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Trouble Ahead For Tysons Travelers

If you travel through Tysons regularly, you are in for interesting times.

While the citizens who make up the Tysons Land Use Task Force were talking last night about how to involve the public in creating a small city of distinctive, liveable, walkable neighborhoods, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors was approving a developer's plan to surround the Tysons Corner Center mall with eight residential and commercial towers up to 30 stories high.

The citizens, who are taking their job seriously no matter what the board is doing, passed a resolution in support of putting the new Metrorail line underground through Tysons. One of their concerns about an elevated track is that it will look like a wall to pedestrians thinking about crossing Route 123. Once the towers go up, the tracks may look no more intimidating than a Lionel train set running around a Christmas tree.

Those who drive through Tysons can look forward to a half decade of disruptions starting next year as construction begins on the rail line and the towers. The construction of the rail line, under the supervision of the authority that operates Dulles Airport, will begin next year if federal government agrees to contribute $900 million and Metro agrees to take over operations when the line is finished in 2012.

Crews will tear up and relocate utilities along Routes 123 and 7. Then elevated line will be built along with the four stations along those roadways as the train tracks dip south and then go north toward a new station at Wiehle Avenue. Meanwhile, there's likely to be office and residential construction all across an area that already is problematic for commuters and shoppers.

But wait, there's more. It's likely that the privately operated express toll lanes on the Capital Beltway, the ones that will have three exits in Tysons, will be getting built at the same time. While we're in the neighborhood, let's throw in the state's plans to construction some traffic flow improvements for the westbound lanes of Interstate 66 inside the Beltway.

Are you commuters spotting anything to worry about in all that? Let's throw in the variety of planners and builders: the county board, the task force, the state of Virginia, the airports authority, the developers, the private road contractors, Metro. I'm probably leaving somebody out. It hardly seems complicated enough yet.

How does this sound to you folks who are going to have to travel through it?

By Robert Thomson  |  January 23, 2007; 7:26 AM ET
Categories:  Congestion  
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Next: Summer Detour for D.C. Commuters

Comments

Can't say I've ever seen a pedestrian on Route 123. Or anywhere else, as Tysons is completely pedestrian un-friendly.

Posted by: Bill Monroe | January 23, 2007 9:02 AM | Report abuse

I am soooo glad I don't live in virginia...

Posted by: jan | January 23, 2007 9:13 AM | Report abuse

I agree that Tyson's has been one of the most
pedestrian unfriendly areas in the region. It's even worse than Rockville Pike. I don't think an elevated train will make things worse. It will probably improve things with the addition of some pedestrian bridges.

Posted by: Et | January 23, 2007 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Driving through Tyson's at the holidays is a nightmare. My fiance and I both work there and I'm dreading the hassle. There's really no way to avoid the gridlock.

Posted by: Nic | January 23, 2007 9:40 AM | Report abuse

I've been in and around Tyson's all my life and it's not pedestrian friendly which leads me to ask, how would an elevated Metro station make it pedestrian friendly? Will using Metro make it easier to cross the streets? Will the stations be built like East Falls Church where you enter under the station or like Vienna where there is a bridge. And if there is going to be a bridge, how are they proposing getting up to the bridge.

The underground route would be better, you have a stairwell and elevator and nothing else to get in the way. You can provide an entrance on either side of Rte. 7 to go down and people don't have to worry about waiting/walking outside in the cold & rain. I really don't see how creating more congestion is going to make the area that much more pedestrian friendly unless they're going for New York City gridlock.

I work in Tyson's and with the work that I do, could really do it at home save for one last step that could easily be e-mailed to another department to have done.

How is cramming more housing into an area going to help that area. Most people live in one area and work in another. I'm not going to say, "Hey honey, let's sell our house and move into an apartment building to pay MORE in rent and have to live on the 22nd floor and have to wait for elevators to get us home when we're dead tired at night."

My parents moved to Annandale after living in Crystal City when they got married. It was cheaper and they had a house with a place for a little one to run around (and boy did I).

And how is Marshall High School supposed to handle all the influx of new students? And how are school busses going to have to be routed in the morning to fight traffic just to get kids to school? How am I going to get to work then actually go do something afterward if it's going to take forever to get out of here?

Too many "how's" and "what if's" to be answered.

Posted by: Jarrod | January 23, 2007 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Reston, you are next. Act now - plans are in the works to make Reston the next Ballston.

