Newsletter
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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Northbound I-495 has been closed near Georgetown Pike in McLean after a tractor-trailer crash (via VDOT)

(Updated at 6 p.m. on 2/4/2022) The collision of two vehicles on I-495 in McLean on Tuesday (Feb. 1) sent two people to the hospital and shut down the interstate’s northbound lanes for hours.

According to the Virginia State Police, troopers responded to the crash involving a tractor-trailer and a box truck near Georgetown Pike at 4:03 p.m.

A 2016 Kenworth T680 tractor-trailer was traveling north on I-495 when it came to a stop due to heavy traffic. A 2016 International 4000 box truck was traveling in the same lane and struck the tractor-trailer in the rear.

The driver of the tractor-trailer, William Alcin, 40, of Hiram, Ga., was transported to Fairfax INOVA Hospital for treatment of serious injuries. He was wearing a seatbelt.

The driver of the box truck, Timothy R. Steele, 39, of Norcross, Ga., was transported to Fairfax INOVA Hospital for treatment of serious injuries. He was wearing a seatbelt.

All lanes on I-495 North, also known as the Capital Beltway Inner Loop, were closed during the crash response, resulting in backups that, at one point, extended as far as the I-66 interchange in Tysons.

Drivers were diverted onto Georgetown Pike until all lanes reopened shortly after 7 p.m.

The box truck driver was charged with reckless driving, and the crash remains under investigation, state police told Tysons Reporter.

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An aerial view of the old Gallows Road bridge in October 2021 next to the new span currently serving two-way traffic (via VDOT)

Eastbound drivers on I-66 can expect overnight delays this week as crews demolish the old Gallows Road bridge in Merrifield.

Crews are taking apart an old concrete deck with jack hammers, saw cutters, and hoe rams. The overnight work began last night (Sunday) and will repeat each night through Jan. 16.

A new Gallows Road bridge opened to traffic in October as part of the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway project, which is adding express lanes, upgrading interchanges, replacing bridges, and improving pedestrian routes along 22 miles of the interstate from I-495 in Dunn Loring to Gainesville.

The hazardous conditions mean that three lanes on I-66 are closed to eastbound traffic starting at 10 p.m. each night this week. They will reopen at 5 a.m. on weekdays and 7 a.m. on the weekend.

“Drivers should expect periodic stoppages of up to 20 minutes nightly Sunday through Thursday between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m., and Friday and Saturday between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.,” the Virginia Department of Transportation said in a news release.

Gallows Road will remain open, but there will be traffic shifts at times, and changes could occur. VDOT noted that people can receive project updates via email by signing up on its website.

The new Gallows Road bridge, which currently has four lanes, will eventually shift to just a northbound link over I-66. Once crews finish the demolition work, a new southbound bridge will be built.

“The bridge will include three lanes southbound and two lanes northbound (with width to add a third northbound lane in the future),” Justin McNaul, with the engineering consulting firm ATCS that’s assisting VDOT, said in an email.

The new bridge will be longer and wider than its predecessor. It will also feature 5-foot-wide bicycle lanes in each direction with a sidewalk to the north and barrier-separated path to the south in an effort to improve access, including to the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station.

The bridge is slated to be completed in the fall, and the new I-66 express lanes are expected to open in December.

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The groundwork is being laid for construction to begin next year on the Capital Beltway Express Lanes’ expansion into McLean.

A surveyor told Tysons Reporter yesterday (Tuesday) that a site boring crew has started collecting soil samples for the I-495 Extension (495 NEXT) project, which will add toll lanes on the interstate from the Dulles Toll Road in Tysons to just south of the American Legion Bridge.

The Virginia Department of Transportation confirmed that some preliminary activities have commenced, though the project’s design and construction contract are still in the process of being finalized.

“Early works are approved to proceed and are currently underway along the 495 NEXT project corridor,” VDOT spokesperson Michelle Holland said by email. “These activities include survey work, conducting a tree inventory (which involves marking trees), identifying utility locations, and doing geotechnical borings.”

GW Parkway Rehabilitation Announced

VDOT says it does not expect 495 NEXT to be affected by the National Park Service’s recently unveiled plans to revamp the George Washington Memorial Parkway, even though the projects literally intersect.

The U.S. Department of the Interior, which includes the park service, announced on Dec. 7 that it has awarded a $161 million contract to rehabilitate the parkway’s northern section from Sprout Run in Arlington to the I-495 interchange in McLean.

