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Study of Route 7 safety and traffic in Tysons underway in anticipation of bus lanes

A map of the Route 7 segment between Chain Bridge Route and I-495 that the Virginia Department of Transportation is studying for improvements (via VDOT)

For all its transit-friendly aspirations, Tysons remains decidedly car-oriented. Take the seven-lane gauntlet that is Route 7 (Leesburg Pike), where evening rush-hour backups can extend for blocks and crosswalks feel like dares.

With uprooting one of the region’s major thoroughfares presumably out of the question, state and local transportation staff hope to at least improve the situation with an ongoing study of Route 7 between Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road) and I-495.

In partnership with Fairfax County, the Virginia Department of Transportation is now seeking input on ways to minimize crashes, relieve congestion, and improve pedestrian and bus facilities in the corridor.

The online survey is open through Feb. 16, as officials finalize a plan to address safety and traffic issues.

State officials suspect congestion is a primary factor in numerous crashes. From 2015 to 2019, this stretch of road saw five crashes resulting in severe injuries, 90 other injuries, and 141 more incidents involving property damage.

Possible solutions include removing service roads and adding a shared-use path for pedestrians and cyclists, upgrading crosswalks and curbs, and widening a median for future bus rapid transit or BRT lanes.

The study is part of a new Project Pipeline launched last year by the Commonwealth Transportation Board that seeks to streamline high-priority projects. With the program, officials will prioritize limited funding for a handful of projects in the state, including Route 7.

The improvements recommended by the study will tie into plans to widen Route 7 to accommodate express bus lanes, according to Allan Fye, the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission’s director of programs and policy.

[These] efforts support the ultimate goal to provide high-quality, high-capacity BRT service along the Route 7 corridor,” he said in an email.

Plans to bring dedicated bus lanes to Tysons have been in the works for years.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a BRT route last July that’s being incorporated into NVTC’s larger effort to develop a bus service from the Spring Hill Metro station to Alexandria’s Mark Center.

The Envision Route 7 planning process began in 2013 and moved into its fourth phase in October with a mobility study looking at the proposed route from Tysons to Seven Corners. The study is expected to be complete by June 2023.

“NVTC has and continues to work closely with [the Fairfax County Department of Transportation] and VDOT,” Fye said. “Our close coordination allows us to leverage each other’s work to advance the overall BRT project while providing strategic opportunities to advance key segments that may allow service to begin in phases.”

After collecting public input from the Project Pipeline survey, VDOT will examine how to fund the upgrades from March to July this year.

Photo via VDOT

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