Posted by: reston advocate | January 23, 2007 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Shoot me now.

Posted by: Tysons Cubeland | January 23, 2007 10:21 AM | Report abuse

let's just hope the pedestrian walkways don't dip under a road or rail line where it's nice and dark and armed robbers can wait for you and no one can hear or see you! (I'm referring to an article in yesterday's Post).

Posted by: uh oh | January 23, 2007 10:27 AM | Report abuse

I can't even imagine how much of a nightmare this is going to be. Tysons around the holidays is enough to make me want to find a new job. Add the construction headaches and it will be absolute gridlock. If they're predicting this work to take five years, it's probably more like eight. I guess the planners don't know what the word "plan" means. Then again, that's how we got into the mess we're in now.

Posted by: Tysons Cubeland | January 23, 2007 10:31 AM | Report abuse

I've lived in Mclean for 30 years and I only go to Tysons Corner when the Redskins play in the Super Bowl.

Posted by: Judy | January 23, 2007 10:36 AM | Report abuse

I live in Gaithersburg, MD, and regularly travel the Tysons area stretch of the Beltway to visit people and places in Virginia. The way it sounds now, it might eventually be faster to go through Prince George's County and over the Wilson Bridge (especially once the new WB span and the Mixing Bowl are finished.)

Posted by: MHK919 | January 23, 2007 11:00 AM | Report abuse

I work in Tysons now and the traffic is unbearable. Apparently it's going to get a lot worse in a big hurry. But if the end result is a walkable Tysons with Metro access and mixed use spaces, who am I to complain?

Yes, it'll stink for 5 years, but in the end, traffic will decrease because Metro goes there (I know I can't wait to take Metro instead of driving to work) and people will live where they work. I'm thinking Crystal City/Pentagon City - style. Big, ugly tower buildings that have mixed uses near a mall and can be accessed by Metro. It's not ideal, sure, but if the alternative is to never build another thing in the area, it's just going to get worse over a longer period of time.

Posted by: bk003h | January 23, 2007 11:20 AM | Report abuse

The whole tunnel vs underground argument is ridiculous. The tunnel argument is being financed and pushed by financial interests who believe their economic interests will be compromised by elevated rail lines near their property. This has NOTHING to do with aesthetics or pedestrian safety or convenience. Follow the money. While I'm ranting about money, ask who is the ultimate sugar daddy when the cost estimates for these rail projects balloon. It's property tax payers, of course. Not the developers who will be making out like bandits ... but they do have costs ... they have to pay off the FX County supervisors.

Posted by: GetReal | January 23, 2007 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Does anyone heve a problem with our public roads being privatized? Sounds like more hassel unless you have the money.

Posted by: Scott B. | January 23, 2007 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Jarrod, looks like you're the only one who's really thought this through. They could use you on the planning board.

Posted by: CEEAF | January 23, 2007 12:52 PM | Report abuse

"While I'm ranting about money, ask who is the ultimate sugar daddy when the cost estimates for these rail projects balloon. "

True that!

The Dulles rail line is nothing but a boondoggle for landowners and developers; they're the ones who will really benefit.

The need for Dulles rail simply isn't there. The studies don't show enough riders jumping on board to significantly impact raffic congestion - and isn't reducing traffic congestion what mass transit is all about?

Dulles rail is a land speculator's and developer's dream come true - and a politician's vanity project. The politicians can crow about how the rail project makes them look like "leaders with vision" who brought in "world-class transit".

Meanwhile, the taxpayers are the ones getting nailed - a MINIMUM of $4 billion of YOUR taxes to build the thing, PLUS PERPETUAL operating subsidies. Our grandchildren's grandchildren will be paying for Dulles rail long after we're all gone.

I can't believe any working taxpayer with half a brain really wants to see thing thing built.

Posted by: CEEAF | January 23, 2007 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Anyone else know what else requires PERPETUAL operating subsidies? Roads.

Maybe Dulles rail is a developer's dream come true. But if, over the next 20 years, that means more development along an existing transit line, is that necessarily a bad thing? The close-in suburbs of DC are more or less built. As more people locate in the area (population doesn't seem to be decreasing anytime soon), all those people will have to live somewhere. Does it make more sense to plop them 30, 40 or 50 miles away, forcing them to drive long distances to work in ever worsening traffic? Or could it make more sense to build in places that have a public transit infrastructure which can support moving lots of people where they need to go?

