More than 200 residents came to a Fairfax County Department of Transportation open house Thursday to oppose proposals for new ramps and extensions to Tysons from the Dulles Toll Road, calling the plans "disgusting" for their potential effects on protected woodlands and accusing county officials of putting developer demands ahead of local homeowners.
Not one among more than two dozen speakers — including a representative from developer JBG Rosenfeld Retail — offered support for new ramps from the road or an extension of Boone Boulevard.
Residents, who ranged from environmental planners and doctors to stay-at-home parents and home association leaders, filled tables and standing space inside Westbriar Elementary School’s cafeteria and extended into the hallway, cheering at the many suggestions to abandon all three of the options county planners had put on the table.
JBG's Jay Klug, whose company's Sheraton Hotel would be encircled by a new ramp and access road under one of the proposals, said the developer also preferred what the crowd dubbed "Option 0" — leaving the area as is.
"People don’t show up like this unless they are so concerned that you are going to pave over their woods, their streets, their home," said Tysons Green Civic Association Pamela Konde, whose organization represents about 350 homes in neighborhoods bordering Tysons Corner.
"The information we’ve been given has been changing. … There is absolutely no way it helps pedestrian access to have a highway wrapped around park land. This never should have been on the table," she said.
Vienna Mayor Jane Seeman said it was not clear how Boone Boulevard would connect with or go around Route 123, the town's main thoroughfare, or where the extension would lead at all.
"There's something missing here ... the whole thing was very confusing," Seeman said. "They don't have many answers."
Protecting Green Space
The plans for extensions and ramps come as part of the Comprehensive Plan for the Tysons Corner Urban Center, which includes expanding the transportation network surrounding it to reduce traffic and improve mobility for cars and buses, but also bicyclists and pedestrians.
County planner Sayed Nabavi told the crowd the county developed nine scenarios based on analysis done between June and August 2011, along with traffic data from 2008. They included providing upgrades to existing Route 7 and Spring Hill Road interchanges, but many of them were not cost-effective based on the minimal capacity added, Nabavi said.
They were left with three plans, presented Thursday night:
- Preferred Option One: Additional ramps to the Dulles Toll Road from Greensboro Drive and Boone Boulevard
- Option Two: An Urban Frontage Road
- Preferred Option Three: Ramps from Boone Boulevard and Greensboro and Jones Branch drives
The options would connect with an extension of Boone Boulevard, county planners said. The extension would eventually connect to a planned grid of streets throughout the future urban center; plans for that grid have not been finalized.
"It's very difficult to understand what the effect is with each of these offramps — it can’t be considered individually from the grid of streets and to not show those connections and what goes forward I think is deceptive," resident Michael Sundius said.
"The reason for Boone Boulevard is not the ramp. The reason is to make sure you have movement within Tysons," said Nabavi, who added it would create less gridlock and help a larger transportation network flow more easily.
But all of the options are likely to destroy a stream and the lone remaining natural forest that gives the area its charm — and also acts as a natural buffer between neighborhoods and schools and major highways and big-box retailers, Konde said.
Putting a road through the area is not only environmentally unsound, Konde said, but also goes against the comprehensive plan, which says "stream valley parks should not only be protected from development and infrastructure impacts, but be restored and enhanced."
Tysons Spring Run, a stream that flows into Difficult Run before joining the Potomac River near Great Falls, is one of the Resource Protection Areas (RPA) of "environmentally sensitive land" which drain into the Potomac River, and eventually, the Chesapeake Bay.
"Tysons is going to happen ... but we fought for that green buffer. The residents fought for that green space, and [the planners] can't violate that," Seeman said.
The goal also didn't resonate with residents who said the goal of the Silver Line was to get 150,000 cars out of Tysons every day.
"You are planning a road system that will make it even easier for 150,000 cars to get into Tysons every day," one man said. "It makes no sense."
FCDOT's Daniel Rathbun said the density of the area will eventually be much higher, and despite anticipated reductions of the number of cars on the road, traffic will increase overall simply because of expected population growth.
"It comes down to, is it fair to design a city based on what traffic will be 40 years from now?" Klug said. "That's the real question."
Nabavi said the county conducted a traffic analysis of the area, including delay times, travel times and merge conditions of current roads. The "no-build" option ranked low compared to the others in terms of how driving conditions in the area would improve.
No analysis had been done to determine how the area might improve with an implemented grid of streets, Nabavi said.
At the most basic level, residents said they felt like the county was choosing development over local homeowners and taxpayers.
"You cannot get into our community with a fire truck in the required 12 minutes with Wal-Mart and bridges and two sets of roads. We’ll have kids that will wait for a school bus on the ramp of a toll road. We have a real safety issue nobody is addressing," one resident of Westwood Village said.
"Instead of a buffer, we want a destination that we can walk to. A two-lane road in each direction is going to prevent anyone here from riding a bike or walking to the metro station and so we’re creating more traffic because if we want to go anywhere we have to get in our car. I just don’t see creating this buffer in between our community and Tysons as a good idea,” Sundius said.
Nabavi said county planning staff would meet with landowners, homeowners associations and representatives from the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and Dominion Power this summer. A second public information meeting is scheduled for the fall; staff hopes to complete the study this winter.
Until then, residents said, their frustration would continue.
"Someone is going to have to work a lot harder than you did this evening to convince me we need to build [any of this]," one resident said.