The destruction of Tysons Corner?

It’s not quite Hurricane Katrina on the way, but I can’t wrap my mind around how Tysons Corner will keep going.  The plan is to take one of America’s most successful "edge cities" and centrally plan it into a walkable neighborhood, yet that is to happen while five major roads — three of them multi-lane highways — will continue to carve up the whole area.

Have I mentioned they will build elevated rail service to Dulles Airport?  This sounds quaint and European but there is already a dedicated, virtually traffic-free road to that airport, in addition to three or four totally usable back routes.  The new rail line will sit atop Route 7 (the major artery), necessitating its widening and the destruction of the side and access roads which make transversing the area a workable proposition.

Quotations like this scare me:

VDOT has agreed to narrow the eight future lanes of Route 7 to 11
feet from the standard 12, to allow for two additional pedestrian
crossings beneath the aerial line and to build eight-foot sidewalks.

"We’ve
always emphasized that we need wider sidewalks, we need more pedestrian
crosswalks, we need to slow traffic down," Stevens said [emphasis added].

I have heard construction will take six to eight years, which I assume means eight to twelve years.

Aesthetically you may or may not like what Tysons Corner has become, but at this point there is no turning back.  I simply do not see how an already traffic-heavy Tysons Corner will survive this onslaught.  The theory is that enough people will live in nearby condos (didn’t the real estate bubble just burst?) that in the proverbial long run traffic will fall.  Betting markets, anyone?  When people rely on an area as one part of their programme for auto-based, carry-around-big-packages, lug the kids, multiple stops, mass transit doesn’t have much of a chance.

I’ve already made my plans ("Find new Persian restaurant with Zereskh Polo") for avoiding the area altogether, quite possibly for the rest of my adult life.  Does that mean I have to buy my iPhone soon?

This issue has received plenty of local publicity, but I wonder how many people know that the planners soon will be destroying an American triumph?  Even around here I think most people do not yet believe this is actually going to happen.

Comments

The road narrowing won't happen for a while; and the point of the Metro is to make Dulles more accessible for everyone in the area, not just those living within a 5 minute drive of Tyson's (which doesn't exist if you've ever been to Tyson's, route 7 is nuts and it takes 15 minutes to go anywhere).

You have to be write though about people not metro'ing to go shop. Kind of tough to carry your Prada purchases home via the metro.

Doesn't traffic in the northern VA area move at about 15 MPH during most of the day? Perhaps if northern VA had given more thought to planning its city rather than just laying down pavement wherever a dirt path was they wouldn't have so much congestion (I mean how would you get something like 7 corners with any actual planning). Or if they actually built some roads - seriously, how many 6-lane roads are there through Fairfax City (I always get confused on the city or county part)? I believe it is 0, unless you count I-66. That is truly amazing for the amount of people there - Tallahassee has a 6 lane road running through it (and I believe they are widening I-10 now), and there have to be 4x as many people in Fairfax as there are in Tallahassee, not to mention all the people who travel through Fairfax to get to DC (no one travels through Tallahassee to get anywhere for work unless they are driving a truck from Miami to LA).

Of course, it will all be moot once the Star Trek molecular transporter becomes a reality ... I lay better odd on the molecular transporter becoming a reality than traffic improving with the current plan.

Thank you. I've been saying all along that the path to urbanization of Tysons Corner is to increase congestion ('density') and decrease automobile traffic. I also believe that successful urbanization at Tysons would be a great thing-- but it can't be denied that the path to a real, no-kidding city is going to be hard.

Over the past 30 years, the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor has added thousands of dwelling units and millions of square feet of office space while causing only a very nominal increase in traffic congestion. They did this by making the place pedestrian-friendly and Metro-accessible. What's wrong with that?

“Central planning† is not the issue. Just what do you think created your “dedicated, virtually traffic-free road to that airport, in addition to three or four totally usable back routes† in the first place? Not to mention the “five major roads—three of them multi-lane highways.† Compared to these, it takes far less “planning† to make an area pedestrian-friendly.

an American triumph? are you kidding?

http://www.beyonddc.com/images/photos/va/tysons/leesburgpk09.jpg

it's an ugly shithole filled with parking lots and nasty traffic

but more roads always get rid of traffic, right tyler?