Posted by: Baltimore | January 23, 2007 1:48 PM | Report abuse

"Anyone else know what else requires PERPETUAL operating subsidies? Roads."

Not to the extent as rail transit. And roads pay for themselves; transit doesn't.

I think you know all of the above, but I'll be happy to take the time to educate you (once again) on the facts behind the fact that drivers pay 100% of the cost of their ride while Metro users pay only 30%.

I hate wasting time being redundant with the stubborn, but if it saves a first-time visitor or occasional lurker from believing the "rail transit is a Godsend that hardly costs us anything" lie, I'll be happy to oblige.

"Maybe Dulles rail is a developer's dream come true. But if, over the next 20 years, that means more development along an existing transit line, is that necessarily a bad thing?"

Here we go again!

Why is development spawned by rail OK, OK, OK ,and quite fine, while development caused a road is derided as "sprawl"?

To hear you say it, if you can reach somewhere on an expensive, money-losing, non-scalable train operated by expensive union labor, it's "smart growth"; if you can get there by yourself, it's sprawl.

Why the double standard?

Posted by: CEEAF | January 23, 2007 4:11 PM | Report abuse

"Does it make more sense to plop them 30, 40 or 50 miles away,"

You mean like the areas that will be "served" by Dulles rail?

Tysons is 15 miles from DC; Reston, is 23; Dulles and Loudon are 30-40. But I guess it's OK to build new development out there as long as it's near rail.

" ...forcing them to drive long distances to work in ever worsening traffic? "

The traffic is "ever-worsening", thanks to tne efforts of road opponents and selfish transit advocates who want all the funds spent on THEIR pet projects like Dulles rail.

"more development along an existing transit line"

WHAT "existing transit line"?

Like I said, it's OK to spend billions plus subsidies on an UNNECESSARY rail line, THEN "make it fit" by adding development. But if this should happen thanks to a road, we have a problem ("sprawl"), don't we?

Hypocrite, thy name is rail advocate.

Posted by: CEEAF | January 23, 2007 4:34 PM | Report abuse

"Not to the extent as rail transit. And roads pay for themselves; transit doesn't.

I think you know all of the above, but I'll be happy to take the time to educate you (once again) on the facts behind the fact that drivers pay 100% of the cost of their ride while Metro users pay only 30%."

That math looks awfully fuzzy to me. Do enlighten us.

I'll define sprawl as development that overtakes some sort of former open space, whether it was forest land, farmland or whatever, further from a city/jobs center. The development spawned by rail transit is by definition in an area that's already populated or developed, at least to some extent. Thus the development is a difference in kind, not just a difference in degree.

I hardly believe that "rail transit is a Godsend that hardly costs us anything", but to hear you say it roads don't cause sprawl and are quick and cheap to build. I know that rail transit (or buses or whatever other reliable and effective public transit options are out there) takes operating subsidies, but I happen to think that reducing congestion, reducing pollution, reducing sprawl, keeping green-space green and creating dense population centers is a smart use of funds. Not that no money should be spent on roads (there is no debate that the region's infrastructure far lags the needs of its population), but the rail system is not being leveraged to achieve maximum benefit. I'm simply advocating better rail solutions because roads are also not the panacea you make them out to be.

Posted by: Baltimore | January 23, 2007 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Baltimore, I find it hard to believe you live and pay taxes in Maryland.

Here you are, rooting like a rabid fan for Dulles rail, a project that will further develop Northern Virginia, give it more of an edge over Suburban Maryland, and improve access to Dulles Airport, BWI-Marshall's main competitor - partly at YOUR expense.

All while you oppose the ICC, which would even the Suburban MD-NOVA playing field and improve access to OUR airport, making it more competitive.

AND while you remain curiously silent over the lack of plans for extending the Green Line to Laurel, rail to Charles County, or any new rail transit proposed for the Baltimore area.

Strange, indeed.

