News and notes from Reston (tm).

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Political Theater: Scrapping Silver Line Phase 2 Suggested, But Who Would Be Able To Tell The Difference?

Political Theater

There's nothing wrong with our beleaguered mass transit system that a little elbow grease political theater won't fix. After floating the sliver-lined trial balloon of closing most Tysons stations during off-peak periods, a Metro board member has made an even more awesome Modest Proposal: doing away with the entire second phase of the Silver Line from Wiehle out to the particleboard Valhalla of Loudoun County, leaving a series of half-constructed stations to crumble in the median of the Toll Road. What could possibly go wrong?

Construction has begun on five of the six stations, and the project is nearly 47 percent complete.

Price said canceling the extension would save about $100 million over two fiscal years beginning in mid-2018, at a time when the District and other jurisdictions are concerned about rising financial demands from Metro for increased government subsidies.

Metro Board Chairman Jack Evans (D), who also represents the District, said he supports Price’s idea.

“Mr. Price’s observation that we may have to just stop moving forward with the Silver Line may make sense in light of the enormous financial challenges that we face,” said Evans, who also is a D.C. Council member. “It just goes back to the need for a dedicated funding source.”

Of course this is another ham-handed attempt to extort more money out of Fairfax County and/or Virginia. That's going to be inevitable when the county's champagne wishes and caviar dreams are so transparently focused around something out of its control -- something those of us in Reston are starting to understand ourselves. On the plus side, maybe they could open the never-to-be-finished segment of the Silver Line as an awesome rollerblading track, allowing those of us with limited luggage to zip on over to Dulles in a matter of minutes.

In the meantime, it's extremely likely that Metro will start closing early in the evening, which will put a severe damper on our evening trips to Tysons for some sweet chain dining. And for those of us dealing with the latest -- and worst -- SafeTrack disruption of Silver Line service, never fear! Metro has sprung into action -- not with an accelerated repair schedule or additional trains, silly rabbits, but with a teevee video:

Just something to watch on repeat about 150 times on the trip downtown, the end.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Dubious Architectural Adornments? VY Ask VY


Haha, people thinking the API building's brutalist poured concrete architecture was worthy of preservation. Just look at it! The wrecking ball didn't come a minute too soon!

Oh, wait. This is a few blocks down Sunrise Valley Drive you say? And a building from 2016, not the 1970s? Sadness ensues.

Confidential Restonian Operative "Erin at the Lake" shared these exciting cellular telephone photos of construction work at the vowel-free VY development. She writes:

I made a quick tour of the construction progress on this sleepy black Friday to see what is in store. I was rewarded with the visages attached.


Note the distinguished perforated metal panels! I was also struck by the rectilinear, yet somehow organic wooden treatments on the side of the garage facing Reston Parkway. Is this phase one of some hip new rollercoaster track? Perhaps it is just to subliminally prepare south Restonians' frames of mind as they make pilgrimage to their elite, paid-parking mecca. One thing is for sure. The artsy wooden facade is the right tone of brown and will be "left to weather naturally" in accordance with DRB just like the rest of Reston.
Yep. Those wooden treatments, though. They sort of boggle the mind:


So many questions:

• Are the wooden beams supposed to hide the "massing," as architects probably say, maybe, of the concrete bunker that is the parking garage? If so, wouldn't you need a few more of them?

• Did those metal brackets come from Home Depot, and if so, how many home bathroom renovations will go without towel rods?

• Is the effect supposed to be wavy, as if a 300-ton parking garage is evocative of movement, or is this yet another Reston rounding error?

VY ask VY?

Monday, November 21, 2016

Flashback Monday: The Tall Oaks Playground-O-Pilings

Tall Oaks 1

Now that the Tall Oaks Stucco Wasteland Village Center is slated to be demolished and remade as a less village-centric home for Westworld-like, wall-staring CGI grannies, let us look back to a simpler time, when children would enjoy climbing, and then falling, from tastefully stained wood pilings, over and over again, until brain damage commenced. Wheee!


You'll notice that the storefronts had no signs, presumably because the stucco nirvana was still under construction when this vivid Kodakchrome photo was taken, then mailed off to be developed in a "photo lab," whatever that was, and then mailed back to be displayed on a wall to bored relatives using a "slide projector," whatever that was. But the point is that Tall Oaks was pretty empty looking. PAST IS PROLOGUE.

