(Updated at 9 a.m. on 10/20/2021) Fairfax County is currently developing an initial design for a new street envisioned as an alternative route into McLean from Tysons East that bypasses Route 123.
The Lincoln Street extension will connect Old Meadow Road with Magarity Road just east of the Dolley Madison Boulevard and I-495 interchange, crossing Scott’s Run Trail and cutting past Westgate Park and Westgate Elementary School.
Part of a larger grid of streets planned to accommodate the development expected to come to Tysons, the extension will help alleviate traffic congestion on Route 123 and give residents new access to neighborhood sites, such as the park and elementary school, as well as the McLean area, according to Fairfax County Department of Transportation Capital Projects Section Chief Michael Guarino.
“That provides a benefit to commuters by just relieving some pressure on those main thoroughfares and allows trips within Tysons to not always need to get on the main road that tends to have very heavy volume, especially during rush hour,” Guarino told Tysons Reporter.
The Lincoln Street project has been underway since at least 2019, when the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved $7 million to fund preliminary engineering work and a feasibility study.
Guarino confirmed that FCDOT has completed the feasibility study and is now updating a preliminary design in preparation for the first public meeting, which the project website says was previously expected to take place in the fall of 2020 but is now scheduled for January 2022.
While the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t directly contribute to the delay, county staff have been using the past year to coordinate with the Virginia Department of Transportation, which will ultimately own and maintain the new road.
Staff also revised the design to enhance the proposed bicycle and pedestrian amenities, Guarino says.
Improvements planned in the project include:
- Traffic signals at both the Old Meadow Road and Magarity Road intersections
- A 10-foot-wide asphalt, shared-use walkway on the northeast side of Lincoln Street
- A 6-foot-wide sidewalk on the south side of Lincoln Street
- Walkways along Magarity Road, which will connect to the Lincoln Street walkways
- A bridge over Scotts Run stream
According to Guarino, the design fits into Fairfax County’s “multi-modal” vision for the Tysons street grid, meaning it accommodates pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit, not just cars.
“We have design standards in place in Tysons that do give less weight to vehicular delays than we do in other parts of the county or statewide,” he said. “That’s to balance the needs for the other modes of transportation for a more urban environment.”
Guarino says he hasn’t heard any concerns yet about the new street contributing to cut-through traffic in the residential neighborhoods between Old Meadow and Magarity, though he acknowledged they could crop up at the upcoming public meeting.
The goal of the Tysons street grid is to address those issues by dispersing traffic throughout the area instead of concentrating it on just a handful of streets, which sends drivers looking to avoid the resulting congestion onto neighborhood roads, he explains.
“If you’ve got your major roads like Route 123 that are consistently getting backed up, that does tend to create a lot of cut-through traffic from other roads,” Guarino said. “So, if we can fill out the network, it distributes traffic…Lincoln Street itself won’t be cutting through the neighborhoods, but kind of connecting the neighborhoods, so I’m hoping it will be a benefit.”
The Lincoln Street project carries a total estimated cost of $39.9 million, according to county staff.
The Board of Supervisors voted on Sept. 14 to request $6.8 million from the Virginia Department of Transportation’s fiscal years 2027 and 2028 revenue-sharing program, which gives localities matching funds for highway construction, improvement, and maintenance projects.
The final design and right-of-way acquisition processes are expected to begin after the public meeting in January, with construction currently projected to start in late 2023 or early 2024.
A regional study of the proposed bus rapid transit (BRT) route from Tysons to Alexandria is moving into a new phase that will assess options through the Seven Corners area.
The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission voted last night (Thursday) to approve a contract for the fourth phase of its Envision Route 7 mobility analysis study, which began in 2013 to evaluate the possibility of bus service between the Spring Hill Metro station and Alexandria’s Mark Center.
“As we look to the corridor in segments, Fairfax has done a lot of work from Tysons to the border of Falls Church,” NVTC staff said at yesterday’s meeting. “This picks up on the analysis they’ve done and continues down to Seven Corners.”
The study is expected to take up to 18 months, ending in April 2023. It will be followed by environmental and preliminary engineering design before staff comes back with a strategic framework for the plan. The contract was approved with a $516,800 cap.
According to a report prepared for the meeting:
The Envision Route 7 Phase IV-1 Mobility Study will evaluate and determine the mobility benefits and impacts resulting from the proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) from Tysons to Seven Corners. The overall study objectives for this effort for the section of Route 7 from Tysons to Seven Corners are:
- To determine the mobility benefits of BRT along Route 7;
- To gain a better appreciation of the traffic impacts of BRT along Route 7;
- To gain an understanding of the traffic operational issues with a BRT operating along
Route 7; and,
- To facilitate the public understanding of how a BRT would operate along Route 7.
