Fairfax County planners on Wednesday will propose rules for builders in Tysons Corner that retreat from the vision
local officials approved last fall, a shift some civic leaders worry
will jeopardize the blueprint to remake the area into a walkable urban
It seems the eight "mini-cities" are on the way out. Why? The area's Revolutionary War era roads can't handle too much additional population density:
Zook and his staff have concluded that the density of what the task
force envisions could be built when Tysons is fully redeveloped in
about 40 years would overwhelm traffic. [TC: Forget about 40 years, it's close to that point right now for about four hours each day.] Planners say that would be
about five times the 44 million square feet of offices, malls, condos
and townhouses there now. Before developers can build high-rises, even
near the Metrorail stations, planners say, the area's already clogged
road network will need to expand to accommodate the extra development
because many of the new residents and office workers will drive. That
would require three new interchanges on the Dulles Toll Road; another
lane on the Beltway between Interstate 66 and Route 7, in addition to
the high-occupancy toll lanes now under construction; and wider lanes
on other local roads.
That is, in a nutshell, why Fairfax County cannot and will not become like central Arlington in the Ballston and Clarendon areas. Recall that some time ago Tysons Corner was ranked as #4 in office space in the entire U.S., if it were to be counted as a city. Many Fairfax County residents look upon Arlington as a quaint experiment, a kind of well-laid out duck pond in somebody's backyard, but not a model for the broader suburban area. The walkable part of Arlington is quite small compared to Tysons Corner (by the way I used to live at Tysons and also have spent time walking it) and density in central Arlington doesn't threaten to crush much of anything.
So the result at Tysons likely will be a bigger edge city with broader roads and more difficult illegal U-Turns. As one local rent-seeker put it:
"We're not like downtown D.C., where you walk three blocks and there's
another Metro station," said Rob Jackson, president of the McLean
Rent-seeker he may be, but he's right to suggest that a much denser Tysons — no matter how well done — will overwhelm the local support roads of Vienna and McLean. The bottom line is that path dependence is a very strong force in all these comparisons.