estate on Wilson Boulevard, is on a new quest. Tom Dickinson has filed paperwork with county officials seeking historic-district status for an East Falls Church home, despite the likelihood that the current property owner aims to raze the home and redevelop the 0.29-acre parcel.” [Sun Gazette]

Arlington Ranks No. 39 Healthiest in U.S.Updated at 9:20 a.m. — “U.S. News and World Report, in its annual assessment of the ‘healthiest communities in the U.S.,’ has given a staggering third place finish to the City of Falls Church in its latest edition. That’s ahead of all other entities in the entire nation, except for Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Douglas County, Colorado. The magazine listed the top 500 entities in the U.S., and others in this area to finish near the top were Loudoun County at No. 4, Fairfax County at No. 14 and Arlington County at No. 39, the City of Alexandria at No. 124 and Fauquier County at No. 195.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Tattoo Shop Opening New Clarendon Location — “Regency’s The Crossing Clarendon is excited to welcome Lady Octopus Tattoos to its second local storefront in the Arlington, VA area later this year. Run by artist Gilda Acosta and co-owner Jonathan Reed, the custom tattoo shop offers high-quality tattoo artistry in addition to selling brand merchandise including t-shirts, enamel pins and more.” [Regency Centers]

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Arlington County is planning to buy a vacant home in East Falls Church that was damaged in the July 2019 flash flooding.

The county intends to demolish the home at 6415 24th Street N. and use the property to make improvements “that would help alleviate or reduce the severity of localized flooding,” Stormwater Communications Manager Aileen Winquist tells ARLnow.

The county acknowledged it doesn’t have to buy the property to make the upgrades, but these kinds of purchases could give it flexibility with solutions.

After the July deluge, county staff evaluated flood-prone areas to find properties that the county could buy and use for stormwater infrastructure improvements, according to a staff report. This property, valued at $683,800, is one of the four high-priority locations that the county identified.

“The agreement is the first negotiated acquisition to be considered by the County Board as part of this program,” the report said.

The County Board is slated to approve the purchase from the home’s owners during its meeting this Saturday.

Winquist said the locations of the three other properties, whose owners were currently not interested in selling, are available via a public records request.

The Department of Environmental Services has not yet settled on the mitigation approach it will take on the 24th Street N. property, which has not been repaired since the flooding, Winquist said.

“The County is still analyzing projects to reduce flood risk in this watershed, which may include upgrading that section of pipe or storm drain,” she said. “The County is exploring the use of this property for infrastructure, detention, or overland relief as part of a larger-scale solution.”

During the 2019 storm, some nearby homes in the neighborhood experienced flooding, “but not to the extent of this property,” Winquist said.

The county will demolish the structure starting at least six months after the sale, expecting to spend some $200,000 to $250,000 to do so. The sellers plan to allow the nonprofit Second Chance to salvage materials from the home ahead of demolition.

Property owners can contact the county to have their property considered for the program, but the county will have to consider such acquisitions carefully given the complexity of the flood mitigation solutions, Winquist said.

Although voters approved a $50.8 million bond in November for various stormwater projects, the county said the money for the property purchase wouldn’t come from that.

Photo (3) via Google Maps

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One sunny weekday afternoon last week, as the temperature clocked in at a perfect 72 degrees, there were just four bikes parked at Metro’s new $2 million bike parking facility in East Falls Church.

The scene contrasts with how cycling advocates remember the station pre-pandemic, when dozens of bicycles were parked out front on any given day.

“East Falls Church has been one of the most heavily used stations for cyclists in the past,” said David Cranor, who writes for the cycling blog TheWashCycle.

The 92-spot facility made its debut last August — in the middle of the pandemic — when the East Falls Church station reopened. Set to open in 2015, the structure was delivered five years late and $1.1 million over budget, costing the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority about $21,000 per spot to build.

The delay and budget overruns prompted an investigation that found miscommunication and a lack of oversight, among other problems, plagued the project.

Eight months after the opening and six months after WMATA’s Office of the Inspector General released its report, the East Falls Church Metro Station has yet to enjoy its pre-COVID-19 popularity among cyclists. Still, bicycling advocates maintain that facilities like this one are needed, as bike theft is a common problem. They predict longtime commuters and a new batch of cycling enthusiasts will one day fill the spots.

“I’m not surprised there were few bikes parked when you visited,” said Bruce Wright, the president of Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling. “Much of the use of bike parking is by commuters, and almost no one is commuting. We’ll have to wait until after people return to work before getting an idea of how heavily the bike facility will be used.”

Based on how packed the station was with bicycles before the pandemic, Wright added, “I assume it will be very popular.”

As vaccination rates rise and restrictions lift in the D.C. area, more people appear willing to ride the Metro. According to WMATA’s COVID-19 data, this month’s ridership is up an average of nearly 240% over this time last year, when stay-at-home orders were still fresh. Still, Metro reports that overall, ridership remains down around 85% compared to pre-pandemic levels.

And it’s not just bike parking that is down. Vehicle parking at Metro lots in February was down 94% compared to 2020, just before the pandemic.

One way WMATA can measure cyclists’ interest in parking is through registration numbers. Metro requires users to register for the Bike & Ride facilities, which are accessed with a SmarTrip card. To date, more than 1,200 SmarTrip users have registered to use the Bike & Rides, which are also located at the College Park and Vienna Metro stations, said WMATA spokesman Ian Jannetta.