With the 11-mile Route 7 corridor expected to see a 35% growth in population and jobs by 2040, NVTC anticipates that the planned BRT will generate about 30,000 boardings per day, two-thirds of which will be for shopping and recreation, according to the project webpage.
Photo via Northern Virginia Transportation Commission
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a pair of agreements yesterday (Tuesday) that will send $1 million in I-66 toll revenues to Metro for the planned project to build a second entrance at its McLean station.
“I’m looking forward to this improvement,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said just before the unanimous vote. She also thanked county transportation staff for their work.
The funds will be awarded by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission as part of its I-66 Commuter Choice program, which launched in 2017 to allocate a dedicated portion of I-66 Express Lanes revenue to transit and capital improvement projects in the corridor.
NVTC included the McLean Metrorail station entrance project in the most recent round of Commuter Choice funding, which spanned July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021 and was approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board on Dec. 10.
The new entrance will be located on Scotts Crossing Road in anticipation of increased activity north of the station from the burgeoning Capital One Center mixed-use development, according to a project description in yesterday’s board package.
“With up to 2,000 prospective residents moving into the redeveloping area north of the current station, this project will create a shorter, more convenient walk to the Metro and increase its visibility,” the document says.
Ridership at the McLean Metro station had been on the rise prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which decimated ridership levels and revenue across the board last year to the point where the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority considered shuttering 19 stations, including McLean.
As of August, weekday train ridership was still only at 26% of pre-pandemic levels, though usage of both rail and bus services has been increasing since February. WMATA’s estimate of 230,000 train riders for Oct. 1 was the highest of the year so far.
WMATA will be responsible for constructing the new McLean station entrance, which carries a total budget of $1.3 million. The actual costs could change once the procurement and contractor selection process begins, according to WMATA spokesperson Sherri Ly.
Capital One contributed $300,000 to the project, which was part of a proffer agreement with Fairfax County for its headquarters campus redevelopment. That money includes $100,000 for preliminary engineering and $200,000 for construction costs, according to county documents.
In order for NVTC to transfer the $1 million in Commuter Choice funds, Fairfax County had to sign off on separate project agreements with NVTC and WMATA that set the conditions tied to the money, including requirements that Metro provide regular status updates to the county and notify county staff of any potential cost overruns.
Ly says the agency’s board of directors is scheduled to vote on whether to approve its project agreement with the county when it meets on Oct. 28.
“Under the proposed agreement, Metro would build the entrance which is funded by Fairfax County,” Ly said. “The design work for the entrance is already done and construction would begin once funding and permitting is complete and a contractor selected through the procurement process.”
Another piece of the I-495 Northern Extension project (495 NEXT) has fallen into place.
Toll lanes operator Transurban has selected the Connecticut-based Lane Construction as the contractor that will design and build 2.5 miles of new express lanes from Tysons to the American Legion Bridge area in McLean, the Virginia Department of Transportation announced yesterday (Tuesday).
VDOT also said that it has executed a comprehensive agreement with Transurban, which operates the existing I-495 Express Lanes that currently stop just north of the Dulles Toll Road.
“This project is the latest extension of the Commonwealth’s 90+ mile express lane network planned for Northern Virginia,” Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine said in the press release. “Through 495 NEXT and the on-going investments in multimodal options, I believe we will unlock one of the most congested highways, significantly improve the region’s transportation network, and contribute to economic growth and opportunity.”
With an estimated cost of $600 million, approximately $440 million of which is for design and construction, 495 NEXT will add two express lanes in each direction as part of an agreement with Maryland aimed at relieving congestion on the Capital Beltway by adding more toll lanes and replacing and widening the American Legion Bridge.
Other elements of the project include:
- Funding for new bus service between Tysons and Montgomery County, including $5.2 million from the state to purchase the vehicles and a $2.2 million annual commitment from Transurban for operations
- Four miles of new bicycle and pedestrian connections, including a shared-use path parallel to I-495 from Lewinsville Road to near Live Oak Drive
- Replacement or rehabilitation of seven bridges with sidewalks, bicycle lanes, and crossings at Old Dominion Road, Georgetown Pike, Live Oak Drive, and Lewinsville Road
- Replacement of nine existing noise walls and the construction of a new noise wall along Live Oak Drive near the George Washington Memorial Parkway interchange
- New storm water management facilities along I-495 and funding for Scott’s Run stream restoration efforts
According to VDOT, the planned bus service across the American Legion Bridge “is projected to move more than 170,000 riders each year and remove 4.7 million passenger miles from the road, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by more than 1,650 metric tons each year.”
