Turbulent Times on Tysons Roads
Don't get your hopes up, tunnel advocates. Nothing has changed. Plans still call for the Metrorail extension through Tysons to be largely an elevated line. But for a short stretch, right there at the junction of two very important commuter arteries, routes 123 and 7, there will be a 2,400-foot tunnel. This is the natural high point of Fairfax County, and the trains could not go up and down the grade if the line were above ground.
Construction of the rail line and tunnel are underway on the north side of Route 123. The line will swing north into the median of Route 7. Here, the station known as Tysons Central 7 will be built. (It's one of four rail stations coming to Tysons.) As part of this new work, a major change in the long-standing traffic pattern at the junction of 123 and 7 is scheduled to occur this month.
-- LANES, RAMP AFFECTED
Lanes on Route 7 will shift, and the ramp from Route 7 west to Route 123 south will be moved. Drivers using Route 7 west will see the right lane -- the one they have been using to reach the ramp that goes to Route 123 south -- disappear as they approach the Route 123 overpass across Route 7. That ramp entrance is being moved about 120 feet west.
The new look will require drivers to make a much sharper right turn from a traffic lane to enter the southbound ramp. As this change develops, it's bound to slow traffic -- slow it more -- as drivers try to figure out what they need to do. The first things drivers should watch for are the lane shifts in both directions on Route 7 between Route 123 and Marshall's Drive (the entrance to Marshall's shopping center).
No work is being done during the Columbus Day weekend. But drivers should encounter construction related to this traffic shift after noon Tuesday.
-- ROUTE 7
Leesburg Pike in Tysons will grow to eight lanes as part of this phase of Dulles rail construction, scheduled to be done in 2013. But the service roads will be eliminated, probably by late this year or early next. This will make room for the expanded median, where the Tysons Central 7 and Tysons West stations will be located.
-- WIDESPREAD WORK
This fall, drivers are seeing construction along most of the rail route out to Wiehle Avenue. Much of this is preliminary work involving field investigations and utility relocations. Areas affected by the work include ramps at the interchanges of the Dulles Toll Road and Route 7, along Route 123 between Westpark Drive and Tysons Boulevard, between Anderson Road and the Dulles Connector Road, and along Galleria Drive and Frontage Road.
-- HOT LANE
Meanwhile, on the eastern side of Tysons, construction continues on the new bridge for the Capital Beltway over Route 123. The ramp from the inner loop to Route 123 north, which had been closed for the construction in mid-August, has been reopened. That eliminates the need for Beltway drivers to detour at the left-hand exit for Interstate 66.
The closure of the left lanes in each direction of Route 123 at the Beltway is scheduled to be lifted in November, but only for the holiday season. The closure will take effect again in January and stay that way for up to two years.
-- Robert Thomson