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Coordinating Tysons’ Future

Developers, community discuss rail and redevelopment impact on local roads.

Preparation for construction of the aerial rail line through Tysons Corner is around the corner. Subject to Federal Transit Administration approval, utility relocation on Route 7 between Route 123 and Dulles Toll Road might begin as early as this summer.

According to Marcia McAllister, communications manager for Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project, utility relocation will primarily affect service roads that parallel Route 7, Leesburg Pike. Road enhancement construction on Route 7, widening to a four-lane road in both directions and widening its median to accommodate an aerial rail line, is scheduled to begin in summer or fall of 2008.

"We are totally changing Route 7, from Route 123 to Dulles Toll Road," said McAllister. Also, 16- to 18-foot sidewalks will be installed on both sides of the road.

However, McAllister said the project cannot stifle the area’s commuters. "We have to keep the traffic moving," said McAllister. Initiatives are in place to achieve that goal. McAllister said the project is involved in a major community and employer outreach program, meeting with them to explain commuter options. These include telework, carpool and businesses turning to a four-day workweek.

Construction of metrorail through Tysons is not the only project that may affect the area’s roadways in the near future. Australian based Transurban Group, in partnership with Vienna-based Fluor, is hoping to create High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes on the Capital Beltway, from Springfield to north of Dulles Toll Road. The partnership hopes to begin construction on the project in 2008. Macerich Company, the owner of Tysons Corner Center is redeveloping the center into a transit-oriented, pedestrian friendly, destination. Four office buildings, four residential buildings and a hotel are among the features. The multiphase project, Tysons Future, is expected to take up to 15 years to complete, but its first phase is likely to start by 2009.

Across Route 123 from the shopping center, Lerner Enterprises is planning the construction of The Residences at Tysons II. The project envisions two 30-story highrise residential towers.

JOHN HARRISON, vice president for development at Macerich, said physical change to the shopping center is about 15 months away. Phase 1 of the redevelopment will include 551, 638 square feet of office space, 25,274 square feet of commercial space, 266,513 square feet of hotel space and 542,175 square feet of residential space, a maximum of 395 units. Changes would occur around the island of shops that includes a Circuit City store, the parking deck in that area and Lord and Taylor department store. Harrison said the company is charged with a set of road improvements associated with the redevelopment. They include widening Route 123, adding a lane on Route 7 and widening the bridge that connects the shopping center to Westpark Drive, crossing over Route 123. Harrison said it is important to remember two things about the Tysons Future development. "One, we have a pretty significant package of traffic improvements. Two, we are mitigating any impact we may have [on local traffic] and coordinating with the community," he said.

With all of the projects online in the Tysons area, McAllister said officials have been meeting to create a plan to mitigate the effects of the projects on local roads. They are looking at helping Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) create a regional transportation management plan. According to Joan Morris, public affairs manager for VDOT in Northern Virginia, that working group has been meeting for about a year-and-a-half. She said the group came up with a wish list plan that would have cost about $171 million for congestion management. Now the group is working to bring that plan down to $25 million. "The $171 million plan is if you could have everything you wanted to, not all of those things are necessary," said Morris.

Since metro will be the first of the mentioned projects to be built, McAllister said the project’s congestion management plan would serve as a model for the regional plan.

McALLISTER IDENTIFIED a conflict for a regional congestion management planning between VDOT and Fairfax County. The county envisions Route 7 as a boulevard, while VDOT envisions it as a major arterial route through the state’s largest business center.

"We all want Tysons to be more pedestrian friendly," said Fairfax County Supervisor Linda Smyth (D-Providence), whose district includes Tysons Corner. She said the county sees Route 7 as a road with sizeable sidewalks and plants and trees. On the other hand, Morris said, it is late in the game to be planning for a Route 7 that is not a major roadway through Tysons. "It is a main road through it. If you take away lanes, how do you move people through Tysons," said Morris.

Smyth said that current conversations about the future of Tysons Corner involve a lot of speculation and not many facts. Construction of the metro extension is subject to a full funding grant agreement, while construction of development projects is subject to market conditions. Schedules of the different projects are therefore hard to adhere to. "You can’t say projects A, B and C are happening now and projects D and E later," said Smyth. She said the state is the entity that could control when certain projects are constructed, because it issues construction permits.