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Tysons Road Work to Begin

Shortly after the New Year begins, motorists on Route 7 in Tysons Corner will start to feel the impact of the long-awaited Metrorail construction project. The region's most expensive transportation project will start off humbly: Washington Gas crews will begin to relocate the utility lines on the service road by Gosnell Road.

But there's much more to come on Route 7. Eventually, the service roads on each side will disappear, Route 7's travel lanes will widen out and a median will be created to provide space for the elevated train line, which will bend onto Route 7 from Route 123.

But this is what thousands of drivers will see first: The gas company crews will begin work on the service road between Gosnell and the first Route 7 entrance into the Pike 7 Plaza. A lane of the service road on this side of Route 7 will be closed until the work is done, but access to all the businesses will be maintained.

When the crews are finished there, the lane will reopen and the workers will move east along the service road toward Route 123. The complete gas line relocation work between Gosnell and Route 123 is scheduled to last about four months.

But wait, there's more: other utility relocations for phones, fiber optics, electricity, and water and sewer lines. All that work should take about two years. This will be a disruptive time for the people who work and shop in Tysons as well as for the thousands of commuters who are just passing through. Here's a link to a fact sheet provided by the project. Look at the second of the two pages to see maps of the work zone.

The Washington Airports Authority, which is in charge of the rail project, and the Virginia Department of Transportation look to the Springfield Interchange and Wilson Bridge reconstruction projects as role models for how to keep traffic moving with minimal disruptions. But the Tysons rail project is a bit different. Yes, the planners do have to get thousands of people around the work zone. But they also must find ways to get thousands of office workers and shoppers into the trouble spot and then out again each day.

This should be interesting. I think of the $5 billion rail project as the Dr. Gridlock full-employment program, because it will keep me in letters for years to come.

By Robert Thomson  |  December 28, 2007; 6:04 AM ET
Categories:  Construction  
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You have to laugh. If you don't laugh, you're going to have a heart attack as you spend a half hour trying to drive two blocks.

Posted by: Cordy | December 28, 2007 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Seven years ahead of epic 24/7 gridlock, all mismanaged by VDOT's vaunted "engineers"... good thing I no longer work in Tysons!

Will this project also incorporate features in the design that will be outdated and under-capacity for the traffic burden by the time they actually get constructed? That is afterall the hallmark of VDOT "planning."

Posted by: nocando | December 28, 2007 9:30 AM | Report abuse

I thought pike 7 was on the eastbound side of the road? are there gas lines further down towards spring hill, like in front of best buy or the embassy suites?

Posted by: Joey | December 28, 2007 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Has anyone considered the cost of the massive congestion and the resulting time losses for everyone in the financial calculations that led us to the elevated tracks? Surely the lost productivity alone is going to be massive due to the above ground construction. I can bet that no one has adequately accounting for the hard costs associated with wasted fuel, wasted time, increased accidents, lower property values, etc associated with the idiotic above ground plan.

In my opinion, the entire metro expansion should be scrapped in favor of a heavy rail line from DC out to Leesburg stopping at the airport. That would provide much better service for airport users going to/from DC and would be more time effective for those in Loudoun County to use as a viable commuter option. Why not let VRE claim the WO&D right of way and just get this done?

Posted by: Tunnel | December 28, 2007 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Luckily, I no longer work in Tysons either! I am beginning to like my commute from Reston to Bethesda (instead of Reston to Tysons) considering what the horizon holds for Tysons in the years ahead.

Agreed with others in that the tunnel is BY FAR the best way to go for rail through Tysons. I think its a complete crock that we are all stuck with the above-ground rail given the risk of losing federal funding.

I doubt the newly designed and engineered Route 7 through Tysons (even when complete) will be anything close to a traffic engineering marvel. But rather, it'll be another VDOT debacle just like the supposed improved interchange at Route 28 and Waxpool Rd/Church Rd in Loudoun as well as the confusing as ever overhead signs and lane arrows drivers try to interpret when navigating Springfield. Maryland always has and always will do a far better job in all aspects of civil engineering from planning to implementation to the final outcome(including the signage) of any transportation project.