While the GW Parkway’s southern section has been upgraded in parts over the past three decades, this will be the first major rehabilitation of the eight-mile north section since it opened in 1962. It has been in the works since 1999, per an environmental assessment from March 2008.

After putting the project on hold “due to public and agency concerns,” the NPS restarted the planning process in 2016 and got a revised environmental assessment approved in September 2018, according to project documents. Read More

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The upcoming pedestrian bridge over I-495 in Tysons has seen its estimated costs rise to $13.4 million as landowners lock in easements and right of ways needed for the connector.

The Virginia Department of Transportation says it has been working with private parties to secure deals, one of which involved a $698,920 payment agreement to the condominium Encore of McLean.

Until the bicycle/pedestrian bridge is created, residents east of the Capital Beltway have to use an interstate underpass at Route 123 or Route 7 overpass to get to Tysons Corner Center, essentially requiring vehicular trips to the mall.

When construction activities began in August, the project cost was estimated at $12.3 million. The $1.1 million increase is due to right-of-way costs, VDOT said.

Crews are developing a staging area where a drilling machine will be used to create the foundation for the pedestrians.

“Over the next several months, crews will continue installing a retaining wall off of Old Meadow Road behind the Dolley Madison Apartments and will begin installing the bicycle and pedestrian bridge foundations and piers on both sides of I-495 and in the median of the 495 Express Lanes,” VDOT spokesperson Mike Murphy said in an email.

Focused on building the bridge and part of a shared-use path on Old Meadow Road, the first phase of project is scheduled for completion in summer 2022.

“Construction of the second phase of the project, the section of the shared-use path along Old Meadow Road from Provincial Drive to Route 123, will begin once additional funding is identified,” Murphy also wrote.

According to VDOT, the rapid growth of the Tysons area has resulted in a significantly higher cost for acquiring the easements.

Among a handful of other right-of-way or easements transactions secured, Tysons Corner Property Holdings, the limited-liability company used by Southern California-based Tysons Corner Center owner Macerich, received no financial award.

The condominium Regency at McLean obtained a $35,500 agreement, and Dolley Madison finalized a settlement on Nov. 9, details of which could be released in early January, according to VDOT.

VDOT said the increased costs were part of the scope of the contract.

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Morning Notes

Reduced Metro Service Will Continue to Nov. 15 — Metrorail riders can expect reduced service and extended wait times at least until Nov. 15, WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said yesterday (Thursday). The transit agency is still developing a plan to bring back its 7000-series cars, which make up almost 60% of its fleet and have been sidelined since investigators found safety issues in the wake of the Oct. 12 Blue Line derailment. [The Washington Post]

VDOT Finishes Beltway Bridge Work Early — The Virginia Department of Transportation has canceled lane closures on I-495 South over the Dulles Toll Road in Tysons that had been scheduled for this weekend (Oct. 29-Nov. 1). VDOT says the joint bridge work that prompted the overnight closures was finished early, rendering them unnecessary for the last of the three planned weekends. [VDOT Northern Virginia/Twitter]

FCPS Pushes Back Start Date for Student COVID-19 Testing — Previously expected to roll out in phases starting with student-athletes on Nov. 1, FCPS says it will now begin COVID-19 screening testing for all students on Nov. 15, citing the need to give the school system and its contractors “time to ensure all components, including the portals are up and running and staff are fully trained.” [FCPS]

Vienna PD Reports Successful Drug Take Back Day — “On October 23, 2021, the Town of Vienna Police Department, in conjunction with the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (D.E.A.), participated in the 21st National Prescription Drug Take Back Initiative. As a result, the Town of Vienna Police Department collected and safely disposed of 205 pounds of expired or no longer needed medications from area citizens.” [Vienna Police]

What to Know About Pediatric COVID-19 Vaccinations — Approximately 97,000 children in the Fairfax Health District could become eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in early November. A CDC advisory committee will determine whether to authorize the vaccine for children 5-11 years old on Tuesday (Nov. 2) after an FDA advisory panel recommended allowing doses at a third of the amount used for older individuals. [Fairfax County Health Department]