VDOT anticipates reaching a financial close for 495 NEXT in December with a final design and the start of construction coming in 2022, despite continued uncertainty about whether Maryland’s toll lanes project will get approved.
Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, who represents the McLean area, has maintained that VDOT should wait until Maryland gets federal approvals for its project before starting construction on 495 NEXT.
“I believe 495 NEXT should not go forward unless and until Maryland gets approval for its project to increase capacity of the American Legion Bridge and to add lanes on the Maryland Beltway,” Foust said in a statement to Tysons Reporter. “I am disappointed that VDOT and the CTB have decided to go forward without waiting. However, given their decision to go forward, I’m glad they chose Transurban. I have worked with them in the past and I believe they are qualified to deliver the project.”
Initial results from Tysons Reporter’s extremely unscientific poll on the project show a roughly even split between people who completely oppose 495 NEXT and those who decidedly support it, with the former gaining a slight edge. Other respondents indicated that they could support the proposal but have reservations due to the timing or inclusion of amenities for forms of travel other than driving.
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
Plans to extend the I-495 Express Lanes three miles north from the Dulles Toll Road in Tysons to the George Washington Memorial Parkway in McLean are moving full steam ahead.
Now backed by federal approvals, the 495 Northern Extension project (495 NEXT) is on track to develop a more detailed design this fall, Virginia Department of Transportation officials told Fairfax County leaders and community members at separate meetings last week.
With a financial close on a contract projected to come this winter and the design getting finalized next year, VDOT anticipates starting the right-of-way acquisition process and construction in 2022. The new toll lanes are scheduled to open in 2025.
While the project has faced skepticism over whether its benefits will outweigh the impact of construction on the environment and neighborhoods, state transportation officials say expanding the Capital Beltway to the American Legion Bridge — and, ideally, beyond it into Maryland — will provide needed relief at one of the worst traffic bottlenecks in the D.C. region.
“I’ve never heard anyone say the American Legion Bridge is great,” VDOT Chief Deputy Commissioner Rob Cary said during a virtual public information meeting on Wednesday (Sept. 29). “It’s an issue. Everybody knows it’s an issue, and this project is going to move forward and fix that.”
The additional capacity created by the new express lanes will allow for transit across the Potomac River that’s currently stymied by the amount of congestion on and around the bridge, VDOT Northern Virginia Regional Transportation Program Susan Shaw told the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ Transportation Committee last Tuesday (Sept. 28).
VDOT has committed to introducing bus service between Tysons and Montgomery County in Maryland as recommended by a study that the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation and Maryland Department of Transportation completed in March.
VDOT will provide $5.2 million to purchase buses, and contracted Express Lanes operator Transurban has agreed to cover the transit service’s operating costs with $2.2 million per year once tolling begins, according to the presentation delivered at both of last week’s meetings.
At Fairfax County’s urging, the state has been looking at the possibility of launching the bus service before the new toll lanes open, especially since Shaw admits conditions “will be degraded some” during construction, which could last into fall 2027, when Maryland expects to open its Beltway toll lanes.
“Those years of degradation are what really concern us,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said at the transportation committee meeting. “So, getting ahead on transit and a program to really get people on transit, out of their cars during that congestion, I think, would be very helpful to be successful.”
However, it will be difficult to provide consistent, timely bus service until the express lanes are available, Shaw says. Read More
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
The Capital Beltway will have slightly less room to accommodate drivers in Tysons this weekend, with construction work shutting down one lane starting tonight (Friday).
The Virginia Department of Transportation announced yesterday (Thursday) that it will close the right general purpose lane on southbound I-495 over the Dulles Toll Road (Route 267) from 10 p.m. today to 5 a.m. Monday (Sept. 27) for bridge joint work.
The Beltway’s two right southbound lanes will also be closed overnight during the weekend, according to the following schedule from VDOT’s news release:
- 11 p.m. Friday (Sept. 24) to 7 a.m. Saturday (Sept. 25)
- 11 p.m. Saturday (Sept. 25) to 7 a.m. Sunday (Sept. 26)
- 11 p.m. Sunday (Sept. 26) to 5 a.m. Monday (Sept. 27)
“At least two lanes of southbound I-495 will remain open at all times,” VDOT says. “Also remaining open will be the southbound I-495 general purpose lanes ramp to the westbound Dulles Toll Road (Exit 45A), and the southbound I-495 ramp to eastbound Route 267 (Exit 45B).”