Posted by: xyv1027 | December 28, 2007 10:50 AM | Report abuse

NIMBYs would never allow the W&OD to be reconverted to heavy rail.

Posted by: Dan78 | December 28, 2007 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Yep. A million people with 2 million opinions is part of why we're in this mess. And what's worse is that everyone continues to miss the point. Whether it's heavy rail, light rail, above ground or below ground, the rail system is already overtaxed. Anyone who thinks car traffic in Tysons is horrible should wait and see what rail service looks like when multiple thousands of more people join a Metro system that's already near 100% capacity. The long term issue for transportation in this area is not so much overhauling the road system, but expanding the capacity of the Metro system, which means bigger stations, multiple tracks, larger trains, and more parking. As it stands, any Dulles rail that goes through Tysons will create massive bottlenecks at all adjacent transfer stations because the present system can't handle the new Metro line. Nobody's talking about this, and it's ridiculous that we're not given the amount of money, disruption, and hope that's being invested in Metro as a solution for the Tysons/Dulles problem. It's not a solution, no matter how they build it.

Posted by: vajent | December 28, 2007 12:13 PM | Report abuse

It's hard to believe that anyone seriously thinks that digging a tunnel would produce less traffic congestion, problems for local businesses and the like.

I can still remember trying to drive around in Washington where almost every trip took me over the cut for the Green line.

Posted by: Jim Quinn | December 28, 2007 12:22 PM | Report abuse

"Seven years ahead of epic 24/7 gridlock, all mismanaged by VDOT's vaunted "engineers"... good thing I no longer work in Tysons! "

Yep. Get ready.

This is another consequence of this region's obsession with the "more rail is a cure-all" fallacy. The "Silver Line" is an appropriate name for this "rail is a silver bullet" folly.

And anyone who thinks the gridlock will end once the "Silver Line" is completed is delushional. It will only get worse as people drive their cars to crowd onto the "Silver Line".

The really sad thing is transit advocates will ignore the increased traffic congestion, point to the added crowding on Metro, and use it as the basis for promoting more of the "rail makes roads unnecessary" nonsese.

And fools will think the $5,200,000,000 in construction costs, plus PERPETUAL subsidies, is worth it.

Posted by: ceefer66 | December 28, 2007 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Amazing how the fact that 35 years of "rail makes roads unnecessary" has given the region the nation's 2nd-worst traffic congestion is lost on many otherwise intelligent people who are among the most educated populace in the country.

Simply amazing.

Posted by: ceefer66 | December 28, 2007 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Tunnel technology today would allow for less surface disruption than before. There were studies that indicated this. Certainly a tunnel would be less disruptive than a total reconfiguration of Tysons surface level streets AND construction of the elevated montrosity in the median. People in DC still rue the decision to build the Whitehurst freeway. Too bad the same kind of eyesore is going up in Tysons.

HOW can the silver line possibly help? The orangle line is already packed to capacity during commute hours. The silver line now has to merge onto the same tracks used by orange. This is going to cause monumental backups between west and east falls church. Also, the orange corridor is already at capacity. You can't just add silver trains to the mix w/o reducing the frequency of the orange trains.

Two possible solutions:

1. Build a silver line that totally bypasses existing lines. Have it intersect orange at WF Church but continue on to the columbia pike corridor and end at Pentagon.

2. Forget metro rail extension entirely and extend VRE out to Dulles from Downtown DC with a few stops along the way, and extend out to Leesburg or Purcellville. Much better solution, much less expensive, and the public right of way already exists.

Posted by: Tunnel | December 28, 2007 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Its ashame that Blue Line customers always end up on the short end of things when it comes to service. For years we have suffered with short, 4-car trains. Currently the ratio to Blue and Orange Lines trains downtown is one Blue Line train for every 2, sometimes 3 Orange Line trains. This will only get worse as now Metro will some how have to squeeze in Silver Line trains. The train rotation may end up being Orange Line Vienna train, Silver Line train, Orange Line train, then finally a Blue Line train. I just hope Metro has enough rail cars for the Silver Line so the Blue Line doesn't have to go back to the dreaded 4-car trains.