Posted by: CEEAF | January 23, 2007 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Nice try, but mass transit isn't simply about reducing traffic congestion. It's that, plus the environment, plus spurring (planned) economic development, and even to serve those who- for various reasons- aren't driving a car.
I'd much rather my taxes pay for Dulles rail than Iraq any day, but since it's all borrowed Chinese money, wok the heck. The "Taxes- eeeeeek!" argument (sic) gets weak after a while anyway- childless pay for schools, sightless pay for billboards, blah blah blah.
How do roads pay for themselves, unless toll roads? And, if so concerned about taxpayers, how do you then justify charging tolls long after the road is paid for, and well in excess of operating costs (e.g., NYS Thruway)?
Road construction crews, highway department maintainance crews: all non-union in what world?
The distances listed from DC to Reston/Tysons/Dulles are accurate, but don't tell the whole story. Nobody, but nobody, suggests every trip is going to be from Metro Center to Dulles; with the new Tysons residential towers, the trips are as likely to be Tysons to Reston, or Dulles to Sterling, all taking traffic (and pollution, and...) off Leesburg Pike, the Toll Road, and even I-66.

Posted by: AA, near Baltimore | January 23, 2007 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Anyone supporting Dulles rail should calculate the time required to travel from the Loudoun stops into downtown. Too Long! Also, the Silver/Orange/Blue crush in the single tunnel with no express tracks should be fine.

What a boondoggle.

Posted by: Too long | January 23, 2007 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Wow, talk about putting words into someone's mouth. For the record, I support the ICC, expanding the Green Line to BWI (not just Laurel), Metro into Southern Maryland (I'm not familiar enough with the geography to know how best to suggest this expansion, all I know is that Rte 5 stymies my drive to Richmond, Williamsburg and the OBX quite frequently), and, in the Baltimore area, the proposed Red Line, Green Line to White Marsh (not just to Morgan State) and enhancing Light Rail to speed trips through downtown and to and from the airport. And one other (unproposed) project you failed to mention: extend I-97 from near Bowie/Annapolis to I-95 north of Richmond to keep through traffic out of the DC area. I'd say that's a pretty good balance between roads and rails.

My main support for Dulles rail lies in the fact that, by itself, Tysons is the nation's 12th largest business district (from today's Post). If there is to be any real progress on traffic in that area, then a comprehensive transit and road solution is necessary.

It's not about MD vs. VA, Dulles vs. BWI: The Baltimore/Washington region is increasingly becoming one large city (or suburb, depending on your point of view) and development and transit decisions need to be made on a regional basis. Spillover (the good, like DC strengthening the Baltimore job and housing markets, and bad, like traffic and sprawl) from one region to the other affects everyone in the area. For instance, is Columbia a Baltimore or DC suburb? It is 18 miles from Baltimore, and 36 miles from DC. Several of my coworkers in Baltimore live in the Columbia area, and all of their neighbors work in Rockville, Bethesda, Tysons, DC, etc. Decisions that affect their commutes affect whether Columbia is a viable DC suburb, which affects where those who work in Baltimore live. The region is too small for decisions to be made in a MD vs. VA vacuum.

Posted by: Baltimore | January 23, 2007 8:53 PM | Report abuse

We don't worry about armed robbers in tunnels. We live in VA where we can protect ourselves.

Posted by: Stick | January 24, 2007 8:06 AM | Report abuse

This came up last night while sitting at a high school basketball game but...why not extend the orange line out to Centreville, have it take a hard right, go up 28 to Dulles. That way you stay on the one line and Tyson's traffic isn't affected at all. Maybe 66 will get repaved in the process. There's a lot of potential sprawl space still left and they're building like gang busters up there.

Tunnel through Tyson's yes. Building towers that'll turn Tyson's into it's own city roughly the size of DC, no.

Yogi Berra once said, "People don't go there any more, it's too crowded". It's going to happen to Tyson's, I avoided it like the plague until I had to work here. I do put up with it because it's a good job but still allows me quick access into Arlington or through DC. Does that mean I'll move here to live in an apartment building? Nope, and there's a big one right across the street.

Posted by: Jarrod | January 24, 2007 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Reston is already becoming Tyson's/Ballston, just look at the towers they continue to build at the town center. At least the Reston Association can block any monstrosities someone attempts to build. Metro on 28 to Dulles?? Forget it. They just spent the last 3-5 years making 28 into another highway. They won't do more work to accommodate trains, plus there's no room for it.

Posted by: Ugh | January 24, 2007 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Roads pay for themselves is possible the most inane comment I've ever read.

Then why don't they just make more roads since they're free?

We're on our third war to keep oil prices low - start paying for your roads buddy, and you'll have to sell your car to do it.

