Great Falls and Reston residents met at The Grange in Great Falls on Tuesday, Feb. 11 to voice their concerns about the 6.9-mile project along Route 7 that will widen the road from four to six lanes. A presentation led by Great Falls Citizens Association board members went into great detail about the impending changes to each intersection along the stretch, extending from Seneca Road at the edge of Reston to Jarrett Valley Drive just before Tysons Corner.
"This construction is changing the overall character of our neighborhoods," said one Great Falls resident who asked that he not be named. "We’re trying to build Route 7 into what is essentially Route 28, which is mostly commercial and not residential living."
THE WIDENING PROJECT includes changes to 11 intersection traffic lights and 13 existing median breaks. GFCA board member Pam Grosvenor explained to the audience that drivers will need to make U-turns to get into certain neighborhoods in the middle of the highway where median breaks were removed. In other neighborhoods, such as Wolf Trap Run Road, residents will need to take a service road further down to get to Route 7 once after certain turns onto the road are eliminated during construction.
Though the project aims to alleviate traffic congestion moving away from Tysons Corner, those at the meeting said planners did not factor in the potentially harmful effects on the neighborhoods along the road. GFCA Board members pointed to the need for HOV and viable transit options to relieve congestion so close to residential areas.
Others noted that the increased noise levels in certain neighborhoods brought by two additional lanes of traffic would be unbearable. GFCA Vice President Bill Canis pointed to limited access to certain businesses along the road, such as Meadows Farms at Springvale.
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) held a meeting Nov. 6, 2013, highlighting the $300 million project’s major changes along the road. Traffic along Route 7 will increase from between 46,000 and 54,000 vehicles a day, as of 2011, to between 73,000 and 86,000 vehicles a day by 2040.
On Jan. 8, 2013, the Board of Supervisors approved the Tysons Transportation Funding Plan, which provided funding for all of the Tysons Corner-wide roadway projects, with the exception of about $200 million for the next 40 years, or $5 million per year.
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY’S APPROVAL of Virginia’s comprehensive state transportation funding plan, however, allotted about $125 million annually to Fairfax County for regional transportation funding, which will provide full funding for the construction project.
President and Transportation Committee Co-Chair Eric Knudsen encouraged neighborhood residents to promote their concerns through their neighborhood homeowners associations. Knudsen pointed to a Dec. 2013 incident in which residents in the Rockland Road neighborhood successfully requested that the county move construction vehicles blocking access to the neighborhood, following an emergency response team’s inability to enter the neighborhood one evening.
"We’re jumping on this at this point in time to limit the effects of this project on our neighborhoods," said Knudsen. "Every other neighborhood is going to be in the same place as you, and every neighborhood between Reston Avenue and the Dulles Toll Road is going to be having problems like this."
GFCA is conducting an ongoing "Direct How We Connect" transportation survey through the end of February. The survey provides a way for neighborhood residents and homeowners associations to voice their concerns to the association, according to GFCA board member Pam Grosvenor. The link can be found on their website at http://gfca.org/transportation.html.