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Posted at 11:40 AM ET, 06/14/2010

Crossing Route 7 will mean long waits in Tysons

By washingtonpost.com editors

VDOT is widening Route 7 in Tysons Corner to fit in the Silver Line. New signals will require pedestrians to use two full light cycles to cross the road. This is making pedestrian conditions worse just as Fairfax is trying to transform Tysons into a more walkable place.

According to Dr. Gridlock:

Because of the widening, pedestrians only have time to cross half of Route 7 during a green traffic signal cycle. The new traffic signal requires that pedestrians stop on the median, press the signal button and wait for the light to cross to the other side.

As tipster B. points out, traffic engineers would rate an intersection as "failing" if, 24 hours a day, traffic conditions required cars to wait two whole light cycles to cross the road. Yet VDOT is deeming that pedestrian "level of service" to be adequate.

Instead of widening the major existing arterials, officials should focus on getting the street grid built so Route 7 could still fit the Silver Line without being wider. Parallel streets create traffic capacity without forcing enormous widenings. Routes 7 and 123, right under the Metro stations, will become the centers of the future walkable areas but are already too wide to really be optimal mixed-use boulevards.

Fairfax is trying to retrofit a suburban "edge city" into an urban place at a scale never before attempted. The scale of the existing auto-centric infrastructure, such as the wide arteries and large interchanges, is the biggest obstacle. It's important the Tysons plan succeed. Virginia shouldn't make the task even harder by making the existing hurdles to walkability even higher.

Update: In the original post, it wasn't clear whether Route 7 was getting wider to fit more lanes or to fit the Silver Line. It's just adding the Silver Line, not more lanes, but the wider footprint makes it worse for pedestrians. Parallel streets could allow fewer lanes on 7 itself while maintaining the overall traffic capacity.

David Alpert is founder and editor of Greater Greater Washington. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By washingtonpost.com editors  | June 14, 2010; 11:40 AM ET
Categories:  HotTopic, Local blog network, Metro, Tysons Corner, Virginia  
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Comments

As a former VDOT employee, I'll tell you this: the traffic engineers hate putting pedestrian signals where the pedestrians aren't. If their traffic counts show two pedestrians a day crossing at a six-lane by six-lane intersection, the last thing they want to do is put in safer crossings with the signal buttons that would risk attracting more peds and cut into their precious signal timing. They're actually pretty cool about ped crossing time in already busy foot-traffic areas, but they get lots of complaints from drivers who sit and wait while crossing time is granted to phantom pedestrians.

Posted by: gfriday | June 14, 2010 6:45 PM | Report abuse

This is a silly post and shows unfamiliarity with Tysons. Route 7 is a major thoroughfare and will stay that way. It carries considerable through traffic that must be accommodated. Route 7 also needs to be widened west towards Loudoun County.

Like it or not, single occupant vehicles are and will continue to be the the chief means of transportation in and out of Tysons. Tysons may be marginally better with rail and mixed use at the four stations, but it is pure fantasy to believe it will ever be anything but autocentric.

The grid of streets will not likely be completed for 30 years or more. It's too expensive and requires the destruction of many existing buildings, most of which are profitable and house businesses with employees.

This time Greater Greater Washington drank the Tysons' landowners' Kool Aid. Tysons was and is about getting massive density without paying for necessary public facilities. New Urbanism was hijacked to help accomplish this goal. Fortunately, the citizens and the Planning Commission stopped the density grab and put it back to more reasonable levels.

Posted by: tmtfairfax | June 15, 2010 8:20 AM | Report abuse

This is a silly post and shows unfamiliarity with Tysons. Route 7 is a major thoroughfare and will stay that way. It carries considerable through traffic that must be accommodated. Route 7 also needs to be widened west towards Loudoun County.

Like it or not, single occupant vehicles are and will continue to be the the chief means of transportation in and out of Tysons. Tysons may be marginally better with rail and mixed use at the four stations, but it is pure fantasy to believe it will ever be anything but autocentric.

The grid of streets will not likely be completed for 30 years or more. It's too expensive and requires the destruction of many existing buildings, most of which are profitable and house businesses with employees.

This time Greater Greater Washington drank the Tysons' landowners' Kool Aid. Tysons was and is about getting massive density without paying for necessary public facilities. New Urbanism was hijacked to help accomplish this goal. Fortunately, the citizens and the Planning Commission stopped the density grab and put it back to more reasonable levels.

Posted by: tmtfairfax | June 15, 2010 8:22 AM | Report abuse

Alpert the car-hater takes his venom out to Virginia...

Posted by: WashingtonDame | June 16, 2010 8:03 AM | Report abuse

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