Reston Spring

Reston Spring
Reston Spring

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Notes on Meeting with FC DOT re the "Soapstone Connector", June 12, 2013

                                                                           26 June 2013


SUBJECT:  Meeting with FC DOT Officers and Contractor re the Soapstone Connector

Summary and comment: Although FC DOT has taken aboard a variety of comments (including RCA, Penniman, Stowers, RA PBAC and many individuals), they were not prepared to tell us about recommendations or conclusions on the Soapstone study.  They were still in the process of agreeing on them.  The study is still in process and they must brief Supervisor Hudgins first.  For the most part, they were wary of saying anything definitive.  However, they appear to be staying with the same parameters as presented earlier rather than covering options that some think would be more expeditious or economical alternatives.


  On 12 June Bill Penniman, Joe Stowers and Dick Rogers met with Fairfax County Department of Transportation official as well as contractor   Warren Hughes for one and one half hours to discuss the Soapstone project.  In addition to Hughes, the FC DOT staff was Jane Rosenbaum, overall supervisor, and Kinnari Radadiya, project manager.  Rosenbaum spoke on all the broader issues leaving technical details to Hughes.  Radadiya said little.

 Current process

Asked where the study is now. Jane Rosenbaum said they are still working to come up with a proposal.  But they are not ready “to issue an official or unofficial position.”  They have not made a recommendation yet and are still interacting with Warren Hughes.  They have not met with Supervisor Hudgins yet about their recommendations, which is essential before they issue a public recommendation. (Note:  On 19 June Hudgins’ transportation aide Paul Davis said the Supervisor has met with FC DOT officers on Soapstone on 17 June.  He was cryptic about what had been discussed.)

   Later in the conversation they were asked if Supervisor Hudgins “Board Action” of 19 March and subsequent Board endorsed call for higher priority to be given to Soapstone planning had made any difference. Rosenbaum said she was unsure what the “Board action” would ultimately do.

They did not indicate that they had broadened their consideration beyond the initial five parameters set out in their Feb-March presentations.   Their comments did not indicate they were seeking ways to expedite construction or curtail costs beyond the routes already being considered.

Specific Issues

 Re property owners in the overall connector area, FC DOT staff said that there is no clear consensus on what should be done.  No ground swell for one or another option.  They did note that Association Drive area is much more susceptible to re=development than other areas.

Soapstone Drive Connection: They did not directly commend on this but noted the importance of respecting the views of those in south Reston uneasy about the location of the connection.  The discussion focused on the detailed maps of several of the alternative routes but not on those that do not connect with directly with Soapstone Drive (such as the ones that intersect with Sunrise Valley to the east or west of Soapstone Drive).

Re doing the project in phases, they said the overall goal has been to   connect Sunrise Valley and Sunset Hills, implying this means a continuous road built all at once.

Re connecting to Reston Station Blvd, they said that a specific connection to this proposed street was not initially in the scope of the study and is still outside it.   However, they believe the connector can be integrated into the planned grid of streets and are taking proposed Reston Station Blvd into account.   However, they do not have an exact fix on the location of the road and when it might be built.

Pedestrians: They said that an 8% grade is the maximum that they could envision.    Under ADA restrictions a 5 % grade is the maximum for pedestrians. ADA also requires that you have to periodically build level areas into the walkway every few feet. They said they had heard “loud and clear” the RA PBAC view that there should be a link to the WOD trail

Bill Penniman reviewed with them his proposal (sent to DOT earlier) that the Connection could reach Sunset Hills with two lanes going between the BAE garage and the building immediately to the west.  He noted that there are 34 feet between the garage and a free standing wall which could be removed to increase the available space to 48 feet.  This would allow two lanes to connect to Sunset Hulls initially with widening to 4 lanes, if desired, when either of the neighboring buildings is re-developed.  In the meantime, the other two lanes of the 4 lanes crossing would connect to Reston Station Blvd. and the future internal grid of streets.  He also noted that this route could be extended across Sunset Hills which would allow a connection with the WOD, and to Isaac Newton Square with a short road that utilizes the existing VDOT parking lot.