In other I-495 news, state transportation officials will hold a virtual public information meeting this coming Wednesday (Sept. 29) to share updates on the 495 NEXT project, which will extend the Beltway’s express lanes from the Dulles Toll Road interchange to the American Legion Bridge area in McLean.
This will be VDOT’s first public meeting on the project since it received approvals from the Federal Highway Administration and National Park Service in July stating that the anticipated environmental impact will be minimal compared to its potential to improve travel in the corridor.
Since 495 NEXT got the federal approvals, Maryland has advanced its side of the effort to widen the Beltway, with the state’s public works board approving a design contract for the toll lanes in August.
Fairfax County officials have maintained that Virginia has to coordinate the 495 NEXT project with Maryland in order for its benefits for reducing traffic congestion and improving travel times to be realized.
(Updated at 8:40 a.m.) Flood Watch in Effect — Fairfax County is under a Flood Watch into this afternoon, as “significant” rain is expected. Several roads have been closed due to flooding or downed trees, including Potomac River Road at Georgetown Pike, Lawyers Road at Hunter Mill, and Old Courthouse at Besley Road. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, FCPD]
Suspect in Tysons Sexual Assault Charged in New Incident — Fairfax County police have filed new sexual assault charges against a Woodbridge man who was arrested on Sept. 3 in connection with a sexual assault reported at a Tysons hotel in July. Reported on Aug. 26, the second incident involved the man allegedly assaulting a woman he’d arranged to meet at a hotel in the Seven Corners area. [Patch]
FCPS Shares SAT Results — The Class of 2021 performed above the national average on the SAT with just a 4.4% drop in participation, compared to a 31.4% global decline, despite the challenges of conducting standardized testing during the pandemic, Fairfax County Public Schools reported yesterday (Wednesday). Results from the College Board showed that Asian and white students recorded higher average scores than their Black and Hispanic counterparts. [WTOP]
Area Officials Consider Prioritizing Equity in Planning — The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments board will vote on Oct. 13 on a regional transportation and land use plan that would prioritize low-income residents and communities of color when allocating funds for affordable housing, transportation, and other projects. Planners say the move would help address disparities in health outcomes and access to transit and other services. [The Washington Post]
Tysons Media Company Has Suitors — “Tegna Inc. (NYSE: TGNA), the Tysons-based operator of dozens of U.S. television stations, said Tuesday it has recently received multiple acquisition proposals — a new round of overtures after offers last year were pulled as the Covid-19 pandemic was taking hold. According to reports, media mogul Byron Allen is teaming with alternative investment firm Ares Management Corp. (NYSE: ARES) on a bid, while private equity giant Apollo Global Management Inc. (NYSE: APO) and Standard General LP are joining on another.” [Washington Business Journal]
Regional Park Authority Founders Celebrated — The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority recently lauded the achievements of its founders, including conservationist Ira Gabrielson, who gave land to Fairfax County that became Oakton’s Gabrielson Gardens Park. Started 62 years ago, NOVA Parks has preserved more than 12,000 acres of land and oversees attractions like the Washington & Old Dominion Regional Trail. [Sun Gazette]
Police Arrest Suspect in Tysons Sexual Assault — “Fairfax County Police have arrested and charged a man in a July sexual assault at a Tysons hotel…Patrick Michael Chaloupka, 38, of Woodbridge, was arrested Thursday at his home. He was charged with rape and abduction with intent to defile and is being held at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center without bond.” [Patch]
Patrick Henry Park and Ride Up for Transit Funding — A park-and-ride lot for Patrick Henry Library in Vienna is one of four projects under consideration for the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission’s I-66 Commuter Choice program, which uses toll fees to fund transit improvements. NVTC staff haven’t recommended the Patrick Henry proposal for funding, citing the $5 million cost, but the public can comment on the proposals until Sept. 17. [Reston Now]
495 NEXT Public Meeting Set for This Month — “VDOT will hold a virtual Public Information Meeting on Wednesday, September 29, 2021, beginning at 6:30 p.m. to present the latest updates and information related to the 495 NEXT Project. The project is advancing to the design and construction phase, following…the receipt of a ‘Finding of No Significant Impact‘ from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and National Park Service on its environmental assessment, and an approval from FHWA on its interchange justification report.” [Virginia Department of Transportation]