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
McLean Woman Accused of Stalking Apple CEO — “Apple has filed for a restraining order against a woman who allegedly stalked the tech giant’s CEO Tim Cook, showed up at his house at least twice and sent him threatening photos of guns and bullets, according court filings in Santa Clara… Choi allegedly drove cross-country from McLean, Virginia, to Cook’s house in Palo Alto – which she visited at least twice on Oct. 22, 2021, according to the documents.” [Fox Business, Daily Mail]
Capital One Center Part of Corporate Urbanization Trend — Major companies across the U.S. are turning their suburban headquarters into mini cities, with Capital One’s growing 24-acre campus in Tysons as one example. Executives say the trend reflects competition for workers as well as public and private investment aimed at making suburbs denser and less car-dependent. [The New York Times]
Former McLean High Students Climb Africa’s Tallest Mountain — “After a grueling six-hour hike from their camp in the middle of the night in early January, McLean High School graduates Rebecca Berkson and Katie Herold were treated to a magnificent vista: the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro at sunrise.” [Sun Gazette]
County Completes “Winter Warming” Project — Fairfax County’s senior center staff finished a project this month to collect hats, gloves, mittens, scarves, and socks for adults and children in need. The donation drive kicked off in October and ultimately distributed 1,404 items to local nonprofits Cornerstones, Homestretch, and Shelter House. [Neighborhood and Community Services]
Funds Sought for Great Falls Traffic Control — The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution yesterday (Tuesday) asking that the U.S. Park Police include $100,000 in its next budget request to address traffic from Great Falls National Park. The funds would cover overtime costs for officers working the Georgetown Pike and Old Dominion Drive intersection. [Patch]
Updated at 5:30 p.m. — Georgetown Pike has been reopened, according to Fairfax Alerts.
Earlier: Georgetown Pike is currently closed at Turkey Run Road in McLean after a vehicle crash from earlier this afternoon.
According to the Fairfax County Police Department, officers responded to Georgetown Pike and Langley Lane before 3 p.m. for a single vehicle crash.
A notice from the county’s Fairfax Alerts system stated that delays should be expected for an “unknown duration.”
“Please follow officer direction in the area,” the police department said.
While police say no injuries were reported in this incident, Georgetown Pike and Langley Lane was the site of another vehicular crash on Nov. 13 that ultimately killed 65-year-old Andre Newman. Newman’s family and community members held a vigil for him at Langley High School, just one-tenth of a mile up the road.
Beware Vienna Halloween Parade Traffic — Expect major traffic backups on Route 123 tonight (Wednesday), as the Vienna Halloween Parade will close Maple Avenue between Berry and Center streets from approximately 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Most other roads along the parade route will close at 4:45 p.m., with drivers getting detoured on Church and East streets. [Town of Vienna]
Filipino Restaurant Opens in Falls Church — Kamayan Fiesta recently opened its second location at the corner of Annandale and Washington Streets in the City of Falls Church. Started 18 months ago in Springfield, the locally-owned eatery specializes in Filipino cuisine, including different kinds of pancit (or rice noodles) and chicken adobo. [Falls Church News-Press]
1st Stage to Require COVID-19 Vaccinations — 1st Stage Theatre will require patrons to present proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 and a photo ID when it launches its first indoor performances of the pandemic on Nov. 18. The theater won’t accept negative test results as an alternative, and masks will also be required inside the Tysons venue. [Tysons Today]
FCPS Book Banning Plea Crops Up in Gubernatorial Race — A failed call to ban Toni Morrison’s novel “Beloved” from Fairfax County Public Schools has resurfaced after the woman who advocated for the book to be removed in 2013 appeared in a campaign ad for Glenn Youngkin, the Republican Party’s nominee for governor, on Monday (Oct. 25). [The Washington Post]
Falls Church Contractor Acquired — Falls Church-based defense contractor PAE Inc. has been acquired for $1.9 billion by Amentum Holdings, the Germantown-based aerospace company announced Monday. Amentum was formed in 2020 and nearly doubled its workforce by purchasing McLean-based DynCorp International that September. [Washington Business Journal]
By this time next year, the I-495 Northern Extension project (495 NEXT) could be under construction.
