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The Politics of Route 7

April 2, 2012
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For decades, in some cases generations, many of the most influential land owners of Fairfax County have resided along the  Great Falls corridor between Tysons Corner and Reston. For most of these years the home owners of this corridor have fervently opposed the widening of Route 7 from its historic nature to a concrete jungle of lanes which will disconnect northern Route 7 from south Route 7. Over the past 10 years a trend has become clear of these influential residents leaving Fairfax for greener pastures in Loudoun.

More notable than the migration is the complete reversal of many of the same previous Fairfax residents towards favoring the widening of Route 7, in order to allow quicker access to Tysons Corner and Reston without use of the Toll Road. Of course, for a long time these commuters were dismissed due to a lack of funding for this massive construction project. Luckily for them Fairfax County has moved forward with a refocused effort to densify Tysons Corner into an urban region where people don’t have to simply commute in, but can live as well. This new plan, in conjunction with the politicized battle between MWAA and the State of Virginia, has provided the perfect conditions to scapegoat the need for a Route 7 widening, covered by Fairfax and predominantly helping Loudoun.

It’s not shocking that the idea that Route 7 must be widened as part of the Tysons Corner plan found its genesis at the same time MWAA mentioned the need for toll road rate hikes with Phase I of the Silver Line. When Loudoun County suggested they would not help fund what they believed wouldn’t help residents, MWAA retorted by stating their capability to simply raise rates on the toll road further to account for this $150 million gap. Now we are told that the economy of Fairfax County will shut down if Route 7, at a price of nearly a half a billion dollars, is not widened for Loudoun County commuters. Of course, any logical person would see that by widening Route 7 you simply incentivize more Fairfax residents to purchase a larger home in Loudoun for the same price, removing this tax base while increasing our infrastructure cost, is not exactly the best business plan for Fairfax County to undertake.

The Loudoun Board of Supervisors shifted conservative in 2012, but many of the people who voted them might not have known they planned on shutting down a project that could help the commutes of tens of thousands of residents

Why is the new GOP elected Loudoun, and of course the GOP state senate and governor, so angry towards MWAA? It could have to do with the unionized labor that has become the biggest political trend word in Northern Virginia since walkable communities. In truth, MWAA has already conceded that it will simply provide a 10% benefit to any contractor who uses union labor. For the total project this would account for approximately $270 million, but for Loudoun County this difference in cost amounts to only $15 million of their $150 million contribution. Instead of supporting this far more efficient instrument (nearly 35 to 1) in transporting thousands of Loudoun residents to destinations in Reston, Tysons, and DC they have demanded that VDOT, through a special fund paid for by Tysons Corner interests and Fairfax, build them a parallel highway to the Dulles Toll Road so they can avoid the same toll hike that they could avoid. Regardless of where you stand on the idea of unions, the idea that obstructing all progress is the best way to compromise and debate, is the same kind of mentality ruining the federal government now and days.

If this whole bit of circular logic doesn’t make sense to you, perhaps an analogy can help explain. Say you live on a shared driveway that serves yourself and your neighbor. For years you two got along just fine, but a month ago your neighbor bought a big old hummer which no longer can easily fit on the shared driveway when your neighbor leaves for work. Now imagine your neighbor came to you and said, pay for widening this driveway that we share so I can fit my hummer through, or else I will run over your plants. I mean your neighbor is clearly right for demanding this, as everyone knows that proper design standards for driveways should account for enormous inferiority complex supporting vehicles, and clearly this is all your fault.

If Loudoun thinks Metro is a waste of money, ok then don’t fund one in Ashburn. If Loudouners were planning on driving to the Airport and parking, think again, there wont be any parking garages. If they were planning on driving over to the Floris Station along Route 28, well I hope WMATA reconsiders this stations existence, as it serves very few Fairfax residents and will only induce Loudoun County commuters to over saturate roads such as Frying Pan beyond capacity. If they were hoping to reject metro at the same time as demanding toll rates remain the same, let me introduce you to the free market, where a company like MWAA is well within their rights to charge a market rate for access to their road. If they were planning on Fairfax footing the bill to widen Route 7 bigger than the Dulles Toll Road… well you are on your own neighbor.

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3 Responses to The Politics of Route 7

  1. jrobertson1958@yahoo.com on December 17, 2012 at 8:16 am

    Where does the half billion dollar figure come from?

    • Tysons Engineer on December 17, 2012 at 8:34 am

      Our estimate on 500 million includes the current proposed plan for widening Route 7 (300 million from the Dulles Toll Road to Reston Ave) as well as the $50 million of widening inside of Tysons (29 million from 123 to 495, and 43 million for 495 to I-66). That totals just under $400 million. Based on the latest discussions about providing an extra lane for bus rapid transit/or two sided full bike trails we believe the total cost will be between 450 million and 550 million by project end in 2012 dollars (likely more expensive when it actually occurs in 2015-2020).

      That is not to say we are against the BRT lane or bike lanes(though I would like to see the plans vs cost vs residents served) that would cost about 100-150 million of that cost, but that the total project which would cost a half billion could be postponed for much higher priorities that dont run parallel to a brand new transit corridor and toll road.

  2. Mechtelde on July 7, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    In the meantime, run a cheap asphalt path down the median of route 7 so bicyclists can make their way to the Silver line.

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