 Warren Hughes said they had studied this but that the criteria given them required 4 lanes to reach Sunset Hills from the outset. He also indicated that the route might compromise  auto access to the BAE property since it would mean a crossing of Sunset Hills less than 650-750 ft from the signalized intersection at Metro Station Drive.  Bill pointed out that the entry to the BAE property could be moved to the east which would avoid this possible problem.

Height above Dulles Toil Road: They indicated the travel lanes would be 25 ft above the DTR.  However, the base of the bridge would need to be 17ft over the DTR lanes and to meet Metro’s clearance needs over the Metro tracks.


They noted a number of constraints influencing there thinking. They noted that it will be easier to get “broad approval” if the recommended alignment is part of the Reston Master Plan recommendations.  To this end they are meeting with Heidi Merkel of DPZ on 19 June.

Regarding the proposed 10 ft wide shared use path (in addition to two bike lanes and a pedestrian walkway) they said this is part of the VDOT “urban standard.”   “The shared use path services a different population than the other paths.”  In its absence a waiver would be needed to justify elimination.  They think they cannot exclude any feature that may create objections.  This means that they cannot build a route for only one mode of transport. Similarly it is necessary to meet federal standards for federal funding, even if getting federal dollars is not certain.

Wiehle impact:  In conclusion Rosenbaum said that we should remember that the Soapstone Connection “will not change the dynamic” of Wiehle traffic.  The DOT model does not show it having the impact on traffic or improving access to the Station to the degree that RMAG predicted.  On the other hand, she agreed that it would help to mitigate traffic at key intersection even if not as much as some have hoped.         .

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

CBRE Sees Persistent Lag in Leasing Velocity, CBRE, June 25, 2013

Key points:
  • Vacancies are up--and set an all-time record in NoVa of 16.2%.
  • Leasing activity is down 25% from a year ago.
  • Rents are down $1-$2 per SF--especially along the DTR.
  • DENSIFICATION--fewer square feet per worker--continues inexorably as we've been saying.
Here are some excerpts from the CBRE report:
As the second quarter of 2013 draws to a close, early indicators suggest that the Washington metropolitan region remains a “tenants’ market” fueled by limited leasing activity and rising vacancies.  While the overall economy continues to show positive markers, office markets in the District, Northern Virginia and Suburban Maryland remain stalled in a period of listless activity, dampened by a push for greater office efficiencies and federal budget concerns. . .
Prior to publication of CBRE’s quarterly reports, office leasing velocity throughout the metropolitan Washington region remains relatively unchanged compared to the first quarter of 2013, but is down 25 percent from the second quarter of last year.  The region is experiencing a relatively stable employment picture, although the drive toward workplace efficiencies means fewer square feet per office worker, which translates to lower net demand for office space. . . .
In Northern Virginia, the vacancy rate rose to 16.2 percent, surpassing the previous high of 16 percent in 2002, driven by tenant moves and consolidations. Rents in Northern Virginia decreased $1 to $2 per square foot, especially along the Dulles Toll Road. . . .
Here is the full CBRE 2Q preview press release.

Wonder what the full set of numbers will show in the weeks ahead. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

PLEASE VOTE in the RCA Board Elections, June 26-July 10, 2013

RCA Announces Slate of Candidates for the 2013 Board Election; Online Elections June 26 to July 10

The Reston Citizens Association (RCA) today released the slate of candidates for its 2013 Board of Directors election. Founded in 1967, the Reston Citizens Association (RCA) represents the citizens of Reston on political and social issues, including planning, development, transportation, education, environment, accessibility, and more. RCA is committed to preserving Bob Simon's founding principles and New Town vision as Reston moves forward as an established community.

The following seats are up for election: President, North Point Director, Lake Anne/Tall Oaks/Town Center Director, South Lakes Director, Hunters Woods Director, and two At-Large Directors. Each seat carries a two-year term, except for President, which has a one-year term.

Running for President are incumbent Colin Mills and Board member Gary Lee Thomas. 