Tall Oaks 2

Now it's open in this picture -- you can tell by the tastefully earth-toned sign nestled between the stucco pillars at the right, almost indistinguishable to passersby, much like Tall Oaks as a whole is/was to frantic Wiehle Avenue drivers. And as you can tell, Tall Oaks was bustling. Maybe they needed a rad concert or two to start packing the crowds in.

Tall Oaks 3

Awww, cute. The boy in the front is clearly the enforcer, his wary gaze warning the photographer to stop documenting the mugging clearly taking place right behind him. But if you look in the background, you can see two things: the tallest piling had a clock on it, which was probably accurate at least twice each day, and some less thuggish kids were enjoying scrambling all over the remaining pylons, even though the Reston playground material of choice -- concrete -- was conspicuously absent.

No word as to whether the threat of personal injury lawsuits or changing tastes was the impetus for removing this wooden paradise at some point during the go-go 70s or 80s, maybe? But the good news is that, as part of the expansive open space we can avail ourselves of once the Tall Oaks redevelopment is complete, we'll be able to go back to the future with another wooden play installation -- this time, featuring horizontal and vertical beams, but not nearly as much vertical "ups," as the kids today no longer say, to tempt fate.

Play Area

NANNY STATE. Not a single one of those stock image kids is even being remotely menacing. We blame the lack of repeated drops onto brick pavers for their docility, the end.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Raise The Titanic, Or Whatever Landed In Lake Anne

Now that we know that no one was seriously hurt in this legitimately terrifying one-car crash into Lake Anne yesterday afternoon, thanks in no small part to a bystander jumping into the water to help the passengers, we have two options for this one:

1) Wow, the things people will do to avoid paying for parking at RTC, or

2) After the latest in what seem like near-weekly serious accidents along this stretch of Wiehle Avenue, which have only been exacerbated by the exponential increase in speeding cut-through commuters since the Metro station opened, maybe it's time for someone to actually, you know, do something about this.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Soapstone Bridge Won't Come For More Than A Decade, But New Taxes Could Come Much, Much Sooner


Hey, remember that time when Fairfax County acknowledged that all the bollardy construction goodness popping up around the Toll Road might necessitate another bridge, or underpass, or teleportation tube, to keep South Reston-to-Michaels scrapbooking runs to under an hour, or whatever?

Yeah, that was awesome. While the county earmarked $2.5 million for preliminary planning of the Soapstone bridge way back in ought-fourteen, we learned last week that bids for construction won't be sought until the mid-2020s. Give us some infuriating blockquote, BFFs at Reston 2020:

At the community meeting last week, it was revealed that the Soapstone Connector, recommended for construction by RMAG--the Board-appointed committee that looked at transpo needs related to the arrival of Metro--in 2009, will not be opened for construction bidding until the middle of the next decade. It won't be completed until late in the 2020s.

So while Reston's TSAs may get patched sidewalks (which is about all that has been done by the County of the several dozen transportation improvements recommended by the RMAG), don't expect any substantial roadway improvements for about 20 years--even though development is going on unabated.

Between this bit of news and the nine-year wait to build the W&OD overpass over Wiehle Avenue, you might be starting to suspect that Reston might not be at the top of the county's priorities, even as new developments continue to be approved at blistering rates. But nothing could be further from the truth, silly rabbits, as there's one high-priority county project that's gotten the fast track. That's the plan to create a Very Special Tax District, soon, to fund transportation improvements that could be a decade in the making.

Opposed by the Reston advisory group created to study it as well as Reston as a whole, the Very Special Tax District could come to a vote by county supervisors as early as the end of the year. Our BFFs at Reston 2020 have created an online petition opposing the Very Special District, arguing that developers should pay the full freight of the $2.6 billion in anticipated transportation improvements that might, eventually, get done:

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will likely approve a Transportation Service District (TSD) creating an additional property value driven tax on all property owners in Reston's Metro station areas by the end of 2016. The TSD's purpose, based on faulty assumptions, is to fill an alleged $350 million "gap" in tax revenues for improving roadways in the station areas as high-density development unfolds.