Roads - America's greatest subsidy.

Posted by: Roads pay for themselves | January 24, 2007 12:28 PM | Report abuse

"Not to the extent as rail transit. And roads pay for themselves; transit doesn't.

I think you know all of the above, but I'll be happy to take the time to educate you (once again) on the facts behind the fact that drivers pay 100% of the cost of their ride while Metro users pay only 30%."

You din't actually explain that one at all. And I, for one, would like to see how you arrived at those numbers.

Posted by: FDM | January 24, 2007 1:18 PM | Report abuse

"Roads pay for themselves is possible the most inane comment I've ever read.

Then why don't they just make more roads since they're free?

We're on our third war to keep oil prices low - start paying for your roads buddy, and you'll have to sell your car to do it.

Roads - America's greatest subsidy."

Roads pay for themselves with user fees and taxes paid by road users - fuel taxes, tolls, taxes on insurance premiums, license and registration fees, truck weigh station fees, etc.

If you drive, you pay 100% of the cost of your ride. If you don't drive, you pay little or nothing for roads.

This is eight-grade civics we're talking about pal.

And FYI, by "roads", I mean highways. City streets are another matter.

How much, oh wise and smart one, do you transit users pay for the cost of THEIR ride? Are you REALLY dense enough to think fares cover the full cost?

As for the "war to keep oil prices low", oil is keeping your tail warm this winter, pal, either at work, at home, or when you go shopping or elsewhere. So spare us the sophomoric "oil war" nonsense.

Posted by: CEEAF | January 24, 2007 1:35 PM | Report abuse

"We're on our third war to keep oil prices low - start paying for your roads buddy, and you'll have to sell your car to do it."

If you had to pay the full cost of your train or bus ride, you would have to sell your soul.

You have a lot of nerve begrudging drivers the roads they need when we're paying the lion's share of the cost of your cheap transit. Even a stray mutt has enough sense not to bite the hand that feeds it.

You attitude smacks of college-student know-it-all-ism.

Grow up, get job, and pay taxes before you start shooting off you mouth about "Roads - America's greatest subsidy" about and "oil wars".

Right now, you're just showing your ignorance and making yourself look foolish.

Posted by: CEEAF | January 24, 2007 1:42 PM | Report abuse

"It's not about MD vs. VA, Dulles vs. BWI: "

For that very reason, you should be rooting for the ICC with at least the same fervor as you do for Dulles rail.

Posted by: CEEAF | January 24, 2007 1:50 PM | Report abuse

So the income and sales taxes that I pay don't go to my ride on the subway each morning? And since I drive my car to the subway station I like to think that the gas taxes, registration fees and insurance taxes I pay go to cover my ride, too, especially since I'm not driving on the congested highways (which I pay for in said gas, registration and insurance taxes) thus making it easier on other commuters.

Further, if everyone had to pay the full cost of their drive to work each morning, I'd imagine that we'd all (transit users and drivers alike) be paying quite a bit more than we do currently. For instance, suppose our road network was privately owned? How much would it cost to drive to work each day in tolls to explicitly pay for the road on which you drove? I can't imagine that the cost would be dramatically different from a transit full fare.

In any case...
2-4-6-8 Who do we appreciate?
ICC! ICC! Goooo ICC!

Posted by: Baltimore | January 24, 2007 2:11 PM | Report abuse

If you drive, you pay 100% of the cost of your ride. If you don't drive, you pay little or nothing for roads.

Wrong. From wikipedia: About 56%[5] of the construction and maintenance costs are funded through user fees, primarily gasoline taxes, collected by states and the federal government, and tolls collected on toll roads and bridges. The rest of the costs are borne by the federal budget.

The federal budget - meaning income taxes.

Posted by: d_in_laurel | January 24, 2007 2:11 PM | Report abuse

"This came up last night while sitting at a high school basketball game but...why not extend the orange line out to Centreville, have it take a hard right, go up 28 to Dulles. That way you stay on the one line and Tyson's traffic isn't affected at all."


Sensible idea, but the Dulles Corridor has the money and the juice.

Posted by: CEEAF | January 24, 2007 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Having the Orange Line head to Centreville and then north to Dulles also completely bypasses Tysons, which is the area most in need of rail (not that extending the Orange Line along 66 would be a bad thing).

Posted by: Baltimore | January 24, 2007 4:42 PM | Report abuse

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