Mills, 34, is a lifelong Restonian who is completing his second year as RCA President.  He had previously served on the RCA Board from 2005 to 2010, and as Vice Chair of the Reston Community Center (RCC) Board of Governors. He is Bob Simon’s alternate on the Reston Master Plan Task Force.  Mills hopes to have RCA facilitate a community-wide discussion on Reston’s future.  He also hopes to strengthen RCA’s ties to other community organizations, and improve RCA’s two-way communication with Reston citizens.

Thomas is currently serving as an At-Large RCA Board member; he has been in office for one year and serves on RCA’s Education Committee.  He also served two previous terms on the RCA Board.   He is the President-elect of the Sunrise Valley Elementary PTA, and is a former Chapter President of the Reston Jaycees.  If elected, Thomas would focus on fundraising and community events.  He hopes to start events such as a Reston Mini-Maker Faire, RCA Reston Spelling Bee, and RCA Reston Dirt Bike Race.

Gary Walker is seeking re-election as Lake Anne/Tall Oaks/Town Center Director. Walker has lived in Reston for over 20 years, and he has served on the RCA Board since 2011. He is the chair of RCA’s Technology Committee, and spearheaded the recent re-launch of RCA’s website and newsletter.  He hopes to help RCA craft action steps to meet its strategic goals, and to ensure that RCA speaks for the community. He calls for the citizens of Reston to have a voice in the community’s future.

Joe Leighton is standing for election as South Lakes Director.  Leighton, a 32-year Reston resident, is currently Secretary of the Reston Association (RA) Board, and he served as an RA Board member for 12 years.  He also serves as the Treasurer of the Association of Reston Clusters and Homeowners (ARCH), and is a former President of the Wethersfield Cluster Association.  He seeks to preserve neighborhoods in South Reston, maintain open space, strengthen public transportation, and improve the lighting and sidewalks in Reston.

Two candidates are seeking election to the two open Hunters Woods Director seats.

John Hanley, RCA’s sitting Vice President, is seeking re-election.  Hanley has served on the RCA Board since 2009, and he is a former co-chair of the Reston 20/20 Committee and former chair of the Elections Committee.  He intends to expand the work of RCA and Reston 20/20 to improve Reston’s quality of life and plan for new development in the community.  He calls for protection of Reston’s classic values and for the community to grow in an ordered fashion.

Connie Hartke, a first-time RCA candidate, is seeking the other Hunters Woods seat. Hartke is a board member of Rescue Reston and a volunteer with the Reston Triathlon, Reston Marathon, and Herndon-Reston FISH.  She has also been an activist for palliative and hospice care.  She hopes to help Restonians understand the important issues facing the community, using RCA as a platform to distribute information in an easy-to-understand format.

Tammi Petrine is running for re-election to an At-Large Director seat.  Petrine has lived in Reston for 37 years, and she has served on the RCA Board since 2007.  She is the co-chair of the Reston 20/20 Committee and also serves as Vice President of the Fairway Cluster Association.  She was a founder of the Reston Institute for the Arts and founder of the Soapstone/Myrtle Neighborhood Watch.  Petrine hopes to continue RCA’s advocacy on behalf of Reston’s citizens.  She believes RCA can promote Reston's best interests as the community copes with massive development along the Dulles corridor.

The RCA Board election will take place from June 26 to July 10. Continuing the practice  established last year, this year’s election will be held entirely online. Anyone who (a) is 18 years or older and (b) lives anywhere in Reston (defined as Reston Small Tax District #5) is eligible to vote.  Voters can go to and click on the “VOTE” button to learn more about the candidates and cast their ballots.

Contact Information for the Candidates:

Colin Mills (President) – (703) 608-6049 –

Gary Lee Thomas (President) – (703) 620-4279 –

Gary Walker (Lake Anne/Tall Oaks/Town Center) – (703) 864-3535 –

Joe Leighton (South Lakes) – (571) 213-2611 –

John Hanley (Hunters Woods) – (703) 391-9549 –

Connie Hartke (Hunters Woods) – (703) 476-1230 –

Tammi Petrine (At-Large) – (703) 390-0577 –