Posted by: Blue Line | December 28, 2007 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Thank God this isn't happening in Maryland or some nutjob would be here screaming about how construction might displace a tree.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 28, 2007 3:23 PM | Report abuse

No one's mentioning pedestrians crossing the rt. 7 - 495 bridge, or around the rest of the construction. Guess they'll add some course hazards to the pedestrian death crossing there for a few years...

Posted by: Gentry | December 28, 2007 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Don't worry, Blue Line, when the orange line fills up they will just stop running the blue line through DC. Members of the Metro board are already calling for it. You can walk to work from the Pentagon.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 28, 2007 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Yes... How about we close the Arlington Cemetery Station, alternate Yellow Line Trains between Franconia-Springfield and Huntington, have the Orange Line continue to run between Vienna and New Carrollton and have the Silver Line terminate at Largo Town Center, instead of Stadium-Armory. The Silver Line would become the new Blue Line. Access to Arlington Cemetery would be from shuttle buses. We all know how much Metro LOVES to run shuttle buses.

Posted by: Sid | December 28, 2007 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Sid I totally agree! Arlington Cemetery is useless. It was only built probably because someone on the Ways and Means committee refused to support the bill to create Metro if it wasn't constructed. The major advantage to closing the Blue line through Arlington Cemetery is that the Rossyln tunnel problem is solved, so maybe that will help the Orange line capacity problem that the Silver line will only make critical.

Posted by: Sivad | December 28, 2007 5:08 PM | Report abuse

The salaries of the engineers should depend on their estimates being correct. I still think they overestimated the cost of a tunnel way too high and Virginians will pay for years to fix this self inflicted problem.

Posted by: Gary E. Masters | December 28, 2007 5:40 PM | Report abuse

I have no problem with the idea of Metrorail as far as Tysons, although as others have said the tunnel would be the better option than the el. But Metrorail to Dulles is a waste. A high-speed train running nonstop from Dulles to Union Station (similar concept to the Heathrow Express in London) would be a far more viable option, as it wouldn't be used solely by airport users. The real estate cost to build it would no doubt be prohibitive, though, even worse than the cost for the Metrorail line.

I daresay that sort of train is the ONLY way they'll ever get airport travellers to use a train to or from Dulles. Heck, I went to Chicago for a business meeting once, got there during rush hour, so I took the El from O'Hare to the Loop. My colleagues all took cabs and ridiculed me for taking public transport when the firm would pay for a cab. They didn't seem to understand that the fact that it took me 35 minutes to get to the city versus an hour and a half for them (at $35 less cost, too) was more important to me than whether someone would pay for a cab. I think that attitude is very common among American business travellers.

Posted by: Rich | December 28, 2007 6:02 PM | Report abuse

WOW!!! They are finally going to actually start on this project. I've been hearing about this proposal since I moved her back in 1987. I guess twenty years of talking about doing something may finally begin twenty years of construction. Then when it is finished, find out that the demand for public transportation has expanded to the point that a six car train is useless. Oh wait, we are already there now.

Posted by: Dave Donley | December 28, 2007 6:25 PM | Report abuse

"Thank God this isn't happening in Maryland or some nutjob would be here screaming about how construction might displace a tree."

That's because it's rail.

The tree-hugging nutcases have NEVER come out against rail, not even when Green Line construction in DC disrupted the city for seven years and caused the loss of power, natural gas leaks raw sewage in the streets, rats running wild, and the loss of many homes and small businesses (much of the same happened in Ballston). NO road ever planned or built in this region has ever caused as much havoc.

Trust me, if we were planning a new highway in NOVA, the tre-hugging nutcases would be screaming bloody murder about the need to "study alternatives" while they're planning lawsuits, as they did over the Wilson Bridge. Which BTW, would have been finished three years ago were it not for the tree-hugging oppoNUTS and their NIMBY friends.

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