The Board will most likely approve a TSD that will add 1-3 cents to the property tax rate now experienced by station area property owners. Moreover, three years of experience at Tysons with a similar TSD indicates that the Board will double or triple the rate within 3-4 years.

The added tax will not be difficult to absorb by developers who will see huge financial gains there in the coming years. Estimates based on recent experience suggest commercial real estate profits will average more than a billion dollars per year in Reston's station areas over the next four decades--and County property tax revenues will grow right along with the growth in property values.

Unlike County and developers' coffers, however, station area residents will not see any revenue gain from the development that occurs there. Nonetheless, they will have to pay this added property value-driven tax as property values and tax rates escalate.

Moreover, not only will they not derive any financial benefit from the tax like their commercial and county counterparts, they will actually experience worse traffic conditions by County intent. Specifically, the County is lowering the performance standard for these roadways, including Reston's four key through north-south and east-west boulevards, from a Level of Service "D" to Level of Service "E." That means peak period congestion there is likely to cause at least 55-80 second delays at each intersection.

There is no logical, ethical, or other valid reason why Reston residents should pay more road taxes for worse road service so others can profit even more from the arrangement. Those who profit--real estate developers and the County--should pay the full burden of improving Reston station area roadways to accommodate the massive job and residential growth planned there.

We can't fault the county for trying to squeeze blood out of a turnip find new revenue streams, but you would think if they were trying to convince a skeptical community of the value of taxing itself, they would have made actually, you know, addressing its needs more of a priority--maybe completing some of them before massive redevelopment began, or even just putting up a bunch of orange traffic cones and a sign saying "PARDON OUR DUST" to create the illusion of forward progress.

You would think.

As of today, 112 people have signed the R2020 petition. Learn more here.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Like Tysons, Reston Could Get Fancy Underground Interchange at Rt.7 (Sort Of)

Va 7 interchange

Apparently unsatisfied with connecting Tysons Corner's gridlocked surface streets with an underground rotary of doom that is somehow reminiscent of Paris, VDOT is now proposing a partial interchange where Rt. 7 meets Baron Cameron Avenue as part of efforts to broaden the highway to six lanes from Tysons to Reston Avenue. Give us some good blockquote, VDOT:

The Virginia Department of Transportation is holding a design public hearing Tuesday, Nov. 15 on plans to improve and widen Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) from four to six lanes between Reston Avenue and Jarrett Valley Drive to increase capacity, decrease congestion, and improve safety.

The project includes intersection improvements, as well as a 10-foot shared-use path on both sides of the road to enhance mobility for cyclists and pedestrians.

Additional improvements include:

• Constructing a partial interchange at Baron Cameron Avenue to reduce congestion

• Relocating Lewinsville Road and creating a displaced left-turn intersection

• Replacing and raising the Difficult Run bridge to reduce flooding

Along with allowing Loudoun County "graduates" to reach Mach 2 on their evening journeys home to their particleboard Valhalla, the "partial interchange" looks pretty rad, and is somewhat reminiscent of how Connecticut Avenue goes under DuPont Circle in DC. That will give our future, transit-oriented selves a soup├žon of that much-desired urban feel as we try to avoid the gridlock near the Wiehle Metro station and double-digit tolls on the DTR. Except, of course, that there are markedly fewer gas stations, farmers markets, McMansions, auto-detailing establishments, and zoos right around that demonstrably lesser intersection in DC. So it's a win-win!

For more information on the public hearing, click here.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Reston's November Surprise


"Maybe not so predictably blue after all," Confidential Restonian Operative "Jane" said in response to this SHOCKING cellular telephone photo of an American Flag and Trump sign suspended over South Lakes Drive this morning. "Near the high school (where the CHILDREN) can see it!" she adds.

There's been a billboard-sized Trump sign along Wiehle Avenue, in a "Super Zip" just outside the friendly confines of our earth-toned Nirvana, for some time. But this one strikes close to home. Is our reputation as an archipelago of blue among a sea of angry, meals tax-hatin' red about to come to a close? Will Reston be Great Again? Or is the precariously hanging Trump sign a metaphor for the state of our polity? The mind boggles.