The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation is currently exploring possibilities for adding more transit routes to Tysons along the Interstate 495 corridor as part of its I-495/American Legion Bridge Transit and Transportation Demand Management Study.
Joined by Virginia Department of Transportation and Maryland Transit Administration officials, DRPT presented some potential options for new connections at a public meeting on Wednesday (Nov. 18) that provided updates on the transit study and VDOT’s I-495 Express Lanes Northern Extension (495 NEXT) project.
DRPT officials have identified Tysons, Dunn Loring, Reston, and Arlington as key destinations in the corridor, noting that there tends to be more demand for travel from Maryland to Virginia than the other way around.
“There is significant travel between activity centers on the Maryland 355 corridor and Silver Spring to destinations like Tysons, Dunn Loring, and the Virginia Route 7 corridor,” DRPT Northern Virginia Transit Planning Manager Ciara Williams said. “A great deal of transit services operate in the study area. However, there are no transit services today that directly link the major activity centers.”
After looking at a variety of potential transit connections between Virginia and Maryland on 495, DRPT singled out eight possibilities that merited further study and ranked them based on their ability to add ridership relative to their cost, the service they would provide to low-income and minority populations, and the number of people and jobs to which they would improve access.
Five out of the eight preliminary possible transit routes go to Tysons. A sixth route – and the one that received the highest score – goes through Tysons to connect Bethesda and Dunn Loring.
A proposed transit route that would go from Gaithersburg, Md., to Tysons during the morning peak period and in the other direction during the evening peak period is the only one that got a top score for productivity, equity, and connectivity.
However, the Bethesda-Dunn Loring and Bethesda-Tysons routes ranked higher, because a trips-per-day metric included in the productivity score was weighted higher to prioritize routes with the potential to yield the highest ridership levels, according to Williams.
The other routes that DRPT is considering evaluating further are Germantown to Tysons, Silver Spring to Tysons, Frederick to Arlington, Bethesda to Reston, and Frederick to Tysons.
The American Legion Bridge transit study started in December 2019 after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced an agreement to fund the $1 billion project to replace and widen the bridge, which is part of the Capital Beltway and currently the only way to travel between Maryland and Virginia without going through Washington, D.C.
“495 is one of the most congested roadways in all of Maryland and Virginia, and traffic is forecasted to increase in the future,” Williams said. “…We see that there’s a need for transit and TDM solutions in conjunction with the planned and managed Express Lanes to efficiently and effectively serve travel across the bridge.”
The transit study is being conducted in parallel with the proposed 495 NEXT project, which extends the existing 495 Express Lanes roughly three miles from the Dulles Toll Road and I-495 interchange to the George Washington Memorial Parkway near the American Legion Bridge.
DPRT Transportation Chief Jennifer Debruhl says the study team anticipates releasing its draft recommendations for public comment in early December before finalizing the study early next year.
Staff photo by Jay Westcott, slides via Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation