Traffic Tops Citizens' Concerns

Traffic Tops Citizens' Concerns

McLean Citizens Association hears plan to transform Tysons Corner Center.

Excluding the current expansion project, the Tysons Corner Center attracts about 20 million visitors per year, said Antonio Calabrese, an attorney representing Macerich, the malls’ owner.

Now, Macerich is seeking a rezoning of the mall’s 75 acres to allow high-rise office and residential buildings.

The Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan already allows for the mixed-use development on the site, Calabrese said. The current construction and renovation project is not related to the rezoning application.

“The county’s plans have envisioned, from our perspective, this configuration,” he said.

It was the potential traffic created by the new residents and office workers which seemed to most concern the members of the McLean Citizens Association during a June 28 meeting at the McLean Community Center.

The traffic in the area is already choking the local road system, said several members in attendance, and the new development will likely make it worse. “Whenever you add to a disaster, you have a bigger disaster,” said Robin Bates of the association.

The mall’s ownership is very aware of the traffic issues, Calabrese said during the meeting and in a later interview. He outlined a plan to help mitigate traffic impacts.

The major component of the plan is the proposed Metrorail line with a planned station on Route 123, just across from the mall. The plan calls for a pedestrian connection from the station to the mall.

The mall will also restrict parking in the early morning hours to discourage people from using the mall parking as a de facto Metro parking lot.

The development will also allow people who live and work in some of the office towers to access the walkway by going through the mall, Calabrese said. The internal walkways will remain open as long as Metro is operating, so that residents in buildings farther away don’t have to walk around outside, he said.

The bulk of the project is within a quarter-mile of the Metro station and the entire project is within a half-mile.

Another transportation project includes increasing the existing bus capacity at the mall. About 500 buses per day already come to the mall’s bus stops, Calabrese said.

The mall's owners would also like to try to coordinate the existing shuttle buses that currently operate in Tysons Corner. The various car dealers, hotels and businesses operate shuttles of their own, and Calabrese said the owners hope to coordinate services with them. “At this point, we’re trying to figure out who has systems out there,” Calabrese said.

Other plans include creating an environment that will allow people to live, walk and work in the area. The developers hope to implement a program to entice people who live there to use cars as little as possible. These could include things like creating telecommuting centers in some of the new buildings, opening a commuter store in the mall and encouraging employers to give transit vouchers to their workers.

In spite of these measures, pointed out Susan Turner, president of McLean Citizens Association, the plan will certainly add to traffic congestion.

“Are not these people going to get in their car and go someplace not on the rail?” she said.