The Virginia Department of Transportation secured required federal approvals in July for its $550 million effort to add express lanes on three miles of interstate from Tysons to the American Legion Bridge area in McLean.
With that hurdle surmounted, state transportation officials expect to advance the project fairly quickly over the next year, awarding a design-build contract this winter and finalizing the design next year. Right-of-way acquisitions and construction work could also start in 2022, putting the toll lanes on track to begin operations in 2025.
While traffic volumes are projected to increase roughly the same amount regardless of whether 495 NEXT is implemented, VDOT says extending the I-495 Express Lanes toward the American Legion Bridge will reduce travel times and congestion, moving 2,500 more people per hour through the corridor when they open in 2025.
The project also includes transit in the form of new bus service between Tysons and Montgomery County, a trail for bicyclists and pedestrians parallel to I-495, and funds to assist with stormwater management and stream restoration efforts along Scott’s Run.
An environmental assessment found that the project will affect 4.11 acres of Scott’s Run Nature Preserve, 19.8 acres of wetlands, and more than two acres of land around George Washington Memorial Parkway, though the Federal Highway Administration (FWHA) and National Park Service (NPS) determined that the effects could be mitigated enough to be outweighed by the benefits.
Some residents and elected officials have questioned whether that would be the case, though, if Maryland’s plans to replace the American Legion Bridge and widen its part of the Beltway fall through, which remains a possibility even after the state approved a pre-development contract.
Now that it’s getting closer to becoming a reality, how do you feel about 495 NEXT?
Would the project make your life easier, or are you more concerned about the inevitable environmental and neighborhood impacts of a major infrastructure project? Should Virginia hit pause until Maryland fully commits?
Chart via VDOT
There are few more self-evident testaments in Fairfax County to the shortsighted follies of 20th century land-use planning than Seven Corners.
The groundwork for the confounding convergence of Route 7, Route 50, Sleepy Hollow Road, Wilson Boulevard, and Hillwood Avenue in the Falls Church area was laid before the Civil War. Arlington Boulevard and Leesburg Pike emerged from early county roads that intersected at Fort Buffalo, according to a 2015 article by the Washington Business Journal.
A literal crossroads between Fairfax and Arlington counties and the City of Falls Church, the intersection became more intricate post-World War II, as the area saw a population and development boom, epitomized by the introduction of the Seven Corners Shopping Center, once the largest mall in the D.C. region.
According to The Washington Post, traffic was already a “major headache” in the early 1950s, and “state and local governments spent millions to alleviate” congestion when the mall opened in 1956. But conditions have kept deterioriating despite a patchwork of fixes implemented since then, including the addition of the Route 50 overpass near Patrick Henry Drive in 2009.
“It’s too complex. If you drive through now, you get stuck, everybody blocks each other, it doesn’t work,” Mike Garcia, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation’s planning section chief, told Tysons Reporter last week. “They’ve gone through and adjusted the signals many times. They’ve got it about as good as they’re going to get it.”
Since inverting time to undo this knot isn’t an option, Fairfax County is now trying to at least loosen it, and this time, it is willing to take the time to hopefully do it right.
As part of a larger package of funding requests, the Board of Supervisors voted on Sept. 14 to authorize transportation staff to seek $94.8 million from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority for the first phase of a “ring” road that will eventually connect the west side of Route 7 to Wilson Boulevard.
The Seven Corners Ring Road project dates back to 2014, when a visioning task force charged with identifying possible land use and development improvements for the neighborhood recommended including the concept in a comprehensive plan amendment that the county board adopted on July 28, 2015.
According to Garcia, the county and task force considered six different options for improving the interchange, but they ultimately determined that a circular road looping through each of the main streets to create more traditional four-way intersections would be most effective.
“[It] would help at least clear up the area and make it a little more understood from the driver’s perspective, but also understood from the walking and biking perspective as well, because that’s as much the issue that we wanted to solve,” Garcia said. Read More
All northbound lanes on Interstate 495 approaching Lewinsville Road in McLean are currently closed after a vehicle crash that sent three people to the hospital.
The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department reported just before 3 p.m. today (Tuesday) that units were on the scene of a multi-vehicle crash on the Capital Beltway.
Two people trapped in the vehicles were both extricated by 3:10 p.m., and a total of three people were transported to a hospital, including one individual who sustained “significant injuries.”