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Morning Notes

New Early Voting Sites Open Today — “Fairfax County will open an additional 13 early voting sites starting Thursday, Oct. 21. In total, there will be 16 voting locations available across the county until the last day to vote early on Oct. 30 at 5 p.m. Early voting began last month starting with three sites open.” [Fairfax County Government]

Gallows Road Bridge to Be Demolished This Weekend — “Southbound Gallows Road travel lanes will shift to a new Gallows Road bridge over I-66 during the daytime hours on or about Thursday, October 21. Pedestrian access across I-66 will shift to the sidewalk on the east side of Gallows Road, with detours using the crosswalks at Cottage Street and Avenir Place/Bellforest Drive.” [VDOT]

Local DJ Brings New Restaurant to Tysons Corner — A new Spice Road-inspired restaurant from D.C.-based DJ and music producer Bikram Keith will open at Tysons Corner Center in early November. Located by Nordstrom’s, the 210-seat venue will serve cuisine from the Middle East, Persian Gulf, and Northern India in a 5,000 square-foot dining room, lounge, and patio. [Patch, Northern Virginia Magazine]

FCPS Allows for Limited Snow Days — “FCPS has announced updates to its inclement weather policy for the 2021-22 school year. The first five inclement weather days will be traditional inclement weather days…Once these five days have been taken, FCPS will use the flexibility provided by the General Assembly to have unscheduled virtual learning days, wherever possible, to maintain continuity of learning.” [FCPS]

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The old Gallows Road bridge over I-66 (via Google Maps)

Preparations for the upcoming demolition of the Gallows Road bridge over I-66 in Dunn Loring are about to get underway.

Northbound traffic on Gallows will shift to a new bridge during daytime hours tomorrow (Thursday) with southbound traffic expected to follow suit next week, the Virginia Department of Transportation announced yesterday (Tuesday).

VDOT anticipates starting to demolish the existing bridge around Oct. 23, a process that will take 30 to 40 nights.

Here are more details on the traffic changes from VDOT’s news release:

Pedestrians will continue to use the west side of the current bridge until southbound Gallows Road traffic shifts to the new span. At that time, pedestrian access will be shifted to the east side of the new bridge, with detours using the crosswalks at Cottage Street and Avenir Place/Bellforest Drive.

Following this traffic shift, the current Gallows Road Bridge over I-66 will be demolished to allow for construction of the new southbound bridge span. Demolition of the current bridge is anticipated to begin on or about October 23. Most of the bridge is directly over I-66 or the Dunn Loring Metrorail Station and will need to be demolished during the overnight hours, when multiple lanes can be closed on I-66 and the Metrorail Station and tracks can be closed to safely accommodate this work. Demolition activities will occur during the daytime hours when feasible, to minimize impacts to the nearby communities. Additional information and updates about demolition work and traffic closures will be provided on the project website. All work is weather dependent and schedules may shift if inclement conditions occur.

The replacement of the Gallows Road bridge is part of the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway project, which will extend the I-66 Express Lanes more than 22 miles west from the I-495 interchange in Dunn Loring to Gainesville.

The new bridge will feature improved sightlines, bicycle lanes and wider sidewalks in each direction, and connections to the shared-use path that’s being constructed alongside I-66, according to the project website. It’s being built in two phases, with the southbound side expected to be completed next summer.

The overall Transform 66 project is on track to open the new express lanes in December 2022, VDOT confirmed at a public information meeting last week.

“Drivers should be alert for changing traffic patterns on Gallows Road near I-66 as construction continues through 2022,” VDOT said. “Drivers are reminded to slow down and pay attention to lane markings and roadway signs at all times.”

Photo via Google Maps

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A portion of I-495 South, also known as the Capital Beltway Outer Loop, will be fully closed during overnight hours starting tomorrow (Oct. 8) so construction crews can continue installing overhead bridge beams at the I-66 interchange in Dunn Loring.

The closure will extend to the I-66 West ramp to I-495 South, the 495 South Express Lanes, and several 495 Express Lanes ramps.

“Drivers traveling on I-66 and I-495 during this time should expect delays and consider using alternate routes,” the Virginia Department of Transportation said in a news release. “Message boards across the region will direct drivers on I-95 and I-495 to use alternate routes those nights.”