Two things: (1) I'm not sure I'd regard Tyson's as "an American triumph." (2) It wasn't the planners who wanted the Dulles Metro line to go through Tyson's; it was the Tyson's (and Reston) business interests: they saw what happened to Clarendon and Ballston with the Metro line and wanted to make sure they got the benefit of it (or at least denied the benefit of it to any rivals situated where the line went if it didn't go through Tyson's). See your previous item about rent seeking. Once it was decided the line would go through Tyson's, it was natural to try to make Tyson's adapt to it.

There really is a need for rail access to Dulles. Once outside the Beltway, car access is easy (though then one has to find parking at the airport). But getting to and from the Access Road from inside the Beltway is not so easy. The merge of 267 and 66 is appalling.

In restrospect, I think it was a mistake to tie the Dulles rail access issue to Metrorail, which naturally led to the notion of connecting through Falls Church and using the 267 median, which meant that it would go near Tyson's, so Tyson's could hijack it (at one point, the Dulles access line seemed so hijacked by Tyson's that it might not even get to Dulles, which is why the Airport Authority got into the act).

I would have much preferred extending the VRE Manassas line to Gainesville along the NS B-Line (which VRE has on their long term wish list) and then building a grade level line from Gainesville to the airport (about 13 nearly level miles). Even with the land acquisition costs, it would have been cheaper. This is underused infrastructure: NS runs about 8 freight trains a day along the B-Line.

But the decisions have been made. Yes. I, too, will keep away from the Tyson's area for the foreseeable future. But this will not be hard. I have successfully kept away from it for several years now.

I was just down the road from Tyson's Corner last week when I was looking for an apartment (I eventually found a place in Arlington). I spent some time driving through, and sitting at the galleria. I thought the place was just fine as it was.

I fail to see the impending disaster. A new metro line that will bring in 40,000-50,000 commuters a day will be a boon to businesses in Tysons Corner. I do not think it will reduce traffic significantly, as people seem to think, but it will bring in more workers/visitors from DC who currently would not drive.

As for eliminating access roads, they seem to make traffic worse, at least at some points. I can't say how many times I've been unable to cross Route 7 at Westpark Drive despite having a green light because cars were crossing on the access road, preventing traffic on the main road from going through.

"VDOT has agreed to narrow the eight future lanes of Route 7 to 11 feet from the standard 12, to allow for two additional pedestrian crossings beneath the aerial line and to build eight-foot sidewalks."

So traffic will slow to 40 mph from 45--hardly a catastrophe. Especially since speed limits are entirely theoretical in an area that's stop-and-go for much of the day anyway.

Are you talking about Zereshk Polo with steamed chicken or with joojeh kabab?

If you aren't able to pick your time to travel around Tyson's Corner, it doesn't look like any sort of success. People who can avoid periods of congestion aren't seeing the disaster that the planners are trying to solve. I won't say that they've hit upon the best or even a good option, I don't know anything about urban or traffic planning, but things certainly do not work well now.

I graduated from George C Marshall High School in 1966. GCM is just down Route 7(?) from Tysons Corner.

My senior year we used to sneak out of school and go up to Tyson's Corner. At that time the only thing there was a 7-11.

There used to be woods behind the school. Some kids would bring 22's to school and go shoot squirrels.

They were just bringing the Interstate through and we would go motorcycle riding on the construction sites.

I was last in TC about 10 years ago and found it hard to believe.

John Henry

The Orange line is already a nightmare with the bottleneck underneath the Potomac. Now they're going to stuff the Orange line, the Blue line, plus the Tysons extension all through that one tunnel into DC?