— Fairfax County Fire/Rescue (@ffxfirerescue) August 17, 2021
The three right lanes on the I-495 Inner Loop were shut down for the crash response, along with the left Express Lane, the Virginia Department of Transportation said at 3:14 p.m.
As of 3:25 p.m., all express lanes and three left lanes have reopened. One right lane remains closed, the Metropolitan Area Transportation Operations Coordination (MATOC) Program said.
The crash has contributed to approximately four miles of traffic delays starting at I-66.
McLean: Beltway Inner Loop (495NB) near Lewinsville: The three right lanes of the mainlines and the left lane of the @VAExpressLanes are closed for crash response. Pls use an alternate route.
— VDOT Northern VA (@VaDOTNOVA) August 17, 2021
UPDATE: Multi-Vehicle Crash. I-495 NB (IL) past VA-267 (Ex 45). Fairfax County, VA. 3 left lanes open, 1 right lane blocked. All I-495 Express Lanes are open. Delays start at I-66 (Ex 49/Custis Memorial Pkwy), approximately 4 miles.
— MATOC Alerts (@MATOC) August 17, 2021
Storm Brings Power Outages, Hail to Fairfax County — Thunderstorms swept through Fairfax County last night (Wednesday), resulting in reports of damaging winds and even hail “that toppled trees and wires.” As of midnight, Dominion Energy’s outage map showed thousands of people in the county without power, particularly around McLean. [Capital Weather Gang]
Farmer’s Market Nonprofit Awarded State Grant — FRESHFARM will get a $50,000 grant from the Virginia Food Access Investment Fund to establish new fresh food mobile markets in food-insecure areas of Northern Virginia. The nonprofit operates several farmer’s markets in Fairfax County, including the ones at the Mosaic District and The Boro. [Patch]
More Traffic Control Sought for Great Falls Park — “Great Falls Citizens Association (GFCA) officials are seeking to have the federal government provide $100,000 in permanent, annual funding for U.S. Park Police to control traffic at Old Dominion Drive and Georgetown Pike outside the park’s entrance when park usage is especially heavy…Traffic congestion outside the park routinely occurs on weekends, holidays and fee-free days from March through early November, GFCA leaders said.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]
Madison HS Student Brings Books and Bikes to Tanzania — James Madison High School rising junior Sophia Brown organized a bicycle drive at the Vienna school in May and collected dozens of donated books to bring to Tanzania for a Girl Scout project. Sophia traveled to the East African country this summer with support from the nonprofit Wheels to Africa, which she has worked with since she was in second grade. [FCPS]
McLean Drivers: Expect Delays on Georgetown Pike Starting Monday — “Georgetown Pike (Route 193) between Swinks Mill Road and I-495 (Capital Beltway) will have one lane of alternating traffic in each direction via flagging, weather permitting, Monday, July 26 through Wednesday, July 28 between 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. each day to replace a stormwater pipe at the Saigon Road intersection, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.” [VDOT]
Founders Row II Proposal Modified — Developer Mill Creek presented revised plans for a second phase of its Founders Row project to the Falls Church City Council on Monday (July 19). Changes since it was first proposed in March include reductions of the height and number of rental residential units and the addition of “more street-level retail and amenities to please its neighbors.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Former Container Store to Host Tysons Block Party — The Celebrate Fairfax! Festival has been canceled for a second consecutive year, but the nonprofit that organizes it is returning next Friday (July 30) with a block party to kick off its 40th Anniversary Series. The event will go from 3-7 p.m. outside the former Container Store at 8508 Leesburg Pike with live entertainment, refreshments from Caboose Brewing Company, and more. [Celebrate Fairfax/Facebook]
Traffic is starting to flow again in the Vienna area of Interstate 66 after a multi-vehicle crash shut down the eastbound lanes after Cedar Lane around 9:20 this morning (Monday).
The crash occurred at the 63.6 mile marker and backed up traffic for approximately two miles, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.
VDOT’s live traffic cameras showed vehicles starting to move again around 9:40 a.m., but the left lane appears to still be closed as of 10 a.m.
“Motorists can expect delays due to a multi-vehicle crash,” VDOT said in an update at 9:51 a.m. “The East left shoulder and left lane are closed.”
Images via VDOT