“Users don’t register to use a specific facility so I don’t have station-specific numbers, but I would expect the number to be relatively low since the two new facilities opened during this period of extremely low ridership,” he said. “We encourage anyone who wants to make biking part of their commute to utilize these secure facilities as the region continues its recovery and more people travel.”

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Morning Notes

Soldier Cleared of Charges After Months in Jail — “A former Old Guard member who was arrested with a carload of weapons near Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Northern Virginia had all of his charges dropped — but says the incident has already destroyed his life. Curtis Wells spent seven months in jail for alleged crimes that were just thrown out by an Arlington County judge.” [NBC 4]

Stabbing at East Falls Church Metro — “The male victim and the known male suspect became involved in a verbal dispute, during which the suspect produced a knife. The victim put his hands up to protect himself, during which he suffered a laceration. The victim was treated at the hospital for a minor injury.” [ACPD]

Drug Take-Back Day Coming Up — “On Saturday, April 24, 2021, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Arlington County Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will provide the public the opportunity to prevent pill abuse and theft by ridding their homes of potentially dangerous expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs. This disposal service is free and anonymous, no questions asked.” [ACPD]

What It’s Like to Work at the Rosslyn Safeway — “We talk in an airless, subterranean breakroom at Safeway store 1048 in Arlington, Va., a typical, prosperous suburb of Washington, D.C. The low-slung store sits partially submerged next to an underground parking garage on the main drag of the Rosslyn neighborhood, full of gleaming office buildings and apartment towers that look like office buildings… The one thing Safeway’s workers have going for them is their union.” [In These Times]

A Look Back at Arlington’s Rock Scene — “I spoke with Pete Crigler about my old band Eggs, and the Arlington, Va., indie-rock scene of the ’90s.” [Twitter, Virginia Rock/Pop Music Spot]

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For 375 days and counting, a group of neighbors in Arlington has gotten together for a socially-distanced happy hour.

Residents in the East Falls Church area set up lawn chairs in a ring within their cul-de-sac, with yardsticks to ensure they stay six feet apart. During the winter months, a small bonfire crackled. When it rains, they prop up umbrellas or shelter in the trunk of their cars.

The neighborly effort to combat isolation during the pandemic got the attention of the Today Show, which featured the nightly get-together on national TV earlier this week.

“This started out as a simple, spontaneous idea among neighbors who really didn’t know each other very well,” NBC correspondent Kelly O’Donnell said. “Now, they call it a lifeline. The whole group has been COVID-free and happier getting through this together.”

These neighbors turn a patch of pavement into “a happy hour getaway” far away “from the grind of a world locked inside,” O’Donnell said. The group named its gathering “Six Feet at 6:30” and even made T-shirts and sweatshirts.

One neighbor, Linda Winter, told NBC that when she joins her neighbors, her anxiety subsides.

“There’s just a sense that we’re safe out here,” Winter said.

Longtime resident Rockley Miller said he appreciates the newfound sense of camaraderie.

“I grew up out in this neighborhood and I’ve never known as many neighbors as I do now,” Miller said.

The group celebrates every milestone and birthday — celebrations that could otherwise go unmarked due to gathering limits and COVID-19 risks. They even held a screening of the movie “Hamilton,” which came out last summer.

“It’s amazing to me how just a little bit of energy can go a long way,” resident Andy Cosgrove said.

The neighbors want to keep the happy hour up after the pandemic subsides, O’Donnell said, concluding the segment.

Photos via David Martin/YouTube

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(Updated at noon) The new W&OD Trail bridge over Lee Highway in East Falls Church is now open.

VDOT announced the opening of the $6 million bridge Friday morning, touting “a safer, faster crossing over busy Route 29.” Previously, trail users would have to wait to cross Lee Highway at a crowded intersection, next to ramps to and from I-66 and Washington Blvd.

The trail is used by cyclists and pedestrians for both commuting and recreation. About 1,500 people travel on the W&OD near new bridge each weekday, while more than 2,000 use it on weekends.

The project prompted trail detours over its nearly two years of construction. It was funded — along with upgrades to I-66 ramps, repairs to overpasses, sound wall replacements, and a new Custis Trail roundabout — as part of the larger I-66 eastbound widening project.

Some finishing touches on the bridge and the nearby intersection will be completed through this summer, VDOT said. As of noon, however, the bridge was officially open.

https://twitter.com/VaDOTNOVA/status/1370416729227137038

More from a press release, below.

The new Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail Bridge over Route 29 (Lee Highway) in Arlington will open this afternoon, Friday, March 12, announced the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). This new bridge will provide bicyclists and pedestrians with a safer, faster crossing over busy Route 29 adjacent to I-66. The new bridge was built as part of VDOT’s I-66 Eastbound Widening Project.

“This new W&OD Trail bridge is another step forward in VDOT’s commitment to expanding multimodal transportation options in the I-66 corridor and across the region,” said Bill Cuttler, P.E., VDOT Northern Virginia District Construction Engineer. “The new bridge will benefit a range of trail users, from people walking and bicycling to the nearby East Falls Church Metrorail Station to the dedicated bicycle commuters who use the trail year-round to reach destinations across Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C.”

The new crossing separates trail users from motorists at the signalized intersection of Route 29 and Fairfax Drive. The new bridge will enhance safety for both trail users and motorists and improve operations at nearby intersections on Route 29.

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