I’m no big believer that metro will solve Tyson’s traffic problems, but if you’re going to build a metro line and reshape the city, why not the purple line connecting Tyson’s to the suburbs of MD? Or why not another Potomac highway crossing from Fairfax County to Montgomery County, MD diverting traffic well out of the way of the Tyson’s area? Currently, the only way to get between these two points is to drive across the American Legion bridge and through the Tyson’s area no matter where you are going to or from in Fairfax. How many times has Tyson’s been completely gridlocked on I-495, Rt 7, the Dulles Toll rd, etc. because of a back up on the American Legion Bridge? Montgomery County and Fairfax County are the big business and residential growth areas of the region and have only one connection between them. And going through the city is NOT a good alternative. I know, I know, there are a hundred reasons why another crossing, metro or road, will not be built between the two areas, but still, the Dulles metro will kill either option from ever being funded or even considered.

And what is the rationale for expanding metro anyway? The current system may serve the city well, but it continuously has budget short falls and is in need of major repairs as it ages. A new line only exacerbates the problem of metro funding and maintenance.

Having spent a couple of years working at VDOT specifically on Preliminary Engineering, that is to say pre-construction planning and coordination, I can say that the plans for Tysons Corner are a result of a major effort by area Smart Growth proponents.

VDOT, like all state agencies, is politically influenced. They build/expand/maintain roads based on the priorities they get from the political appointees in Richmond and local government officials. In turn those people respond to the lobbying done by the most vocal. And the most vocal and visible presence at any VDOT public hearing are the Smart Growth-ers and the NIMBYs, neither of which want any type of increase of road capacity. Indeed, I worked hearings for projects that would merely straighten out and add shoulders to very dangerous, winding, two-lane roads, and the neighbors were mostly opposed, on the grounds that a safer road would invite more drivers to use it.

Despite the fact that NoVa drivers overwhelmingly support road improvements, most citizens choose to skip the public hearings that VDOT uses to gather feedback and shape final design plans. They see the postcard announcements they get in the mail, think, "Great, they're finally doing something," and never think about it again. The only people who attend are those who are opposed.

So as a result I can tell you with great certainty:

1) I-66 will never be widened inside the Beltway. Arlington residents have made it a political impossibility. They resent people driving through Arlington to get to work. Honestly. They think if you are some 'hick' living Centreville or Fairfax, they you should suffer for your folly.

2) The Techway crossing of the Potomac, linking Dulles with Rockville will never take place. The richy-poos in Potomac, MD and Great Falls don't want some major road and bridge allowing the commonfolk to drive through their exclusive neighborhoods.

3) The Metro to Dulles will happen, despite the fact that it will be a tremendous boondoggle and underused. Trains are sexy and so people like them, despite their inherent inefficiencies. A dedicated bus lane and express bus service to Dulles is just too low-class for the folks in this area to accept.

I won't purport to know much about Tysons Corner. However, it is rather funny to see libertarians in an uproar about the consequences of runaway growth.

My suggestion? Take off the rose colored blinkers and get serious about the highly adverse impact(s) of immigration driven population growth. Stop worshiping shantytowns and start addressing the reality of scarce resources in Virginia, California, and the United States as whole.

Warning. Might make you a restrictionist. Years ago there was a cliché to the effect "a conservative is a liberal who got mugged". Maybe now it should be "a restrictionist is a libertarian mugged by reality".

Traffic is caused by patterns and habits, not by lack of roads. Northern Virginia's traffic results from the fact that people cannot get anywhere without driving. They travel along long stretches of road (or highway) with no destinations along the way (except for oversized houses). Traffic builds up as more and more cars enter the roadway without getting off. Fairfax County is well-supplied with an efficient highway system as well as backroads that can get you wherever you want to go. There is no need for more roads.

That being said, public transportation and desnity in Tysons Corner will not do much to "relieve" traffic. The people who commute to Tysons Corner consciously chose to live in the outer suburbs, and their habits will not change.

The problem with the current state of Tysons Corner is that there is a huge supply of and demand for further investment and development, but no more room to grow. To continue growing as an "edge city," TC would have to build more huge parking lots and encroach on surrounding neighborhoods. Urbanization, on the other hand, would allow TC to build up without building too far out, thus providing an opportunity for beneficial investment to flow in.

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