Here are more details on the impending closures from VDOT:

I-495 South approaching I-66

  • Two lanes will be closed Friday (Oct. 8) from 10 p.m.-6 a.m., Saturday (Oct. 9) from 10 p.m.-7 a.m., and Sunday (Oct. 10) from 9 p.m.-5:30 a.m.
  • All lanes of I-495 South will be closed Friday and Saturday from midnight to 5 a.m., and Sunday from 11:30 p.m. to 4:30 a.m.

Ramp from I-66 West to I-495 South

  • The ramp will be closed Friday and Saturday nights from 10 p.m.-5 a.m., and Sunday night from 11:30 p.m.-4:30 a.m.
  • 495 Express Lanes and ramps will be closed from 10 p.m.-5 a.m. every night.

Traffic will be detoured onto I-66 West to the Nutley Street exit in Vienna before looping onto I-66 East back toward I-495 South.

Traffic from the I-495 South and I-66 interchange will be detoured to Nutley Street overnight on Oct. 8-10 (via VDOT)

VDOT notes that the construction work depends on the weather and could be rescheduled if there are inclement conditions.

This will be the third consecutive weekend of construction-related closures on I-495 after recent lane closures on the Beltway at the Dulles Toll Road interchange in Tysons for joint bridge work there.

This weekend’s beam installation is part of work on a new flyover ramp that will connect I-495 North to I-66 West, one of several changes coming to the interchange courtesy of the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway project to add toll lanes on I-66 from Dunn Loring to Gainesville.

According to VDOT, the reconfigured interchange will provide access to and from the 495 Express Lanes to the new I-66 Express Lanes, enable drivers to switch between express and general-purpose lanes when changing roadways, and replace existing noise walls while adding new ones on I-66 near Idylwood Park.

Work has been ongoing throughout the I-66 corridor since 2018. Just this past weekend, two new ramps from Nutley Street to I-66 West opened to traffic in Vienna. The express lanes are expected to open to traffic in December 2022.

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A rendering of the new Gallows Road Bridge over I-66 (via VDOT)

Construction crews will soon demolish the Gallows Road bridge over I-66, a process that is expected take 30 to 40 nights, starting on or about next Wednesday (Oct. 13).

The work will involve breaking up the concrete deck with jack hammers, saw cutters and heavy equipment consisting of hoe rams. It’s part of the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway project, which is adding express lanes on the interstate from I-495 in Dunn Loring to Gainesville.

“These are not necessarily 30 to 40 consecutive nights of demolition, and…some demolition activities are less disruptive than others,” said Nancy Smith, a spokesperson for FAM Construction, the design-builder of the project.

The company said at a public information meeting on Monday (Oct. 4) that the demolition will occur after traffic shifts.

Segments over I-66 will be affected overnight — typically 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. — when multiple lanes of the interstate can be closed, Smith said. For work not over I-66, demolition will take place during the daytime.

Information on lane closures and other travel changes will be posted on the project website, which also has provides information via email notifications and traffic alerts.

The demolition timeline extends into the late fall due to weather and other factors, but no demolition work will occur over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Project officials previously expected the demolition work to start in mid-August. VDOT told Tysons Reporter that the slippage in the schedule is not expected to impact the overall project schedule.

The new I-66 express lanes are still slated to open in December 2022.

The Gallows Road bridge is just feet above the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station, requiring coordinating with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

To minimize impacts, crews will haul concrete away to be processed off site, position work area lighting to face toward the roadway and away from residences, implement “dust control measures,” and monitor construction vibrations and noise, Smith said.

At Monday’s information meeting, however, neighbors compared previous construction to an earthquake and reported that vehicles have been running red lights amid “frustration and confusion” as traffic goes over the bridge.

VDOT megaprojects director Susan Shaw said she would coordinate with their team to notify county police about the safety concerns.

Among the traffic adjustments, FAM Construction reported that:

  • Northbound bridge traffic will shift to the new bridge starting next week or around that time
  • Southbound bridge traffic will shift into a temporary alignment onto the new bridge on or about the week of Oct. 18
  • Pedestrian access will remain on the west side of the old bridge until southbound travel lanes shift on or about the week of Oct. 18. Once those southbound lanes shift to the new bridge, pedestrian routes will be on the east side of the bridge
  • The shift in travel lanes on Gallows Road does not affect the entrance at Stenwood Elementary School as the changes are south of the school entrance

Updates will be posted to outside.transform66.org/gallowsroad as demolition progresses.

Community members can share questions about construction by calling 703-662-3892 or emailing [email protected] or [email protected]

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