Supervisor Foust (in the middle) with his office staff. From left: Patty Dinkelmeyer, Jenny Phipps, Jane Edmondson, Donna Keefe, Julie Ide, Nen Wiles.
Supervisor John W. Foust (D-Dranesville):
*TRANSPORTATION FUNDING PLAN HB2313 - A significant event affecting the community in 2013 was the passage of HB2313 with bi-partisan support. This bill was the first comprehensive transportation plan passed in Virginia in 27 years.
We now have significant funding available for the numerous transportation projects needed across the County that will provide residents much needed relief from congestion and will help restore the vitality of economic development in Virginia. The Board of Supervisors conducted a Countywide Dialog to solicit citizen input on which projects will be funded and included in the County’s 6-Year Transportation Plan. There is a total of $1.2 billion available from HB 2313 revenues and other funding sources. With significant citizen input, I submitted a list of projects recommended to be funded. There were 47 projects in the McLean and Great Falls areas.
The Board of Supervisors’ decision on funding the final list of projects will occur in either January or February 2014. The selection process is very challenging with so many transportation needs across the County. There are many more worthy projects than funds available to build them. Although we are not able to fund all of the needed projects, any projects not selected in 2014 will be considered again when additional funding becomes available.
- COMMUTER PARKING AT THE TYSONS METRO STATIONS -- Obtaining parking at the Tysons Metro stations for residents who can only get to the stations by driving their cars has been a priority for me. There were no dedicated public parking garages included in the original Tysons Metro Stations plans. At my request, the Board of Supervisors directed staff to study ways to identify commuter parking possibilities near the Tysons stations.
I am pleased that in July of this year, the Board approved the first proposal for a commuter parking lot in proximity to a Tysons Metrorail station. The 711-space surface parking lot is located next to the McLean Station, at Dolley Madison Boulevard between Anderson Road and Colshire Boulevard. The owner will pay all costs associated with construction, maintenance and operation of the parking lot and will determine what fees to charge. The lot is expected to be open by the time Metro is operational. It will provide much needed access to the new Metro stations for my constituents. County staff is continuing to work on other Metro station parking opportunities.
- RENOVATION AND EXPANSION OF THE SPRING HILL RECREATION CENTER -- Working with the former Dranesville representative to the Park Authority Board, I was able to secure an additional $25 million for the Park Authority bond that voters approved this past November. A portion of the additional funds will be used to expand and renovate the Spring Hill Recreation Center. The construction project includes a 2-story fitness center and a gymnasium with an elevated running track. The gymnasium will feature a single high school-sized basketball court with two overlay basketball courts as well as a volleyball overlay court. There will be needed improvements to the locker room area and showers as well as the addition of five new family cabanas. The staff will have new office space and the reception area will be redesigned to improve customer service and convenience.
The RECenter expansion, including the gym and fitness center, is set to open to the public in December 2014, while the renovation work to the existing fitness area will be completed by February 2015. With the exception of a short period of time when the pool will be closed, the facility will be open during construction.
MAKING THE GRANGE ADA ACCESSIBLE -- For some time now, a number of organizations and individuals in Great Falls have wanted to expand use of the historic Grange building for residents and community groups. In order to make the building usable by all residents, it must be made ADA compliant at substantial cost. I was able to secure Park Authority and County funds in the amount of approximately $500,000 to undertake the necessary interior and exterior upgrades to make the facilities ADA compliant. The Park Authority is expected to begin construction in the spring of 2014.
- CONTINUING TO MAKE DRANESVILLE MORE ACCESSIBLE AND SAFE FOR ALL PEDESTRIANS AND BICYCLISTS -- Making Dranesville more pedestrian and bicycle friendly has been one of my top priorities since taking office. Many residents want to be able to walk or bike to schools, Metro stations, parks and commercial districts. We have made progress on all of these fronts this year. Here are some of the highlights:
- We completed new walkways on Raymond Avenue to Churchill Elementary School and on Haycock Road to Haycock Elementary School.
- Lewinsville Road is an important walking and biking route for access to the McLean and Spring Hill Metro Stations. Earlier this year, we completed a major trail segment between Windy Hill Road and Scotts Run Road, and we are close to completing the last remaining segment between Snow Meadow Drive and Elsinore Road.
- We have a beautiful new trail through Dead Run Stream Valley Park in McLean, connecting Baron Road to Churchill Road, which provides a great way for residents to reach the community center, the library and McLean Central Park.
- Great Falls residents can walk safely to both sides of Great Falls Village with the new Walker Road "diet" project soon to be completed. We are also about to begin the construction phase for an important trail segment along Georgetown Pike between Utterback Store Road and Falls Manor Court, providing access to the village.
- Working with County staff and the bicycle community, we installed 80 way-finding signs to allow bicyclists to navigate more easily through central McLean. This was the County’s first way-finding project.
Looking Ahead to 2014
*FISCAL YEAR 2015 BUDGET -- As in previous years, the Board of Supervisors faces a major challenge to adopt a budget that provides adequate funding for essential services including Education, Public Safety, and Human Services while controlling the tax burden on homeowners.
Since I took office in 2008, we have cut tens of millions of dollars from the County operating budget without serious reductions in the County’s support for these essential services. Virtually all low-hanging fruit has been eliminated.
As we struggle to maintain an acceptable level of services, we face the need for substantial investment and re-investment in infrastructure like schools, storm water management and other public facilities.
This year will be particularly difficult because of the significant deficit projected for our school system, nearly $150 million. To raise an additional $150 would require an increase in the property tax rate of nearly 8 cents, an option that is not realistic. The new school superintendent has published a list of possible cost-saving measures.
I will also continue to work with the community to establish our budget priorities and address our budget challenges. As I have done for the past five budget cycles, I have convened my citizen budget task force. The Task Force will prepare a report that will be presented to me in early 2014. I will share the report with my colleagues on the Board as we develop and adopt the final budget. I will also convene several public meetings to solicit community input on budget priorities prior to budget adoption.
- OPENING OF SILVER LINE METRO PHASE I -- A major event of 2014 will be the long awaited opening of the Silver Line, including the Tysons Metro Stations. I anticipate that more of us will become more frequent users of Metro. The interim commuter parking lot at the McLean Station will provide convenient access for nearby residents. Traveling by bus will be easier with expanded Connector Bus service and the new Tysons Circulator Buses. Some of those who wish to walk will use the newly completed walking routes along Lewinsville Road.
- KICKING OFF NEWLY-FUNDED TRANSPORTATION PROJECTS -- By early next year the County Board will have identified the projects to be funded under its new 6-Year Transportation Plan. I’m expecting planning and design for a large number of projects in Dranesville, especially pedestrian related, to be initiated. We may have to "pardon the dust" for a few years, but the results will be well worth the trouble.
Chief among Dranesville transportation projects is the widening of Route 7 between Jarrett Valley Drive and Reston Avenue. Communities along this corridor have already been involved in the preliminary design process along with VDOT, FCDOT and my office with the "Route 7 Widening Project Working Group" – formed to make sure the vision and concerns of neighboring residents were considered by VDOT project engineers. I expect that high level of community involvement to continue as design and construction activities move forward with the recently obtained funding for this project.
- LANGLEY FORK PARK -- 2014 should be the year that we move forward on the County’s acquiring Langley Fork Park. Currently, the National Park Service (NPS) owns the Langley Fork property and permits the Fairfax County Park Authority to manage and maintain its use. The park has two baseball diamonds, two rectangular fields and a basketball court, all in need of updating. For a number of years, the NPS and the FCPA have been attempting to agree on a land swap that would allow for upgrades at Langley Fork through FCPA and protection of new Potomac Gorge resource areas through the NPS. Both agencies believe that negotiations should be finalized in 2014.
The Park Authority has prepared a draft master plan for the park that consists of two additional rectangular fields, one additional baseball diamond, a dog park, a pavilion, a fitness zone and expanded parking areas for the park and Clemyjontri Park.
The development of Langley Fork presents a great opportunity to expand athletic fields for both children and adults. There is a tremendous demand for them. As the Park Authority’s planning process goes forward, there will be several opportunities for individuals and organizations to express feedback about the proposed development.
- LEWINSVILLE SENIOR CENTER -- I anticipate that in early 2014, the Board of Supervisors will approve an agreement with a major non-profit developer to redevelop the Lewinsville Senior Center, located on Great Falls Street in McLean. Presently, a senior center, an adult day care center, two child care centers and 22 independent affordable living apartments occupy a building that was originally the Lewinsville Elementary School, constructed in 1963. The plan is to raze the existing building and build two facilities, one to house an expanded senior center and the three day care centers, and the other to consist of approximately 80 independent living apartments serving seniors with incomes at or below the eligible household income limits. The Plan will require zoning approvals and will be presented to the community for public input.
There is a significant shortage of housing for seniors in our area, particularly for those with limited resources. I am anxious for construction of the project to get underway.